Review: The Flash Giant #1

by Matthew Lloyd
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[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]

Writer: Gail Simone
Art: Clayton Henry
Colors: Marcelo Maiolo
Letters: Simon Bowland

The Flash Giant #1 is one of two new 100-Page Giant Comics introduced this month into Walmart’s exclusive line. While commencing a brand new multi-part Flash story it also contains reprints of The Flash and Shazam! (serialized in Justice League) from “The New 52,” the former continuing from last month’s Justice League Giant #7 and the latter beginning here. Also, Adam Strange makes an appearance in reprint form from his eponymously titled 2004 mini-series.

The lead story opens with Barry getting up and getting ready for work, knowing he’s going to be late. He waxes philosophical on the reasons he’s late as well as the irony of the fact that he’s also, the Flash, the fastest man alive! While he races to a crime scene (he’s Central City CSI), Sam Scudder, also known as the Mirror Master, receives an offer from an unseen and quite unsavory character…and a threat. All he wants is a distraction for the Flash in return for not killing Scudder’s mother.

At the crime scene, Barry meets Iris West, reporter for Picture News, she’s looking for a story and he’s alarmed by her beauty. She gives him her card just before he has to rush off to stop Mirror Master. Flash makes quick work of MM and he seems quite happy to be taken to jail. Was MM really trying? He almost seemed relieved that it was over. His boss seemed pleased with the results though.

Exploring the minutiae of Barry’s chronic lateness in Barry’s opening monologue was not only effective, but it zeroed in on a classic characterization of Barry Allen. It’s part of a solid introduction to the basics of the character. Clayton Henry captures the dynamism of the character and provides effective pacing and some truly exciting staging.

Including Mirror Master recalls the first issue of Barry’s own comic, The Flash #105. After a few appearances in Showcase in the mid to late ’50’s, Barry Allen graduated into his own ongoing, self-titled comic – The Flash – taking over the numbering from the Golden Age Flash Comics which ended with issue #104 in 1949. It’s only appropriate that Mirror Master be Barry’s antagonist in the new Flash series as he did in The Flash # 105 (March, 1959).

The Flash’s rogues have always exhibited a moral complexity, unwilling to kill and even assisting Flash on occasion. Scudder is no different here, refusing to kill and only going through with the distraction to save his mother. It seems a team up with the Flash might be coming by the end of this story.

Of the reprints, Adam Strange is the most welcomed! A science-fiction character who had his heyday in the late ’50’s and ’60’s, Adam Strange is a severely underused character today. This reprint by Andy Diggle and Pascal Ferry depicts Adam later in life with a huge challenge, and a real emotional conflict…what a treat! An Earthman who became the hero of the planet Rann must face the disappearance of the entire planet as well as his wife and daughter and who stands accused of the crime himself!

While not necessarily a negative, it’s a little startling to see Iris depicted differently than in the regular monthly comic. The other 100-Page Giant comics seem to be able to exist side-by-side with the regular monthly books even if they don’t rely on direct references to current continuity. Showing Barry’s first meeting with Iris, and as a woman of color, clearly sets this apart from regular monthly books. With this being their first meeting, it also sets it apart from the television show which has clearly influenced the visual depiction of Iris. Do the Walmart comics exist in their own continuity?

The reprint of “The New 52” Shazam! by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, while an obvious choice, is a true drawback as it is not only Johns’ worst work to date, it is also the worst depiction of the character formerly known as Captain Marvel. As the tale that changes the character from Captain Marvel to Shazam!, it completely misses the mark in its depiction of Billy Batson. It’s a struggle to read and while it may serve some synergy with the upcoming film, it also reminds the reader of how far afield it is from what the character could and should be. There’s a reason this version of the character never got his own series during “The New 52,” and it’s not simply that Johns was “too busy.”

Solid start to the new Flash story with lots of great characterization, despite some questions in how it fits into the larger picture of current Flash comics. Gail Simone is a great writer who’s got something exciting planned for the mysterious bad behind Mirror Master. Despite the disappointing Shazam! reprint, Adam Strange is worth the price of the book on its own!

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