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!

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