Review by Frank Plowright
There have been so many 21st century reboots for the Flash it seems that we’re never too far from the next. Another will be along in a flash, as they say. When the writing team of Francis Manupul and Brian Bucellato were handed the task in 2011 it was known, in the DC office at least, that a Flash TV show was in the works, and the brief was to echo it. That’s why police scientist Barry Allen wears the familiar red costume, is a little younger than than his earlier versions, and still coming to terms with his mother’s murder. His father has been jailed for the crime, but Barry believes him innocent.
Manapul and Buccellato draw inspiration from the past, but not always the most obvious sources, which keeps things fresh. They include the crowd-pleasing elements like reporter Iris West and the Rogues, although Captain Cold in particular goes through a horrendous redesign, and conceive clever ways to use Flash’s super speed. A good example is his running through all possible outcomes to a situation near enough simultaneously, arranging elements, and what plays out is seen over the following two pages. New additions to the supporting cast are a scientific researcher and a C.I.A. agent, and while much may seem comfortingly familiar, the writers have a few well-planned shocks to drop, and the second half of Starting Line sees Flash’s life ambitiously pulled apart.
Artistically Manapul is thoughtful, considering how super speed can best be shown by comics, and configuring his page layouts accordingly as per the sample art. He adds lightning crackle to Flash moving at speed, and a new style to Flash’s costume appearing compressed from his ring, while Buccellato’s colouring is surprisingly soft and pastel-like for scenes with no costumes. The combination seeks to distinguish Flash visually from what’s come before, and succeeds, with the proviso that a fair number of fill-in artists are needed over fifteen chapters. Buccelato’s colours provide some unity, but the other artists don’t buy into Manapul’s approach. Also notable is Manapul drawing inspiration from the late 1960s Flash for his psychedelic spreads and splash pages.
Most touchstones Flash fans want are present here, although there’s no Reverse Flash, and Gorilla Grodd has a stronger presence when the story continues in Gorilla Warfare. It means that overall this reboot is entertaining fun. However, while Manapul and Buccellato produce a generally fast-moving and intriguing series, its inclusion in DC’s Essential Editions format is puzzling. The remit is to host DC’s finest standalone stories, and by any criteria there’s a long list ahead of Starting Line.The content is also available split over Move Forward and Rogues Revolution.