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!