The Flash#70-Year One-Chapter One: He Will Be the Fastest Man Alive
Writer: Joshua Williamson & Howard Porter
Cover: Porter & Hi-Fi
The 70th issue of “The Flash” is the start of the Flash: Year One arc. The issue presents a spin on the origin story of Barry Allen becoming the Fastest Man Alive. Like in the original origin story, Barry does get his powers by getting struck by lightning while doused with chemicals from his forensic laboratory. In addition to that however, we see several events that surround that fateful night. Constant readers be warned, if you have not read this issue of “The Flash,” I encourage you to go read the issue before reading this review. Otherwise, lets delve into Flash: Year One.
One thing that I like about the comic is how Barry’s mother Nora Allen serves as an inspiration to Barry from his childhood to adulthood. We see this in the first scene where he is reading the Flash comics with his mother in the dark attic during a stormy night. The comic also reminds us that it was the death of his mother that spurred Barry to studying forensic science so that he could exonerate his father Henry Allen who was framed for the murder. And we also see Barry reminiscing about his mother telling him to keep on trying despite his setbacks when testing out his newfound connection to the Speed Force.
Another thing I liked about the comic is how it presents three versions of Barry Allen.
As a kid, Barry is seen as an idealistic boy who is hopeful despite adversity. This is apparent when he shows his mother the black eye that he received after defending a group of his classmates from a bully at school. Young Barry is also inspired from reading his mother’s old comics which are based on the Jay Garrick Flash. It is here where we see a glimpse of the Flash being a more hopeful hero despite the trials and tribulations he has to go through.
However, the second version of Barry Allen, the present-day Barry, is grown up but he is more hyper-focused and jaded due to witnessing his mother’s death and the growing crime in Central City. This is the Barry before he gets hit by lighting. We learn that the night in the attic was Barry’s last moment with his mother before she was murdered. This Barry is a CSI (Crime Scene Investigator) for the Central City Police Department who is too obsessed with work to pay attention to the reporter and his future love interest Iris West despite encouragement from friend and the future Godspeed, August Heart. Additionally, there is a poignant scene where Barry bumps into a man and his family. After Barry apologizes to the man, the latter forgives him and tells his wife and children that “we shouldn’t be out in the streets after dark anyway. But y’know what? The sun will come out tomorrow.” It is with this quote that makes Barry wish that he had the man’s optimism but after all that he has experienced in his life including the rising crime in Central City, he cannot help but remain jaded.
The third version of Barry we see is a future version of Barry past his prime and a grizzled and hardened hero. This Barry Allen is obviously the Flash but he is living in a future Central City ruled by the Turtle. In this Central City, the Turtle is a self-proclaimed tyrannical king and the future version of Barry may be a freedom fighter or someone in hiding. There is also a newspaper clipping that present Barry sees which reads that the Flash had lost Central City. Future Barry seems more jaded and angrier than present day Barry due to him losing Central City. This is apparent when he reprimands present Barry for time traveling forward in time.
The origin story shows an awesome scene of Barry getting struck by lightning and getting thrown back toward the chemicals used in his laboratory. In the first scene, the ominous-looking lightning is shown while young Barry is looking out at the window in the attic. We also see the lightning when Barry is headed back to his lab after working on a crime scene with Heart. To me, those scenes tell me that the lightning was wanting to strike Barry and it was waiting for the right moment to do so. There are also several Flash stories that allude to Barry himself being the very lightning that strikes him.
There are some panels that show Barry being in a coma for months and eventually waking up from the coma and testing out his powers. In those scenes, he treats his body like a crime scene by using his skills as a forensic scientist to make sense of his new found powers. There are panels that hilariously show an accumulation of Barry’s worn out running shoes before acquiring yellow boots meant for fire fighters (given to the Central City Fire Department by Wayne-Tech). The yellow boots will become part of the Flash’s iconic crimson suit. There are other scenes that show Barry eating huge amounts of food due to his metabolism and training himself to use different abilities with his speed.
The graphic narrative done by Howard Porter and HI-FI matches up with story written by Williamson. Going back to the attic scene, the sky was a crimson color similar to the Flash’s suit. The art expressed in this scene makes the lightning look omnipotently fateful. The art projects Barry’s ascension to the Flash as an omen. I also felt that Williamson and HI-FI ripped a page out of orginal Flash creator Carmine Infantino’s book on how to draw the Flash. I learned from a documentary that Infantino drew the Flash with a two-dimensional delineation of speed. We see this in several scenes where Barry starts running when waking from a coma and when learning how to harness his connection to the Speed Force.
This was a cool start to the Year One arc and I am looking forward to reading the next chapter which is titled:” The Man Who Broke the Time Barrier!”
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