Action Comics #1000, Detective Comics #1000, Wonder Woman #750… all recent 80-page giant celebrations courtesy of the marvel that is comic book maths. Now it’s the Flash’s turn and at last, an issue I can heartily recommend – six stories ranging from decent to superb, gorgeous pin-ups and, running though it all, a love for the men who ride the thunderbolt.
Jay, Barry, Wally – all the Flashes who had long runs are present and all get a great showing. The big difference here is that all the writers, and most of the artists, have history with the Fastest Man Alive, and they’re here to show us just why their Flash is the best. Even the name that had me a little nervous – Marv Wolfman, who killed Barry off in Crisis on Infinite Earths – shows us that he loves him really…
The book kicks off with the opening of a new Flash arc, ‘The Flash Age’. Well, I say opening, but we’ve already had a prologue introducing new villain Paradox, and Joshua Williamson’s almost 100-issue run on the book has been pretty much one long, breathless, ongoing saga. It makes sense to at least mark this instalment as Chapter One, though, as there’ll be extra casual readers this month who might be persuaded to come back for more (Wonder Woman #750 did it backwards, ending the then-current Cheetah storyline in a tale that was extremely unrewarding for this occasional buyer).
But Williamson also recognises that this is a special issue, so he keeps the ongoing business to a minimum at the end, reintroducing one of his own characters to herald the coming problems of Paradox. There’s some recap of the main points of Williamson’s epic run. There’s also a delightful sequence with Barry working a crime in his civvies and catching up with boss David Singh, which sees one of Barry’s lesser foes return. The emotional meat of the story, though, is the people of Central City talking about what the Flash means to them, motivated by an article girlfriend Iris West is writing. And it is great.
That’s the work of illustrator Stephen Segovia, who handles most of the ‘tribute’ spreads and a little look back at Barry’s legend. The rest of this extra-length tale comes from Rafa Sandoval and Jordi Tarragona, and they produce some fine work, particularly the opening interview with a man who had a significant encounter with the Flash.
The whole is coloured by Arif Prianto, who looks to be nodding towards the work of Brian Buccellato, who toned and co-wrote the early New 52 Flash run – more on him later. The ever-excellent Steve Wands letters and it all adds up to a great start to the party.
‘Why You?’ by the aforementioned Buccellato and co-writer Francis Manapul again spins out of Barry’s relationship with Iris, as she off-handedly wonders why he, of all people, has to be the Flash. The writers, who gave New 52 Barry a weird ‘imagines what’s happening around every corner’ ability, go one better here…
So rather than run scenarios in his super-speed brain, Barry troops from Elseworld to Elseworld before coming to a happy conclusion. It’s bonkers, but the Flash role long ago stopped being a matter of being able to run fast, these days it’s about being in touch with a magic do-anything dimension, so why not? The story is inconsequential fun, the big plus is seeing the dynamic compositions and handsome figurework of Manapul again, shaded by the colours of Buccellato. Backing them up on letters, Josh Reed does a fine job.
Then comes the credit that had me worried, ‘Marv Wolfman’, but everything turns out splendidly in this throwback battle with Mirror Master Sam Scudder. It opens with a visual nod to the cover of Flash #105, Barry Allen’s first time in the original title, and gives us a fun battle of wits.
In ‘Flash of All Worlds’, Wolfman lampshades homages to Barry’s Silver Age adventures, which is really rather clever. Riley Rossmo’s manic ‘man in the moon’ Flash suits a story set in the Mirror Master’s distorted reality. Colourist Ivan Plascencia and letterer Andworld Design certainly contribute to the strip’s success.
Original Flash Jay Garrick stars in ‘At the Starting Line’ which, as the title hints, is set early in his career. The Thinker is on the loose, out to exploit the newborn war in Europe, which, appropriately enough, gets Jay thinking.
There’s a moment in here which relates to something Barry tells Iris in the first story, so it’s no surprise that the end blurb informs us Jay’s business will continue in this book, this year. Even without the set-up, though, this is a terrific tale, from the heroic legend at the start to our hero’s final goofy grin. Take a bow Josh Williamson. The art by illustrator David Marquez and the superb colourist Alejandro Sanchez – look at those skin tones – is fantastic, suitable for framing.
As the book closes we check in with Wally West, who’s just finished a series I couldn’t be bothered with after the first issue, Flash Forward. It seems that in order to rescue his ‘two beautiful twins’ (sic) from limbo he’s had to sit himself down in New God Metron’s chair, and meanwhile gained a shot of Dr Manhattan’s infinite power. Wally’s no fan of the Watchmen character, having learned it was him who changed his personal continuity, and here he sees things changing again. But rather than sit back, which must be torture for a man who has spent his life running, Wally resolves to fix everything. Which never works in comics, especially when you’re a speedster, but bless the boy for his optimism.
A final fix to Wally, undoing all the crap that’s come his way since the New 52 began, would have been a splendid way to end this celebration, but no, a Crisis is coming. Again.
Still, I quite liked this big, daft look back at the state of DC continuity from writer Scott Lobdell, artists Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund, colourist Luis Guerrero and letterer Troy Peteri. It’s my favourite Booth work in awhile, we even get the return of Pizza Fish from his days drawing the DC Rebirth Titans strip. And I hang on to my hope that before too long Wally will be back as equal Flash with Uncle Barry (and, fingers crossed, Jay).
I skipped a story so far as printed order is concerned, saving the best ‘til last. Funnily enough, ‘Beer Run’ includes Wally in his prime, but it doesn’t feature him. Nope, star of the show is Len Snart, Captain Cold, who just wants a quiet night watching some sport or other on the TV. He runs out of beer and pops down the corner shop during the interval.
Let’s just say that things escalate, and that despite poor Len honestly wanting to pay for his drinks and leave, sometimes the quiet life isn’t an option.
When he was writing Flash I used to occasionally moan that Geoff Johns seemed more interested in the Rogues than he was in Wally. No complaints here, though, this is a fine character piece spotlighting the Captain Cold I love, the working class chap who lives by his own peculiar code of honour. And to have Scott Kolins back drawing the streets of Keystone City, that’s pure win. Rob Leigh does a spiffy job with the narrative boxes, icy for Len, Kid Flash yellow and red for Wally, then gives us the perfect title design. And Mike Atiyeh’s sympathetic colouring is the icing on the cake. I loved this.
I also loved the posters scattered throughout the book by Howard Porter, Evan ‘Doc’ Shaner, Mike McKone, Mitch Gerads, Khary Randolph and Dale Eaglesham, who produced this.
Is ‘WOW,’ an appropriate reaction?
The cover by the legend that is Howard Porter, coloured by Hi-Fi, is excellent, and that question mark well earned as the image doesn’t relate to the contents at all – well I could make a desperate argument that it’s pushing the Mirror Master story, but really, no.
This isn’t a cheap comic, but if you’re a Flash fan I recommend it hugely, as a wonderful collection showcasing the Flash legacy. It’s my favourite Flash anniversary issue since the utterly brilliant #300. Flash fact!