As was the case for many other DC ‘Rebirth’ series, the publisher rapidly followed the paperback editions with a hardcover. Lightning Strikes Twice was published in January 2017, Speed of Darkness followed in May, and in August this hardback combination followed covering the first six months period of twice-monthly issues.

Although he’d go on to produce memorable stories during a long run, Joshua Williamson’s starting point is shaky. Thankfully the reboot doesn’t mean wholesale changes. The Flash is still Barry Allen, diligent police crime scene investigator, but with a tendency to be late, trying his Captain’s patience. He has a friendship with reporter Iris West, whose nephew Wally West is Kid Flash, although this isn’t the Wally West who was the Flash from the mid-1980s. He’s been missing for a while, trapped in the Speed Force, and when he emerges no-one remembers him.

It’s the Speed Force that Williamson concentrates on, an exceptionally generous and giving Speed Force here, with all the problems that produces. Williamson returns a loved supporting character from a 1990s series, and introduces a mystery as to where Flash’s Rogues have gone, which is carried over into Book 2. The plots work fine, as do the surprises, but Williamson’s less satisfying when it comes to the characterisation, with too much shorthand servicing the plot, rather than the plot naturally stemming from the cast. Williamson has a habit of correcting or explaining perceived character lapses down the line, but they smack of being constructed after the event rather than always intended. An exceptionally convenient Iris West moment sticks out.

The entire run will be problematical throughout for anyone whose expectation is artistic consistency. No artist can be expected to draw two full issues per month for an extended period, but the editorial system for scheduling replacements leaves much to be desired. Carmine Di Giandomenico draws seven of the opening nine chapters very nicely indeed, employing a distinctive stylised approach strong on design. However, instead of choosing replacement artists who approximate his style, we’re given very different versions of the Flash and his supporting cast. Most replacement artists are good, but more figurative, although Davide Gianfelice’s people are stiff and distorted. At least Di Giandomenico was granted some lead-in leeway, but the problem becomes worse over subsequent volumes, some of which have juddering changes mid-chapter.

A closing story of Barry on a date and Kid Flash stepping in to ensure he can have a night off is a reminder that Williamson can be a better writer. It’s personality driven, logical and actually rather sweet. Williamson will go on to write a page-turning Flash, but this is a stumbling start.