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!

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