Review: Flash: Blood Will Run trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, May 19, 2008

We've already discussed Geoff Johns' Flash run in some detail here on Collected Editions, but one book we never got a chance to look at was Johns and Ethan Van Sciver's pre-Green Lantern: Rebirth team-up, the Flash: Iron Heights graphic novel. In the spirit of completion, however, DC Comics recently released a reprint of the Flash: Blood Will Run trade paperback, now complete with Iron Heights, and I had a chance to read it the other day on the heels of Flash: Wonderland.

Iron Heights is a surprisingly dark story. Certainly Johns' Flash run dealt with some emotional territory, but with colorful artists Scott Kolins and Howard Porter, there was more a sense of superheroics than danger. In this tale of a tongue-severing serial killer loose in the Iron Heights prison, Johns channels straight horror, and it's not surprising that DC chose to set this on its own instead of keeping it in the main title.

At the same time, including Iron Heights in the Blood Will Run trade nicely fills in some wanting gaps. I always thought, reading the trades, that the reveal of Blacksmith lacked some suspense; with Iron Heights, we get a tease of the villainous mastermind before the big reveal. There's also a bit more focus on the villains Meltdown, Girder, and Double Down, smoothing their appearances later. Given how well we've come to know Johns creates believable villains, Iron Heights is a strange creature; it seems almost intended to throw out a bunch of villains all at once, where later we find Johns much more adept at working villains naturally into his stories.

In fact, it's startling how good Blood Will Run is, as compared to Flash: Wonderland before it. From the first cinematic page where Wally West runs onto the screen, to Scott Kolins amazing two-page spreads, to the blockbuster cross-town fight between Flash and the Weather Wizard, Blood Will Run takes the reader's breath away. How much of the difference is due to Kolins' art, or Johns receiving the Flash title as his own in this volume, is hard to say, but Blood Will Run certainly sets the trajectory for Johns' career to follow far better than Wonderland does.

This volume also reminded me of Johns' emphasis on the Rogues in his initial volumes of Flash, something that fell away, even with the Rogue War, in favor of Identity Crisis storylines and others toward the end of the run. To that end (and having seen Scott Kolins eye-popping art again), I'm doubly excited for the inevitable collection of Final Crisis: Rogues Revenge, re-teaming the writer and artist -- now that's a book worth buying in hardcover!

[Contains full covers.]

Really got to take a look at the bookshelf ... even I'm not sure what's next! See you again soon.
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