This opening issue of the new Barry Allen ongoing series features a murder, but it doesn’t feel grim. Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul give “Flash” #1 a swift, lightweight feel, but it’s an effective pace, an engaging tone, and it’s a pleasant contrast to what we saw in “Flash Rebirth” #1 or that abysmal and wrong-headed Bart Allen “Flash” series from a few years back.
While “Flash Rebirth” gave Barry Allen a more potent reason to hate his #1 nemesis — Professor Zoom — and brought the Silver Age Flash back into the DCU fold with more pathos than ever, it didn’t really feel like a launching ground for the type of series we get here. That mini felt leaden, even when individual issues were interesting, while this series feels spring-loaded and slightly explosive, like a series of firecrackers launched into the air. It’s celebratory in a way “Flash Rebirth” never was. Even when it focuses on the death of a guy in a Mirror Master uniform. Even when a menace arrives. From the future.
Francis Manapul, so good with the pastoral setting and the newfound innocence of Superboy in “Adventure Comics,” makes an excellent Flash artist. His Barry Allen is perhaps too inexplicably youthful, but that’s clearly the direction this series wants to head. It’s as if Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul and DC editorial have recast Barry Allen with a younger lead actor — recast the entire gang, from Iris on down, with youthful doppelgangers — but it makes sense to do something like that. They are relaunching a stuffy old character for a new era, and rather than bringing him back as the wizened old veteran who can teach the youngsters a thing or two, they’ve given Barry the chance to shine as a hero all his own.
Gravitas and age has never set well on Barry Allen — the embodiment of mercurial grace and high-speed science — so this version of the character makes a more effective one than we might have imagined after seeing the events of “Flash Rebirth.” This isn’t boring, sullen, self-involved Barry Allen. This is a Barry Allen who doesn’t have any time for that. He has cold cases to solve, and new cases coming across his desk at the police station. And villains to pursue. And Iris to meet for breakfast.
I mentioned a menace from the future in an earlier paragraph, and it’s actually more than one menace. It’s a whole crew, from the 25th century. Their arrival made for quite a surprise, but the idea of an ominous gang from some era we don’t yet know — well, Johns has used that approach before. And it’s worked well in his other comics, but it’s something that we’ve already seen. Not that the familiar is necessarily bad.
“The Flash” #1 is a faced-paced, dynamic relaunch for a series that has something to prove: that bland old Barry Allen can be interesting in a superhero universe that has radically changed in the past few decades. It’s off to a nice start.