DC’s Rebirth has launched some amazing new chapters in the lives of classic super heroes, and Barry Allen has got a really, really special story! The first trade collection by Joshua Williamson with art by Carmine Di Giandomenico and Ivan Plascencia generously collects THE FLASH: REBIRTH one-shot and THE FLASH #1-8 under the title “Lightning Strikes Twice.”
The title of this trade really covers a lot of what goes on during this first arc of The Flash, though you should definitely have read Geoff Johns’ DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH before diving into this series. More than any other Rebirth title, it leans on plot threads woven by Johns in his kickoff comic.
We are dropped into familiar territory with Barry Allen as the Fastest Man Alive! (#DCTV fans cheer madly!) Barry is dealing with discovering that the original Wally West—who disappeared during the events of The New 52—is reemerging from the Speed Force, dragging a slew of memories along with him and setting about the task of carving out an identity for himself in this new continuity where he can no longer be Kid Flash. Wally West is a Flash and Barry is determined to give his protégé the recognition that he deserves for his contributions to the Flash legacy.
This is the Wally West that we all know from his Teen Titans days and for taking up the mantle of the Flash after Barry Allen died (spoilers!), in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. If you want to check out more of his adventures check out the TITANS ongoing series! (Fun fact: it’s also awesome.)
While the original Wally West goes out to find his place in the new Rebirth world, Barry must build up his relationship with the “new” Wally West, who doesn’t know that Barry’s the Flash and doesn’t look up to him the same way he looks up to his super hero alter-ego. The theme of putting Barry in a mentor role continues throughout “Lightning Strikes Twice” when a lightning storm disperses Speed Force powers to several unsuspecting citizens of Central City. Along with S.T.A.R. Labs, the Flash devotes himself to teaching these baby speedsters from all walks of life how to control and make the most out of their powers.
As one of the staple members of the Justice League and a character with a long list of legacy characters in his wake, it was really wonderful to see Barry so readily embrace his responsibilities to all these people who maybe were not as certain if they wanted to take on the challenges of being speedsters. Barry, himself, experiences both successes and failures (and even a few casualties), along the way. This turns out to be as much of a learning experience for the Fastest Man Alive as those who look up to him.
…Including a now seriously capable new Wally West!
Wally’s speed has been given the boost that he’s been seeking for a little while now, facing him with the metatextual question of whether or not he is going to live up to the legacy of the original Wally West and become Kid Flash—and maybe later the Flash. Within the narrative, Wally eventually gets to decide if he is going to live up to the heroic examples that he sees in his daily life displayed by the Flash and, more importantly, his Aunt Iris.
It’s not all vibrating-matter-through-walls training all the time for Barry Allen, though, when a new villain named Godspeed shows up on the scene. Godspeed is different than anyone else the Flash has faced because he can steal speed from others in order to bolster his own abilities. Not only that, but the effect of this theft by Godspeed is seemingly death. A speedster who kills other speedsters is not something that the Flash has time to deal with…and yet he has no choice but to do just that.
Godspeed presents a unique threat to the dueling aspects of the Flash and Barry Allen’s life. As a super-villain, he injures and takes the lives of people who are dear to the Flash, and when his civilian identity is revealed, Barry Allen is forced to question if he could have done more to stop this madness from ever happening. Is he responsible for the creation of Godspeed? Could he have done more to prevent some of the horrible events that take place in “Lightning Strikes Twice”?
Throughout this first trade, Barry is plagued by the desire to be in two places at once, yet doomed to be incapable of this act while he retains a distance between Barry Allen and the Flash. In true super hero fashion, he never seems tempted to merge the two—only more determined to do better in both aspects. Williamson really hits the nail on the head that is the duality of being a super hero.
Artist and colorist team Di Giandomenico and Plascencia provide readers with some stunning new costume designs (I have a particular fondness for Fast Track and Godspeed), and kinetic, beautiful representations of the Speed Force and how it works when employed—usually in combat—by its users. The art jumps off the page and is infused with as much energy as the story it is helping to unfold.
Without giving away spoilers for “Lightning Strikes Twice,” Barry Allen ends the story with a new partner, a new legacy and new focus going forward into the rest of The Flash: Rebirth story arcs. He learns difficult lessons and has some cool fights, while getting to play in the larger DC Universe sandbox as he takes a stab at unfolding the mystery of where the ten years went that were stolen from the characters of this world.
This first volume is not only a fabulous introduction to the characters of Barry, Iris and both Wallys, as well as the conceits that make up their world, but it is a testament to the amazing things that can be done in a Flash story. The creative team should be very proud and if you’re a fan of the character or of The CW show, you should definitely consider grabbing this first volume for yourself or a friend. It’s the perfect opportunity to dive into the world of Flash comics at a time when they’re as good as they’ve ever been. Maybe even better.
Rising star writer Joshua Williamson heralds in a new era for The Flash, who finds himself in a city of speedsters after a familiar lightning storm.