As a young Barry Allen careens headlong into the future, he runs smack into his own future self!
Naturally, Barry is more than a little freaked out. This is made worse by the fact that the future is a dystopian nightmare run by the Turtle, who thrives off of stealing speed via the Still Force.
Naturally, it doesn't take long for the Turtle's forces to track down Barry and his older counterpart.
Old Man Barry makes short work of his antagonists, and sets to sending his younger self back to the present. He does so by reassembling his old Cosmic Treadmill!
Barry is returned with a renewed sense of awe at the possibilities of his powers. But to quote Yoda, "Always in motion, the future is," and no sooner does he return to the present does he run into present-day's Turtle! Barry knows that if he stops the Turtle now, everything he just witnessed will change!
The “Year One” conceit is a pretty straightforward one: take an established hero back to his or her roots, strip them down to basics, and analyze what makes them tick from a more formative time in their history. It’s a relatively simple idea that lends itself to a deep dive into a hero’s psyche. That’s the reason that “Batman: Year One” has withstood the test of time so well, and why so many other comics have tried to ape its formula to varying degrees of success throughout the years.
But then there’s writer Josh Williamson, who seems bound and determined to misunderstand the fundamental underpinnings about how and more importantly why these stories work. By having Barry careen into his own future in such a relatively short time after he got his powers, Williamson is leaping over the crucial baby steps we should be reading about. In other words, his Flash is trying to run before learning how to walk.
Williamson then proceeds to shoot himself in the foot a second time, though, by devoting almost no time whatsoever into the Turtle’s dystopian nightmare future. All we really see is that the Turtle is in charge and Barry is fighting a resistance. That’s it, which reveals Williamson’s real reason for doing this: shoehorning his pet Still Force into Barry’s origin story, in the hopes that doing so will codify and legitimize it as part of Barry’s past. It takes a bold writer to want to put his or her stamp on a character’s ongoing tales and history at the same time; it’s quite another to subvert other writers’ work because you have a pet theory you can’t let go of even though it’s questionable as to whether readers really care.
In short: Williamson…Get. Over. The other forces. They should have no place in this story.
Barry and Old Man Barry’s interactions don’t add anything to the character, either. Everything is short and sweet and to the point, designed with minimal subtlety to contrast Barry’s current pessimism and mopiness with his future self’s optimism even in the face of a fascistic nightmare world. And before anything truly substantial can be made of that contrast, Williamson uses classic Silver Age MacGuffin the cosmic treadmill to whisk Barry back to the present. (Okay, it’s always nice to see the cosmic treadmill. It’s a treadmill that lets you run through time!!) The entire future sequence is an exercise in self-indulgence, made worse for being shoehorned into Barry’s origin.
The one saving grace is the legendary Howard Porter’s art. The man was simply born to draw the Flash. His characters leap off the page, his line work bold and distinct. Historically, his presence has upped Williamson’s game, and I suppose to the degree that this issue is beautiful to look at, it has. He’s clearly doing his best with the material he’s been given, but I’ll always wonder what might have been if this creative team had been working on a story with its feet more firmly planted on the ground. I realize we’re only two chapters into this six-part comic, but sadly it feels like the opportunity to tell a definitive take on Barry Allen’s formative years has been soundly missed already by a writer who can’t get over himself and just tell the story readers are hoping for.
Though gorgeous to look at, "Flash: Year One" continues to veer off-course in ways that, at only two issues in, provide a roadmap for looming storytelling disaster.
The Flash #71: Turtle Power!
- Writing - 4/104/10
- Storyline - 3/103/10
- Art - 9/109/10
- Color - 9/109/10
- Cover Art - 9.5/109.5/10
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