How does The Flash fare in the Rebirth era?
Lightning Strikes Twice opens with an expanded version of the Barry Allen/Wally West reunion from the Rebirth special, this time approached from Barry’s perspective. It cues up Barry’s involvement in the bigger Rebirth mystery, but also reawakens Barry’s fondness for having a superhero partner and his geek joy in teaching others about the Speed Force. Barry runs afoul of the Black Hole, a science-based terrorist group that engineers a “Speed Force storm,” which bestows super speed on dozens of new people. Included are Barry’s police detective friend Augustus and STAR Labs scientist Meena, who become his newest allies. Also affected is the second, teenaged Wally West, who’d already established a Speed Force connection before the storm. While dealing with the Black Hole, Barry and friends run afoul of Godspeed, a super-fast vigilante who steals the speed from others affected by the storm, killing them in the process. The final conflict between Barry and Godspeed takes a personal toll on Barry, but also gives him reason for optimism in the form of a new Kid Flash.
Joshua Williamson has a lot going on in Lightning Strikes Twice. In addition to pushing forward the stories of the book’s existing characters, he also has several new ones to integrate. At the same time, he has the Rebirth mystery to nudge forward as gently as possible while setting up some longer term plot threads focused on Barry and his circle. Overall, Williamson does a very good job keeping all those balls in the air. Barry goes through some ups and downs, but Williamson manages to keep the inherent optimism that is the character’s best trait in the forefront. The “Speed Force storm” is an interesting concept that lets Williamson explore Barry as a teacher and mentor. It’s also a subtle way to use the return of the original Wally as a character motivator, making use of the bigger Rebirth mystery, lacing in some strands without playing that too heavily.
Iris West and the younger Wally get some solid development in this arc, too. After the New 52 mostly avoided it, Williamson slowly begins moving Barry and Iris toward a romance. Wally’s journey to becoming the new Kid Flash is one of the arc’s high points and Williamson demonstrates quite nicely how impactful having two Wallys around can be. The Black Hole is a solid new threat with long-term potential. And even if the revelation of Godspeed’s identity isn’t quite the shocker the plot wants it to be, the character is a decent addition to the Flash Rogue’s Gallery, one with whom Barry has a particularly complicated relationship. Overall, Williamson gets the series off on the right foot.
Carmine Di Giandomenico is the artist for most of Lightning Strikes Twice. He has an interesting approach, full of angular compositions that give the book a lean, sleek feel. Di Giandomenico has a good design sense and comes up with some clever visual ways of conveying the appearance of speed and motion. Occasionally his figure work can become a tad distended, but on the whole he gives the book a distinctive personality that works. Felipe Watanabe subs in on one issue, doing some complementary work that looks quite good. Colorist Ivan Plascencia is a true rock star on the book. With a variety of bold colors and complex effects, he gets a real workout and shows off his skills with maximum impact.
The Flash: Lightning Strikes Twice is a decent opening arc that sets the book up for success. It’s a good jumping on point for newcomers that’s also rewarding for long-time fans.