As big a fan of Joshua Williamson and Howard Porter as I am, I wasn’t excited by the notion of Flash Year One. Even someone a lot younger than me will likely have seen Barry Allen’s origin at least a couple of times, do we really need to see it again? And sure enough, the opening chapter of the arc went over well-run ground, albeit with gorgeous art by master illustrator Porter and cracking colourist Hi-Fi and a snappy script by the always imaginative Williamson. Barry’s mother murdered. The young forensic scientist obsessed with finding her killer. Hotshot reporter Iris West frustrated by Barry’s lack of vim. A lightning bolt strikes a cabinet, dousing him with a chemical cocktail.
The last page, though, gave us something really new. Practicing his powers, Barry has sped into the future, right into a familiar figure…
… future Barry Allen. And while he looks hale and hearty, he’s living in a distinctly dystopian Central City, one ruled by The Turtle. It’s not a name to strike fear into the hearts of men, but this guy is no joke.
Can an experienced speedster shape a novice into a hero and save the city?
I’m not telling. I’m sure you can guess a little bit of the story… but not all of it. Williams keeps the surprises coming as he shows us parts of Barry’s backstory other origins cannot reach. And while time travel tales are nothing new in the Flash – Barry’s second-ever adventure gave us the title of this issue, ‘The Man Who Broke the Time Barrier’ – Porter and Hi-Fi bring immense visual energy to proceedings, with Porter’s flash-forward layouts electrified by Hi-Fi’s vibrant colours. Characters have, well, character and the grim future yet manages to be enticing. Every page is filled with telling detail, from fear-filled citizens to DC Easter eggs. I especially like that Barry’s practice outfit recalls, visually and tonally, Jay Garrick’s look.
Future Barry looks fantastic, and Williamson, refreshingly, doesn’t make him the full Cable – he’s actually more optimistic than his younger self. And the idea of Barry inspiring himself to be a hero is a fun nod – perhaps accidental – to Robert Loren Fleming’s Secret Origins story in which the lightning bolt that struck Barry turns out to have been the man himself, turned into energy when he died in the Crisis (I suspect that ‘It went by too fast’ panel, with Barry looking out towards the cosmos, is a nod to his demise in a far-off universe, in a timeline now gone). As of this issue, the life of the Flash is once again circular.
I can’t praise the letterer, who gives us such great touches as the Silver Age Flash logo in a speech balloon, as, like last time, they’re not listed. If I find out, I’ll let you know. I can praise Porter and Hi-Fi, again, for another stonkingly good cover – I’m not surprised they make such sweet artistic music, as their work on another future-set DC book, JLA 3001, was a total treat (if you missed this great Giffen and DeMatteis-written series and have the DC App, it’s likely in the library, give it a go).
Flash Year One – I didn’t think I needed it, but I’d hate to be without it.