Over the past few years, there’s hardly been a mainstream motion picture that’s gone through so many ups and downs as The Flash, which finally hit screens on June 16. After multiple scripts, directors, and other creators came on board and, ultimately, left the project, director Andy Muschietti finally seemed to “crack the code” to deliver the first solo film for the Scarlet Speedster. It’s story enough to fill an entire book, with all its twists, turns, triumphs, and tragedies.
That is not what this book is about, however, as Insight Editions have instead delivered a less… let’s say “dramatic” approach with The Flash: The Official Visual Companion. From writer Randall Lotowycz, this is not so much a behind the scenes look at the making of The Flash but instead a fairly comprehensive look at the history of the Flash in general, and the cinematic influences of the movie in particular. This approach makes for a much more refreshing read than I was expecting, especially given the surprisingly hefty use of comic source material to contextualize everything.
But first, I have to mention the opening and closing cover pages, which are solid red and textured much like Barry’s suit in the film. And that isn’t just a printed design either, as the texturing can be felt when you touch the page.
Not a huge deal, sure, but it’s definitely one of those neat design choices that make you realize that a lot of thought and care went into the making of this book.
That same care is pretty evident throughout the entire book, in fact, as each topic is accompanied by some strong writing and tons of great photos and pictures. I was most impressed with how much material is pulled from comic reference, with some topics having entire sequences and even comic pages used to illustrate points. That’s expected for, say, Barry’s origin as the Flash, but no less welcome and appreciated for the histories of Nora Allen and Iris West, each of whom has quite a few pages devoted to their lives and respective relationships with Barry.
As you can see with this breakdown of Barry’s “Flash Ring,” photos of the prop used in the film are paired with comic panels and diagrams created exclusively for the book to demonstrate how the gadget works. There’s also a bit of focus on the Flash’s rogues, how the costume and design work for the film came together, and even the portrayals of John Wesley Shipp and Grant Gustin as Barry Allen on the small screen, which does cement one aspect of the book that I wish was a bit different: this is wholly a Barry Allen Flash companion piece. That makes sense, of course, considering he’s the Flash that’s featured in the film. Aside from some tidbits about Jay Garrick, though, there isn’t much focus on other members of the “Flash Family,” which is what I’m personally more interested in. Wally and Bart get name-dropped, albeit briefly, with more words devoted to Barry’s friendship with Hal than that of his family members.
Still, as a breakdown of Barry Allen it works incredibly well, and even more so within the context of the film. This could have worked as a standard behind the scenes look at the movie, with facts and tidbits and a few publicity photos that you can find anywhere. That Lotowycz took the effort to say that this is a movie based on comic books by featuring a lot of comic material makes it stand apart, though, and as a fan of comics it made me appreciate it all the more. There’s a great breakdown of the Speed Force, and how that affects Barry’s powers, and some nice details regarding how they filmed the super-speed effects and the infamous “baby shower” scene.
As a Batman fan, the latter half of the book definitely piqued my interest the most, as there’s a ton of material here on Michael Keaton’s Caped Crusader. We get a high-definition look at his armory, with all of those gorgeous suits on display. Set decorator Dominic Depon shares how the production team tried to capture the spirit of Wayne Manor from the Burton films, which is fascinating, and head of special effects Dominic Tuohy discusses his approach to the updated Batwing. I really dug how he went into the rationale of the rotating cockpit, and why the seats pop out from the bottom for ease of entry.
This leads into a nice profile for Supergirl, with her debut in the comics and previous live-action iterations paving the way for Sasha Calle’s Kara Zor-El. Since the film is loosely based on the Flashpoint comics event, Lotowycz touches on that throughout the book and goes into how Supergirl is reframed as the Kryptonian Subject Zero. The final pages go into “Young Barry” and his makeshift Flash costume (which hurts a bit, considering I love the Batman Returns Batsuit, but it’s an interesting read regardless), Zod and the other Kryptonians, and a broad discussion of Dark Flash that takes pains to not spoil any details from the film. As it is, this makes the book end rather abruptly, with some of the bigger surprises and secrets from the movie barely mentioned if at all. That means there isn’t much material about Ben Affleck’s Batman, other than a fairly detailed breakdown of his new Batcycle, and hardly any mention of any other Leaguers at all.
Like I’ve said several times now, though, The Flash is Barry’s movie, and in turn this is Barry’s book. There’s no point in complaining about what things aren’t when they are as they should be, and as an introduction to the Flash this works remarkably well. Long-time fans will find plenty to appreciate with the surprisingly deep use of comics as reference material, and it’s accessible enough for new fans of the character to learn plenty without feeling lost.
Disclaimer: Insight Editions provided a copy of this book for the purpose of this review.
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