Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Superman #7


"To Hel and Back"

Scripted and Co-Plotted by Keith Griffen
Pencil Art and Co-Plotted by Dan Jurgens
Finished Art by Jesús Merino
Colored by Tanya and Richard Horie
Lettered by Rob Leigh
Associate Edited by Wil Moss
Edited by Matt Idelson
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster


Look at this! A sketch variant! This is an older issue from when DC generously included variant covers in their digital copies. Now, they have sadly discontinued that practice. Anyway, this cover was done by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis. I always get annoyed when the cover artist doesn't work on the inside pages, but otherwise, this is a pretty solid cover. But I wouldn't say it's Ivan Reis' best work, by any means. Perhaps it's because I think grabbing Superman's cape is a really dumb-looking move. The black-and-white version is alright, but it feels a little rushed. Almost like it needed one more step before it was ready to go on the cover.

Of course, any problems with this cover (and story) can be attributed to the turbulent nature of the Superman title in the early stages of the New 52. Originally, George Perez (one of the bigger names in the industry) was supposed to be the main Superman writer and hold it up to the same standard as Grant Morrison's Action Comics and Geoff Johns' Justice League. But Perez quickly fell into editorial disagreements, and he left as soon as he could. He even publicly stated that the first six issues of Superman, of which he was credited as writer and sometimes artist, were edited so heavily they did not resemble his originally intended story. So DC quickly brought in Keith Griffen and Dan Jurgens to put a couple of issues out until they found a long-term replacement. For their story, DC chose a loose tie-in with Stormwatch and Grifter. And you know what? Having said all that, this issue actually wasn't half bad.

Our story begins with Superman doing Superman stuff. He's protecting innocent bystanders from a rampaging robot.


The robot eventually transports Superman to the Himalayas, where its boss, Helspont the daemonite, has set up base. Helspont tells Superman that he's curious as to why his race didn't conquer Earth long ago. He theorizes this could be due to the amount of superheroes already on Earth. To illustrate his point, a nearby cauldron of fire displays images of several heroes, including Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the Flash.


Helspont then offers Superman the chance to serve under him while he conquers the world. Naturally, the Man of Steel declines.

The Good:

For better and worse, this felt like a very '90s issue. Now, there are a lot of comics I love from the '90s, but there are also a few things that are best left in that decade. Of course, the bulk of this praise/blame falls on Dan Jurgens, who was one of the premiere Superman creators of the '90s. I guess old habits die hard — even 20 years later. Now, what do I mean when I say this feels '90s? It's hard to put my finger on it. Part of it is the art — Jurgens' distinctive style that was so prevalent back then. And part of it is the tone of the story. It just feels a lot lighter than many current books that try so hard to be serious, grim and gritty. This was a pretty basic setup: Superman fights a robot, saves people, has some laughs at the Daily Planet, then meets the super villain, who is basically evil incarnate and wants to take over the world for the sake of taking it over. It all felt very familiar. And this works to the benefit and detriment of this issue. I suppose it depends on how you feel on a given day. Sometimes it's nice to return to the simpler times of the "good ol' days." But sometimes you want something new and fresh, even if that comes with the risk of failing.

One thing I will compliment this issue on is the use of editor's notes. This is something DC has moved away from recently, which saddens me. In this issue, there were notes telling me to check out Superman #1, Stormwatch #5, Stormwatch #6 and Grifter #6. That's a lot of issues, but they do help strengthen the continuity of the DC universe without creating compulsory crossovers. There was no "Daemonite Invasion" banner on this cover, and Superman didn't have to put his current story on hold to take part in this "event." He just happened to fight a daemonite in this issue, and if readers wanted to read other issues with more of these aliens, they'd know where to find them. I have nothing against large crossover events (as long as they're handled well), but I think DC needs to promote more of these loose tie-ins through editor's notes.

The Bad:

No Flash. The Flash didn't need to be here, and it actually didn't make any sense when he was shown in that cauldron of fire. At that point, Helspont was talking about superheroes from Earth's earliest recorded history. The Flash doesn't fit under that category. He's not that old. … Or is he? … Nope. He's not. This was an instance of the art not agreeing with the dialogue, which is a shame. And I see now why comic book databases initially didn't include this issue as a Flash appearance.

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next time: I caught the Flash's big cameo in Captain Atom #3, but I missed his small, passive appearance toward the end of that series in Captain Atom #10.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Batman #25


"Zero Year: Dark City"

Scott Snyder Writer
Greg Capullo Penciller
Danny Miki Inker
FCO Plascencia Colorist
Nick Napolitano Letterer
Katie Kubert Associate Editor
Mike Marts Group Editor
Batman created by Bob Kane

The cover is by Greg Capullo and FCO Plascencia, and I actually love it. It is incredibly simple, yet powerful. I don't think designs like this should be used a lot, but every once in a while it is a cool, bold choice.

Now I must confess that I have a rather strange relationship with Batman right now. My all-time favorite TV show is Batman: The Animated Series and my favorite movies are the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy. I have a handful of Batman graphic novels on my shelf that I love, yet I have never had any interest to read this current Batman title. Tons of other people love it, though, as it's currently one of the best-selling comics out there. But it just hasn't appealed to me. I mostly blame the continuity issues. I didn't care for what Grant Morrison did with Batman Inc. and Damian Wayne, and I was quite dismayed to see those things continued into the New 52. I also didn't like the idea of the Joker cutting off his face, so I've stayed away, even though this Zero Year storyline is a great place to start reading Batman. Well, I finally relented when I heard Barry Allen appears in this issue. But nothing here has inspired me to keep reading or go back to catch up on what I missed.

Barry Allen doesn't appear in the main story, so I'll be brief. The Riddler has caused a massive blackout in Gotham City, which has kept a young Batman very busy. To make matters worse, the police is hot on his trail, and a man named Doctor Death is injecting people with a serum that causes their bones to grotesquely grow out of control.

Well, that didn't give the story enough credit, but I can see why it's so popular. It's not my cup of tea, though, and that's alright. But I will make an odd complaint you normally won't hear me make: The coloring is bad. I've seen some people praise the coloring in Batman, but it drives me nuts. Everything is pink, blue and purple. It completely takes me out of the story. Anyway, enough with that and on to the backup story — the only reason I'm here.

"People in the Dark"

Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV Story
Andy Clarke Art
Blond Colorist
Dezi Sienty Letterer
Katie Kubert Associate Editor
Mike Marts Group Editor
Batman created by Bob Kane

Neglected by their father, a young Harper Row teaches herself how to make a battery-powered light so her little brother, Cullen, won't be afraid of the dark. She also comforts him by saying that there are a lot of special people out there, trying to save Gotham, including Green Arrow, Superman and Barry Allen.


The Good:

Epic Batman story. Even though I don't necessarily love this, I can appreciate the enormity of the event. And who can't help but get excited when characters like Jim Gordon, Harvey Bullock, Pamela Isley and Lucius Fox show up? Even if you come into this story like me — not really knowing what's going on and hating the coloring — you can't help but find some enjoyment in this issue.

The Bad:

No Flash. The backup story in this issue primarily served as a reminder that there are a ton of tie-in issues to the Zero Year event. But I don't think that was really necessary, since all of those issues are clearly marked with a Zero Year banner on the cover, not to mention all the advertising DC's been doing for them. And I don't think this backup taught us anything new about Harper Row, either. And remember, since I'm reviewing this issue as a Flash fan and grading it based on how well it portrayed the Flash, I have to say that most Flash fans should pass up on this issue. I ended up paying extra for one panel of Barry Allen that didn't look particularly amazing. Now, if you're a Batman fan, then you might want to consider this. But for a purely Flash reason, skip this issue.

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next time: I recently discovered that there are a handful of passive Flash appearances I missed the first time around, so I'm going to be playing catchup, starting with Superman #7.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Flash #25


"Starting Line"

Story by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Pencils by Chris Sprouse and Francis Manapul
Inks by Karl Story, Keith Champagne and Francis Manapul
Colors by Brian Buccellato
Letters by Carlos M. Mangual
Senior Editor Brian Cunningham
Associate Editor Harvey Richards
Editor Wil Moss
Batman created by Bob Kane

This is the last Flash cover by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato. It is really good, if not their best work. Barry looks pretty heroic, and this cover tells us exactly what we're getting inside. This is a Batman Zero Year tie-in with a pre-Flash Barry Allen. Gotham City looks good, as does the lightning bolt across a red sky. And I like that the Zero Year banner isn't too invasive. But I'm not a fan of making the Flash title transparent. It just feels weird.

Our story begins six years ago, when the Riddler apparently caused a massive blackout in Gotham right before a superstorm hit the city. To deal with this massive disaster, a call went out across the nation, seeking aid from other law enforcement departments. Barry Allen, recently graduated from the Central City Police Academy, answered the call, and headed out to Gotham to spend a week with local police. He was teamed up with Harvey Bullock and Spencer Thompson, and the three of them soon found themselves chasing down a drug addict hopped up on something called Icarus. Barry feels his partners lack a sense of urgency, so he tries to take matters into his own hands, but his rashness almost gets his shot with his own Taser. Thompson and Bullock save Barry, but the addict suddenly bursts into flames. The man dies, but the fire is extinguished by Iris West, who is interning at the Gotham Gazette and currently investigating this Icarus drug at a medical clinic full of addicts of the stuff.

The cops take the addict's corpse to the morgue, and Bullock sends Thompson home since he's been working three days straight. Bullock and Barry then head back to the medical clinic Iris was at. As soon as they arrive, the building explodes, giving them time to only save a handful of people. Thompson returns to investigate the explosion, and he and Bullock both believe it was caused by an Icarus addict spontaneously combusting. But Barry and Iris think someone else started the fire, so they stay behind.

Barry and Iris set up a makeshift lab at the Gotham Gazette and drink some beer while examining the Icarus drug. Since the drug ignites so easily at room temperature, Barry figures it had to have been made at a cold location. And since Iris was able to keep her beer cold with a block of ice from a "fish guy," the two decide to go check him out.

It turns out the fish guy agreed to smuggle in the Icarus drug in exchange for a few generators to keep his fish fresh. But as Barry and Iris arrive, the fish guy is caught in an argument about the amount of drugs being stored in his warehouse. He's then shot by Spencer Thompson, who quickly finds Barry and Iris and holds them at gunpoint, while Bullock starts to fight his way in through the back. Barry tries to save Iris, but he's beaten down by Thompson, who force-feeds Barry some Icarus. The drug causes Barry to hallucinate that he's a superhero, but he quickly catches fire. Iris is able to extinguish him, and Bullock shoots Thompson before he can kill anyone else.

After Barry is recovered and Thompson has his funeral, Barry asks Bullock why he said Thompson was killed in the line of duty. Bullock explains that Thompson wasn't the manufacturer or the supplier of the drug; he just stumbled upon it one day, and in his desperation to help his sick daughter, he made a mistake. Saying he died a hero will at least give his family some life insurance money.

And before Barry heads back to Central City, he meets with Iris and tells her that she's worth taking a beating for. The two kiss for the very first time, and Barry races off to catch his train.



The Good:

Heroic Barry. I've always liked the idea that Barry Allen was a heroic individual long before he got struck by lightning. And this issue gave us the chance to see that. He's willing to recklessly put his life in danger, and he's unwilling to let any mystery slip by him unsolved. When he later acquired super speed, he didn't suddenly decide to start helping people, but rather use that new power to improve and increase what he was already trying to do on a day-to-day basis. It would be interesting to have a new reader start with this issue and see what they think.

Iris West. She has really become one of my favorite characters, even though Barry seems content to be with Patty Spivot at the moment. But Iris is heroic, courageous and pretty, and a more than worthy enough candidate to date Barry again should anything ever happen to his relationship with Patty. But what I really liked about this issue was that we got to see the beginning of the Barry/Iris romance. Before this, we've only had a few hints and glimpses of their past relationship — and then it was usually just to show us how it failed. But here, we're able to see two young people falling in love while working together — even if it's probably not the best idea to drink beer while examining very dangerous drugs.

Harvey Bullock. Detective Bullock is one of my all-time favorite Batman characters. I absolutely loved him in Batman: The Animated Series, and I was sorely disappointed when he didn't show up in any of the Christopher Nolan films. I think he is an essential element of Gotham City and a perfect foil between Batman and Commissioner Gordon. He's too by-the-books to approve of any vigilante activity, but he's rough enough to bend the rules when the situation requires. He may appear to be a slob, but he's actually a great cop, and in my mind, there is no such thing as too many Bullock stories. Hopefully his inclusion here means Manapul and Buccellato will be using him a lot in their run on Detective Comics.

The Bad:

No Flash. It feels just wrong to have a Flash comic without the Flash in it at all. Yes, I know this was a flashback, and I already said I liked to see Barry act heroically out of costume. But it almost feels like a sin to publish a story titled The Flash and not have the red and gold costume show up anywhere. The problem with this is that the lack of the Flash (and any other superheroes) makes this feel like it's not a Flash story. It's just a regular crime adventure story. It would work perfectly on the Arrow TV show, or even in the pages of Detective Comics. But most Flash fans turn to this comic to see super heroic things happen. We like to see people run at the speed of light, time travel, control weather and more. And when you remove all that, the story feels hollow inside. Almost like a rip off. It would have helped a bit to frame the story as a flashback within the current day just so we could have at least one panel of the present-day Flash remembering this past adventure. That would have helped, but I don't think it would have completely saved this issue.

Zero Year tie-in. I'm not opposed to the idea of involving the Flash in other major crossovers — in fact, I usually support continuity-building stories. But I feel that this particular issue fell short of the usual goals of a crossover. I heard in an interview with Francis Manapul that he and Brian Buccellato always wanted to leave The Flash after issue #24. DC was more than willing to accommodate them, and even offered them the chance to move on to any other title they wanted to. So naturally they chose Detective Comics, and I don't blame them for that. I probably would've done the same thing. So anyway, a few weeks after making this decision, DC told Manapul and Buccellato about their plans to incorporate more characters into Scott Snyder's Zero Year story, and they convinced/required them to write one more Flash issue tying in to this event. So Manapul and Buccellato came back for an encore of sorts, while also returning to the beginning of their character and getting a chance to practice drawing Gotham City. All that is good and well, but it doesn't help the fact that this story had virtually nothing to do with the actual Zero Year storyline. This was a completely stand-alone tale that could have happened at any time and any place. The only thing that sort of made this a Batman story was Harvey Bullock. But Batman didn't show up beyond a brief glimpse of what could have been the edge of his cape and a vague reference from Bullock to some vigilante. So the Batman fans who picked up this issue just because they saw the Zero Year logo on the cover had to have been pretty disappointed to find a complete lack of the Dark Knight here. And Flash fans had to have been disappointed to not only  find a complete lack of the Scarlet Speedster, but to also find a story that had nothing to do with the Reverse-Flash storyline or even Forever Evil. Ultimately, I think this issue failed to convince Batman fans to read more Flash stories and Flash fans to read more Batman stories. And that's a lot of disappointment for a story that cost a dollar extra.

And thus ends the Francis Manapul run on The Flash. He worked on the character for about three years, dating back to before the New 52. He provided some really amazing, memorable stuff that gave me a greater appreciation for comics and inspired me to start this blog. Brian Buccellato will stay on The Flash for a couple more titles, so I'll keep this blog going at least through that run. Sadly this issue wasn't as good as many of the other Flash issues were, but one slight dud does nothing to diminish the magnificence of the other stories.

Final score: 6 out of 10

Next time: Continuing the Zero Year trend, Barry Allen makes a passive appearance in Batman #25.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Justice League #23


"Trinity War Chapter Six: Conclusion"

Geoff Johns Writer
Ivan Reis Penciller
Joe Prado, Oclair Albert and Eber Ferreira Inkers
Rod Reis Colors
Nick J. Napolitano Letters
Kate Stewart Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

The cover is the final three-part image by Doug Mahnke and Alex Sinclair. It's nice to have the Flash included with the big guys of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Pandora and Aquaman (even though Aquaman has been a bigger non factor this story than Flash). I also give props to this cover for actually showing something that happens this issue. And, unlike the other Trinity War covers, this one can stand well on its own. However, I do not like Mahnke's style at all. Everybody's face looks incredibly weird.

Five years ago, Darkseid's invasion weakened the barriers between universes, enabling the Outsider and a female companion to come to Earth. Over the next five years, Outsider built up the Secret Society, planted a mole on the Justice League, and enacted an elaborate plan to acquire Pandora's box, which involved framing Superman for murder. Today, the Outsider has retreated back to the shadows while the rest of the heroes arrive at the temple of Hephaestus to battle for Pandora's box.


Everybody fights for a while, resort to base name-calling, and continue to play hot potato with the skull-shaped box. Until suddenly, the box goes "dormant," and everybody suddenly stops fighting. Wonder Woman wonders why Superman is still sick, and Firestorm and Element Woman locate a microscopic sliver of kryptonite in his brain. Atom admits to placing it there, which triggered the heat vision blast that killed Dr. Light. She also says that Cyborg is also a traitor — or rather, the mechanical part of him, which removes itself from Victor Stone and calls itself Grid.

The Outsider then picks up the box and is surrounded by a force field of lightning that prevents the Flash and other heroes from touching him. He explains that the box is science, not magic, and it was created long ago on his home world, the birthplace of evil — Earth Three. The Outsider then opens the box, which creates a portal. The Sea King is the first to arrive, but he immediately dies for some reason. He's quickly followed by Ultraman, Superwoman, Johnny Quick, Power Ring, Deathstorm, Owlman and a mysterious prisoner.

Atom reveals herself to be Atomica and jumps into Johnny's hand. The Outsider reveals himself to be Owlman's butler. Our heroes scramble to protect Cyborg and Superman, while the Crime Syndicate launches its attack.

The Good:

Surprising reveal. It was kind of nice to see that this female Atom was actually evil. At first I thought DC was just trying to increase its diversity with the Atom. But now Atomica is her own character, and her betrayal makes sense. I also liked Cyborg's robotic self turning on him, and I was secretly hoping this action would kill him (although it looks like he'll survive). It's not that I hate Cyborg — I just wanted a major, meaningful death. DC promised the death of a hero in Trinity War, but all we got was Dr. Light, who never really was a hero to begin with. But still, this issue was pretty exciting. I knew Trinity War would lead into Forever Evil, but I didn't necessarily think the Crime Syndicate would be behind it. So it wasn't too bad of an ending for this epic crossover. Having said that, though, there were still a few things that made me mad.

The Bad:

Kryptonite in the brain. In the New 52, in Grant Morrison's run in Action Comics, Superman's enemies planted a piece of kryptonite inside his brain. It made him very sick, and he almost died until he was saved by Kryptonian technology. Either Geoff Johns didn't read those issues, or did and just decided to copy that plot device. In a perfect DC-continuity world, Superman would have remembered the sensation of having kryptonite in his brain, and he would have at least asked someone to check that out.  Instead, he just sat around coughing and followed everybody around to investigate Dr. Psycho and Amanda Waller. Another similar problem with Trinity War was making John Constantine the only person corrupt enough to touch Pandora's box. A rather recent issue of Justice League Dark saw Constantine compelled to tell the truth, and he had nothing but good things to say to everybody. So it was a bit of a whiplash to go from learning that Constantine is actually good at his core to being told that he is completely corrupted.

Failure to deliver. For Free Comic Book Day in May 2012, Geoff Johns wrote a short teaser for Trinity War, and Jim Lee drew a massive two-page spread showing what we all believed to be an actual scene from this story. Here's what Lee drew back then:


And here's what Ivan Reis drew for the official story:


Very similar, yes, but there were more than enough differences to really bug me. Johns basically had a whole year to plot events in Justice League and Justice League of America to get to that moment, but he apparently changed his mind or forgot what DC co-publisher Jim Lee drew. Of course, I wouldn't be so mad if the fighting in this issue (and this whole crossover) didn't feel so forced and rushed. Throughout these six issues, all the heroes repeatedly, and reluctantly, got into brief fights out of some sense of obligation. And then all the fights ended faster than they began. What was the deal with Pandora's box going dormant? Basically, I'm upset because I feel cheated. I was promised a big event that pitted all my heroes against each other. But Johns couldn't come up with a more compelling reason for everybody to fight each other than a magical evil box that turned everyone evil. But then we learned that the magical box was not magical at all, even though everything it ever did screamed of magic. And for an issue titled "Conclusion," it wasn't very conclusive. Sure, we got a couple of nice reveals, and I enjoyed them, but ultimately, this whole Trinity War was not much of an event in itself, and just an extended prelude for Forever Evil. Hopefully that epic storyline will be more satisfying.

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next time: Before jumping into Forever Evil, I'm going back to hit some passive Flash appearances I missed the first time around. But first, I'll review the final Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato issue, The Flash #25.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Justice League Dark #23


Jeff Lemire Writer
Mikel Janin Artist
Jeromy Cox Colorist
Rob Leigh Letterer
Kate Stewart Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

The cover is the center of the three-part image by Dough Mahnke and Alex Sinclair. It doesn't work terribly well on its own, and Martian Manhunter looks kinda weird, but it's alright.

We open in Lex Luthor's prison cell, where Wonder Woman has seized Pandora's box. She's gained a third eye … on her tiara … and is attacking everyone in sight. Shazam, running away from John Constantine, shows up and grabs the box, which causes a major disturbance in the magical plains. All magical-based beings in the world, including Deadman at the House of Mystery, feel the effects of Shazam possessing Pandora's box. This brief moment of pain, however, enables Deadman to locate the captured Madame Xanadu.

Back at Washington, D.C., formerly the site of A.R.G.U.S. headquarters, Element Woman has protected all the heroes and Amanda Waller from Plastique's blast. Everybody immediately begins to accuse Waller of setting up Superman's "murder." Waller naturally denies these accusations, and at the urging of Superman, everyone begins to dig through the wreckage for survivors.

Back at Luthor's prison cell, Pandora's box has begun to corrupt all the nearby heroes, except for Zatanna, who's protected by her magic. Everybody kind of plays hot potato with Pandora's box, and everything gets quite chaotic, until Constantine arrives and grabs the box without becoming corrupted. He and Zatanna then try to teleport away to London, but end up at the temple of Hephaestus, which is where Xanadu is being held. They are soon joined by Batman and his team.


But that's not all. The Outsider joins the party and tells everybody that Pandora's box is actually a doorway, and now it's time to open it.

The Good:

Epic story. All the characters are still involved, and we got some fighting, to boot. But more importantly, this issue felt like it went somewhere. The reader has known the Outsider has been behind this right from the beginning, but none of the main characters have … until now. Now we just need to figure out exactly who he is and what he's doing. And although my synopsis was brief, I really did enjoy this issue. Jeff Lemire and Mikel Janin are growing on me. And as for the Trinity War as a whole, I'd have to say I've enjoyed it up to this point (part 5 of 6). My scores have been rather average — mainly because the Flash has been mishandled — but I think this has been a good, if rushed, crossover.

The Bad:

The Flash did absolutely nothing in this issue, but I prefer that to what he's been doing recently. I'd much rather have him sit silently in the background than having him sound like an idiot every time he opened his mouth. In an ideal world, this story would have been long enough to give meaningful moments to all characters involved, but it's not, so I'll take what I can get. An uninvolved Flash is better than a stupid/jerky Flash.

Final score: 6 out of 10

Next time: Justice League #23

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Justice League of America #7


"Trinity War Chapter Four"

Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire Writers
Doug Mahnke Penciller
Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Marc Deering, Doug Mahnke and Walden Wong Inkers
Nathan Eyring, Pete Pantazis and Gabe Eltaeb Colorists
Rob Leigh Letterer
Kate Stewart Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

The cover is by Doug Mahnke and Alex Sinclair. It's the first part of another three-cover image. While I don't think Mahnke is as good as Ivan Reis, and I'm not a big fan of the red/purple background, I do think these covers are better than the first Trinity War covers. I think it's better to have the climax cover at the end instead of the middle, and I like that the heroes aren't fighting each other. The big selling point of this crossover was that all the Justice Leagues would fight each other. But then that didn't really happen. Nobody really seemed like they wanted to fight, and when they did, it was only for a moment. So it's nice to not have misleading covers anymore.

Our story opens with Lex Luthor in prison. His team of high-priced lawyers has arranged for his release, but he's more interested in the news of Superman's "murder," so he fires his six lawyers. Pandora then visits him, hoping his purely dark heart can be the key to open her box.

At A.R.G.U.S. headquarters in Washington, D.C., Plastique takes advantage of the chaos to sneak into the morgue and place an explosive on Dr. Light's corpse. In Pittsburgh, Dr. Psycho is preparing four victims for his dastardly experiments when he's discovered by Superman's team.


Dr. Psycho tries to use some telepathy tricks to escape, and he even comes close to discovering Superman's secret identity, but in the end, he's captured by Martian Manhunter, who begins to probe his mind. Meanwhile, the remaining members of Batman's team are locked out of the House of Mystery. Simon Baz tries to use a battering ram to break down the door to no avail.


Even Vibe's powers have no effect, but Catwoman finally opens the door by asking the house politely. Once inside, the Phantom Stranger appears in a mirror and tells them his mission to retrieve Dr. Light's soul failed. Batman, Katana and Deadman are able to return, but the Phantom Stranger must pay the ultimate price.

Back in Pittsburgh, Martian Manhunter learns that Dr. Psycho was sent to Kahndaq by the Secret Society, but it appears he was set up as a fall guy. Atom then admits she's been spying on the Justice League for the Justice League of America and Amanda Waller. Everybody suspects Waller arranged the death of Dr. Light, so they decide to return to ARGUS and confront her.

Back at Luthor's prison cell, Pandora is about to hand him her box, but is interrupted by Wonder Woman and her team. Wonder Woman seizes the box and gains a third eye. The Phantom Stranger is able to tell Batman's team that Madame Xanadu knows what the box really is. And Superman's team returns to ARGUS just in time for Plastique's bomb to go off.

The Good:

Fun story still. The epic feel of this crossover continues, and it remains a must-read for DC fans. The inclusion of Lex Luthor was an absolute necessity, as was shifting the blame from Dr. Psycho back to Amanda Waller. Dr. Psycho is probably a C-list villain at best, but Waller conceivably could have orchestrated this whole conspiracy. The mystery would probably be a bit more fun without all the cutscenes to the Outsider, but it's still an entertaining ride, all the same.

The Bad:

Mishandled Flash. It seems whenever I'm upset with the Flash, Geoff Johns is involved. I really wonder  why he's forgotten Barry Allen's personality. He wouldn't be so rude to compare Simon Baz to Hal Jordan like that. His quick apology only helps a little. Also, why can't anyone remember that Flash has been to the House of Mystery before, and recently, too? A simple fix would have been to have Flash explain to Simon Baz that the house is magical and he can't pound his through it. You could still have Catwoman be the one to open it, and it would have helped make the Flash a little less worthless than he has been in this crossover.

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next time: Justice League Dark #23

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger #11


"A Foolish Man"

J.M. DeMatteis Writer
Fernando Blanco Artist
Brad Anderson Colorist
Travis Lanham Letterer
Harvey Richards Associate Editor
Wil Moss Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor
Batman created by Bob Kane
Deadman created by Arnold Drake
Katana created by Mike W. Bar and Jim Aparo
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

The cover is by Guillem March, and I really do not care for his style. It just feels … incomplete. The overall concept of this cover is good, though — it shows us all the major characters of this story entering the afterlife, so it gives you a good idea of what's going to happen inside, even if the presentation is a bit on the symbolic side. Normally, I'm upset when the cover artist doesn't draw the inside pages, but I prefer Fernando Blanco's style, so it all works out for me.

Now, the Flash is barely involved in this story, so I'll be rather brief in my recap. In our last Trinity War chapter, the Flash decided to stay on Batman's team with the Phantom Stranger, Steve Trevor, Catwoman, Vibe, Katana and Simon Baz. They're all hanging outside the House of Mystery, while Batman negotiates with the Phantom Stranger inside. Deadman went with Wonder Woman's team to Belle Reve, but when they couldn't find Pandora's box there, he decided he'd be of more help with Batman's team. Simon Baz and Katana practice sword fighting and Flash notices that every time he looks through the window, he sees a different room.

The Phantom Stranger is hesitant to take Batman to the afterlife to find Dr. Light, but he won't say why. Apparently the Phantom Stranger has been warned to not return to the afterlife on threat of being wiped out of existence. But after hearing Batman talk about how important Superman is, the Phantom Stranger relents, and takes Batman, Katana and Deadman to the afterlife.


In the afterlife, everybody is momentarily separated and taken to their own personal heaven. Katana is reunited with her dead husband, and Batman experiences a Christmas with his parents he never had. But Phantom Stranger is able to get them all back on track and lead them to Dr. Light. Unfortunately, Dr. Light has no memories of his death, so Phantom Stranger decides to bring him back to life to clear Superman's name. But as soon as he attempts this, the angel Zauriel appears, sends Batman, Katana and Deadman back, and punishes the Phantom Stranger.


The Good:

Compelling story. This is the only Phantom Stranger issue I've read, but it was really interesting. Even though I'm not normally a fan of these supernatural-type stories, I enjoyed this concept of heaven and an all-inclusive religion. Basically everyone creates their own afterlife experience, and it was neat to see a quick glimpse of this. If I had more time and money, I'd read more Phantom Stranger.

The Bad:

Weak connection to previous issues. The Flash has been to the House of Mystery before. So why was he so surprised by its mystical properties? As easy as it was to have him say that line, they could have had someone like Vibe be amazed by the house and have the Flash kindly explain it to him. But even more importantly, in Justice League Dark #22, it was the Phantom Stranger who suggested to Batman that they needed to visit Dr. Light in the afterlife. But in this issue, it's implied that Batman came up with the idea, and he had to spend a lot of time twisting Phantom Stranger's arm to take him there. I suppose this did help provide an opportunity to recap the Trinity War just in case there was a single person out there who had only been reading The Phantom Stranger and not any of the Trinity War issues. But this scene could have been improved by making the Phantom Stranger willing to risk his own existence, but unwilling to risk taking anyone else there. I've offered two suggestions for simple changes that would have gone a long way in improving this issue, but as it stands, it ends up as just an average issue.

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next time: Trinity War continues in Justice League of America #7

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Justice League Dark #22



"Trinity War Chapter Three: House of Cards"

Jeff Lemire Writer
Mikel Janin Artist
Jeromy Cox Colors
Carlos M. Mangual Letters
Kate Stewart Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

The cover is the third of the three-part image by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis. It doesn't work very well on its own, but it does help round out the other two covers. This is also the first cover of this storyline to feature the Flash, although I'm not sure why Frankenstein is grabbing him by throat. The two of them were just working very well together in Justice League Dark #21. I'm also not sure how Frankenstein was able to grab the Flash. Frankenstein isn't necessarily known for his speed.

Our story begins with Madame Xanadu, clairvoyant and mystic, blindfolded and imprisoned in an unknown location. She has a brief conversation with the Outsider, who is quite confident in his plans. At A.R.G.U.S. headquarters in Washington, D.C., Firestorm successfully creates some kryptonite at the request of Amanda Waller. Batman has asked Zatanna to assist with the autopsy of Dr. Light, but she doubts her magic will help them prove that Dr. Light triggered Superman's heat vision. Suddenly, they're all visited by the Phantom Stranger.


The Phantom Stranger tells them that Wonder Woman and the Justice League Dark are hunting down Pandora's box, and if they find it, it'll be the death of them all. Batman quickly throws together a team to stop Wonder Woman. In the ARGUS sub-level holding cell, the Question frees the sick Superman and hands him a piece of paper that convinces him he needs to break out of ARGUS. In New York City, Wonder Woman successfully recruits the JLD, although John Constantine wanted to find Xanadu first. They all head to the House of Mystery, where they're met by Batman and his team.


Back at ARGUS, Cyborg tries to stop Superman, but he shows him the newspaper clipping stating that Dr. Psycho was in Kahndaq a day before their battle. Cyborg is surprised he didn't know this, but he and the other remaining heroes agree to help Superman find Dr. Psycho — despite Waller's protests.

In the House of Mystery, Wonder Woman uses her lasso of truth on the Phantom Stranger to prove he doesn't know what is to blame for Superman's condition. Wonder Woman opens up the call for more heroes to help her find Pandora's box. Constantine convinces Shazam to go away with him, and Hawkman, Aquaman, Stargirl and Zatanna side with Wonder Woman. Batman is left with the Flash, Vibe, Phantom Stranger, Steve Trevor, Katana, Catwoman and Simon Baz. At ARGUS, Superman, the Question, Martian Manhunter, Cyborg, Element Woman, Atom, Green Arrow and Firestorm fight their way past Waller and her agents.

So to recap: Wonder Woman's team is looking for Pandora; Superman's team is looking for Dr. Psycho; and Batman's team (at the suggestion of the Phantom Stranger) is going to visit Dr. Light in the afterlife. The issue ends with the Outsider telling Xanadu that he has a mole among the Justice League.

The Good:

The story. The mystery is building nicely with three potential suspects now (although Dr. Psycho is a fairly weak suspect). But the epic feel of the story continues. Just about everybody who's important in the DC Universe is involved, continuing to make this a must-read. And it is kind of fun splitting the teams up into three new teams. Unfortunately, it seems like the story just isn't long enough to thoroughly explore the dynamics of these new teams.

The Bad:

Mishandling of the Flash. I'm not really mad that Flash had nothing to do or say here — with so many characters involved that's bound to happen. But I am upset that there was absolutely no reference to him having teamed up with the Justice League Dark. The previous issue of this title tied up a three-part arc with the Flash and Swamp Thing helping the JLD fight Dr. Destiny. Now he's reunited with that team, but nobody acknowledges him. If you remember, the Flash actually had a great time with them and almost felt more at home with the JLD than the regular Justice League. So why did he side with Batman over his newfound friends?

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next time: The search for Doctor Light's soul begins in The Phantom Stranger #11

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Justice League of America #6


"Trinity War Chapter Two"

Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire Writers
Doug Mahnke Penciller
Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen Inkers
Gabe Eltaeb and Nathan Eyring Colorists
Rob Leigh Letterer
Kate Stewart Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

The cover is by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis. This is the center of the three-cover image, and is probably the best. However, it can't entirely stand alone, as Superman's fist looks quite out of place.

We open our story with the Outsider talking into a special coin. He says, "My fellow society members … it's time." We then cut to the Question, who is still trying to figure out "who is the evil behind the evil." He believes that if he answers enough questions, then one day he'll learn who he really is. We then cut back to Kahndaq, where everyone — and I mean everyone — is fighting.


Martian Manhunter suspects Superman's been poisoned, so he phases his fingers into Superman's head. Flash doesn't like that idea, so he vibrates his hand through J'onn's chest. At the order of Steve Trevor, Vibe then attacks the Flash, and seems to actually cause some damage. While he's using his powers, Vibe senses something beyond their world. Eventually, Superman gets everybody to stop fighting by pounding the ground real hard and demanding to be locked up.

So everybody heads back the A.R.G.U.S. medical wing to get treated for minor injuries. Trevor suspects Amanda Waller had something to with Dr. Light's murder since it proves how dangerous the Justice League is. The Flash is still feeling wobbly after Vibe's attack, and Atom is feeling guilty about betraying the League. Waller asks Firestorm if he can make kryptonite, and Wonder Woman rebukes Trevor for not telling her about the Justice League of America.

Superman, who is looking very sick, has been locked up in a chair with a helmet covering his eyes. Batman believes Dr. Light triggered Superman's heat vision, and he has Cyborg and Martian Manhunter conducting Dr. Light's autopsy to prove this. Wonder Woman, however, believes Pandora's box caused Superman to attack, and she visits Hephaestus to prove her theory. But the god tells her that contrary to legend, he didn't make the box, and none of the gods know what it is. So Wonder Woman visits the Justice League Dark to ask for their help in unraveling the mystery of the box.

Back at ARGUS headquarters, the Question disguises himself as Trevor and releases Superman, asking him, "Do you want to find out who really killed Dr. Light?"

The Good:

Nice mystery. I like that Batman and Wonder Woman each have different, yet plausible theories about Superman's "murder." Even though I wish there had been some suspicion that Superman acted under his own will, I was happy that we quickly got into the true issue at stake here. We're going to be splitting up into different teams now, and we have plenty of suspects to choose from. The main goal of this comic book is to entice readers to pick up the next issue, and I think this issue succeeded on that front.

Flash vs. Vibe. Yes, this was a very, very brief fight — if you can even call it a fight — but I was happy that it happened. After a lot of build up in the first three Vibe issues, we've finally confirmed that Vibe can actually hurt the Flash. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like DC will follow up further on this, as the Vibe title is (unsurprisingly) being cancelled. So this is it for the big Flash-Vibe showdown. It should have been more, but I am happy we got something in a book with tons of characters that basically did nothing. I mean, poor Aquaman's big moment was telling a lady to not touch his trident. At least Flash bravely took on the Martian Manhunter before being attacked by Vibe.

The Bad:

Rather boring issue. This issue did a good job of setting things up for the next chapter, but what actually happened here? Everybody stopped fighting just as soon as they started, then they all happily went to the hospital to lick their wounds. It feels like this story originally wasn't long enough to merit the $3.99 price tag that DC demanded of this big event, so the creators had to hastily stretch some things out to meet the page requirement. It also seems like Mahnke had a hard time getting all his pages in on time, since his pencils required four inkers and two colorists. There is a big difference between carefully crafting a work of art and rushing a book out to meet a deadline. And this issue falls into the latter category. I had raised expectations for this issue because of the magnitude of the event, and DC let me down by presenting this story that felt like everybody was just standing around and stalling. Don't worry, we'll do something interesting next issue! I still consider this an above average issue, but only slightly so. I just thought it should have been something bigger.

Final score: 6 out of 10

Next time: Trinity War continues in Justice League Dark #22!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Justice League #22


Before I begin my review, I have to include the cover of Trinity of Sin: Pandora #1 because the Flash is on it. But then again, just about everybody else in the DC Universe is on this cover. This issue serves as the prequel to Trinity War, but I found it highly disappointing. It didn't tell me anything I didn't already know or wouldn't have guessed. Basically, the important thing we learn in this issue is that Pandora "opened" her "box" (a golden skull with three eyes) in 8000 B.C. She didn't really open it so much as she simply picked it up. Anyway, this act unleashed the Seven Deadly Sins on the world, and she was punished to forever wander the world of sin. I find it hard to believe that it took Pandora 10,000 years to come up with some sort of a plan to catch the Sins, and I was really sad this issue said nothing of her role in the Flashpoint event. The issue had really disjointed art and suffers from an overly long and clunky title. I did not pick up issue #2, and I'm surprised that anyone did. Now, on to the main event.


"Trinity War Chapter One: The Death Card"

Geoff Johns Writer
Ivan Reis Penciller
Joe Prado and Oclair Albert Inkers
Rod Reis Colors
DC Lettering Letters
Kate Stewart Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

Of a slightly interesting note, this is the first time I've seen a comic lettered by DC Lettering. I guess this is the direction we're moving now, since everything is done on computers and its more efficient to everything in big teams. Some fans might bemoan the lost art of a good letterer, but that's where we are today. The cover is by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis, and its actually only one third of a larger image. I'm quite indifferent on the whole concept. There is a sense of satisfaction when you finally get all three covers together, but I think they each suffer a little bit individually to serve the bigger purpose. And this cover unfortunately features a nonexistent fight between Dr. Light and Madame Xanadu.

Our story begins with Madame Xanadu acting as a fortune teller for a young woman. But instead of seeing that woman's future, she sees the aftermath of the Trinity War and the events that lead up to it. First we see Billy Batson, who has just killed Black Adam. Despite the protests from his foster family, Billy decides he needs to spread Black Adam's ashes across his homeland, Kahndaq. At the Belle Reve Prison, Superman and Wonder Woman argue about what to do with Despero, who recently destroyed the Justice League Watchtower. Pandora approaches them and presents Superman with her infamous box. She says that Superman is the purest of heart and can help her recapture the Seven Sins that she unwittingly freed.

At the headquarters of the Justice League of America in Washington, D.C., Amanda Waller is blackmailing Dr. Light to join the team in order to take out Firestorm. At the remains of the Justice League Watchtower in Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, the rest of the Justice League are searching the remains of the satellite for any salvageable items and to figure out how Despero got past the security systems. Cyborg is upset with Batman for not telling anyone he had a kryptonite ring until it got stolen. Element Woman and Firestorm are impressed that the female Atom took down Despero, but she doesn't tell them Martian Manhunter really did it because he asked her not to tell. Atom then finds a chess set with figures shaped like the Justice League members, but the Superman piece is missing.

Speaking of Superman, he has now taken hold of Pandora's box, but instead of capturing the Sins, he gained a third eye on his forehead and attacked Pandora and Wonder Woman in a rampage. Pandora is able to shoot the box from his hand and he quickly returns to normal. Batman then calls them and tells them that Shazam has arrived in Kahndaq and doesn't seem to realize he's attracted the whole Kahndaqi army. Americans aren't allowed in that country, so the League decides to pull Shazam out. And since Shazam is magical-based, Superman decides to bring Zatanna with them.

The Justice League of America also heard about Shazam entering Kahndaq, so Waller decided now is the best time to take down the Justice League. For the first time, the members of the JLA learn who they are supposed to fight, and Vibe seems especially worried that he's supposed to take down the Flash. He asks Hawkman if he'd like to trade for Aquaman, but Hawkman refuses.

In Kahndaq, Shazam is attacked by the army before he can spread Black Adam's ashes. Before he can retaliate, he's hit by Superman. The two heavy hitters duke it out for a little bit before they're joined by the Justice League. They ask Shazam what he's doing in here, but before he can answer, the Justice League of America arrives.


Everybody starts to argue for a bit and Atom tells Element Woman that she's been working with the JLA. Xanadu sees that Pandora is taking her box to someone else, while the Phantom Stranger has decided to become involved, and the Question is trying to figure out who is the evil behind the evil. He has a big board of clues set up, with everything leading to Superman. Dr. Light tries to prevent any escalation by telling a passionate story about his wife, but then his powers go haywire when he approaches Superman. Dr. Light accidentally attacks Wonder Woman, and Superman grabs Dr. Light and kills him with his heat vision.

Madame Xanadu's client then reveals herself as Plastique. She was sent by the Secret Society to capture Xanadu and prevent her from warning anybody about the future. Everyone in Kahndaq begins fighting, while the Outsider watches from afar with an evil grin.

The Good:

Epic storyline. I have an interesting love-hate relationship with Geoff Johns. Sometimes I love his stuff, sometimes it bugs the crap out of me, but almost always, I am compelled to read his stories. And that's usually because he gets to write these big, massive events that involve just about everyone imaginable, and are essential reading for any DC fan. Simply put, if you want to know what's going on in DC, you have to read this issue, whether you like it or not. And I think that's the first time I've been able to say that about an issue in the New 52. DC built up the Trinity War for a long time, including a big preview on Free Comic Book Day 2012. So we had more than a year of excitement preceding this issue. It may or may not have been overhyped, but regardless, this is something that everybody needs to check out.

The art. I'm not a huge fan of Ivan Reis, but he was the perfect choice for this story. What really won me over in this issue, was seeing how much Reis' Billy Batson and Shazam looked like Gary Frank's. And Reis draws enough like Jim Lee to keep his fans interested, as well. But in addition to blending Frank's and Lee's styles, Reis is really good at managing scenes with dozens of characters. He's had a lot of experience in this area, and it pays off. Everybody looks good and everybody's doing something interesting.

The Bad:

Superman's "murder." This is one of my biggest complaints with Johns: He doesn't let the reader live in any doubt or suspicion. In Blackest Night, Johns spent a lot of time building up to the revival of Batman. When that moment finally happened, Reis drew a massive, two-page vertical spread to show the shock and horror of a zombie Batman. But then Johns immediately got rid of him and carefully explained to everybody that he wasn't the real Bruce Wayne, effectively killing any impact of that moment. In this issue, he did the exact same thing with Superman killing Dr. Light. Instead of letting us think for even a moment that Superman intentionally committed murder, we get a bunch of quotes from people explaining that Superman wasn't in control of his actions. Superman first says, "N-no … I didn't mean to … what have I done?" Then Xanadu says, "Superman did not do this!" Then Question says, "Who is trying to impute the man of steel?" Then the Outsider says, "Thanks to me, everyone will believe that Superman's killed Doctor Light." Couldn't all that have waited one issue? Couldn't we have spent one week in shock and disbelief that Superman killed somebody? But even if we didn't have all those quotes, we would've presumed Superman's innocence because of Pandora's box. And how are we supposed to feel bad for Dr. Light when we weren't given any time to get to know him. I don't care about him, I don't care about his daughters, and I sure as heck don't care about the morality lessons his wife taught him.

Now Flash didn't get to do much here, but I know it's tough to balance a cast of roughly 30 characters. With so many people around, most of them aren't going to do or say anything. But at least we did get a nice moment with Vibe thinking Aquaman would be easier to fight than Flash. And considering they're out in the desert, there might be some truth to that.

Final score: 6 out of 10

Next time: Trinity War Chapter Two in Justice League of America #6

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Flash #24


"Reverse"

Story by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Art by Francis Manapul
Colors by Brian Buccellato
Letterer - Taylor Esposito
Associate Editor - Harvey Richards
Editor - Wil Moss
Senior Editor - Brian Cunningham

I like this cover by Manapul and Buccellato, but I must confess: I don't love it. It's just very … purple. And as much as I love seeing images relating to their origins in the background, I think this cover would have been strengthened had those images been clearer. But then again, this cover had to be out for the solicits long before the Reverse-Flash was identified, so I guess a certain degree of obscurity was required.

Picking up right where we left off last issue, the Reverse-Flash has drained a lot of the Flash's powers to take them back in time 15 years. Daniel West is finally exacting his revenge by killing his father, but he didn't count on the 8-year-old version of himself with a 12-year-old Iris witnessing the murder.


The depowered Flash is helpless to stop Daniel from killing his dad and lashing out at everybody in the room. Reverse-Flash then starts to grow and mutate, and Flash realizes that Daniel has caused more trauma to himself then his dad ever did, which is altering time and causing the transformation. It's only when Iris calls him a monster that Daniel ends his rampage and begins to calm down. Flash tells him that going back in time only creates more problems. Instead, we have to learn to deal with the bad things in our past to grow stronger and keep moving forward.

Getting slowed down gave the Flash the chance to think things through. And although he doesn't entirely understand how, he is able to drain Daniel's powers and allow the Speed Force to move time forward and "right the ship." In no time at all, Flash and Daniel are back in the Salt Flats with Iris. Flash tells Daniel that he hit the reset button and his father is still alive. Iris begs Daniel to tell her he didn't kill Albert, Marissa and Gomez, but he confesses to the murders and says he'll do it all again once he gets the chance. Dr. Elias then pulls his gun on the Flash and yells at him for causing more damage with his powers. But Flash simply knocks him out, tells him to shut up, and destroys his gun, saying, the Speed Force is his responsibility, not Elias'.

We then head over to the Central City Dining Hall, which is host to the 40th anniversary party of Mr. and Mrs. Spivot. Patty is dancing with her dad when Barry shows up in a red bow tie, apologizing for being late. Patty's dad is happy to finally meet Barry, and he leaves the two of them to share a romantic dance. Barry tells her there's no more Speed Force killer, and she tells him to set the superhero stuff aside for the evening. As the two lovers dance late into the night, Barry is reminded he needs to find the balance between his two lives and occasionally slow down to appreciate moments like this.

Dr. Darwin Elias then returns to his lab, which seems to be in a constant state of disrepair. Flash pays him a visit to say he's very lucky that Iris didn't die, and he leaves with a final warning: "Stay out of my way."

Iris visits Daniel at Iron Heights Prison, and he asks her to use her powers to free him. But she reminds him that she lost her powers when he shot her with Elias' gun. She asks him why he did what he did, and he says he only wanted to give the two of them a pain-free childhood. Iris explains that she is who she is because of her past, and she wouldn't ever want to change that. She says that her real brother died years ago, and walks away. But as a security guard passes Daniel's cell, his watch goes backwards a couple minutes.

We cut back to Barry, who is having a hard time sleeping. He considers going back in time to save his mom, but he realizes he couldn't do that without risking his present with Patty. He realizes that he can't change the past, but he can change the present. Even though he had Patty hide the case file of his mother's murder, Barry decides to find it and reopen it. Not to dwell on the past, but to fight for his dad's future.

The next morning, Patty wakes up to a news report of a damaged fighter jet falling out of the sky, and Nora Allen's case files spread across the floor. As Flash races to save the jet, he repeats his mother's words: "If your'e not moving, your'e not living." He renews his vow to run for everybody. And no matter what happened in the past, or what will happen in the future, he will always keep trying.


The Good:

The End. Well, this is not technically the end of the Manapul-Buccellato run, but for all intents and purposes it is. This last image of the Flash they give us might be the last time Manapul draws the Flash, and it is a beautiful reminder of The Flash #1. Manapul and Buccellato also did a great job of wrapping up their story and setting things up for the next creative team. Barry has been through a lot in the past two years, and now he's primed and ready to jump into some more adventures. He now lives with Patty; he still wants to solve his mom's murder; and he has plenty of new and upgraded villains to keep him occupied.

The story. To truly appreciate this issue, you need to read at least all six parts of the Reverse storyline, and preferably the entire Manapul and Buccellato run. Almost everything got wrapped up nice and neatly, yet nothing was closed off entirely. The Reverse-Flash can and will return when the time is right. And who's to say that Dr. Elias is done trying to kill the Flash? This last issue was the perfect denouement for this run. After so much wild running around and fighting, it was nice and necessary to calm things down, take a deep breath, and prepare for the future.

Emotional resolution. If you wanted this fight to end with a big slugfest, then you'd be disappointed with this issue. But I'll point out that issue #23 had more than enough fighting for this story, and by the time we got here, the only way to stop the Reverse-Flash was to appeal to his emotions. Daniel West has now lost all sense of reason, but when he sees his sister in distress, he'll listen. This wasn't exactly the way I expected this to end, but it made sense. And for anyone who might be mad that the Flash didn't know how he saved the day, I'll just remind them that this is entirely consistent with the New 52 Flash. He has never fully understood his powers. Dr. Elias told him one thing, Turbine told him another, and the gorillas said a third thing. All of these theories about the Flash's powers don't necessarily contradict each other, and they add a healthy dose of ambiguity to give future writers some wiggle room. I like that there's an amount of the unknown and unexplainable with the Flash, but I can understand why someone won't like that.

Nice romance. Barry's relationship with Patty has been through a lot, and at several points, I thought it would end. Even heading into this issue, I wouldn't have been surprised had Barry missed the anniversary party and that led to a breakup. Of course, Patty might be mad at Barry for reopening his mom's case, but I now think this relationship is too strong to fall apart over something like that. And as much as I love Iris, I don't want her to break up Barry and Patty just because "that's the way it's supposed to be." If and when Iris gets together with Barry, we're going to need a pretty darn good reason.

The art. Is there anybody else who draws in such a fun, innovative style? If there is, please let me know. In the meantime, I'm going to keep telling everybody that Francis Manapul is the best artist in comics right now, and every issue he works on is worth picking up just for the art. I am really going to miss him drawing the Flash, but I have two years' worth of back issues that I can and will continue to re-read over and over again.

The Bad:

I did notice that Patty's parents were now celebrating their 40th anniversary when we were previously told it was their 30th. Perhaps they became 10 years older as a side effect of this story's time traveling. Or it was probably just a boring and innocent typo. I also am very sad that Turbine wasn't mentioned here, either, but I'm holding out hope that Buccellato will get around to him with his final three Flash issues.

Final score: 10 out of 10

Next time: Now that the Flash has finally ended the threat of the Speed Force killer, he can rejoin the Justice League, which is headed into the Trinity War in Justice League #22.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Flash #23.2/Reverse-Flash #1


"Reverse-Flash"

Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato Writers
Scott Hepburn Artist
Brian Buccellato Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual Letterer
Harvey Richards Associate Editor
Wil Moss Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor

Sadly, Manapul did not draw this issue like he was originally solicited to. However, he did still draw the cover, which Buccellato colored, and I think it is incredibly awesome. For those who may not be aware, in September 2013, DC decided to let the villains "hijack" the comic books and gave them fancy 3-D covers to accompany the event. The end result was a financial success for DC, but it created a lot of annoyances for fans and retailers alike. DC didn't make enough 3-D covers, either in a brilliant scheme to increase demand or because they legitimately feared that fans would be scared away by the increase in price. Whatever the reason, DC ended up having to allocate many comics that month, and many fans were left without their pre-ordered 3-D covers. My local comic book shop said this was the first time in 20 years they were unable to get their entire order. Luckily, DC did offer all the books in a 2-D format that cost the usual $2.99 instead of the inflated $3.99. I am very happy DC provided this option, since I personally did not care for the 3-D covers. I didn't like the feel or look of them, and I didn't feel the effect justified an extra dollar. I was fortunate to be able to compare the 3-D Flash #23.1 with the 2-D version side-by-side, and I just preferred the "standard" look and feel of the 2-D. But I do feel bad for those who really had their heart set on the 3-D covers and were unable to get them.

Another annoyance with this Villains Month event was the introduction of decimals to the issues' numbering. It doesn't make any sense to me. The second issue of a series is labeled #2, and the 23rd issue is #23. That way you know how many comic books comprise this series. An issue labeled #23.1 messes up this order and logic (as do the annuals and #0 issues). These Villains issues also kind of messed up the continuity for many titles. Some connected directly to the Forever Evil event, a select few (like Flash #23.2) continued the main story, and others still simply told the origin story of that featured villain. The Flash was lucky to get three Villains issues, but a handful of titles were not represented at all during September. All in all, I guess it was an OK event, but I wish DC would've handled it better by giving the books a clearer direction, and making enough of the special covers for everybody.

So enough of that, let's get on to our story, which begins two months ago at the Keystone Nursing Home. Daniel West has finally decided to go visit his father, thinking it would help him get his life in order. His mom died when he was born, and he grew up in a broken home with an overachieving big sister, Iris, and a real jerk for a father, William. When Daniel finally meets his dad, he get a cup of coffee thrown in his face. This makes Daniel become very angry very quickly, and he transforms into the Reverse-Flash to reverse time to right before the coffee hits his face. He tells his dad he could easily kill him now, but he doesn't want to since he's a broken-down old man in a wheelchair. Instead, Daniel vows to go back in time to kill William when he actually mattered, so he can stop him from ruining his relationship with Iris. William calls Daniel the monster, but he yells, "I'm what you made me!" Daniel then crushes the coffee mug in his dad's hand and leaves to get his sister back.

Three months ago, Daniel was released from prison after spending five years "for being a stupid kid." He tried to find Iris in Keystone City, but instead found himself in the middle of the gorilla invasion. He was captured by the gorillas, but then saved by the Rogues and pulled into Mirror World. But before the Rogues released all the bystanders, they demanded each person surrender all their money and valuables. Daniel didn't like the idea of being robbed, so he punched Heatwave and tried to make a getaway in a car. Captain Cold tried to stop him with a big chunk of ice, but it only acted like a ramp and sent Daniel on a collision course with Dr. Elias' monorail. Mirror Master tried to send Daniel out of Mirror World before he hit the Speed Force energy battery, but he was too late.

Daniel went flying through the Speed Force energy and Mirror World, and landed with a big crash in the Salt Flats. He eventually discovered that the Speed Force gave him the ability to reverse time, and as the monorail shards fused with his body, he was shown glimpses of others who've been touched by the Speed Force. Daniel saw these people just as fuel to give him more power to go further back in time.

Five years ago, Daniel joined an up-and-coming stickup crew, and he excitedly ran to Keystone City Community College to tell Iris all about it. He says once he pulls off this big job, she won't have to take that internship in Gotham City. Iris, however, doesn't want to hear anything about Daniel's criminal activities, and she berates him for leaving her with their father.

The next day, Daniel acted as the getaway driver for the bank heist. They'd paid off one of the guards, and everything seemed to going smoothly … until the Flash showed up for his first day of superheroing. Since Daniel had just turned 18, he was tried as an adult and spent the next five years in Iron Heights.

Eleven years ago, Daniel was a 12-year-old boy living in a suburb just outside Keystone. His dad never bought him any toys, so he learned to entertain himself other ways, like collecting crickets from behind his house. Even though their chirping was noisy, Daniel liked to keep them in a glass bowl by his bed to help him sleep. But one day, his dad came into Daniel's room in the middle of the night and killed the crickets with a scalding cup of coffee. He then topped that off by saying, "Your mother never liked crickets." Enraged, the young Daniel tried to attack his dad to no avail. But then he pushed his dad as he was heading down the stairs. William took a hard fall, and became paralyzed because of the accident. Daniel felt that Iris would never look at him the same way, so he ran away from home in his pajamas in the rain.

The last time Daniel remembers being truly happy was 15 years ago, when he was 8. William had been drinking and beating his kids, so Daniel ran away to the woods behind his house. Iris eventually found him and told him that it's not his fault their mother died. Iris says she was really sick, and they're lucky that Daniel survived. As they walk home, Iris tells Daniel that the crickets' chirping is the boys telling the girls they love them. Daniel vows to catch some crickets to show his love for his sister, and Iris vows to always protect her little brother. But when they open the door, they see a monster attacking their dad.


The Good:

The story. It was really fun and fitting to tell this story in reverse — he is the Reverse-Flash, after all. But more importantly, I liked how nicely everything fit together, starting from The Flash #0 through Gorilla Warfare. This Reverse-Flash arc is the culmination of everything Manapul and Buccellato have done on The Flash, and they reward those who have read all 23.2 issues before this … er, I mean all 25 issues (or 26 if you want to count the Grodd issue that chronologically happens after this). And one thing that really made this issue wonderful was a bit of foreshadowing from issue #17.


That is a picture of Daniel West in the Mirror World, standing right in front of the monorail's Speed Force energy battery. I knew the monorail would come into play somehow, and I knew Daniel would eventually play a major role in the story, but I didn't have these two connected until issue #23. But even though I figured out that connection, I still didn't know all the details, and it was great seeing everything unfold here.

Sympathetic origin. All year long, Manapul and Buccellato have been teasing us with Daniel West. Now we finally know everything about him, and I actually feel kind of bad for him. He had a very rough, very sad childhood, and constantly seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. His first bank robbery happened to be the Flash's first adventure. And even when Daniel was finally able to go back in time to kill his dad, he messed up by allowing his younger self witness the act. Poor guy can't catch a break. Reverse-Flash isn't just evil for evil's sake. He's a somewhat tragic figure with a very clear and direct mission. Of course, how he goes about achieving that mission is all wrong, but it's great to be able to understand where he's coming from.

Stalwart Iris. I mentioned in last issue that Iris has become one of my favorites, and this issue has only strengthened that position. She is the ideal big sister that everybody would want. But even more importantly, she shows us that even though one can have a tragic childhood, one chooses to let that tragedy make them stronger or weaker. Iris suffered just as much as Daniel did, but she made the choice to make a life for herself. She went to college, got internships, and eventually a job as a reporter. Daniel, however, allowed the tragedy to consume his life. He dedicated his life to crime and revenge, when he could have made the more difficult choice to forgive his father and become a productive member of society.

The Bad:

Scott Hepburn is not a bad artist, but it was a bit of a letdown to see that Manapul didn't draw this issue — especially since we were told that would be the case. However, Hepburn did seem to reign in his usual "cartoony" style and tried to mimic Manapul's style. Some parts were so similar, that I suspect Manapul provided some page layouts, but I don't know for certain. Buccellato's colors really did help, though, and altogether the shift of artists isn't quite as jarring as it potentially could have been.

I do have another slight complaint that I hope will be resolved before Buccellato leaves The Flash for good. And that is: Where is Turbine? He was last seen in The Flash #17, being recruited by the Rogues. He wasn't seen or mentioned at all in this issue, even though he logically should have still been in the Mirror World before they kicked everybody out. Also, Turbine was in the Speed Force for 70 years. Wouldn't he be somebody Daniel would want to pay a visit? The lack of Turbine doesn't make this issue any less enjoyable, but it does start to form a dark cloud of worry for me over the whole Manapul-Buccellato run. Did these great writers let one of their original characters slip through the cracks? I hope not. I hope Buccellato will tell us what happened to Turbine in either The Flash or Rogues Rebellion. We'll just have to wait and see.

Final score: 8 out of 10

Next time: The Reverse storyline concludes in The Flash #24

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Flash #23


"Reverse Part IV"

Francis Manapul Co-Writer and Artist
Brian Buccellato Co-Writer and Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual Letterer
Harvey Richards Associate Editor
Wil Moss Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor

This is a truly awesome Manapul/Buccellato cover. It just makes me say, "Wow." I feel like Alfred describing Bane when I talk about this cover. "Look at his ferocity! Look at his speed! Look at those vibrant colors!" But probably my favorite thing about this cover is that it proved that Manapul and Buccellato can still find new ways to amaze me. Some creators grow stale on me, but so far, everything these guys keep doing remains fresh and fun.

Our story begins in the laboratory of Dr. Darwin Elias, where the Reverse-Flash has the Flash pinned against the wall. Flash's quest to find the Speed Force killer led him to Elias, but it turns out the real culprit is a twisted version of himself. That's not to say Elias is entirely innocent, though. The scientist has created a gun that can extract Speed Force powers, and he's been desperately trying to hit both of the speedsters during this fight. Speaking of the fight, Flash is able to evade Reverse-Flash's grip right before he gets his face smashed in.


We then head back to the Central City crime lab, where Iris West is sitting with Patty Spivot, who's trying to find a DNA match to the monorail shrapnel Flash found in the Salt Flats. Patty's done all she can for the moment and just has to let the computer do its work now. In the meantime, she has to leave Iris with the armed policemen so she can attend her parents' 30th anniversary party. Iris asks whether Barry will be able to attend, but Patty says, "I don't know." As soon as she leaves, her computer finishes its search and finds a 99.9875 percent match.

Back to our three-way fight, which is now spilling out into the streets, Flash demands to know why Reverse-Flash killed those three people. But all Reverse-Flash says is that once everybody connected to the Speed Force is dead, he'll be able to move time backward to change everything.

Meanwhile, Patty is at the Central City Dining Hall, waiting for Barry to show up. Her dad is worried that Barry was afraid to meet him, but Patty assures him that he's just busy at work.

We cut back to Iris, who has discovered the identity of the Reverse-Flash. She can't believe it, and has an emotional outburst that allows her to tap into the Speed Force for the first time.

Back to the fight, Flash decides to lure Reverse-Flash out of the city to protect the bystanders, while Elias follows on a motorcycle. Once they're in the Badlands, Flash starts to gain a slight upper hand, and Reverse-Flash begins to criticize him for not using his powers enough. Elias then catches up and hits Flash with a blast from his power-draining gun. Elias agrees with Reverse-Flash, and says the Flash could have been king. But then Reverse-Flash knocks out Elias, grabs his gun, and aims it at the Flash.

Suddenly, Iris shows up out of nowhere, screaming, "Daniel, NO!!!" She takes the blast from the gun to protect the Flash and collapses in his arms. Flash calls Reverse-Flash a monster, and he seems genuinely sad that he shot his sister. Iris asks Flash not to hurt Daniel, but Flash can't make any promises. He charges at Reverse-Flash, but he's weakened by Elias' gun and he loses control for just a moment, which allows Reverse-Flash to grab him by the throat and start draining his powers. The two speedsters travel back in time and end up at the foot of the stairs of a man with a cup of coffee in his hand.

The Good:

Wow. That's all I can say after this issue. It's rare to find a comic book that will leave me speechless afterward. Everything has been leading up to this moment, and it was incredible. Everything that comes after this is just gravy. The first three parts of this story had a very careful and deliberate pace, and it all paid off extremely well in this issue.

The art. These two artists may have outdone themselves here. Beautiful splash page after splash page. Fun panel layouts to accentuate the action. Gorgeous colors and intense choreography. And never once did Manapul or Buccellato lose control. They stayed true to their form, disciplined in their consistency. And this issue also boasts one of the best title pages from their Flash run. I had a hard time finding all the hidden words, and loved tracking down each letter individually.

The story. Yes, this was just the "fighting" issue, but there were a lot of great character moments here. We got to see a little bit more into the motivations of the Reverse-Flash and Elias, as well as the Flash's own resolve and convictions. We had a very nice moment with Patty and her father —again demonstrating her love for Barry. And for those who complain that this issue had too much action, I will remind you that this is part four of a six-part story. Some of the earlier parts didn't have as much action, which was intentional. When you put this whole story together, it flows very nicely. And besides, the action here was amazing, so why complain about it?

Iris. She has very quickly become one of my favorite characters. She's clearly still in love with Barry, but really is being a great sport about it. She's also proven her heroism over the course of this Flash run. When we first met her, she was writing a story about the Flash's brutality, but then she realized there was no story there and she killed it. I'm a journalist, and I can say that is one of the toughest things to do. You spend so much time working on something, you want to get it printed even if you know it's not very good. But Iris made the right decision. She then get sucked into the Speed Force and acted as the leader of the small group of misfits trapped with her. And now in this issue, she really drove that heroic edge up a notch. I liked that she always had the potential for super speed in her, but just couldn't access it until she was pushed far enough. And what was the first thing she did with her powers? She saved the Flash. And then, even after nearly being killed by her monster of a brother, she still showed she loved him by asking the Flash not to hurt him. What a lady! I now regret that I once suspected her of being the Reverse-Flash.

Wonderful reveal. Daniel West was introduced in issue #0, and kept popping back up over and over again. I knew something big with him was coming down the line, and I did have him on my Reverse-Flash suspects list, but that didn't diminish this moment at all for me. It was a jaw-dropping two-page spread with Iris screaming Daniel's name, getting shot, then the Flash screaming, "You monster!!!" Stupendous stuff.

The Bad:

How are they going to top this? Well, they won't on The Flash, at least. Manapul and Buccellato wrote #23.2, but didn't draw it. They did draw #24, and as great as that issue will be to review, I don't think I can say it exceeds this issue. And then their final issue of The Flash together will be #25, but they're not providing the art for that, either. So if Manapul and Buccellato ever do top The Flash #23, it will be on their run of Detective Comics.

Final score: 10 out of 10

Next: Daniel West's secret origin is revealed in Reverse-Flash #1

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Flash #22


"Reverse Part 3"

Story by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Art by Francis Manapul
Colors by Brian Buccellato
Additional Colors - Ian Herring
Letterer - Carlos M. Mangual
Associate Editor - Harvey Richards
Editor - Wil Moss
Senior Editor - Brian Cunningham

This issue provides us a rather unique cover by Manapul and Buccellato. It is unlike any of their previous Flash covers, yet I enjoy it immensely. I love how bright it is, which helps it stand out on the shelves. And then the whole abstractness of it adds another quality — the Flash's shadow is the Reverse-Flash, which is pretty awesome. Another great thing about this cover is the lack of any text, which I am almost always opposed to. It would have killed this cover to have some cheesy line about Flash fighting Reverse-Flash. We already know it's happening, so why take up valuable space on such a beautiful piece of art?

Our story begins in Keystone City at dawn. The police are investigating the murder of Floyd Gomez, and Barry Allen shows up at the crime scene. It's apparent Gomez was the Speed Force killer's third victim, and Barry realizes that Iris West is the next target. But he wonders why he can't sense the killer the way he senses them. David Singh then notices Barry and reminds him it's no longer his job to visit crime scenes, and since he's a potential target, he should especially stay away from this case. That, of course, is something Barry simply can't do.


We then cut to Dr. Darwin Elias waking up in a cold sweat in his laboratory. He's had another nightmare about the Flash, who he believes is using his immense powers irresponsibly to serve his messiah complex. Elias believes himself to be a greater hero — one that will effect real change. He throws on a bathrobe and heads down to his basement to work on a new machine connected to his remaining battery cells of Speed Force energy. Elias believes that once he unlocks the secrets to the Speed Force, he'll be able to accelerate the evolution of human civilization. It's just a shame that doing so will kill the Flash.

We then head to the offices of the Central City Citizen at 2000 Broome Street, where the Flash is creating a bit of a stir by walking right up to Iris, presenting her with a costume, and telling her she needs to run away with him. Of course, this isn't a romantic getaway, but rather a means of protecting her since Gomez has been killed. The suit Flash gave Iris was designed to cloak her connection to the Speed Force, which is why the killer hasn't attacked the Flash yet. Flash takes Iris to the roof Albert Lim fell off of to help him investigate the scene. Since his death was ruled as an accident, a proper investigation wasn't conducted. It only takes a moment for the Flash to find a clue — some residue of salt from the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

Flash takes Iris out to the desert to look for more clues, and Iris asks if Barry is safe. Flash assures her that he gave him a suit also, and he seems a bit uneasy talking about Iris' concern with his alter ego. Luckily the awkwardness doesn't last too long, as they're able to find a piece of wreckage from Dr. Elias' monorail that was stolen by the Rogues before the gorilla invasion. Flash takes Iris and the shrapnel back to the Central City Police Lab and asks Patty Spivot to examine the debris for any DNA.

Patty notes that the metal was scorched with an incredibly high degree of heat, but she is able to lift some blood from it to analyze. However, she can't make any promises about finding a match. Flash then decides to pay Dr. Elias a visit, leaving Iris behind with Patty and an armed guard. Later, Iris awkwardly asks Patty about her relationship with Barry, but Patty coldly tells her that they were meant to be together.

We cut back to Dr. Elias, who is still working in his robe in his lab. He acknowledges that he's ignored morality and hurt people, but he believes it's all been worth it. If he could turn back time, he wouldn't change a thing. Suddenly, he's attacked by the Reverse-Flash, who drains the Speed Force energy from the battery cells. To protect his life's work, Elias pulls out a gun that can extract Speed Force energy. The doctor, however, is unable to hit the speedster, who zips around behind him and prepares to snap his neck. Luckily for Elias, the Flash shows up in the nick of time to save him.

Reverse-Flash is happy he doesn't have to track down the Flash, and the two begin to fight while Elias tries to hit one or both of them with his gun. Flash regrets not understanding the Speed Force well enough and even thinks he should have followed Elias' advice about running too fast. He feels guilty for putting innocent lives in danger all because he failed to stop this monster. The Reverse-Flash quickly gains the upper hand, grabbing our hero by the throat and pinning him against the wall.

The Good:

The art. Simply another masterpiece by Manapul and Buccellato. I really liked the variety this issue gave us, from the bloody (yet not grotesque) crime scene at dawn, to the dark mysteries of Elias' lab, to the bright happy newsroom with Iris. And that's not even mentioning the wild fight at the end. But everything leading up to that fight was drawn just as gorgeously. Manapul excels equally at the mundane and the super sci-fi moments. I'm just as happy with a picture of Patty working on a computer as I am with an image of the Reverse-Flash beating up the Flash.

The story. The great crime mystery continues with Flash protecting targets, gathering clues, and identifying suspects. I really liked how the monorail has come back to play an important part in the story, especially after many people forgot about it completely. Manapul and Buccellato never do anything without a reason, and something that seemed insignificant in issue 12 can have major repercussions on issue 24. And even though most of this issue was simply clue-gathering, we did get a nice little fight at the end that will surely spill over to the next issue. And how could I overlook the wonderful love triangle between Barry, Patty and Iris? Iris really seems to regret having lost Barry, but now it seems too late for her to ever get back with him. Patty has been really good to Barry so far, so until she gives him a reason to leave her, it looks like Iris is going to be stuck on the outside.

The Salt Flats. As I've written about before on this blog, the Salt Flats are near and dear to my heart. I've been there many times, and I'm always excited to see the Flash visit them. I especially liked how some salt on the roof turned out to be a major clue. For those who haven't had the pleasure of visiting the most desolate place on Earth, you need to know that the salt doesn't stay neatly on the ground. It sticks to your shoes, your tires, your cars, everything. You get salt in places you didn't know you had. Just walking around on the stuff for a couple of minutes you instantly become an inch taller because of the salt caked to the bottom of your shoes. So it makes perfect sense for our Speed Force killer to inadvertently track a bunch of salt around wherever he went.

Nice twist. The speculation for the Reverse-Flash's secret identity ran very high, and I ended up considering just about every possible character in the Flash universe. But at the top of my list was Dr. Elias. I wasn't 100 percent convinced that he would be Reverse-Flash, but I thought for sure he had to be involved some way. In a brilliant move by DC, one key page of this issue was released early, showing the Reverse-Flash's face reflected opposite Dr. Elias' — helping build the theory that Elias was Reverse-Flash. But it all turned out to be a misdirection. We didn't find out who the Reverse-Flash actually is, but we did see who he was not … or did we?

The Bad:

Nothing. Some might complain that there's not enough fighting, but I enjoy the carefully controlled pace of this issue. Keep in mind that this is the third part of a six-part story, and remember that Manapul and Buccellato have never let us down before — well, me at least; I guess I can't speak for everybody else. At the end of the day, this is an amazing issue, but I'm going to hold back my perfect score for something that really blows my mind. Perhaps the usual standard of excellence has been set too high on this title, but a 9 is still a very good score.

Final score: 9 out of 10

Next: The secrets of the Speed Force!