By Joshua Williamson, Howard Porter, and Hi-Fi
With this issue, the ongoing Flash title begins a new arc, “A Cold Day in Hell.” A murder has taken place within the walls of the infamous Iron Heights Penitentiary, known for housing most of the Flash’s rogues gallery. Barry Allen, now having been transferred to this prison, is drawn into this quagmire in a location that limits his ability to become the Flash, lest someone discovers his identity…
Writer Joshua Williamson has been writing this title since the DC Rebirth relaunch and has brought a lot of passion and knowledge to the book and it shows in every issue. This one is no exception. On page one, Barry reminisces about four past storylines that one would have to dive a little deep into the DC catalog to find the references. Williamson has been able to tap into some interesting areas of The Flash, such as repercussions in his professional life for always being away saving the day. He may be The Flash, but he’s only one man. By placing him at Iron Heights, Barry is surrounded by old foes and few friends; it’s new territory for him and fodder for great storytelling. This storyline brings back several elements and characters he’s already written in other arcs and it’s all culminating into something that has the potential for some powerful payoff. Joshua Williamson also has clear voices for every character that makes the story more accessible and really allows readers to connect with the characters, even the villains. That’s no easy task.
Another element worth mentioning is that despite how dramatic or morbid the subject matter is (a murder did take place), the creative team is able to make the material in this issue an entertaining and smooth read. Having Wally West show up helps with this and serves as a great foil for Barry, as he usually does, to delve into some introspection and character development for the title hero. The artists seem to be the other key component. Artist Howard Porter and colorist Hi-Fi capture the kinetic, optimistic nature of the character and comic.
Porter puts such detail into his work that someone could easily spend hours just taking in everything he puts into a single 32-page issue. The inking keeps the pencils crisp, allowing the definition to really shine through, even through the colors. It’s part of Howard Porter’s unique, identifiable style, and it absolutely works. His double-page spreads and splash pages are breathtaking. Character postures look so natural that it allows readers to engage with the content and become disconnected by some jarring panel or perspective.
Hi-Fi brightens every page 100% with the color work. Anytime the Speed Force is being used, one can’t help but be shocked by the vitality of the page. More impressive is when that same emotion can be evoked during a dialogue scene. The use of color is used effectively to lead the reader’s eye(s) to where the attention needs to be. That also feeds into Howard Porter’s artwork, which does the same – perfect symbiosis. A conversation between Barry and a particular rogue is fantastic example of this. Well worth paying close attention to. Also, how Hi-Fi sets a mood in a scene or setting is fascinating to observe. The bright, flamboyant nature of the characters against the dank, bleak prison is a strong dichotomy that is done well and delivers rich visual storytelling.
This issue a fine example of why this is consistently one of the best titles DC is publishing currently, which is no easy task. The change-up of artists can cause a bit of dissonance at times, but Williamson clearly knows how to maintain a level of familiarity and comfortability in the material for the audience, so when a strong art team, like the one on this book, comes on board, The Flash soars.