Review: The Flash #70
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Howard Porter
Letters: Steve Wands
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
The Flash #70: “The Flash Year One” starts here! Barry Allen feels helpless in his life in Central City. As a forensic scientist, he’s always catching criminals after they’ve committed their crimes. All that changes one fateful night when Barry is struck by a bolt of lightning and doused in chemicals. When he wakes from a coma, he realizes he can run at incredible speeds. Can Barry master these powers and be the hero his city needs…or will the powers burn through him?
The Flash #70 begins the Flash: Year One storyline, which is primarily a retelling of Barry Allen’s origin story. Origin stories can be a tricky to do properly. They need to be retold periodically to bring newer readers up to date on the character, but longtime readers tend to get bored by yet another retelling of a story they’ve read countless times before.
To counter this, the writer tries to find some new way of looking at the story or retconning the story to add or change elements. This is somewhat dangerous, as fans can be touchy about such changes, but if done correctly can add deeper levels to the story without fundamentally changing its nature.
So, has Williamson done so here? Well, that remains to be seen, as the story isn’t quite over. The actual story of Barry getting his powers is the familiar lightning bolt and chemicals. This version borrows from the CW show by having Barry spend the next four months in a coma, but otherwise seems mostly in line with previous comics versions.
However, The Flash #70 is just the beginning of the story. We have yet to see other important parts of his origin. For example, he has yet to don any form of the classic costume or meet any of the Rogues. So, it is possible that Williamson might have some unwelcome additions to the Flash mythos up his sleeve, but none are in evidence so far.
One thing I was happy to see Williamson bring back to Barry’s origin is him being an avid fan of the Golden Age Flash comics starring Jay Garrick. However, this raises a number of questions, which I hope Williamson will touch on in the near future.
First, the world doesn’t remember Jay due to Doctor Manhattan’s messing with history, so how were there comic books about him? Also, if Barry remembers reading comics about him, why didn’t he recognize Jay when he appeared in “The Button” crossover with Batman? And the story states that the comics originally belonged to Barry’s mother Nora. Doing the math, Barry’s mother should be too young to have comics from the 1940s. Did she inherit them from one of her parents? Or is this a hint that DC will be uncoupling the JSA’s history from WWII to allow their heyday to be closer to the present DCU?
Now one complaint about Williamson’s run on the Flash, which I can somewhat sympathize with, is that Barry has been mired in pessimism and negativity for most of the run, when he has been often seen as the bright, optimistic heart of the DCU. A number of times we have seen Barry reach an epiphany that seems to get him on the road to regaining his hopefulness, but he keeps backsliding into pessimism.
I believe that this storyline is finally going to address this head on and fix Barry’s outlook, or at least set him on the right path towards doing so. Last issue, the mysterious Steadfast told Barry that he “must remember… something that you have forgotten.” And this issue, we see Nora Allen telling her young son, “That’s my Barry. Always hopeful. Whatever happens in this life…never lose that, please?”.
However, Barry later thinks to himself, “It’s nearly impossible to look forward to the future… and see anything positive.” Could it be that the important thing Barry has forgotten is his hopefulness? It seems to me that this story might be finally Williamson finally getting down to tackling Barry’s negativity problem once and for all.
I also find it interesting how Iris is introduced in the story. In this telling, it seems that Iris is the one showing interest in Barry, with Barry being reluctant to reciprocate. But we do see that Barry does secretly return the interest, but is too mired in self doubt to act on it.
I also like that Barry reacts to his new powers as a true scientist. He isn’t afraid of them or even thinking much about what to do with them. His first actions are to analyze them, test their limits, and try to figure out the science behind them. He wants to understand his abilities before all else. We have no doubts that Barry will use these powers to help others, but his scientific curiosity temporarily eclipses that urge.
Howard Porter’s art is fantastic and seems somehow well-suited to Barry’s early days as the Flash. His style seems to lend a newness to the character as if we actually were meeting these familiar characters for the first time. This title has had a number of talented artists over the past 70 issues, but Porter is already one of my favourites.
And I can’t see what’s up with Barry meeting “Old Man Barry” in the future. This promises to be a fascinating encounter.
Usually I would see Barry being stuck in negativity again as being a drawback to the story. But if I am correct in my belief that Williamson is finally tackling Barry’s negativity once and for all, then it’s necessary to have it be at the forefront of the story. At the very least, we seem to be getting to the root of Barry’s pessimism, which is the first step towards exorcising it completely.
I have been a vocal fan of Williamson’s run on the Flash, but I can empathize with others that haven’t been so fond of it. Many don’t like the constant negativity that has been eating at Barry for a long time now. Well, if you are in this camp, this may be the story you’ve been waiting for where Barry finally gets his issues sorted out. And even if it’s not, it’s still a pretty good retelling of his origin story.