The Flash: Rebirth #1
Written by Joshua Williamson
Art by Carmine Di Giandomenico and Ivan Plascencia
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
While the #1 on the covers promise a certain experience for readers that the Rebirth one-shots have yet to deliver, The Flash: Rebirth #1 keeps DC’s soft relaunch on sure footing. Framed like a director’s cut of DC Universe: Rebirth #1 and taking inspiration from an unexpected but widely recognized source, Joshua Williamson offers up a day in the life of Barry Allen, superhero and CSI, punctuated by the emotional return of Wally West. But, while DC Universe: Rebirth #1 gave us only a few scenes of Barry and Wally, this one-shot fleshes out the emotional fallout of his return along with hints as to post-Crisis Wally’s place in a post-"New 52" world. Despite being hindered by the absence of the forward momentum that a true #1 usually carries with it, The Flash: Rebirth #1 fills in the gaps left by DC’s latest blockbuster and shows that the Flash Family is good hands going into "Rebirth."
To address the elephant in the room, when I say “hindered” that isn’t to say that this is a bad issue. Quite the opposite, in fact. Williamson, Carmine Di Giandomenico and Ivan Plascencia deliver a solid and kinetic sneak peek into their upcoming run, hammered home by an engaging handle on the characters and well-blocked, clearly defined artwork, brought to a head by a fantastic two-page splash homage to the most famous Flash cover of all time, The Flash #123, “The Flash of Two Worlds!". But presenting these one-shots as new #1s have chained the stories to an expectation for an actual #1 issue, one that kicks the title off proper instead of just offering teases. Billing these specials as zero issues would alleviate these expectations, but having a big, bold #1 on each cover brings more attention to the line and, while that was the intention and has been working like gangbusters, readers will have to divorce themselves from the preconceived notions the number carries in order to really enjoy the stories.
But once you’ve realized what you’re reading and gotten yourself into the proper headspace, The Flash: Rebirth #1 really is a fun read. In framing it as the unseen action before and after Wally West’s return, Joshua Williamson is able to present two sides of Barry — one that is still haunted by the murder of his mother, as well as vivid flashes of what may be the future, exacerbated by a case that bares eerie similarities to his mother’s death. At the same time, Williamson explores a Barry Allen renewed by Wally’s return and the hope he represents. Though Barry is clearly our leading man, Williamson doesn’t sideline Wally and gives him a level-headed response to his return, something often sidestepped when big heroes return. Williamson’s Wally is unsure exactly how he fits into this new reality and how his return will affect those closest to him so he decides to play it safe for now, saving him and his aunt Iris, confusion and possible heartbreak for the time being.
But Joshua Williamson‘s emotionally intelligent and bright storytelling doesn‘t stop with the reuniting of the Flashes. Williamson makes sure to make it explicit in the text that Wally‘s return has changed something in Barry. “Wally thinks that I saved him… but really… Wally brought me back.” It’s an optimistic, in-character kind of finale, but it’s anchored by a showstopping homage by Carmine Di Giandomenico and Ivan Plascencia’s. Watching the Flashes racing up a building together, bright costumes boldly standing out amid the grey of the city, both artists provide the right amount of energy and emotionality to this shot, bolstered by Plascencia’s metallic finishes, digital neon backgrounds, and bold bursts of yellow.
While Williamson explores the duality of Barry Allen’s emotional state on the day his one-time sidekick returned, he also takes inspiration from an unforeseen yet not particularly shocking source: The CW’s The Flash television series. As Barry works the case, he makes a stop at his recently-exonerated father’s house in order to talk out particulars and attempt to unburden his busy mind, only to leave, bounce around the city, doing good deeds where he can, and set his mind in motion weighing evidence. These scenes reminded me heavily of Grant Gustin’s portrayal of the Scarlet Speedster with a more than a little Geoff Johns flavor thrown in, as he stops to give firefighters, a little girl, and the other residents of the apartment fire pizza in the middle of bigger displays of heroism and being a full day early for a date with Iris. As far as inspirations go, you could do much worse, and while some readers may bemoan this choice as unoriginal co-opting of a popular adaptation, Williamson uses this comparison well and in the least saccharine way possible, putting his Barry and his relationship with his father more in line with the widely recognized TV Barry Allen in order to reach an even wider audience going into "Rebirth."
Like the rest of these one-shots, The Flash: Rebirth #1 reads more like a zero issue, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. Using both the events of the DC Universe: Rebirth #1 and the CW-inspired character dynamics to tip the scales in their favor and provide a strong entry point into the new series, Joshua Williamson, Carmine Di Giandomenico, and Ivan Plascencia assure readers that even after a bumpy finale The Flash is back on track with plenty of action, emotion, and twists in store for readers. Though it will never be accused of being an essential read or a can’t miss issue, The Flash: Rebirth #1 is a dynamic look at the coming attractions that will be hitting shelves with Barry’s proper #1 issue.