Year of the Villain is upon us, friends! There are crazy things happening all over the DC Multiverse right now—I mean, have you read DCeased?!—and it’s finally starting to bleed into the titles of our most popular, most beloved superheroes.
It’s only fitting that the Flash’s introduction to Year of the Villain is titled “Death of the Speed Force.” The Flash #76, which kicks off this pivotal storyline, has to deal with the aftermath of Barry Allen travelling back through time (“My name is Barry Allen and I’m addicted to changing the timeline…”) and the damage this has wrought on two current members of Team Flash—Wallace West and Avery Ho.
By the way, can I just take a moment here and say how much I adore Avery and am thrilled to see her make a return to the regular Flash series?
I’ve always felt that The Flash is at its best when dealing with issues of family. Family can be everything from spouses and children to a chosen tribe, and when it comes to Barry Allen, there’s a reason we refer to his gang of speedsters as “The Flash Family.” Williamson zeroes in on it with Barry’s return.
Now, Barry Allen is something of a stalwart character. I don’t often credit him with shifting and changing. He is steadfast. His personality is a literary foil to his superpowers, which is actually one of his most compelling character traits. However, in The Flash #76 Barry displays some pretty phenomenal character growth. I mentioned earlier that there are some incredible events and changes in the pages of this series, but Barry has remained the lightning rod for all of the young characters under his tutelage.
They’re going to need it. I won’t spoil too much of what happens in this issue, but just when it appears that Wallace and Avery are being moved by the changes Barry has exhibited—including the introduction of the first ever “Flash Cave”—one of my favorite Flash baddies shows up to herald the end of something pretty incredibly integral to the rules of this universe.
Okay, minor spoilers, consider yourself warned:
A Black Flash shows up to herald the death of…well, okay, I won’t spoil that! Black Flashes are so freaking cool, though, and I have to admit that I cheer and do a little geek dance whenever they pop up to be the literal bearers of bad news. Eeeeee!
This is really a perfect beginning to Year of the Villain. The Flash #76 effortlessly wraps up the most integral portions of the previous storyline while thoughtfully pivoting to the next big twist. Williamson and artist Rafa Sandoval working together execute a masterful heightening of stakes for Barry, Wallace, Avery and everyone else on panel. For a perfect example, you need look no further than when the Black Flash reveals himself to the Flash Family, all at once. It allows each and every character to have a reaction to the severity of the situation. The focus may be on the Flash’s nightmarish embodiment of death, but if you look a little deeper in the art, you can see it. Avery and Wallace’s sheer terror. Commander Cold’s curiosity. Steadfast’s…ahem…sage-like observation. (At least, until it’s not…but that’s all I’ll say about that.)
Plus, when you give me an issue of The Flash that reintroduces the Rogues I am always on board! The focus in issue #76 may be on Barry and his family, but we do get to see the results of the final few pages of The Flash #75, where Lex Luthor made his ubiquitous offer to Captain Cold. Leonard Snart not only accepted Lex’s offer, but he’s brought his old pal Heat Wave along for the ride. Sandoval does an exceptional job at creating two incredibly distinct silhouettes for the two of them. Snart and Rory are back on their evil nonsense and as Year of the Villain plays out, I’m hyped to see how much damage they can get up to.
With an emphasis on DC’s deep well of evildoers, Year of the Villain seems to be shining its spotlight on characters we haven’t seen in a while. It’s great to see some of the Rogues back in the spotlight, and I can’t wait to see who else shows up in DC’s other monthly comics. (People like…oh, maybe Black Mask?) This is the promise of Year of the Villain, from my perspective, and The Flash #76 appears to be backing me up!
Be sure to hop over to Twitter and share what you thought of this issue and where you think things are going now that the Speed Force seems to be dying. I’ll tell you one thing—it’s going to make the wait for issue #77 feel that much longer!
Ashley V. Robinson writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com and is a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our weekly television column. You can find her on Twitter at @AshleyVRobinson and on the Jawiin YouTube channel.