Monday, December 31, 2012

Ending My Flash Year On A Downbeat With Dated Flash Vignettes: The Flash Archives Volume 1

The Good: Decent historical document, Includes covers, Includes introductions of some important villains
The Bad: Comic strip art/coloring, Exceptionally repetitive plots, No character development, Not a solid narrative
The Basics: The Flash Archives Volume 1 is a poor anthology that nevertheless serves to collect some of the early stories of Barry Allen as the Flash.

As my Flash Year comes to an end, I have absolutely no problem with admitting that I enjoyed the Wally West era of The Flash far more than the Barry Allen epoch. Barry Allen might have been the establishing version of The Flash, but his role in the Silver Age of comics helps to illustrate just how dated those books are, at least as they are represented in The Flash Archives Volume 1.

The Flash Archives Volume 1 is a decent historical document, but it is by no means an essential one. Presenting the earliest adventures of Barry Allen as The Flash from Showcase Comics and the rebirth of The Flash, The Flash Archives Volume 1 is a series of repetitive vignettes that establish Barry Allen as the new (second) incarnation of The Flash and bores the pants off the readers. Save the origin story of Barry Allen as the Flash (which is reprinted ad nauseum in other volumes) and the introduction of the essential Flash villains Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd, and Mirror Master (which are all part of a more discriminating anthology that showcases the origins of every major villain in the Flash Rogues gallery), The Flash Archives Volume 1 is anything but essential for serious readers.

Instead, The Flash Archives Volume 1 illustrates (pun intended) the lack of sophistication of the comic books of the mid to late 1950s. Without building upon each adventure, each chapter is a vignette story that has the Flash encountering a new villain that (usually) keeps him from being on time to his dates with Iris Allen. In some ways, The Flash Archives Volume 1 characterizes The Flash as a repetitive epic, without a grand scale or the character ever learning anything to progress beyond his original state. It is also notable that the Flash in The Flash Archives Volume 1 is characterized as the sole crimefighter in the world. He has no interaction with other super heroes and does not reference other superheroes or villains. As a matter of basic continuity, it seems odd, for example, when Barry Allen creates a police scanner radio watch that allows him to tap into police activity in Paris, Egypt, and Tibet, that the device never picks up a call from Gotham City.

The average story in The Flash Archives Volume 1 goes like this: Barry Allen leaves his day job as a police forensic scientist in Central City to visit Iris West for a date. En route, or shortly after meeting his reporter girlfriend, a crime is committed in the vicinity or that Barry learns about elsewhere. After a panel of trying to figure out how he can ditch Iris without her figuring out that Barry is the Flash, Barry Allen opens his ring, which allows his Flash costume to expand to normal size, and then he runs off to thwart the villain. After successfully thwarting the villain, the Flash returns to Central City, reverts to his mundane Barry Allen persona, and Iris calls him slow.

The Flash Archives Volume 1 is really that repetitive, predictable, and (frankly) dull. Outside the reappearance of Gorilla Grodd, there is no growth, no reference to past adventures in the book. As a result, The Flash Archives Volume 1 plods along as a series of mishaps that pit the Flash against Turtle Man, Mazdan, a criminal magician syndicate, Captain Cold, a series of villains and mishaps that take him around the world in 80 minutes, Mr. Element, Aliens from the Fourth Dimension, Dr. Alchemy, Katmos, Mirror Master, Gorilla Grodd, Pied Piper, Grodd again, An alien speedster, An alien thief and Grodd yet again.

Barry Allen does not grow, develop, or truly learn from his conflicts; he just experiences new conflicts. One after another, with no sense of growth Barry Allen has these formulaic conflicts, which makes The Flash Archives Volume 1 more tiresome than pleasurable to read.

The artwork in The Flash Archives Volume 1 is very much like a comic strip, as opposed to a comic book. There is almost no sense of movement within or between panels, so the book is much like looking at a series of snapshots to tell the stories, instead of a film.

Even for fans or scholars of The Flash, it is hard to get excited about The Flash Archives Volume 1.

For other Flash graphic novels, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
The Flash Vs. The Rogues
The Trial Of The Flash
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
Rogue War
Full Throttle
Lightning In A Bottle
Flash: Rebirth
The Dastardly Death Of The Rogues
The Road To Flashpoint
The Life Story Of The Flash


For other graphic novel reviews, please visit my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the graphic novel reviews I have written!

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