With Zero Month at DC Comics winding down, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato take their own stab at the origins and flashbacks theme by giving us a mixture of Barry Allen's childhood and transformation into superhero in "The Flash" #0. In doing so, they're bringing back a pre-"Flashpoint" storyline that could with any luck turn into something interesting.
We'd learned in "The Flash: Rebirth" a few years ago that Barry Allen's mother Nora Allen was murdered by Professor Zoom, and then Barry's father Henry Allen was framed for the murder. With that story since washed away in the re-launch of the DC Universe, though, that story resolution is now up for grabs. Thus, the murder of Nora Allen is once more unsolved. That's where "The Flash" #0 is heading, switching between the time period in which Barry is still a child and his mother is alive, and the moment in which Barry has just gained his powers but is in the hospital swaddled in bandages from the chemical burns. A back-and-forth narrative can be tricky to pull off, but Manapul and Buccellato use the hospital-bound Barry as a framing device with some success. His flashbacks feel smoothly added into the story, and on the whole it works.
Perhaps more importantly, for the first time I feel like Manapul and Buccellato have found something more than, "I need to free my father because he was wronged" to drive this story. They've managed to infuse a human feel to this story, and that's important; Henry Allen has come across as a faceless father who wasn't that good of a parent up until now. That doesn't mean he should rot in jail, of course, but it's not as easy to work up sympathy. The duo haven't changed any of that, but at the same time there's a certain level of affection that wasn't present before that makes Barry's desire the free him feel a bit more natural.
The art is unsurprisingly great. Manapul and Buccellato continue to deliver high-energy art that looks like it was painted right onto the page. They've got a way of making the lightning effect around the Flash feel bright and vibrant and almost moving, but even more importantly they've got a lock on the quieter scenes (like Barry with his mother). Add in Buccellato's washed out color palette for the early childhood flashbacks, and you end up with a visually strong portrait of an earlier time on the pages of "The Flash" #0.
"The Flash" #0 ends up slightly above average with the dust settles, thanks in no small part to the pair putting energy in not only their visuals but also the storytelling. It's great to see the duo still on this title a year in; it's turned into a pleasant and enjoyable read on a monthly basis. I'm sticking around for year two.