29th Apr2020

‘The Flash: Fastest Man Alive #1’ (DC Digital)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Gail Simone | Art by Clayton Henry | Published by DC Digital

With the temporary suspension of new weekly print comics coming out from all the big publishers, they are increasingly starting to appreciate just how important digital now is to their business model. Digital books aren’t affected by lockdowns, distributor woes, postal issues or bad weather and, best of all, are cheap to put out and are delivered instantly. I suspect that once this Covid-19 lockdown has come and gone, the industry may well never look the same again. Digital books will no longer be looked upon as a nice little bolt on to the main print line, but eventually will BE the main line, with print books as the bolt on. Sink or swim time for the industry I do believe.

But I digress.

DC have been lucky enough to have a lot of inventory for them to put out their DC Digital First books, stealing a march on rival publishers. Although technically all new content for most readers, these stories were initially produced for the DC Giant anthologies that were only available in WalMart. As such, these are great digital launch books , in the sense that DC made sure top creators were working on these stories as they wanted good word of mouth and exposure to new potential readership. The Flash: Fastest Man Alive gets writer Gail Simone, always one to put a quirky spin on her huge DC universe knowledge, and artist Clayton Henry. Not too shabby at all.

So, always a lot of angles or hooks you can start from with a character, to get your teeth into so to speak, so what does Gail Simone go for? Boat date. Yep. Sounds weird at first of course, but when you think about it, very clever. What does The Flash need to run? space. Put him in a closed environment and things aren’t quite in his comfort zone any longer. So why a boat trip? Well, Central City Police Department are allocated tickets for sea cruises, and this time it’s Barry Allen’s turn. He also wants to impress Iris West, a girl he’s got his eyes on. It all starts off so well, with Barry and Iris having a whale of a time, Simone writing some nice dialogue and adding nice little personal touches. Then King Shark arrives.

King Shark is a villain that can be very menacing when written well, or very B-list when written badly, even laughable. Simone goes in the middle, adding humour in King Shark’s dialogue to his raw power. The Flash slows him down, though doesn’t appear to hurt him, and King Shark shows he has smarts. Firstly, he smashes a massive hole in the ship, making it start to sink, putting Flash under huge pressure to stop it sinking. He also gets Flash to come to him, and drags him into the water. Flash in a limited space is hampered enough, but dragged underwater by a giant humanoid shark, well, let’s all look forward to issue 2 of King Shark: Biggest Shark Alive next week. Not so fast, non True-believers. Barry does still have something to run on. King Shark himself. So he does. Kicking out at him several thousand times in several seconds. One final confrontation later, King Shark is down and out.

Only a writer like Simone could conclude a story by marrying together pop culture with environmental concern. The Flash winning out was helped by memories of watching Jaws the movie, with his Dad, and King Shark wasn’t a villain as such as all he wanted was for cruise ships like this to stop dumping waste in the ocean, something that has made Aquaman a little more militant in the past. Good intentions, bad actions. Like most of us at some time or another.

The Flash: Fastest Man Alive exactly what it was designed to do. A self contained story that highlighted the core attraction of a character, while throwing in a little message. It was a fun read, light and fast, as most of the best Flash stories are. Clayton Henry’s art was a good fit, his under muscled Flash much more realistic than he is often drawn, while his over muscled King Shark gave off the right whiff of menace (and probably fish). His figures throughout were excellent.

Though possibly a little too lightweight and mass market orientated than some would like, for me this was a Flash story that passes the time nicely, with tongue firmly in cheek.

**** 4/5

The Flash: Fastest Man Alive #1 is available on Comixology now.

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