Monday, March 10, 2014

I Reads You Review: THE FLASH #1 (1987)

THE FLASH #1 (1987)

WRITER: Mike Baron
PENCILS: Jackson Guice
INKS: Larry Mahlstedt
COLORS: Carl Gafford
LETTERS: Steve Haynie
EDITOR: Mike Gold
32pp, Color, .75¢ U.S. (June 1987)

Wally West is a DC Comics character.  Created by writer John Broome and artist Carmine Infantino, West was introduced in The Flash #110 (cover date: December 1959).  West is the first Kid Flash and the third version of The Flash, following the Golden Age Flash (Jay Garrick) and the Silver Age Flash (Barry Allen), to whom West was a sidekick.

West becomes the Flash after Flash-Barry Allen is killed in Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 (cover dated: November 1985).  In 1987, DC Comics debuted a new comic book series, The Flash (cover dated: June 1987), starring Wally West as the Flash.

Wally takes on his fallen mentor’s identity and wears his costume, but he is less powerful than his predecessor.  An example of his diminished powers is that Wally West-Flash can only run as fast as the speed of sound (instead of being able to reach the speed of light like Allen).  Wally also has to eat vast quantities of food to maintain his metabolism.

The Flash #1 opens in March 1987 on the day of Wally West’s 20th birthday, and he has just bought several candy bars and lottery tickets.  Waiting for him in his Brooklyn apartment are his girlfriend, Francine, and his former teammates from the Teen Titans:  Nightwing, Wonder Girl, Cyborg, Starfire, and Changeling.  They are throwing a surprise birthday party for Wally, who doesn’t seem to be in the partying mood.

The festivities are interrupted when Wally has to transport a heart to Seattle to save the life of science fiction author, Eugenie Hegstrom.  His predecessor could have gotten the heart there in an instant, but for the new Flash, the trip will take at least three hours.  It is an arduous journey for Wally and gets tougher after he meets Vandal Savage.

Before The WB (which would become The CW) television network gave us the fantasy/teen soap opera mash-up (examples include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville, “The Vampire Diaries”), writer Mike Baron turned The Flash comic book series into a 20-something, post-teen soap opera drama.  Recently, I had been having the urge to read the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths relaunch of The Flash, and, thanks to a Mile High Comics sale, I was able to get a copy of the first issue.

I found it an odd read.  I can’t remember what I thought of The Flash #1 after the first time I read it ages ago.  Strangely, I now find that it has a timeless quality or is at least timely, with its look at a single young man struggling to acclimate to adult life.  I think that DC Comics could take Baron’s script, have another artist draw it, and, with few if any changes, publish it as a new work.  I doubt many readers would think of it as an old school comic book, even those familiar with it.

This first issue is not so much a superhero story as it is a drama featuring a guy with fantastic powers.  In fact, it is an appealing drama, as I found myself engaged by every page.  However, I don’t like that it takes a classic superhero and turns him into someone who, if not pathetic, is pitiable.  Wally West seems so adrift, more than Peter Parker ever seemed (as far as I can remember).  That said, I plan on trying a few more issues.

Regarding the art, Jackson Guice (also known as Butch Guice) was not ready for prime time at the time he got this assignment.  His awkward figure drawing, inelegant compositions, and gawky drawing style yields some unattractive and sometimes ugly comic book art.  Larry Mahlstedt’s inking cannot change that.  On the other hand, the cover by Guice and Mahlstedt is actually quite nice.  Go figure.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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