Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Flash: Full Throttle Explores Bart Allen’s Tenure As The Fastest Man Alive!

The Good: Surprisingly well-constructed, Decent character development, Good artwork
The Bad: Somewhat fragmented (additional stories do not wow)
The Basics: The Flash: Full Throttle has Bart Allen taking up the mantle of the Flash and working to save the world from the Rogues and his evil clone, Inertia!

As we enter the latter half of my Flash Year, I am actually thrilled that my local library has managed to get in some of the books I have never even seen in comic book shops! One of the ones that came in that excited me pretty much instantly was The Flash: Full Throttle. The reason for my excitement was simple; The Flash: Full Throttle captures an era I did not even know existed! The Flash: Full Throttle has Bart Allen as the lead protagonist! Before opening the pages of The Flash: Full Throttle, I had no idea that Bart Allen ever took up the mantle of Flash in full.

Bart Allen, for those unfamiliar with the Flash lore, is the grandson of Barry Allen, the principle Flash who sacrificed himself during Crisis On Infinite Earths (reviewed here!). While Wally West assumed the role of Flash in the aftermath of that event, it was not until Iris Allen returned from the distant future with her grandson, Bart, that the younger Flash role was “restocked.” After a time as Impulse, Bart Allen joined the Teen Titans and took on the persona of Kid Flash. Between then and The Flash: Full Throttle, Wally West has (apparently) died, Bart Allen’s body has aged (there are oblique references to him being a sixteen year-old in a twenty year-old’s body in The Flash: Full Throttle) and now Bart Allen is the fastest man alive.

Opening with a one-shot that focuses on how Bart Allen dislikes Christmas, The Flash: Full Throttle tells two primary stories. The first is the two-chapter Speedquest. In Speedquest, Bart Allen, as the Flash thwarts a plot by Abra Kadabra which ultimately puts him in a confrontation with Inertia, a speedster clone of himself who travels in time. When Inertia captures his girlfriend, Val, as Val is wrestling with her demons related to her father (the electric creature Mota), Bart must come to the rescue. But Inertia’s insane plan puts Bart in a position where he must choose between Valerie’s life or his own!

The “Speedquest” story sets up a decent character conflict, both between the Flash and Inertia and Bart and Valerie. Inertia is the primary villain throughout The Flash: Full Throttle and while his motivations are unclear, he seems to resent the fact that Bart taps directly into the Speed Force, while he is forced to use a drug to achieve his superspeed. As for the relationship between Bart and Val, The Flash: Full Throttle starts with Bart moving out to Los Angeles in order to try to be close to Val after she left him previously. While she is actually in Las Vegas, they quickly reconnect and the relationship dynamic between Bart and Val reads as both very true and very similar to the early relationship between Wally West and Linda Park.

The Flash: Full Throttle continues with the main, five-chapter story. In “Full Throttle,” Bart settles in to training with the LAPD. When he comes across some Apokaliptian technology, he witlessly stores it in his storage locker, drawing the attention of the New God, Steppenwolf. Bailed out from near-death by the Justice League, Bart rejects Robin’s offer to return to the Teen Titans and he continues focusing on his training, despite his superiors suspecting he was somehow involved in trashing the facility.

Meanwhile, Inertia has been assembling the Rogues. Offering something none of the Rogues have had the chance for before, Inertia claims to be bringing the group together to use 30th Century technology to use the Rogues to stop time. Enlisting Captain Cold, the Weather Wizard, Mirror Master, Heat Wave, Abra Kadabra, and the Pied Piper, Inertia sets in motion a plan to kill Bart Allen. But someone else is also working to take out Bart Allen and when they enlist the help of Zoom, Allen finds himself in a race for his life, one which may already be preordained for him to lose!

The Flash: Full Throttle concludes with the follow-up to The Lightning Saga (reviewed here!) and saying more than that could spoil two books, so I shall not do that here.

Instead, The Flash: Full Throttle puts Bart Allen in the driver’s seat of the Flash and it is refreshing to see how much the character has grown. No longer an impulsive (sorry, but it is the right word!) youth, Bart Allen uses information as well as instinct throughout The Flash: Full Throttle and that makes his character far more interesting for the bulk of the book. He becomes a compelling hero with, what appears to be a very bright future and when he sets his sights on joining the Justice League, it is hard not to see him as very cool.

The character work between Bart and Val and Bart and Iris Allen (his grandmother) is very good. Allen comes across as appropriately smart and he seems much more emotionally aware and mature throughout The Flash: Full Throttle than in any of the other books that feature him that I have read. He makes a nice contrast with the maniacal Inertia, who just seems overly emotional and legitimately crazy. There are some decent romantic pages between Bart and Val that add a layer of humanity that is seldom present with the character.

The artwork through the main stories of The Flash: Full Throttle is great. While the first and last story have several panels that are underwhelming and simplified, most of the book is well-drawn and exceptionally well-colored. The panels in The Flash: Full Throttle have clear characters and a good sense of movement both within the panels and between them.

Ultimately, The Flash: Full Throttle is an engaging story of one man’s rise to stop a collection of villains that none of his predecessors have effectively defeated. And in The Flash: Full Throttle, Bart Allen (arguably for the first time) proves that he is truly up to the task!

For other Flash graphic novels, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Born To Run
The Return Of Barry Allen
Terminal Velocity
Dead Heat
Race Against Time
Emergency Stop
The Human Race
Blood Will Run
The Secret Of Barry Allen
Flash: Rebirth
The Life Story Of The Flash


For other book reviews, be sure to check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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