I don’t know who invented decompression in comics but it’s safe to say that Josh Williamson and Howard Porter are killing it with their Flash: Year One storyline. The third chapter continues the momentum established in the first two parts with a plot-heavy, character-rich, action-packed tale of Barry Allen learning to be a hero.
The opening instalments saw Barry struck by lightning and gaining access to speed beyond imagination, and travelling to his own future, where things are Not Good. Onetime minor villain the Turtle had used his power to steal speed, and his psychotic level of patience, to make Central City a dystopia.
This issue begins with Barry, not yet in his familiar uniform, confronting the Turtle back in his own time. He aims to stop him today, to prevent tomorrow. It’s a familiar sci-fi idea, but Williamson and Porter don’t drag out Barry’s challenge.
He takes the Turtle down, but so far as the future is concerned he’ll have to wait and see whether he’s won the day. For now, Barry gets on with incorporating his newfound speed into his life, something we see via a lovely double-page spread. By the following page, the not-yet-officially-named Flash is showing the kind of hero he is.
He saves the day, he cleans up after himself and he brings pizza! That, ladies and gentlemen, is a hero.
The rest of the issue continues in the same, madly entertaining, vein, with Barry establishing his alter-ego’s reputation, romancing Iris and re-committing to his CSI day job.
As well as Barry, we get to know plucky newspaperperson Iris a tad better; in the early Silver Age of Comics Iris was pure plot prop, the girlfriend Barry would constantly be late meeting – if he actually turned up – due to his superhero responsibilities. As a result, many of her scenes saw her moaning at her bow-tied beau. On the one hand, it was understandable. On the other, you wondered what he ever saw in her. Here we see just what that was. She’s fiercely committed to her own job, and actually fun.
The action of the issue sees someone who didn’t enter Flash lore until the Bronze Age neatly retrofitted into proceedings, bringing the intrigue. There’s also a cameo by Len Snart, showing that even before he became Captain Cold, he was the fairest of rogues.
And it’s all brought to us with snappy dialogue, characterful art – Howard Porter’s work is coloured by the ever-excellent Hi-Fi, while Steve Wands adds his stylish lettering – and an awful lot of enthusiasm. After the longueurs of recent issues (great character work, but oh, those ruddy new ‘Forces’…), it’s terrific to have a Flash storyline that leans into what works best – super-speed stunts, good people and colourful, but not sadistic, baddies. It’s a pleasure to spend time with Barry and Iris, and watch them become the legends we know. Little touches like the stems of Barry’s proto-costume goggles anticipating his iconic earpieces, and Iris’s Creeper tee shirt, make me grin like a loon.
Plus, we get a clever cover composition from Porter and Hi-Fi, with the future Rogues, metaphorically speaking, being sucked into the web of Barry’s life.
If you’ve not been reading recent issues, get on your Cosmic Treadmill, pop back a month or so and jump onto this classic in the making.