Review by Ian Keogh
As the title suggests, Year One looks back at the Flash’s earliest days as a superhero. Whether or not you consider the introduction of equal and unaligned other forces existing alongside the Speed Force a good idea, Joshua Williamson uses that to considerably raise the threat level of what in the original DC continuity was Flash’s oldest enemy, the Turtle. This is cleverly done, making a few inconsequential changes to Barry Allen becoming the Flash, but at the same time bulking up what was a brief story introducing the Flash in 1956, bolting on other aspects, and considerably improving the characterisation. In effect it’s the same sort of treatment applied to the first Spider-Man story when Ultimate Spider-Man was introduced.
This isn’t the confident Barry Allen at ease with his super speed powers, but an uncertain Barry not knowing exactly what’s happened to him and still working out what he can do. At the same time he’s faced with the first of Central City’s villains already sure of his own capabilities. He has no costume, which he has to build from scratch, and there are some surprising inclusions.
Also surprising is Howard Porter’s art. He uses the occasional large spread or pin-up page, but mainly concentrates on many small panels per page. It not only echoes the way superhero comics used to be, but is also a smart artistic representation for the idea of time being speeded up and slowed down. It’s a bravura artistic performance, although by the final chapter there are some obvious deadline compromises in the form of stumpy people.
The Turtle only appears to occupy half the story, and the second half opens with a classic Flash dilemma beautifully staged. From there Williamson supplies some fine moments for Iris West, and his eventual solution to the ongoing problem is a clever underlining of what Flash is. However, for all the neat little touches and the overall direction being good, Williamson drags the story on slightly too long.
Despite connecting with both the volumes before (The Gretatest Trick of All) and after (Death and the Speed Force), for some reason DC didn’t allocate Flash Year One a volume number. Those connections aren’t massive, so this is by and large a standalone story and a potential nice introduction to Williamson’s take on The Flash.