Thanks to the well received and immensely popular Batman Year One, stories with that moniker have become tradition at DC Comics. JLA year one, Green Arrow: Year One, Robin: Year One, Wonder Woman: Year One — the list just goes on. Many of these stories were excellently retold origins that added to a character’s mythology. Joshua Williamson’s Flash: Year One joins the long held tradition, with a well constructed first chapter.
Taking a break from Flash’s force related problems, Williamson and artist Howard Porter take Barry Allen back to the very beginning — before he was the fastest man alive. This first chapter touches on Barry’s childhood, his early relationships with his supporting cast, and the beginning of his superhero career. Frankly a lot of content is covered in issue 70, but Williams’ script is clear and focused.
I was worried this story would spend multiple issues setting up the lightening strike, but Williamson gets it out of the way rather quickly. The writer is showing readers that Flash: Year One is about Barry becoming the Flash, as fans are already well acquainted with his personal tragedy. It’s a smart way to approach the story, one that offers something new rather than retreading something that has been done to death (both in comics and television).
The death of Barry’s mother isn’t the whole of the story, but it does factor into his motivation in becoming the Flash. Williamson uses Nora Allen as more than a murder victim. In a brief, but tender, scene, Williamson provides readers with a glimpse into Barry’s relationship with his mother, one that will inform his later career choices. It also, without spoiling the story, serves as a wonderful callback to the silver age Flash origin. Long time readers will know that reference when they read it.
Williamson closes the issue with a great twist that really makes Year One stand out amongst Flash origins stories. It is a promising direction for the story that will build reader anticipation for the second chapter of Flash Year One.
Howard Porter really excels when drawing the flash, capturing the character’s abilities with his energetic figure work. The page layouts are panel heavy, owing to Williamson’s dense plotting, but it reads remarkably well. Many of the smaller panels flow together as a single action, making the issue a brisk read. The panel heavy pages also deal largely with character interactions, which is in contrast to the wider panels used when Barry cuts loose with his powers. In doing so, Porter gives the pages a certain rhythm that emphasizes the significance of that moment in Barry’s journey to becoming the Flash.
Flash: Year One isn’t a character defining story arc just yet, but it’s pretty damn enjoyable.