by Geoff Johns (writer), Scott Kolins & Francis Manapul (art), Michael Atiyeh & Brian Buccellato (colors), and Rob Clark Jr. (letters)

The Story: A primer serving as an introduction to the Flashes’ universe, preceded by a short story where Barry grapples with his past.

What’s Good: If you’re a reader unfamiliar or only slightly familiar with Flash lore and are looking forward to get into April’s relaunched Flash monthly, it doesn’t get any better than this.  In a little less than 40 pages, this book gives you everything you need to know about the major heroes, villains, and locations in the Flash’s corner of the DCU.  As a reference work, this book is a lot of fun for new readers.  The encyclopedic entries are written in about as lively a style as is possible and are matched with absolutely beautiful full-page illustrations.  If you know nothing about the Flash’s world, you will leave feeling 100% comfortable heading into the ongoing and with your Flash knowledge in general.

The short story that precedes this primer is also some pretty outstanding stuff, touching on many of themes Johns clearly views as important in a Flash comic, while also ominously setting up for things to come, directly leading into Johns’ first arc.  All told, the story touches upon family, the camaraderie of DC’s speedsters, Barry’s battles with his past, and what the Rogues are up to, while also making really great use of time as only a Flash comic can.  As a first taste of Johns’ upcoming run, this is really solid stuff and an enjoyable, at times surprisingly emotional, read.  It gives a good sense of the tone Johns will be writing in.

I also have to reiterate just how awesome the art is throughout this double-sized book.  There really isn’t a single page here that isn’t a total blast.  Both Manapul and Kolins, though very different from each other, are perfect for the Flash, both artists emanating the sort warmth and energy that perfectly suits the books tone and atmosphere.  If the art on the ongoing can live up to this standard, we are in for something special.

What’s Not So Good: My LCS was sold out of this comic pretty quickly, far faster than anything out this week.  This leads me to suspect that a lot of people don’t realize what they’re getting here.  This is NOT a 40 page story.  This is also NOT an anthology of short stories.  Admittedly, DC’s solicitation is very misleading about the contents of this book and you’d be best to completely ignore it.  This is just a short story followed by illustrated encyclopedia entries.  If you go in expecting a comic book, you will be sorely disappointed, as this is, on all counts, a primer.  Even the short story, despite being 18 pages in length, feels shorter than it is given its very small, localized narrative.

As you can probably surmise, being of this format and being so awesome for new readers also means this book is basically completely unnecessary for Flash aficionados and long-time fans, who may very well find themselves bored out of their minds.  If you find yourself more hardcore fan than newbie, it’s probably best to give this one a miss as it really won’t have much to offer.  The meat of the book, the encyclopedic portion, will offer nothing new whatsoever and the short story isn’t significant enough to justify paying $3.99, though it is very good.

Conclusion: Great for newer fans, fairly pointless for older ones.

Grade: B (for newer readers), C (for advanced readers)

-Alex Evans