Writers: Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato
Letters: Sal Cipirano
Cover artists: Manapul (regular)/Ivan Reis & Tim Townsend (variant)
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
While I looked forward to this entry in DC’s line of 52 new and relaunched titles, I thought I pretty much knew what to expect. The previous incarnation of this series was written by someone else, yes, but it was illustrated by the same regular artist. Furthermore, I figured even with the incorporation of some changes to the title character’s continuity, artist and co-writer Francis Manapul was likely to toe the line with the Flash, maintaining the same momentum Geoff Johns did as writer before him and offering the same sort of strong visuals we got before. Instead, the story takes a slightly different tack, focusing even more on the police-procedural aspect of the character and taking the opportunity as the co-writer to try out more inventive and unusual panel layouts and perspectives in the art. He and co-writer/colorist Brian Buccellato succeed and deliver a solid super-hero comic book. It’s not particularly ground-breaking, but it’s quite entertaining and should please fans of the Scarlet Speedster.
Forensic scientist Barry Allen can’t catch a break. He finally worked up the nerve to ask co-worker Patty Spivot out on a date, and just as they’re about to make a connection at a tech symposium, the facility is raided by a team of heavily armed mercenaries. As others take cover from the tear gas employed by the crooks as they try to steal a genetic resequencer, Barry transforms into the Flash, Central City’s speedster savior. As he thwarts the theft and the gang makes its getaway, the Flash manages to sidetrack one of their number. Unmasking the thieving thug reveals a connection to Barry’s past, giving him even greater incentive to investigate. He soon discovers an old friend is in trouble — and more ways than he thinks.
As he’s sharing the writing reins on this title, it seems artist Francis Manapul has opted to give himself the opportunity to experiment his how he opts to present this story. His unconventional layouts and choices of perspective sometimes pan out and sometimes they don’t, but I liked that he’s willing to push himself to try new approaches to comic art. The double-page splash early on in the book — in which the action unfolds in oddly shaped panels in an arc and within the letterforms of the title character’s name at the bottom of the spread — is quite striking. However, in terms of sequential storytelling, it misses the mark a little, as the action doesn’t flow smoothly from panel to panel. But later, he presents an entire page focused on Barry in his apartment, looking down directly from above, with panels featuring more traditional viewpoints. It’s an unusual page, but it’s effective at conveying Barry’s hectic effort to get to the bottom of the mystery involving his friend.
Another new element in the visuals is the redesign of the title character’s costume. Its emergence from the Flash ring as a collection of high-speed puzzle pieces is… well, it’s kind of weird. While I don’t need an explanation to make me believe such a phenomenon is possible, it would be nice get a little super-hero/science-fiction explanation of what we’re supposed to be seeing. the added seam lines in the costume initially seems like a bad idea for a character known for speed and a sleek look, but Buccellato throws some glowing yellow color into those seams when the hero’s using his powers. It makes for a cool effect and conveys the notion there’s always power literally flowing through the hero.
The one aspect of this comic I was surprised to find absent was an acknowledgement of the changes in continuity. At the end of Flashpoint, when the Flash restores the timeline as best he can albeit with slight changes, we’re told he’s the only one to retain any memory of how things were before the world of the New 52. There’s no overt reference to Barry’s knowledge of the world he once knew. He doesn’t mourn Wally West or Jay Garrick, who are apparently no longer a part of this new world. There’s a moment when he looks at Iris — his wife in a previous life — with affection, but it could just be attraction rather than a memory of a relationship that’s been erased from existence. I’m a bit torn about the omission. On the one hand, Barry’s memory of what came before should lead to some sense of loss, but on the other hand, I do appreciate that Manapul and Buccellato tell their own story here, unencumbered by the convoluted continuity that led to the new status quo for the title character and his supporting cast.
I’ve been reading comics — and DC comics in particular — for decades, and Barry Allen’s always been a married guy, or someone about to be married (Iris was “dead” and Barry was wooing a character named Fiona Webb in the first Flash comic I ever bought). Seeing him as a single guy, awkward with women and trying to find his footing on a date was actually a lot of fun. Often, the character’s been defined by his relationships, and my hope here is the writers will explore him as an individual for a change. The plot is fun, and there’s a light, playful tone to the storytelling that’s a nice change from some of the darker, intense leanings one can find in many other of the new/relaunched titles from DC. 7/10
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