The Flash #23
Written by Joshua Williamson
Art by Carmine Di Giandomenico and Ivan Plascencia
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Barry Allen is dealing with the emotional fallout of “The Button” but still has a little time for his friends in The Flash #23. In a rare bit of explicit narrative reverberations from a crossover, writer Joshua Williamson takes a step back to give his new arc, entitled “Color of Fear,” room to stretch, starting the main plot slowly and instead focusing on Barry’s increasingly troubled mindset in the wake of recent events. Though this brings Williamson’s slightly dour Barry to the forefront, he gives him some compelling and terrifying reasons to be worried, given unique velocity and tone by Carmine Di Giandomenico and Ivan Plascencia.
Barry Allen as of late has been the Brian Michael Bendis/Ed Brubaker Daredevil of DC Comics in terms of personal doom and gloom, and while that hasn’t exactly been my cup of Central City Jitters coffee, Williamson does a good job of selling the toll and psychological weight being a superhero takes on a person this issue. Using a surprise party for an oblivious Barry (he didn’t even know it was his birthday), Williamson surrounds Barry with his closest friends - and some of his not-so-closest, in the case of young Wally West, who fumes at his mentor over hiding his secret identity from Iris.
Using family like his girlfriend Iris, his newly-released father Henry, and his best friend Hal Jordan, this set-up allows Williamson to delve into why Barry has kept them at a distance, as he spirals through his fears and anxieties following “The Button.” Williamson also shows a bit of tough love when it comes to Barry by not letting him off the hook for his aloof behavior through Iris, who gives the issue its funniest scene as she gives the Scarlet Speedster the business while Hal squirms in the background. Barry may still be a little too grim for my taste, but Joshua Williamson is really working hard to make you understand why the Flash has been so off-balance and standoffish as of late.
But if you think about it, Barry has plenty of reason to be worried, and artists Carmine Di Giandomenico and Ivan Plascencia give that worry a terrifying face: Eobard Thawne. After a cold open filled with a treasure trove of Flash Easter eggs that hints at a wildly different future for the Flash and his greatest nemesis, the art team adapts well to the more grounded and deliberately-paced main story, carefully blocking each interaction Barry has with his co-stars and coloring them in purposefully mundane but warm colors.
It’s that normalcy that makes their up-shifting into bioluminescent blues that much more noticeable, as the Flash and Green Lantern tackle crowded swarms of the metahuman Multiplex, who gives this issue its obligatory superhero brawl. But the presence of the “one true” Reverse-Flash hangs heavy over the issue and the art team capitalizes on that in a brutally show-stopping dream sequence that is sure to send a lightening bolt of chills down your spine.
Plascencia deserves special mention here, as he continues to grow reputation as DC’s secret coloring weapon. Like Di Giandomenico, he also thrives on The Flash when Barry puts on the suit, but he really works at another level on this issue, leaning into the earthy muted colors of a picnic in the park in order to make the vibrating yellows set into black-blue shadows of the issue’s cliffhanger, the charged greens of Hal Jordan’s constructs, and the various other metahuman sparks of colors pop much better. Though we still have miles to run, The Flash #23 at least starts us out at the right kind of pace.
The wake of crossovers can either sink or buoy a title and thankfully The Flash #23 is more the latter than the former. Though still operating through a thick cloud of guilt, Joshua Williamson’s Flash at least has some real context now and this will only help the title going forward. Ivan Plascencia and Carmine Di Giandomenico also navigate the waves of the post-”Button” surf well, culminating in a solid return to the core story for “Rebirth’s” Team Flash.