The Flash: Rebirth #1
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ethan Van Sciver
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics
I start this review with a confession: I never considered Barry Allen to be "my" Flash.
To date myself a little bit, the patron saint of the Silver Age died three months before I was born. Wally West -- despite never having a real job or outside life to flesh him out as a character -- was always the Fastest Man Alive to me, tied to humanity through the love of his wife, Linda Park.
I never considered Barry Allen to be the Flash. But Geoff Johns is going a long way to convincing me.
If you're looking for the high-octane action that opened up Green Lantern: Rebirth, you're probably going to be disappointed a bit. While the memory of Hal Jordan was a little bit fresher on people's minds (which is easy to understand, considering he not only "died" more recently, but came back as Parallax and the Spectre), many readers don't remember Barry Allen as anything other than a flashback or near-death vision for Wally West.
So much of this story is giving us some background on Barry's life, as well as the life of his family: mentor Jay Garrick, protege Wally West, newly-resurrected grandson Bart Allen, and his wife, Iris Allen. The script crackles when he meets up with Hal Jordan again, as it's obvious his grasp on the character is the strongest -- "I didn't like Hal Jordan when we first met... it wasn't until I heard him use the word 'perp' that I figured out he was a cop. That changed everything."
But Johns' main strength in Flash is the same he had with Green Lantern: he knows what makes Barry Allen tick. While Hal is a study in recklessness and charismatic defiance, Barry is a little more down to earth. "This man refused to believe the line between good and evil blurred like the scarlet and gold he wore." Methinks this might be a theme, one that may even be as resonant as overcoming fear. Of course, it remains to be seen if Johns can make this more laid-back character into as engrossing a protagonist as Green Lantern: it is true that the scenes where Barry mopes are a little on the slow side... even for a man who is perpetually late.
The art in this is pretty fantastic. Ethan Van Sciver proves that you can't rush quality -- while some of his crowd scenes are a little too busy for my liking, he more than makes up for it with the simplistic beauty of a Flash in high speed. The scene of Barry and Hal walking through the Flash Museum, passing by a larger than life statue of them both that screams "The Brave and the Bold" while subtly showing Wally West's Rogues' Gallery is a stroke of genius on both creators' part. Also -- Van Sciver's cartoony statue of Impulse is a great Easter Egg for fans of the original run.
Of course, there are some things to nitpick: yes, it does start off with an intro that is a little difficult to connect with. (Although the mystery that is being set up with more and more tension by the return of a villain which I thought had a lot of potential... and was never seen again. By the end of the issue, you might see why that potential might not be seen again.) And to be honest, while I completely understand the need to team up Johns and Van Sciver again (they are a winning combination), part of me wishes another artist could have put his stamp on the Flash, just like Van Sciver did with Green Lantern. (The art is still pretty, though.)
The things that do transcend nitpicking, however: (A) ignoring Jesse Quick/Liberty Belle as seeming scenery to Jay Garrick's scene, which makes her appearance at the end seem a little forced; (B) the lack of energy behind Jay's reminiscing; and (C) the seemingly out-of-character aggravation that Kid Flash has for his sainted grandfather coming back from the dead. This last point bears more examination: the Bart Allen most readers know and love know that he worshipped Barry Allen's memory, and to be honest, I'm a little disappointed Bart and Barry haven't had a high-energy, incredibly-fun team-up yet. (Yes, I know the series is in its first issue, I can still hope.) But the fact that Bart would be complaining that now Barry has no sacrifice just kind of kills the likeability factor for the character.
But that said, this is a series that I think is just coming out of first gear, and is going to be revving its way through the next few issues. Geoff Johns' grasp of the main character is more than enough to keep me reading, simply because I feel that if anybody can take the bland, flashback-fodder hero Barry Allen and make him as addictively readable as the once gray-templed Hal Jordan, it'll be him. By weaving in clever uses of continuity as well as the seemingly sinister energies of the Speed Force, I think the Flash couldn't be in better hands.