The Flash’ doesn’t run from its comic book origins

Barry (Grant Gustin) gets medical attention after his mysterious accident.

Three stars

The Flash Tuesdays, 8 p.m., the CW.

Comic book characters are hot commodities on TV these days, but so many shows based on comic books seem averse to embracing the aesthetics of their source material. Of the three network dramas based on DC Comics characters premiering this fall, the CW’s The Flash is the only one that feels like an old-fashioned comic book, and that comic-bookiness is its greatest appeal. While the CW’s other DC superhero show, Arrow, has thus far eschewed superpowers (along with most costumes and code names), The Flash goes all in on crazy abilities and gaudy outfits. Main character Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) says in the first episode’s opening narration that believing in the impossible is essential to following his story, and the show proceeds to offer up plenty of the impossible.

As in the comics, Barry becomes the fastest man alive after being struck by a lightning bolt that carries a concoction of mysterious chemicals, and the show ties Barry’s origin to a science-lab accident that gives superpowers to a number of other people (including the first episode’s villain). The producers don’t waste much time getting Barry into a familiar red-and-yellow outfit, running around at supersonic speeds and chasing criminals. While Barry does have his share of emotional baggage, he’s not the grim and gritty kind of hero that’s prevalent in comics-based movies and TV shows. More than anything, The Flash is fun, a celebration of amazing abilities and pure-hearted heroism, the kind of stuff that drew people to superheroes in the first place.

That also means that the show is often irredeemably cheesy, and anyone who doesn’t have affection for the endearing absurdities of superhero comic books may find it a little too goofy (by the end of the pilot, Barry is counteracting a tornado by running around it in the opposite direction). The first episode is loaded with background references to other DC characters, and Arrow’s Stephen Amell makes a guest appearance as the archer hero (the two shows share creators and are set to cross over). For comic book fans tired of TV superheroes who are barely super or heroic, The Flash may be just what they’re looking for.

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