THE FLASH #763/ Written by KEVIN SHINICK/ Art by CLAYTON HENRY/ Colors by MARCELO MAIOLO/ Letters by STEVE WANDS/ Cover by BERNARD CHANG & MARCELO MAIOLO/ Variant Cover by INHYUK LEE/ Published by DC COMICS
When a writer finds themselves taking over a popular title after another writer has just ended a lengthy run, there are two options before them. They can attempt to grab the audience immediately with a mind-blowing idea that promises readers that they are about to see things they never imagined possible, such as when Garth Ennis kicked off his run on Hellblazer with the revelation that John Constantine was dying of lung cancer. Or they can tell a standard, run-of-the-mill story to show that they know the character and assure the audience that there won’t be any drastic changes to the status quo. At least, not right away. Kevin Shinick, who takes over The Flash with this issue, had adopted the latter method and… it doesn’t suck.
The action of The Flash #763 opens on Barry Allen enjoying a day-off with Iris West, which proves a welcome distraction from the fact that it is the anniversary of his mother’s death. Unfortunately, Barry has little chance to enjoy the day after he realizes he’s lost his Flash ring somewhere along the way and retraces his steps back to a new arcade run by Axel Walker, aka The Tricskster. Naturally Walker claims to be innocent and to have turned over a new leaf, running an honest business selling overpriced chicken wings and beers to old-school vidiots. But he still can’t resist challenging The Flash to a battle of wits and hinting that he has his ring.
The hook of the story is decent enough, even if it is dependent on two equally implausible ideas; that Barry would be halfway across the country before he realized he didn’t have his ring while attempting to change into his costume and that the Axel Walker Trickster could somehow steal the ring off Barry Allen’s hand. James Jesse might be that good, but Walker was always a pale pretender who used a sledgehammer when a scalpel was needed. The idea of him going straight by running a gaming establishment with a gambling-based side-gig focuses on whether or not The Flash can accomplish various tasks he sets up isn’t a bad idea, but it should have been played out longer than it was here. As it is, Shinick’s take on Barry comes off as kind of a jerk, who refuses to buy for a minute that Walker has gone straight, even when two beat cops working crowd control vouch for everything being on the up and up. This is fairly in line with Barry’s classic portrayal as a staunch Lawful Good type under most writers, but it doesn’t gel with his belief in redemption in more recent Flash stories.
The artwork by Clayton Henry is similarly serviceable, but not outstanding. There’s an odd angularity to Henry’s character designs, which is more obvious in those characters who are not in motion. While this aesthetic works for the scenes in which The Flash is running, like the light around him is being stretched out as he moves, it makes Iris West look like she has a freakishly long neck. Despite this, Henry is continually shifting his perspective, suggesting a sense of motion at all times, which is appropriate to the character. It is only during the quieter moments that the incongruities come out, such as Trickster’s suddenly sinister appearance as he leers towards the audience while making what is meant to be a light-hearted wisecrack. The colors by Marcelo Maiolo help to promote that continual sense of motion and levity,
The final page suggests that big things are coming with a revamp of a classic Flash villain. I think it would have been better had Shinick and Henry decided to open with that story instead of this frankly lackluster one. The Flash #763 isn’t a bad comic but it’s a painfully ordinary opening for a new run following after the Legion of Zoom. Still, there is potential here and a hope that something better is building.