Monday, January 28, 2013

The Flash #5


Story by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Art by Francis Manapul
Colors Brian Buccellato
Letters Wes Abbott
Assistant Editor Darren Shan
Editor Brian Cunningham

For some reason, we again have a different letterer. However, I was again unable to notice any discernible difference, so I have no complaints. Changing up the letterer is nowhere near as drastic as changing the penciller or even the colorer.

This is an enjoyable cover by Manapul and Buccellato. It's intense and even a little scary. At the end of issue #4, I wasn't too worried about Manuel, but this cover created some genuine concern. Unfortunately, the black-and-white version came across as the sideways, wrap-around version that doesn't work on my iPad screen.

The variant cover is by Gary Frank with Brad Anderson. I am a big fan of Frank's work (and I hope he gets his own Shazam title soon) and this is a well-drawn Flash who looks powerful, dynamic and happy. I'd normally say being happy is a good thing, but when the cover says, "Saving the Day! But at what cost?" then your hero should not be happy. I also think the background is just a bit too red. It's just very, very red. At least the ground is brown.

So our story begins with Dr. Elias leading Mob Rule down to his basement, where he plans to use his green energy generator to power his genome re-coder to fix Mob Rule's DNA. On the way down the stairs, one of the clones dies.

At Iron Heights Prison, Iris West has finally broken out of Captain Cold's cell and she has found that he has led a mass breakout by freezing all the guards and creating an ice staircase down to escape rafts waiting in the river. Iris unfortunately runs into three super villains, Tar Pit, Girder and Folded Man, who decide to take her hostage for insurance.

On the Gem City Bridge, Patty Spivot is helping Captain Barrow and other police officers keep people from crossing the bridge until they can assure its safety. But the rain has soured the mood of the crowd and they begin to complain loudly. Before things can turn really ugly, though, the Flash shows up, drafting two 600-ton barges behind him in his slipstream.

The barges, courtesy of Wayne Enterprises, are stocked with supplies, generators and emergency vehicles. Flash tells the police the bridge is safe — if it would've blown up, it would've already done it by now. He then notices the ice in the river and traces it back to Iron Heights, where Iris is fighting off Folded Man with her trusty vent door. Flash quickly thaws out the guards with friction and creates a vortex to knock out the three super villains. He then confronts Iris about the unflattering story she was writing about him, but she says it's on ice now. She also tells Flash that Captain Cold has "upped his game" and is coming for Flash, but he doesn't seem to concerned. While they're talking, a bright green light erupts from the city, so Flash goes to check it out and gives Iris a ride to the city on the way.

The green light is coming from Elias' experimental generator, which was protected from the EMP blast by its insulation. Manuel is hooked up to the generator so the re-coder can use him as a roadmap to emit a specially designed pulse that will reconfigure Mob Rule's DNA.

Flash shows up at the lab and starts to fight a bunch of clones, when Manuel starts screaming very loudly. He races past the clones and tries to save Manuel, but he and Elias tell Flash to stop. Elias starts to explain the situation until something goes wrong. The generator's containment seal has broken and Elias tells Flash he has to contain the blast. Manuel tells him to stop, but Flash starts racing around the machine to create a vortex that propels the green explosion into the atmosphere, where it disappears. Exhausted, the Flash collapses on the ground. One of the clones also collapses in Manuel's arms, saying, "At least ... we ... tried ..." All the clones have died and an enraged Manuel knocks out the Flash and Elias.

Later, at the Warehouse District in Keystone City, Director Singh, Forrest, Patty and a few other police officers are looking through the rubble of Dr. Guerrero's lab. They find some dead bodies and assume one of them is Barry's. Patty starts to cry and asks aloud why Barry had to risk his life for Manuel. Just then, Barry shows up with a bandaid on his head and says, "I had to give him the benefit of the doubt. He's family ..." Patty then wraps him in a big hug and says, "No ... we're your family."

At an unknown location, Manuel is brooding in a corner, cutting off his fingers and creating more clones. He tells them: "You are the closest thing I have to family ... no matter how many of us they kill, no matter who gets in our way ... one by one ... limb by limb ... we will find another way. We are survivors ... we are ... Mob Rule."

Flash then visits Dr. Elias, who tells him that the EMP that caused the blackout three days ago was actually caused by his generator. When the Flash ran around the machine, he sent the blast back in time. Elias then shows him records he's been keeping of mysterious artifacts showing up in the Badlands just outside the Gem Cities. Of particular note is the Soviet tank, which, according to carbon dating, had been sitting in the Badlands for 70 years, 20 years before it was even made. Elias believes that every time the Flash approaches the speed of light, he causes time rifts — creating vortexes that pull things into and out of the timeline and spits them back out randomly across history. To prevent bringing the world into oblivion, Elias says they need to destroy the speed force.

The Good:

The art. Did Manapul draw it? Then pick it up. This time he had fun with whole-page backgrounds, like the Iron Heights escape page. It's like he drew one big panel and then put several smaller panels on top of it. It seems like Manapul and Buccellato are able to provide us with a new artistic trick every issue.

More villains. This is a comic book, so I expect to see super heroes and super villains in it. In this issue, I was introduced to Girder, Folded Man and Tar Pit. I don't know anything about them other than what they look like, which is basically what their names describe. I was fine with Flash defeating them in less than a second because it showed that these guys are really lower rate villains — not Rogues material. But I do hope we get to see them again eventually.

Action and emotion. Although there wasn't necessarily a lot of fighting in this issue, there was a lot of stuff going on, which made it fas-paced and entertaining. The Flash woke up at the end of issue #4, then immediately went to work. He got supplies for the city, saved Iris, then tried to save Manuel, boom, boom, boom. No hesitation, no downtime in between these mini adventures. That is how you tell a Flash story. There also was some nice little emotional moments with Manuel and his clones and Patty and Barry. I know that Barry got married to Iris pre-52, but right now, I'm really liking Patty. I do feel bad for Iris, though. She basically asked Barry out a couple of issues ago, but he just brushed her off. But that's how it goes sometimes, I guess.

The Bad:

Once again, no major complaints. But I won't give this issue a perfect score because it didn't feel as satisfying as a normal comic book arc should feel. Yes, we got plenty to chew on with Captain Cold's escape and sinister promises and Dr. Elias' desire to destroy the source of Flash's power, but the Mob Rule storyline came to an end and I think it should have done so more conclusively. I think the biggest problem with it was Mob Rule never really felt like a true villain. Yeah, they were causing trouble, but never for any sinister motive. So the Flash never really "fought" them in the traditional way a hero fights a villain, and he didn't "defeat" them at the end like we'd expect him to. Although I did enjoy this more realistic, uncertain ending to the cliche, wrap-everything-in-a-bow ending like we saw in Justice League #6, I can't help but feel a little empty when I don't get that traditional ending. I appreciate Manapul for trying something new, but maybe he wasn't practiced enough to pull this off better. Or maybe the audience wasn't quite prepared for this type of storytelling.

In any case, the Mob Rule storyline was an immensely fun and entertaining storyline, and issue #5 was a solid and worthy issue in that arc.

Final score: 8 out of 10

Next time: The Mob Rule storyline lasted over the course of a few days and Flash #6 refers to those events as happening a couple of months ago. So while the Flash was undoubtedly helping rebuild the Gem Cities and conversing more with Dr. Elias and his latest theories, I believe he had more than enough time to go on a couple of Justice League missions. Coming up, Justice League #7!

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Flash #4

"Mob Rule"


Story by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Art by Francis Manapul
Colors Brian Buccellato
Letters Carlos M. Mangual
Assistant Editor Darren Shan
Editor Brian Cunningham

For some reason, we got a new letterer for this issue. I don't know what happened to Sal Cipriano, but Mangual filled in with no issues whatsoever. I really did try to see a difference in their lettering, but I couldn't really see anything, which I guess is a good thing. As long as it doesn't stand out for being awful, then it's served its purpose. And I think that's the most you'll ever hear about lettering from me.

This is another classic Manapul cover. I love the white background and the nonconventional treatment of the Flash letters. There's also a lot going on here, but it doesn't feel crowded. The black-and-white is good, too, but I think I prefer the colored version this time because the different colors help distinguish the different story lines. All in all, though, it's definitely one of my favorites.

The variant cover is by Eric Basalda with Nei Ruffino. While it is well-done, it feels rather '90s to me. The Flash is way to muscular for my liking. I've always felt that Flash should have a slim runner's build instead of a beefy weightlifter's. I mean, he's not Superman, you know? Also, the Flash kinda looks evil here. Maybe that's because his eyes don't have any pupils. It's just not my style.

The story begins with a flashback of the funeral of Manuel's father. While Barry was down by Manuel's mom's side, Manuel stayed back and watched the service from a distance. Afterward, Barry found Manuel and learned that he blames his mom for his dad's death. Manuel feels that if his mom didn't ask for a divorce, then his dad never would've gotten on that plane that was hijacked. Although Barry tried to reason with Manuel, his mind was set. He told Barry he's joined the C.I.A. and he's going to kill everyone responsible for his dad's death.

In the present, Mob Rule is taking Dr. Elias out of the Badlands on dune buggies equipped with large sails. They tell Elias they need him and his genome re-coder to fix their DNA so they don't drop dead after a few months of living. Elias says he has an experimental energy source, but hasn't tested it yet. He asks Mob Rule where they came from and they tell him everything.

Manuel Lago was a highly-trained covert U.S. operative who was given the power to regenerate, which basically turned him into James Bond meets Batman. (The clone's words, not mine!) Although Manuel was very good at his job, he only used his missions to gather intel, and once he uncovered the names of his father's killers, Manuel went rogue.

The group that killed Manuel's dad was called Basilisk, which editor Brian Cunningham pointed out in a note, is from Suicide Squad #4. That issue doesn't have the Flash in it, but I picked it up anyway, to see what I could learn. In Suicide Squad, a team of Captain Boomerang, Deadshot, Harley Quinn and three others I didn't know (Diablo, Yo-Yo and King Shark), fight a troop of Basilisk soldiers, but most of them killed themselves with cyanide capsules or explosives. According to Deadshot, Basilisk was founded by someone named Coil shortly after Superman appeared. The terrorist group believes a war is coming between normal people and super-powered people. So it seems like Manuel's dad was an innocent casualty in this war.

Continuing with the origin of Mob Rule, the clones tell Elias that Manuel began to track down and kill members of Basilisk one by one, until they eventually captured him. They tortured him by cutting off his fingers and hands, but they quickly realized he could regenerate, so they kept cutting and cutting, tossing all his removed body parts in a big room. This went on for several weeks, and just when Manuel had given up and wanted to die, clones started to regenerate out of the pile of discarded limbs. The clones share the same memories as Manuel and a psychic link to each other, but they have their own thoughts and personalities. They also can regenerate like Manuel, but are unable to create new life like him.

The clones then defeated the Basilisk troops and took their suits and gear, then rescued Manuel. Manuel became their leader and as Mob Rule, they continued their war against Basilisk. But then the clones started to die in the order they were "born" without warning. They knew the key to their survival had to be in Manuel somehow, but instead of helping them, Manuel ran away, leaving the clones to die.

Dr. Elias agrees to help Mob Rule, but says that he'll need Manuel to provide a DNA template to draw from. Mob Rule says they're already working on bringing in Manuel.

Manuel, meanwhile, is with Patty Spivot on the Gem Cities Bridge, which police have blocked off for fear of it being unstable after the Flash vibrated a plane through it. Manuel's hands grow back and he suggests that he and Patty leave before the crowd becomes violent. But Patty says she'll stay and help the police because she's not a coward, and she chews Manuel out for abandoning Barry. Manuel says that Mob Rule would never hurt Barry, knowing how much he means to him, but Patty points out that Manuel doesn't really care about Barry. Since he was willing to leave him, why would Mob Rule care about him?

In Iron Heights Prison, Captain Cold has locked Iris West in his cell by freezing the door. She's pretty bummed that her Flash-brutality story has fallen apart, but then she takes off the door of an air conditioning vent and uses it to start hacking away at the ice.

Back on the streets, Patty's words have gotten to Manuel, who is riding a horse back to save Barry, but he's stopped by Mob Rule on bicycles. They tell him Barry is dead, which puts Manuel into a rage. He starts to fight the clones, but they outnumber him and subdue him.

While Manuel's lying on the ground, he remembers visiting Barry at the crime lab when it was a mess after the lightning/chemical accident that turned Barry into the Flash. Barry was surprised to see Manuel, who he thought was dead. Manuel noticed Barry's Flash ring, but didn't know what it was. Barry said Manuel's mom would be happy to see him, but Manuel said it's better for her to think he's still dead. Barry asked, "Better for her? Or you?" While they were talking, a couple of clones waited outside for them, debating whether Barry was their friend or just Manuel's.

Back to the present, Mob Rule tells Manuel that since they killed Barry, that means he was capable of killing him, too. Like him, they're survivors — willing to do anything it takes, get rid of anybody in their way, just to keep living. They tell Manuel to stop running and accept who they are and who he is. Reluctantly, Manuel agrees.

Meanwhile, Barry wakes up on the floor of the abandoned lab. At first he's confused, thinking that he turned into the Flash and defeated Mob Rule, but then he realizes that didn't happen. He only thought about it. He allowed himself to get caught up in all the different possibilities and just froze. He would've died had it not been for his instincts. Thanks to his super-speed-charged sensory neurons, he was able to dodge just enough so the bullet only grazed the side of his head.

As Barry wanders around the lab, he finds a flashy necktie of Dr. Elias' and sees that Mob Rule has rigged the place to blow up. Barry decides it's time to stop analyzing and go save Elias, Manuel and Patty from Mob Rule. He runs from the explosion and crashes through a window while popping open his ring. He jumps into his suit and hits the ground as the Flash.

The Good:

The art. Any time Manapul and Buccellato handle the art, the issue is worth picking up. They did some fun experimental stuff here, especially during Mob Rule's origin. One two-page spread that was really cool (and slightly creepy) had all the panels in the shape of a hand or a foot. It worked great with the story and is so refreshing after so many comics that stick to squares and rectangles. The final page of the Flash running away from the explosion was also heroically epic.

The story. For an issue that basically didn't have the Flash in it at all, I still found this quite enjoyable. It really started to pull everything together from the first three issues, validating the effort I put in to reading them. It was fun to observe Mob Rule and start to put the pieces together, and then have this payoff that explained everything. Every story requires the necessary sit-down-and-explain-everything scene, which is sometimes really boring. But not here. I also liked the call-back to the bridge. Yes, Flash pushed that plane through it not too long ago, and yes, that was an amazing, incredible thing that would cause people to question the integrity of the bridge. Nice bit of realism.

Sympathy for the villain. The best villains are the ones you can care about and feel bad for, and Mob Rule became one of those villains with this issue. He, or rather they, are not really that bad. All they want to do is live. Yes, they might be a bit extreme sometimes and kill a few people along the way to reach that goal, but the only people they've really fought are Basilisk terrorists. In fact, I kind of found myself rooting for Mob Rule here. Maybe if they stop randomly dying then they'll be good guys. However, the story did push the sympathy angle a little too hard, and almost killed any suspense heading into the next issue. I mean, I'm not worried about Elias or Manuel because they joined Mob Rule willingly. Luckily, the story is interesting enough to not let that bother me.

The expanded universe. For the second-straight issue, Cunningham has referenced a non-Flash issue. This tactic was a success with at least one person (me), who was willing to shell out a couple of bucks for the chance to learn more about a rather minor detail in the story. The Flash #4 says basically nothing about Basilisk, but the story doesn't suffer from it. But when you have that little detail added, it helps reinforce that idea that all these stories take place in the same world and the Flash could just as easily show up on the pages of Suicide Squad as Harley Quinn could make an appearance in The Flash. I really like when DC refers to other issues because it gives me an excuse to read something I normally wouldn't.

The Bad:

Nothing! This was a great issue. Probably the best Flash issue where the Flash does absolutely nothing.  I guess I could use this space to complain about Suicide Squad, though.

Although I was happy to give it a shot, I will not be buying the rest of the Suicide Squad issues. Probably my first complaint is the art. When a comic book has what I consider to be hasty, sloppy, annoying artwork, then it has to have an absolutely compelling story to keep me invested. But this story was not at all compelling. Most of this problem could be caused by me starting with issue #4, but I was completely confused the whole time and didn't see any reason to go back and read earlier issues or to keep going after #4. I also wasn't a big fan of the team they put together. I guess it was good to have three well-known names paired with three relatively unknowns, but I wasn't too happy with how they handled the characters I did know. For starters, Harley Quinn. I don't like to see her on her own, away from the Joker. In my mind, she only becomes Harley Quinn when the Joker is around. When he's not there, she's just a normal person. Next is Amanda Waller. It looks to me like they redesigned her to match her counterpart in that awful Green Lantern movie (which I reviewed on my other blog), by making her skinny instead of fat. The Amanda Waller I know and love is heavy-set and intimidating because of it. She just doesn't seem scary when she's skinny. In any case, why does everybody in comic books have to skinny? In the real world, people are fat, and that's OK. Anyway, my last complaint with Suicide Squad does have a little to do with the Flash — Captain Boomerang. Here, he has the ability to naturally produce boomerangs — a skill he acquired during the Brightest Day event. So that makes Captain Boomerang one of the handful of characters that wasn't affected by Flashpoint and the New 52. Personally, I prefer a Captain Boomerang that has to use real boomerangs. There's something more honorable for me with a guy who develops trick weapons and has to plan ahead and choose which ones to carry on his person. But I guess I wouldn't mind this one with his energy boomerangs if Suicide Squad would stop treating him like a pansy and give him back to the Flash! Hopefully he'll get out of that book and start appearing where he belongs.

So yeah, The Flash #4 is a great book and still fun to read a year later!

Final score: 9

Next: The fate of Mob Rule!

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Flash #3

This book has a cover date of January 2012, which is one year ago from this month. Of course, the book actually came out a couple of months before that, but I still think it's fun to mark the "anniversary" of Flash #3.

"Lights Out"


Story by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Art by Francis Manapul
Colors by Brian Buccellato
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Assistant Editor Darren Shan
Editor Brian Cunningham

This is a beautiful cover by Manapul and Buccellato. I love the use of the white space, which gives it a very clean feel. It's also an exciting action sequence that shows fairly well exactly what's happening in this issue. Another fun thing was the Flash's face being reflected in one of the clone's mask. For some reason, I didn't notice that until I looked at the black-and-white version, which I guess speaks to the value of having a black-and-white cover in the first place.

The variant cover was done by Jim Lee and Scott Williams with Alex Sinclair. It's about time Lee did a Flash cover. At this point (more than a year ago) Lee was working furiously on Justice League while also drawing tons of promotional material for DC in addition to many variant covers for the main titles. Sadly, the Flash was kind of overlooked during this exciting time, until now. This is a good cover, the Flash is drawn very well and there is some good action in the picture, even though the Flash is coming out of a run. I don't like that Lee always draws Flash's eyebrows sticking out from his mask, and Sinclair's use of the color gold instead of yellow is a little odd when you make a direct comparison. The background is a nice color, but just a bit on the vague side for my personal taste. Other than that, this is a dynamic Flash cover that the character definitely deserves.

Our story begins with this amazing page:

That is the Flash on a bridge with an airplane about to crash right on top of him and all the cars, including one with a mom and her baby in the backseat. As the airplane is falling out of the sky, Flash finds himself thinking about coffee, as he's been a bit ADD since his mind has tapped into the speed force. The last time Flash had coffee, he accidentally vibrated through four floors of the police lab. But now, he wishes he had a cup, as he uses mini-vortexes to push some cars out of the way, runs and jumps off a semi trailer, and vibrates through the plane. He is then able to vibrate the entire airplane through the bridge and bring it to a gentle rest on the river bed.

Meanwhile, one of the clones shoots Dr. Guerrero, to the protests of another clone and Manuel. The one who shot the doctor justifies himself by saying that he is dying soon, and all Dr. Guerrero did for them in a year was cause a blackout.

Manuel then remembers being strapped into a similar chair with Dr. Guerrero and a general working on some machines. This was shortly after Manuel got his hand chopped off, and the general explains they're going to give him his hand back by using pig-extracted extracellular matrix to direct his cells to divide and regenerate any injury. Manuel's hand grows back and finds the process made him stronger and more resilient, basically turning him into a one-man army. Manuel remembers some of his missions, beating up a bunch of bad guys, but also getting captured and tied to a chair.

Back to the present, Manuel is still strapped to a chair and one of the clones has pulled out a knife, saying, "You don't want to be one of us, fine ... but you can still lend us a hand ... or two."

At Iron Heights Prison, the blackout has loosed all the prisoners, who are overpowering the guards, and Iris West finds herself in the cell of Leonard Snart, aka Captain Cold. Iris originally went there to interview Snart about the Flash's brutality, but he isn't interested in that now, saying the blackout is nothing compared to the devastation he and his friends, the Rogues, have in store for Central City and the Flash.

Back on the airplane, the Flash has recovered from vibrating it and tells everyone to leave in an orderly manner. He stops to give a little boy an autograph and heads off back to work, admitting that what he did was kind of awesome. Flash finds the Gem Cities, with a combined population of 3.5 million have had every electronic shut down in a 20-mile radius. Flash starts to help everyone he can. He pulls some kids off a a dead carnival ride, he saves some workers from a crashing elevator, he puts escaped tigers back in the zoo, and he takes injured people to the hospital since the ambulances don't work anymore.

All the Central City police are out helping, too, even the lab workers like Singh, Forrest and Patty, who stops to grab her information on Manuel Lago. The lab police spend the night arresting looters, pulling people out of crashed cars, and even saving lost dogs.

The next day, Dr. Darwin Elias has got his great-grandfather's 1912 steam car to work and is using it to track down traces of the ElectroMagnetic Pulse (EMP) that threw the Gem Cities into the Dark Ages. Elias goes out to the desert of the Badlands, where he finds some people sitting around a tank, including a young man with blond hair named Axel. Elias explains that he just wants to run some tests on the tank because it has the same signature as the EMP. Just then, Mob Rule shows up, gives a suitcase to Axel and asks if they can add Elias to their deal. Axel says yes, but wants to keep the steam car.

[In an editor's note, Brian Cunningham explains that this tank is from Captain Atom #3. So somehow, while the Flash was helping the Libyan rebels and avoiding a nuclear bomb, he caused one of the tanks to be teleported to the Badlands.]

Back to Central City, Captain Darryl Frye is assigning the cops to cover certain parts of the city. Patty volunteers for her and Barry to take 7th and 4th, but she really wants to investigate some labs she found that were connected with something called Project Bellator. (According to Wikipedia, bellator is Latin for warrior.) Patty and Barry head out on horses and eventually find Dr. Guerrero's lab, where they see a couple of clones drag the doctor out in a body bag. The clones, numbers 99 and 41, argue whether 32 should have killed Guerrero. Patty and Barry sneak past them and a few more clones who are trying to play poker but are upset with their inability to bluff each other.

Patty and Barry find Manuel, strapped to a chair and missing both his hands. Manuel doesn't seem too concerned that his hands got chopped off and says Mob Rule didn't cut them off for torture, but recruitment. Patty and Barry get him out of the chair, but they're then discovered by the clones. They run away, and Barry pushes Patty and Manuel out of the lab and closes the door, turning to face Mob Rule. With his speed thinking, Barry seems himself turning into the Flash and beating up the clones. But he thinks too long and a clone fires a shot at Barry's head. Patty hears the gunshot and wants to go back, but Manuel drags her away. Barry's head falls back, hits the door with a splash of blood, and collapses to the ground. One of the clones says, "What the hell you do that for?! You know what he means to us!" One answers: "To Manuel, not us." A third says, "Doesn't matter now. He's dead."

The Good:

The art. That opening page is one of my all-time favorites. It's exciting, beautiful and unique, just like all of Manapul's art. For some reason, I really like how you can see the marker lines on the DC. It just makes it feel more real. As long as Manapul keeps drawing pages like that, I'm going to keep buying his books.

Jaw-dropping opening. I really was amazed to see the Flash vibrate that plane through the bridge. It was just incredible. We haven't really seen Flash do anything big like this yet, and it was well-worth the wait. In terms of scale and amazingness, it reminded me a little of Superman saving the plane in Superman Returns. What an epic way to start your story.

Great cliffhanger. I won't say jaw-dropping because we all know DC would never kill Barry Allen in issue #3 of his own book, but seeing him get shot in the head like that was still incredibly exciting. I may not have been worried about Barry's fate that much, but I was worried about what Patty, Manuel, and Mob Rule will think, and I absolutely couldn't wait to read issue #4, which is the main goal of every cliffhanger.

Connection to the DC Universe. I love it when editors put in notes referring to other titles. I never would have bought Captain Atom #3 if it weren't for that note because I had totally forgotten Flash was on that cover about a year ago. I think this is the best way for DC to increase readership amongst its other titles. Although I've only read Captain Atom #3, there certainly was potential for me to enjoy that issue enough to pick up the entire series. And even though Captain Atom #3 and Flash #3 are only slightly related, there is just enough of a connection to meet my widespread continuity needs.

Introduction to the Rogues. In DC, I think only Batman and Superman have more recognizable villains than the Flash. Unfortunately, outside of a brief reference to a talking gorilla in Justice League #2, we haven't seen any of Flash's big villains. Until now. It was very quick and brief, but we did get to meet Captain Cold (who can now create ice without his gun) and the Trickster. There were a few other prisoners running around Iron Heights, but I don't know enough about the Flash to have recognized any of them. I'm assuming they were just random prisoners. Anyway, it was kind of comforting in an odd way to know that the Rogues (at least two of them) are alive and well and are planning something big for the Flash.

The Bad:

Gem Cities and Trickster. These are two minor complaints, but put together they equal one legitimate complaint. The first is completely Editor Brian Cunningham's fault. I normally love his editor's notes that explain things for new readers and encourage guys like me to pick up other books. But I think he went a bit overboard with one note about the Gem Cities. It says, " 'Gem Cities' is the nickname of neighboring Central City and Keystone City! Stay tuned for its origin in Flash #6! --B.C." First of all, you've already told us the two cities were called the Gem Cities, several times in this issue alone. Secondly, the promised origin of the Gem Cities name is nowhere to be found in Flash #6. It's not like I ever wanted or needed an origin for the cities' nickname, but when you promise something like this, you need to deliver.

My second mini-complaint involved the Trickster and his deal he made with Mob Rule. This story came out more than a year ago, and I've read every Flash story since then, and I haven't seen anything that explained what Mob Rule's deal actually was. The best I can assume was they gave Trickster a briefcase full of money for the broken Libyan tank, but I've never been able to find any concrete evidence to support or contradict this. Trickster just briefly showed up here then disappears for quite a few issues and his involvement with Mob Rule is never mentioned again. Of course, a future storyline could come back to this, but at this point, I feel like it's been forgotten.

Final score: 9 out of 10

Next: Mob Rule's origin ... revealed!

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Flash #2

"Think Fast"


Story by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Art by Francis Manapul
Brian Buccellato Colors
Sal Cipriano Letters
Darren Shan Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Editor

This is a rather interesting cover by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato. I give them credit for trying something new, and this definitely ties into the story of the Flash learning to think fast, but I feel like this cover might have been a little too weird for non-Flash fans to want to pick up the book. The black-and-white version doesn't help much, either, as it's basically one big gray blob. It's not a bad cover, it's just not a great one.

This variant cover is by Greg Capullo, and I hate it. First of all, we have the cheesy odometer under Flash, going from Fast, Faster, Super Fast to OMG. Then there's Capullo's sloppy physics and anatomy. The Flash is bending his legs in inhuman, unnatural ways. I didn't see it at first, but his back leg is sticking out above his head and it's so small, it looks like it's a mile away. Maybe you could argue that when Flash runs so fast (at an OMG level), his body starts to stretch and contort a bit, but that doesn't look like what Capullo was going for here. It's just a poorly drawn cover with a really lame gimmick attached to it.

The story picks up right where Issue #1 left off, with Flash finding his friend Manuel captured by an army of clones of Manuel. Flash says, "This is interesting. You've got three seconds to let go of him." Flash counts to three and beats up most the clones, but is stopped when they tell him they have Iris West hostage. They give him a cellphone and tell him to stay put in the forest and wait for their call. As the clones leave, they tell Flash that Manuel Lago is not worth the trouble and he should be left to Mob Rule. Once they're gone, the phone rings, and it's Iris on the other end. Before she can finish telling Flash where she's at, he finds her and makes sure she's alright.

Flash then visits Dr. Elias, who believes he can make the Flash even faster. He hooks him up to a fancy treadmill, which the Flash destroys in about three seconds. But Dr. Elias doesn't mind, as that was enough time for his computers to gather data that shows that while the Flash's body takes full advantage of his powers, his mind is only using a fraction of the speed force energy. Elias encourages the Flash to practice "augmented cognition" to expand the limits of what his brain can do.

Barry Allen then goes to a rooftop to try to figure out how to think faster. Patty then joins him and tells him they have no official cause of death for the "Lago" they found — the coroner said he just "expired." Strangely, though, the body's wounds healed after it died. Barry and Patty identify this as rapid cell regeneration, which could mean the body was a clone. Patty then tells Barry that Manuel had a history with U.S. Intelligence and there are a lot of missing files on him. While she's talking, Barry's mind taps into the speed force, and he can see lots of different things happening at the same time, while it looks like everything else is frozen in time. He then gets a text from Iris and goes down to the street to meet her.

Iris has a promising lead on the Manuel case, but she wants Barry to confirm the Flash's wrongdoing. He tells her Flash didn't kill anyone and she can't withhold information from a police investigation. She starts to give in, but Barry has begun to "speed think" again, and foresees a jewel store robbery. He sees different scenarios where becomes the Flash and stops them, but the store owner gets shot and the getaway cars crashes through a store window. After considering the different possibilities, Barry grabs an apple from the bottom of a big pile, drops a $20 bill in the middle of the road, and attaches a tow truck cable to the getaway car. He does all this without Iris noticing, who tells Barry that Manuel was a deep cover operative for the CIA, who was officially "killed in action" sixteen months ago. Iris also obtained an "unofficial" copy of Manuel's passport, which she says Barry can use to start filling in the blanks.

As she's talking, the robber runs out of the store and slips on the apples Barry caused to fall. The getaway car tries to take off, but gets caught on the cable, and flips over a kid playing his GameBoy, who had ducked down just in time to pick up Barry's $20 bill. The car lands safely in an open truck of fertilizer, which was being given a ticket by a police officer. Barry thanks Iris for her help and mentions their past relationship, which was only one date. Iris says she doesn't need his corroboration on her Flash-brutality story because she landed an interview with the most dangerous inmate at Iron Heights Prison, and if Barry ever wants to thank her, all he needs to do is ask her out on another date.

The Flash then starts visiting all the places on Manuel's passport, looking for clues. As he's running around from Afghanistan to Somalia, he remembers the first time he met Manuel. Barry was standing outside of a house, afraid to join the party inside, when Manuel came up behind him and said, "You're not going to find what you are looking for here." Manuel introduced himself and then encouraged Barry to come to the party with him.

The Flash then stops at a pig farm that used to be a military facility, until the CIA abandoned it and left the pigs behind. Flash then remembers a phone call from Manuel asking Barry to come pick him up because the place stinks from the pigs. Barry didn't think that was a good enough reason to leave, but he couldn't see that Manuel's right hand had recently been cut off, which Manuel didn't mention. Barry eventually did agree to come get him, but before Manuel could say where he was, a group of soldiers grabbed him and shoved him in a truck.

Manuel in the present day is being strapped into a high-tech chair by Mob Rule. A couple of clones are lying on the floor dead, and others are blaming Manuel for letting it happen. They tell him he's the solution to their problem ... at least parts of him are. One of the clones has a Dr. Guerrero working over a machine at gunpoint.

Meanwhile, Iris begins her tour of Iron Heights Prison, the most advanced, state-of-the-art ultra-max prison in the world. In the Central City Police Lab, Patty finds some de-classified documents on a "defunct" cloning project, but Forrest doesn't see the relevance. In Mercury Labs, Dr. Elias is still studying the Flash's brain scans and something makes him say, "Wait ... that can't be right. It can't be ..." On the Gem City Bridge, Flash is running past a bunch of cars, wondering about genetic recoding, clones, regeneration, unexplained deaths, and pigs.

Mob Rule forces Dr. Guerrero to push a button and a bright green light erupts in the sky. All the lights and electronics in the city shut off and Iris is captured by someone in the prison. And right above the bridge, an airplane begins to fall out of the sky.

The Good:

The art. Francis Manapul's art was beautiful as always, but Brian Buccellato's coloring really stood out in this issue with all the flashbacks and the "speed thinking" going on. I thought it was a really neat effect to show how this power worked, and it was pretty easy to understand what was going on. Speaking of which ...

Speed thinking. I always thought that for the Flash's powers to work, he'd need to be able to think super fast so he can know where he's going and what he's doing. This takes that idea and pushes it to a whole new level, with him being able to foresee possible outcomes. I just think it's really cool power for him to have. Of course, it could potentially make him too powerful, but that doesn't happen here. And if this makes the Flash the most powerful hero outside of Superman, then so what? He's awesome!

Barry saves the day. This is directly connected to the speed thinking, but I always love it when the hero does something heroic without putting on their costume. And here, Barry was able to prevent a robbery while still carry on a conversation without anyone noticing. I like to think that Barry does this all the time. Getting into that costume has got to be somewhat of a hassle, especially when he can still accomplish a lot of good by doing small and simple things.

The story. It is now becoming compelling. We're making progress on the Manuel Lago clone mystery, we're finding out more about Barry's love life, and we ended on a pretty awesome cliffhanger. If that airplane crashes into that bridge, hundreds of people will die, no question about it. And a city-wide blackout is pretty exciting, too. Things are now happening and they're moving at a good pace.

The Bad:

Once again, I don't have any major complaints. I wasn't particularly thrilled by the cover, and I don't think this would've been a great issue for someone to start with. Although Editor Brian Cunningham put in lots of notes to help the new readers, I think they still would've been confused throughout this issue, especially with the fight scene at the beginning. But these are really minor quibbles from me that won't take points away from the final score, but will prevent it from being perfect.

Final score: 9

Next: Lights out!