The Flash was one of the very first superheroes I followed in comics; I was lucky enough to discover the thrill of serialized stories (and collecting) in the midst of writer Geoff Johns’ run and just as Mark Waid’s from a decade prior was made available in trade paperbacks. Yet following Johns’ departure from the series, I discovered The Flash to be the sort of title that required a special creative spark to activate. The Flash would always be one of my favorite DC series, but it wasn’t difficult to pass upon for years (or close to a decade) at a time, while waiting for that spark to reignite the concept with a new idea. The arrival of writer Si Spurrier and artist Mike Deodato Jr. on The Flash #1 looks to be exactly the creative team that makes this character and series race ahead into another iconic saga for the series.
The series’ newest volume centers on Wally West, the third iteration of the character who has led the series, most of the time, since the late 1980s. Longtime fans of West and The Flash will notice many familiar tropes defining Wally’s life in this debut. There’s a lineage of speedsters, including both mentors and proteges, including Max Mercury and Bart Allen; classic rogues, like Gorilla Grodd, pop up to cause havoc in Central City; there are middle class, family-oriented concerns at home with a hero who remains the most relatable of the core Justice League membership. All of these serve to introduce The Flash as a series accessible to readers of any background, yet it never once seems too comfortable in relying upon these tropes. Rather, The Flash #1 suggests that readers should be very uneasy in setting expectations for what the series will bring.
The Flash #1 possesses that strange tone of epiphany, wherein the world remains largely the same, but everything suddenly seems different. When the issue opens with Max and Bart training, it offers a portentous vision of a buffalo with glowing red eyes standing in the snow. That moment and subsequent moments of strangeness relating to the Speed Force, develop a sense of unease about the operating system of speedsters in DC Comics. Talk of physics, understandings of time and space, and the ill-defined nature of the Speed Force all serve to highlight the potential nature of humans utilizing a fundamental force of the universe they cannot even predict or explain. It’s unnerving when taken seriously and the inclusion of Mister Terrific ensures that it is.
This lack of comfort with a concept that’s been explicitly utilized for nearly 30 years is significantly bolstered by a new stylistic approach to super-speed in superhero comics by artist Mike Deodato Jr. Even as a reader who is often skeptical of Deodato’s comics work, I was swept away by how his origami-like layouts, fractured spaces, and sharp linework all serve to enhance both the narratives and underlying ideas explored in The Flash #1. It is, without a doubt, the best work from Deodato in recent memory and may provide the launchpad to career-defining work.
Those layouts, especially the shattering of a single, wide image with white backgrounds serve to display super-speed in a fascinating fashion. It focuses attention on static characters and offers a greater sense of the instantaneous acceleration surrounding them and changing their world, as with Linda West in her home with three speedsters. There’s greater consistency between characters and setting in the work here, too, as the broad expressions often worn by Wally allow dialogue-oriented sequences to keep pace. Deodato plays with abstract elements in the familiar lightning wake of Flashes, but is provided a few opportunities to ratchet up the weird that are unsettling in a fashion unique to Deodato’s technique. The promise of seeing more of all these aspects in coming issues may be the most promising aspect of an altogether very promising debut.
The high strangeness of whatever is changing in the Speed Force is contrasted by the familiarity of other elements, and Spurrier uses this familiarity to push those elements into new territory. Superhero readers will have witnessed conversations with super scientists and marital strife so many times that it’s difficult to distinguish one instance from the next, but Spurrier imbues the characters and dialogue in these sequences with a rare, lived quality. Mister Terrific and Wally’s interactions inform readers as much about their relationship as the expository revelations at hand, and provides a sense that every supporting character possesses a rich interior. The brief moments of tension between Wally and Linda at home are of special interest, though, as the slight silences and understated worries will likely hold up a mirror to many adult readers. Despite the fun of having adolescent speedsters and baby-related strangeness, the West home thrives on a dynamic that reflects the subtle challenges of marriage. Spurrier is clearly invested in telling the story of a family as one concerning eldritch horrors.
The Flash may not always be a must-read series at DC Comics, but when the right creative team discovers something new in the series, it can be the hottest ticket in superhero comics. The arrival of Spurrier and Deodato makes it seem like the title is ready to run again; the debut provides readers a perfect (re-)introduction to the most beloved elements of any modern volume of The Flash and then finds a way to make all of those familiar elements seem new and potentially dangerous. In addition to summoning a dramatic new threat and embedding reader sympathy deeply into the West household, this premiere positions an idiosyncratic artist to utilize their unique style in the best-possible fashion. The Flash #1 reads like lightning in a bottle and there’s no better approach to The Flash.
Published by DC Comics
On September 26, 2023
Written by Si Spurrier
Art by Mike Deodato Jr.
Colors by Trish Mulvihill
Letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Cover by Mike Deodato Jr. and Trish Mulvihill