DC Comics’ Rebirth has seen a new The Flash #1 debut this week from the talents of writer Josh Williamson, artist Carmine Di Giandomenico, colorist Ivan Plascencia, and letterer Steve Wands. In a week full of debuts from stellar art teams, the work of Di Giandomenico and Plascencia stands out for how it integrates costume design with environmental elements to create a dynamic superhero presence on the page.
Barry Allen debuted as the Flash in 1956 (this October will mark the character’s 60th “birthday”) with one of the most instantly iconic superhero costumes on the scene. The primary red and yellow color scheme is complimentary with the yellow really popping to create a palpable sense of energy that adds to the lightning bolt insignia as well as the wraparounds on the wrist and waist. The costume hasn’t changed much over the decades and the modern iteration’s main differences are the loss of the wings on the boots and the addition of seams that add further to the lightning bolt imagery. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
Although, not being broken doesn’t mean one can’t still fortify. The Speed Force, an extra-dimensional energy that fuels the Flash’s speed, is most often portrayed manifesting as yellow streaks of lightning when the character runs. The Flash’s symbol on his chest is a lightning bolt so it stands to reason that his running generates lightning. Don’t think too hard about the “why” of that. It’s one of those things that just works conceptually while also serving a function. Speedlines are one of the ways an artist may choose to indicate, well, speed but they aren’t necessarily the most dynamic visual. The lightning generated by the Flash running serves the same purpose as speedlines with the added benefit of being an element created within the world of the comic that looks a lot more interesting.
While not necessarily a problem, the lightning can sometimes look disconnected as it surrounds the Flash. Thin lightning bolts surrounding him can, rather than looking powerful, do more to recall a benign plasma globe. If the Flash is surrounded by lightning then he’s the lightning rod channeling all of it so it doesn’t hurt to depict him more in that manner.
Di Giandomenico does something that seems so simple in concept that one might dismiss it but its effectiveness is immensely rewarding to see depicted on the page. He arcs the Speed Force lightning through the wraparound lightning bolt symbols on the Flash’s forearms and waist so that it appears to be physically moving through his body rather than around him. The lightning can be chunky with no clear separation between it and the symbols in certain panels. Along with the tense, ropy muscles that Di Giandomenico provides for the Flash’s legs, this depiction screams power that is violently trying to escape the character’s body.
That doesn’t work without the colors Plascencia provides. The Flash’s reds and especially his yellows are the brightest colors that appear in this comic. He pops against the intentionally muted background colors of his rainy city in this issue. The lightning he generates is so bright as to almost appear white at times with a visual heat that suggests a mythical god come to Earth. The effect of the lightning arcing through the Flash simply wouldn’t exist without Plascencia’s colors providing such verve.
Maybe this has been done before but that doesn’t negate the impact of such an effective choice in the depiction of the character. The fact that artists like Di Giandomenico and Plascencia are finding exciting ways to visually interpret this character after 60 years of publication speaks well of the love from creators that has gone into the Flash over those years. It is that love that has enabled the Flash to catch on in the hearts and minds of generations of readers ranging from his debut to this most recent Rebirth.