THE FLASH: FASTEST MAN ALIVE #1/ Script by KENNY PORTER/ Art by RICARDO LOPEZ ORTIZ/ Colors by ROMULO FAJARDO JR./ Letters by STEVE WANDS/ Covers by MAX FIUMARA, JUAN FERREYRA, JORGE CORONA & SARAH STERN/ Published by DC COMICS
Reviewing movie tie-in comics is surreal at the best of times. It’s strange enough reading a comic that is a second-hand adaptation of a film based on a comic book. It is stranger still reading a comic that is an adaptation of a long-delayed comic book movie that is the better part of a year away from being released. (At the time of this writing, at least.)
I make that caveat because the story behind the 2023 The Flash movie is proving to be far more interesting than the movie ever could be. However, that fact should be irrelevant when considering The Flash: Fastest Man Alive #1. And as I read this book I tried to divorce myself from the DCEU setting, the behind-the-scenes turmoil at Warner Bros and any question about just what movies are canon to the events of this book. I tried to consider this comic purely on its own merits, only to discover it didn’t have many.
The story by Kenny Porter is standard newbie superhero fare, with The Flash outclassed by a new supervillain named Girder, whose super strength and invulnerability make him immune to Flash’s preferred method of pushing people over. This story may sound familiar to longtime The Flash fans and for good reason. It’s pretty much a rehash of The Flash season 1 episode 6, “The Flash Is Born,” right down to the solution of how Barry Allen eventually figures out how to defeat Girder by exploiting his speed creatively.
The key difference between this comic and The Flash episode, however, is that Barry doesn’t decide to try this on his own. Instead, he has his hand held every step of the way by Batman, because this is one of those tedious stories where nobody but Bruce Wayne can have a good idea. Having Barry turn to Batman for help on learning how to fight is not a bad thing and the best parts of the book involve the interaction between Bruce and Barry. But Bruce teaching Barry how to throw a punch is one thing. Bruce suggesting that a punch with superspeed behind it could stop Girder after Barry accidentally punches through a wall is another.
The art is more problematic. While the story is merely predictable, the art by Ricardo Lopez Ortiz is sloppy and uneven, with ever-shifting proportions and shockingly inhuman character designs. When the monstrous Girder is the most normal-looking character, you know something is wrong. There’s also a number of stylistic choices (such as Barry Allen’s limbs being shaped like lightning bolts when he uses his powers) that don’t work given the grittier tone of the story. The colors by Romulo Fajardo Jr. and the lettering by Steve Wands are good, but seem to have been imported from a more cheerful, four-color comic with a more traditional style. Applied to Ortiz’s disjointed characters, the final effect is decidedly odd.
Fans of The Flash can skip this series, as can anyone but the most die-hard of DCEU enthusiasts. Taken on its own terms, this book is dull and ugly. As a companion to the film it ties into, it is impossible to judge. Better to go read the excellent The Flash comics by Jeremy Adams and Fernando Pasarin than endure this.