Hits the ground running
The Flash is here. We take a quick look.
Since the 1960s, DC Comics has suffered from something of an inferiority complex. With characters designed in the ’ 30s and ’ 40s for an audience of Depression- era children, and a universe assembled piecemeal over several decades, the company was blindsided by Marvel’s rapid construction of a cosmic campground for post- pubescents, and the phenomenal success that followed. Which is not to say DC’s characters are in any way inferior to Marvel’s; they’re simply built for kids. And with a few notable exceptions, the preponderance of magic rings, lassos and words tend to work best when deployed with a light touch.
All of which is to say that the best thing about The Flash is the way it fully embraces its brainy but socially awkward Scarlet Speedster’s role as surrogate for an audience of beautiful dreamers, kids of all ages who will love its adolescent power fantasy and sci- fi sense of wonder. In casting Grant Gustin as forensics scientist turned superhero Barry Allen, executive producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg have, quite frankly, found the best pairing of actor and superhero since Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark built his first suit of armour. Gustin is everything Flash fanboys could want – a combination of deft wit, singular focus and postmodern matinee- idol looks ( he’s even got an alliterative secret- identity name). His Barry is haunted and fuelled by the tragic death of his mother, and his father’s resulting incarceration. But Barry’s no brooder. Unlike its parent show Arrow, The Flash is optimistic in its outlook, if not exactly sunny. It’s awestruck by human potential rather than fearful of it, and it’s alive with the promise of tomorrow’s technology. It’s also more than a little reminiscent of the character’s Silver Age incarnation, created by writer Gardner Fox and editor Julius Schwartz, along with artist
Carmine Infantino, whose run on the ’ 60s Flash comic with writer John Broome remains the definitive interpretation of the Crimson Comet.
Gustin is ably supported by a game cast, including Candice Patton as Barry’s best friend/ would- be girlfriend Iris West ( a stronger, more confident female lead than Arrow’s); Jesse L Martin as Iris’s dad, Detective Joe West, who raised Barry after his mother’s murder; Tom Cavanagh as Dr Harrison Wells, the STAR Labs scientist whose particle accelerator accident creates the Flash, as well as his infamous rogues galley; and John Wesley Shipp ( the original live- action Barry Allen from the short- lived 1990 Flash show) as Barry’s father Henry. Danielle Panabaker and Carlos Valdes lend strong support as the STAR brainiacs of “Team Flash” – Dr Caitlin Snow ( whose fiancé will soon appear in the form of Ronnie “Firestorm” Raymond, played by Robbie Amell) and Cisco Ramon ( the alter ego of the Flash’s fellow Justice Leaguer Vibe). It’s Ramon who designs Barry’s iconic costume, and gives the villains their suitable comic- book codenames.
That super suit ( designed by Arrow costumer Colleen Atwood), by the way, may be a tad darker than that of the comics, but it looks great in action. There’s a lovely moment in the pilot where Cisco, explaining why he’s applying a certain trademark lightning- bolt emblem to the suit’s chest, declares, “Because it’s not boring ”. It’s a mission statement as well as a grace note, one we hope creators Kreisberg and Berlanti ( as well as their fellow executive producer Geoff Johns) remember throughout what should be – fittingly for The Flash – a long and healthy run.
Finally… a news story that makes no mention of the Scottish Referendum.