Warning: this review contains spoilers.
The Flash #30 looks and reads like a ‘90s comic. If that statement were said about any other character, it would be viewed as an insult. However, that particular decade was more than kind to the Scarlet Speedster, the bulk of which was written by Mark Waid, with Grant Morrison and Mark Millar also contributing. Though it’s now Barry Allen running the streets of Central City rather than Wally, The Flash #30 possesses many of the defining traits from the latter’s tenure as DC’s premier speedster.
The issue’s core is bookended by two scenes from alternate timelines, which are most certainly introduced as set-up. In the issue’s main narrative, Central City is in ruins in the wake ofForever Evil – though readers will have to wait a few more weeks to see that story’s conclusion – and many of the city’s civil servants are required to undergo psychiatric evaluations to determine if they are fit for duty. Barry, in typical Barry fashion, has lost track of time. Lack of punctuality has been one of the character’s defining traits since his inception, though it was noticeably absent in the New 52, and seeing it played up here was a welcome touch from the new creative team of Robert Venditti and Van Jensen.
Following a short but sweet scene with Patty, the remainder of the story takes place during Barry’s evaluation. The sequence is a throwback to classic Flash storytelling tropes, specifically Barry rushing out to rescue or fix something in the city in the moment his evaluator glances away. Though his art is merely serviceable for most of the issue, it’s moments like these where Brett Booth shines. As was the case in his (all too brief) Nightwing run, Booth’s art in the various Flash sequences pop with the high energy this title demands. Some may take exception to his rendering characters and scenery, but it’s a stylistic choice which makes this title stand apart from others in DC’s lineup. Those faults can be quickly forgiven thanks to some gorgeous speed sequences. Booth’s frequent collaborators – inker Norm Rapmund and colorist Andrew Dalhouse – also bring their A-game to this issue. The colors, particularly in the issue’s closing pages, are outstanding.
The end of the issue also allows those jumping on to understand who Barry is. As mentioned, this issue takes place post-Forever Evil, and Barry is dealing with the guilt of allowing his city to be destroyed. Central City is not Gotham or Metropolis. Though it has its own crop of supervillains, their transgressions do not result in costly destruction of property. Not only must Barry work through his guilt, he needs to regain the trust of Central City’s citizens. They feel abandoned by their would-be protector, and the new dynamics of their relationship with the Flash have potential for some great storytelling.
The issue’s cliffhanger reveals the identity of the Future Flash, which should pose an interesting challenge for Barry in the following months. Unfortunately, the timeline that this issue establishes does seem to clash with the upcoming Futures End, which may become a source of contention. That said, readers should reserve judgment on this matter until the whole story unfolds. The Flash #30 is a somewhat flawed but promising start for what should be a fun ride.