Josh Williamson is doing incredible work with The Flash, and the depth and quality of his contributions to Flash lore aren’t really apparent on their face. It’s remarkable how a really good 70-issue run on a Justice League mainstay with his own TV show can seemingly fly under the radar, but that’s what it feels like we’ve seen from this book so far. There’s only really one arc in Williamson’s tenure on the book that’s played a big role in the post-Rebirth metanarrative of the DC Universe. But when you really dig into what Williamson has done, there’s not a corner of Flash world that hasn’t been dramatically changed.
Williamson co-created Godspeed, who recently made his TV debut. He revamped most of the Rogues, doing amazing work in particular with Captain Cold and Heat Wave, and in the most recent arc he gave us probably the definitive Trickster story. He’s given us Grodd and Reverse Flash and all the Flash mechanics you’d demand from a good Flash run like time travel and multiverse hopping and plenty of Multiversity callbacks.
But the best work he’s done has been on Barry himself. “Barry misses stuff because he can’t slow down” is and has always been the core of the character, but it’s a little worn at this point. Williamson’s Barry Allen has so much more depth than that. He’s one of the sharpest minds in the entire DCU. He’s spent more time thinking his way around problems than he has running through them. His friendship with Batman (though it’s now on the rocks because of Heroes in Crisis) is one of those forehead-slapping “HOW DID NOBODY THINK OF THIS ALREADY” moments, and the way Williamson has pulled it off is perfection.
Now we’re getting The Flash: Year One, and DC sent us an exclusive preview. I’ll tell you, after looking through the first issue, Williamson and Howard Porter knock it out of the park. Barry’s emotional development through the issue is blazing fast, believable, and a lot of fun to read. In the space of about six pages, we go from hopeful kid Barry to sullen workaholoic Barry to Barry discovering joy again through discovering his powers. It’s really impressive how the pace of the story matches the character – this is one of those books where the how of the storytelling reinforces the who and why of the character. That’s skillful storytelling.
He’s got a lot of help from his art partner, Porter. Over the course of this mammoth run, Williamson has benefited from some utterly killer artists. Scott Kolins, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Rafa Sandoval, they’re all great and perfect for the Flash. But Howard Porter is where it’s at. He’s pretty much the platonic ideal for a Flash artist, and he has been since he was drawing Grant Morrison’s JLA. And even though he was great then, he’s so much better now. His energy and figures are incredible this issue, but his layouts and storytelling are absolute next level. The pace of the storytelling isn’t just in how fast we move from plot beat to plot beat. It’s how quickly each panel flows and how the panels themselves move on the page. I felt a little out of breath reading a few of these pages. Even before Barry gets his powers, there are so many panels that are so densely packed on each page that it feels overwhelming.
And the storytelling actually speeds up as Barry’s powers develop, with little touches throughout that give so much motion and energy to the art. From a technical perspective, this is one of the best single issues I’ve read this year.
Here’s what DC has to say about the issue:
THE FLASH #70 written by JOSHUA WILLIAMSONart and cover by HOWARD PORTERvariant cover by TONI INFANTE“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 hits this Wednesday.