The Flash #52 // Review
The Flash #52, scripted by Joshua Williamson, with art by Christian Duce and colors by Luis Guerrero, begins Barry Allen’s research into the mysteries of the new Forces (Strength, Sage, and Still) he discovered in last month’s instant-classic Flash War. With the destruction of the Force Barrier and Wally being sidelined by PTSD, plus coming to grips with no longer being the fastest man alive, Barry is feeling a little overwhelmed at possibly the worst time.
Williamson continues to grow and stretch his limits as a writer with each issue of this series. His run started out as a smaller story about a superhero who happens to be the fastest man alive, and now has become so much more epic in scale, while remaining an intimate story about its protagonist. With the introduction of multiple threats in the form of the new Forces and taking the story to locations like the multidimensional House of Heroes, WIlliamson is making great use of the entire DC universe and expanding the mythos of the Flash in leaps and bounds, while channeling legendary writers such as Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison. If he continues to soar to new heights like this, he will be considered one of DC’s best current writers in no time.
Barry Allen is considered the “boring” Flash by some fans, mostly due to his reign in the Silver Age, when character development took a backseat to fun adventures children could enjoy. He then died in the Crisis, just when more mature writing was taking hold in comics, and all of the benefits of great character work mixed with now-classic storytelling went to his protege, Wally West. Since Geoff Johns brought Allen back and decided to revamp his backstory to include Reverse Flash killing his mom, Barry has been more fleshed out, but still, some writers struggle to make him interesting. Williamson, on the other hand, has not only used what Johns introduced, but added some depth of his own. Barry has become a bit flawed, making poor decisions, failing Wally (both versions) as a mentor at times, and now struggling with the fact that he isn’t the fastest man alive anymore. This issue has him facing change, not only in his life but in his city, and not doing well with it. He finds strength in Iris, but he’s still running on shaky ground. Some fans might see this as character betrayal, but it’s hard to betray a character that was barely developed in the first place.
The readers are also treated to a little more development of the Strength Force this issue, as a surprise character seems to have found a way to tap into it with disturbing results. Previously, Williamson had only shown Zoom using it, manifesting its power with strange rock formations around his hands. This issues shows the same kind of rock formations, but also reveals that the Strength Force can affect its user in some surprisingly physical ways. Hopefully, next issue will dig deeper into this dangerous new Force, but until then, Williamson has done phenomenal work in building interest in it.
Duce does a great job on this issue, but he’s not the typical Flash artist. His figure work is stunning, and he does an especially amazing job in the opening scene with Barry in the House of Heroes with all of the other Flashes from across the Multiverse, but he does lack some of the kinetic energy the quintessential Flash artists have. He would be an A-list artist on any other title, but here, he comes up just short of that. Instead of a Flash that looks like he’s truly racing across a panel, readers get a static, but great looking, figure surrounded by electricity. It’s a small gripe about an otherwise-stellar artist, but that key ingredient is so important to the visuals of this book that it can’t be ignored. And speaking of lighting, Guerrero does a great job as usual on colors, making that Speed Force effect fly off the page, but he also gets to do the color effects of the ominous Strength Force. With a whole new color set to play with there, he steps up to help provide some of the coolest imagery of the entire issue.
As a whole, if you’re interested in the new Forces, this issue is the ground floor of getting answers to your questions. If you’re not interested in that, there is still the exploration of Barry Allen and his demotion from being the fastest man alive. Williamson has laid the groundwork for plenty of new concepts to explore with his recent Flash War story, and this is the issue where all of that starts to pay off. So, if you like what he’s been doing the last few months (and any Flash fan probably would), then you should enjoy sticking around for the fallout.