Two weeks ago, I was jubilant that finally, after more than a decade of Barry Allen’s motivation to fight crime being the murder of his mother, he’s moved on. Departing writer Josh Williamson set aside the Geoff Johns obsession with parental tragedy.
Today, new writer Kevin Shinick’s first issue opens with these panels.
Still, Barry’s not at a graveside, sobbing, he’s with girlfriend Iris at a farmers’ market. And very soon we get an arresting image that sets up the issue’s mystery – who stole the Flash’s ring?
Well, illustrator Bernard Chang and colourist Marcelo Maiolo’s snappy cover answers that question pretty definitively, but there’s more to ‘With this ring’ than that. For the first time since the second Trickster, Axel Walker, nicked James Jesse’s comedic kit, he comes across as more than an annoying teenager, more than a killer you could stop with a swift swat to the noggin.
OK, that’s not Axel’s finest moment, but Trickster II actually has an interesting new MO, claiming that ‘there’s more money in selling overpriced chicken wings to pinball patsies than there is in crime these days’.
Of course, he’s not actually gone straight…
This is a promising debut from Shinick who, Wikipedia tells me, works in telly; that sounds right, given the pleasingly peppy dialogue. Dead mother aside – I assume Shinick hadn’t been told Williamson finally tied a bow on Nora’s coffin – there’s a nice breezy feel to the issue. Trickster’s scheme is right out of the Bronze Age but doesn’t feel outdated, it’s a classic, with surprises that would make the era’s Flash writer, Cary Bates, grin. Details such as Flash taking three miles to find ‘a secure location to stop’ and Trickster’s carny talk are also appreciated.
As for just why Barry gets quite so het up about his ring going missing, you’ll likely guess it – I call that not predictable, but a refreshingly fair-play mystery.
And I’m beyond delighted that there’s not an evil speedster to be seen; a year or more without a single specimen of reverse Flash would be great. Barry has one of the deepest benches of baddies – heck, his strip invented the term ‘Rogue’s Gallery’ so far as superhero books go – so let’s see them shine.
One rarely used example shows up on the last page – sadly, his costume is one of the few duds created by classic Flash artist Carmine Infantino, meaning new regular penciller Clayton Henry can’t really awe us with the last-page reveal.
Not to worry, though, because by said final image Henry has had ample room to show what a whiz he is when it comes to drawing a sharp, clean Flash. There’s an electricity to the layouts and finishes that’s perfect for the character, and a humanity that suits this script very well.
As a fan of Henry’s art on DC’s currently MIA Digital First The Flash: Fastest Man Alive series, I’m delighted by his promotion to the main book. Colourist Marcelo Maiolo also worked on the digital showcase, and his vibrant choices are as welcome here as they were there. And I’m always glad to see Steve Wands’ super-cheery lettering on a book.
I’ve already praised the cover, but as Columbo would say, just one more thing – the earbuds are a nice modern touch; they’re not in the story, but I bet next time they will be.
All in all, this is a delightful declaration of intent from the new core creators assembled and wrangled by editors Mike Cotton and Marquis Draper. Shinick and Clayton have a chance here to put their own stamp on the Flash legend – let’s hope they grab it, giving us fun fights, compelling characterisation and who knows, maybe actual subplots – remember them?
But please, no more Nora!