The Flash: The Official Visual Companion – Book Review

Tie in books for comic book characters, film and TV shows can be a very mixed bag. Last year’s The Batman received a terrific accompanying work by James Field, addressing all aspects of the final film, but also breaking down the themes of the movie, whilst able to cite a wide range of influences on Matt Reeves’ work. It enhanced and deepened viewings, as well as confirming or denying the ideas viewers had when watching the film about what it was trying to tell us.

Also in the positive column was the terrific Captain America: The First 80 Years. In around 200 pages the entire history of the character was laid bare. What made that work so good was the fact that it was promoting nothing more than the book itself. It was not a tie-in to remind us of the MCU, it was not trying to tempt us into buying a particular reissue: simply, it celebrated a rich history. This was a Titan release, but not even they are above the odd dud. A couple of years earlier they released Star Trek: Epic Episodes, a scattergun, lazy look at seemingly random parts of Star Trek history.

READ MORE: Star Trek #10 – Comic Review

Now, also from Titan Books, comes a tie-in book for the recent release of The Flash. Penned by Randall Lotowycz – and subtitled The Scarlett Speedster from Page to Screen – it is broken down into four chapters that each look to balance comic book history with a celebration of the film, along with a look at how certain scenes were achieved, and also with the thinking behind their design. In short, it is extremely ambitious for what is only around 95 pages.

Chapter one is titled ‘The World of the Flash’ and takes a quick run through the character’s history (Barry Allen, that is); outlines the idea behind the multiverse; takes a look at the suit design for the film; introduces us to Iris West; looks at the thinking behind Central City’s design; and looks at his rogue’s gallery and crime fighting career. That sounds pretty exhaustive does it not? Well, this whole smorgasbord of ideas and topics covers a total of 31 pages, with the text portion being a minority of many of those pages. Reverse Flash gets well under 100 words of background, for example. Barry co-workers get around 30. No sooner are we introduced to a topic, than the book drops it completely, in favour of moving on. There is so little here to grab a hold of.

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Chapter 2 covers his superspeed – in about ten pages, again much of just photographs (and two of them devoted to Batman). Chapter 3 is titled ‘Flashback!’ and discusses the Flashpoint story from which the film takes so much inspiration. Replete with panels from the books in question, the section at least discusses the differences form page to screen, before – sadly – going back to puff piece quotes from those involved with the film. These parts read very much like TV guides where soap actors are asked about plotlines involving their characters, and their motivations. It is all rushed, unfocused and very soft.

The concluding chapter is named ‘Heroes and Villains’, and, at this point the book gives up on pretending that The Flash is the main draw in his own film, and gives its final quarter over to Batman, Supergirl, Zod and Dark Flash. All too soon this is over, and we have had under 100 pages of not very much. We have seen from Titan that they are capable of more than this – with their Cap book being a really detailed read, and we have seen from The Batman that movie tie-in can illuminate, entertain, and expand the world for us.

READ MORE: The Breach (2022) – Film Review

Whereas there we learned so much about the lineage of that character in print and how it prepared movie makers for their entry, here we race through everything with almost zero insight, in service of a book that does not know where to focus. It is sort of about the film, sort of not. It is celebrating the character, but then telling us that some of the background information is a long story, so we cannot get into it here. We end up learning nothing, and when we are done with our non-learning, we can take a break from that to enjoy being told how they created their dreadful visual effects.

Fans – and we mean super-fans – of the film may just find this entertaining, but it is tough to see who, otherwise, this is for. It has none of the depth that fans of the character will want, as it will tell them nothing they do not know. For the casual fan of the film this work deviates so often and is just so unfocused that they will find entire sections skippable. That leaves this as not quite a disaster, but – at a cover price of £29.99 – certainly one to avoid for all but those keenest on the recent movie.

The Flash: The Official Visual Companion is out now from Titan Books.

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