The Flash: Fastest Man Alive #10 review

It’s another two-story issue of this DC Digital First weekly and, refreshingly, there are no instances of Barry Allen being late for a meeting with Iris West. Yes, this was a regular thing in the Silver Age but instances of superhero-related tardiness six or eight times per year are a lot easier to take than twice a week, as it feels has been the case around here lately.

Iris isn’t even in these pages. Nope, it’s all business as Barry fights, first, Professor Zoom, and secondly, his own heroic impulses.

‘The Bullet’ from writer Van Jensen and artist David Lafuente is a high-concept tale – can an injured Flash save a policeman from death by shooting when he’s being pummelled from all sides by Professor Zoom?

Of course he can.

I’m spoiling the ending there, but honestly, how else could this play out? Superman is faster than a speeding bullet and Flash is faster than Superman. End of story.

I wonder if Jensen was going for a Barry version of 1991’s classic The Flash #54 in which an exhausted Wally West must save a plunging air stewardess, hampered by his friction-lessening aura. The similarities are there, with both heroes narrating their attempts to save an innocent.

This is less successful as Barry’s problem feels incredibly mundane for the Fastest Man Alive, and the presence of the overused Reverse-Flash is more annoying than exciting.

And Lafuente’s art is pretty pedestrian, by his standards, with the refusal to use so much as a single super-speed line baffling, and hobbling.

Similarly, representing the gunfire flare as a pale blob rather than something, well, flashier, lessens the excitement. The square panels repeat, with small variations, at the top and bottom of each page but where such a device might add pace, here it lessens the dynamism a battle between speedsters should have.

And the choices of colourist Paul Mounts are similarly mystifying, it’s like hero and villain are fighting in a fog. The colours pop only on that final page I’ve included… perhaps the artistic decisions are all to show that the majority of the story takes place in ‘Flash-time’.

Letterer Rob Leigh is likely grinning, there’s around half the amount of words to be put on the page than in an average eight-pager; as usual, he does a great job.

Horses for courses and all that. I’m sure some people will love the first story, as the creators are all talented; it’s just not for me.

The second entry is more my speed, being a Flash/Green Lantern team-up in which the characterisation is at least as important as the action. Green Lantern #20 from 1963, a splendid Flash/GL team-up, was one of the first DC comics I ever read (it was passed on by a neighbour, I wasn’t born, honestly!) so I’ve great affection for teamings of the Emerald Gladiator and Monarch of Motion.

The story opens with Barry strangely ungrateful for a spot of will-powered help from Hal Jordan.

Hal, though, won’t be put off.

A second super-villain incident provides the Justice League chums with another chance to show what they can do together.

This is a terrific short from writer Dave Wielgosz and artist Brad Walker. Barry’s low mood convinces thanks to the smart dialogue, while Walker captures the feelings of the Fastest Man Alive with well-chosen lines. The animated faces of both Barry and Hal serve the story very well, while Walker’s depiction of the Flash zooming from spot to spot is spot on.

Hal’s narration is refreshing – the ‘My name is Barry Allen…’ openings (a device nicked from Wally West’s Flash run) have become pretty tired. Here we see Central City through the eyes of an outsider, and get a new way of thinking about Barry, with Hal making him sound like the Jimmy Stewart of the DCU. It’s interesting to see that the superheroic life can wear down even a costumed cockeyed optimist, but Hal really isn’t someone you can outdo when it comes to range of responsibilities. He’ll beat you every time.

Most comic writers today default to the idea that Hal is little more than a ladies’ man who thinks with his fists, but he’s more than that; Wielgosz shows how Earth’s foremost Green Lantern isn’t short on emotional intelligence (and it’s not like dullards get to be test pilots).

Nathan Fairbairn’s colours are bright and brash for the most part (things are more naturalistic in Barry’s apartment), and the facial modelling is exceptional. Leigh, with a more normal lettering workload, impresses as ever.

So, one great story, one decent yarn, one tiny price – why would you not buy this comic?

5 thoughts on “The Flash: Fastest Man Alive #10 review

  1. Lafuente was also inconsistent with how blocky and steroidy he made the guys page to page.

    BTW, have we ever seen a Carol-Iris story? They were just generally there when the guys would want a double date. I think there’s an amazing amount of story potential in how an amazing business executive hamstrung by her idiot father and the DCU’s bitchier version of Lois Lane did or did not hit it off…

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    1. I’ve seen many scenes of the ladies together over the years, but I don’t recall a story with a big focus on them – certainly nothing that would pass the Bechdel Test… I wonder if we can persuade someone to write one!

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    2. I feel like if it happened anywhere, it would have been an issue of the Waid/Kitson Brave & Bold series teaming up Flash & GL through the ages. But I don’t remember anything specifically.

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  2. I’m one of those who enjoyed Bullet more than you. We’ve seen Flash stop a speeding bullet before, of course, but to see it played out as someone just as fast as him was trying to stop him is something we haven’t really seen before.

    The lack of speed lines seems to be an attempt to put us in the singular moments of how a speedster experiences the world, with everything super slow, rather than them being super fast. It was a choice that worked for me. (I’m not completely enamored of LaFuente’s figure work, on the other hand, but that’s just a quibble in relation to what I regard as some strong and inventive layouts.) This honestly feels like an artist-generated story to me — as if LaFuente told Jensen he wanted to drill down into Barry’s perspective from an art standpoint, and Jensen came up with a plot that let him.

    Another thing I like about the story: It’s a smaller-scale story, expanded to a large moment we can examine. They’re not earth-shattering stakes; they’re personal, with the life of one guy on the line. Usually when we see Reverse Flash, the whole timeline is at stake. Seeing him in this story was refreshing.

    As for the GL story, I liked it a lot, too. It’s very nice to see Hal portrayed as a good friend, rather than a thoughtless boob. And I’ve missed the Flash/GL friendship.

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    1. Thanks Rob, it’s great to see your thoughts. Sounds like we agree on the ‘Flash time’ focus but disagree on its success. Either way, it’s great that creators are experimenting. Top point about Reverse-Flash being in a smaller story, for once!

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