Sunday, February 17, 2013
The Flash #6
"Best Served Cold"
Story by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Art by Francis Manapul
Colors Brian Buccellato
Letters Wes Abbott
Assistant Editor Darren Shan
Editor Brian Cunningham
This is a good cover, and here's why: Some time ago, I took my roommate, who's never read a comic book, to the nearby comic store. Out of all the comics we looked at that day, this was the only one that made him go, "Hmm!" It wasn't a sarcastic "Hmm!", it was an impressed "Hmm!" And that is the goal of all comic book covers. When they're in a store, surrounded by thousands of other books, they want to stand out from the rest and make a brand-new reader say, "Hmm! Look at that!" And this cover did just that, even for long-time Flash fans. Our hero is in legitimate peril at the hands of a familiar foe, but with a new twist. Excellent job by Manapul.
The black-and-white version is equally captivating. I especially love the decision to put the Flash logo in light blue. It works perfectly.
The variant cover is by Mike Choi, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists. I really enjoy his more realistic style. While this cover is not as dynamic as the main cover, it is very bleak and scary. The Flash looks like he's been completely defeated here, and it's pretty awesome.
The story starts now (which is a good place to start). The Flash is fighting Captain Cold — his most persistent adversary of the past five years. Flash reflects on their many battles together and how Cold even organized a group called the Rogues. One thing that made Cold stand out, was how he respected the rules of the cat and mouse game with the Flash. Cold never made it personal, and he never used his freeze pistols for murder. But that's not what the Flash sees today.
Standing on the frozen river, Cold has caught the Flash's punch in his icy hand. As he holds on to the Flash's fist, the yellow electric seams in his suit start to freeze and turn blue. Flash asks him where his guns are; he just says he doesn't need them and punches Flash into a big ice pillar that's supporting a boat.
Yesterday. Barry and Patty are on the bus, coming home after a weekend getaway. Barry was happy to take a break from the Mob Rule/EMP chaos of the past two months and to spend some time with his girlfriend. But Patty's main reason for the getaway was to follow up on a cold case. Barry wants to join in on the crime-solving fun, so Patty tells him the case reads like a simple abduction because there was a ransom note and no body, but a lot of gruesome physical evidence suggested otherwise. Patty interviewed a witness, who claimed it was murder. Barry remembers that Iris West did a whole expose on the case, so Patty asks if he can arrange a meeting with her. Barry reluctantly agrees.
Last night. Dr. Elias is working on the Flash's earpieces, and he is impressed to learn the magnetized sound receptors allow Flash to hear while traveling faster than the speed of sound. He then installs a warning system to tell the Flash when he's moving fast enough to create a wormhole that tears at the fabric of space and time. Elias also shows Flash a new, giant treadmill he's built, which is designed to siphon off Flash's excess speed force energy and store it in battery cell chambers.
Now. Flash has figured out that Captain Cold is surrounded by a field of extreme cold that slows down his molecules. But he is still faster than Cold, and gives him a big kick in the chin. But then the ice pillar begins to crumble and the boat, which has Patty and Iris onboard, starts to tip and break in half. Before Flash can save them, Cold knocks him down with a big chunk of ice. Iris is on one half of the boat, holding on for dear life and trying to save other people around her, while Patty is on the other side, looking for Barry.
This morning. Captain Cold is at a hospital, yelling at a doctor for refusing to operate on his sister, Lisa Snart, who is dying of a brain tumor. Cold has stolen the sophisticated laser necessary for the procedure, but the hospital's generators are too primitive to power it. Cold then blames the Flash for causing the blackout, and vows his revenge.
Back to the fight, Flash is able to get away from Cold and catch Iris' half of the boat with some mini-vortexs. But while doing so, Elias' warning system tells him his energy level is at 81 percent, which is critical mass. Elias had previously told him not to go above 80 percent.
Fifteen minutes ago. Barry, Patty and Iris are having lunch on the boat. Iris believes Patty's cold case could be a murder, but she doesn't have much evidence, especially since the key witness, the landlord, has gone back to Guatemala. Patty then shifts the conversation to the Flash and asks Patty why she's stopped writing negative articles about the Flash, even though the rest of the newspapers are doing so. Iris says her investigation didn't turn up any proof of criminal brutality or recklessness, so she's decided he needs some more positive light shed on him. Patty, though, feels the Flash attracts more freaks than he puts away and should just let the police do their job. As if that wasn't awkward enough for Barry, Iris then asks if he and Patty are dating. Barry stammers out a yes, then hurriedly excuses himself to the bathroom.
Five minutes ago. From the top of a bridge, Captain Cold is freezing the river and lifting up boats on ice pillars to draw out the Flash to kill him.
Now. The Flash is having a hard time figuring out how to fight Cold without getting too close to be slowed down. Cold shoots a bunch of razor-sharp icicles at the Flash, and one of them pierces through his shoulder and pins him down on the ice. While this is happening, the ice pillar crumbles and Flash watches Patty's half of the boat fall and crash into the frozen river. Flash screams Patty's name and the warning system tells him his energy level is at 98 percent.
The art. After reading a couple of so-so Justice League books, it's great to get back to the amazing artwork of Manapul and Buccellato. One fun little thing I liked was on the title page, where the word Captain on the boat was placed right next to the word Cold in "Best Served Cold," so it kind of said Best Served Captain Cold.
A major Flash villain. Gone are the days of fighting Mob Rule. Here is one of the Flash's most-recognizable villains, and it is great. We like to see our heroes take down new threats from time to time, but at the end of the day, we need to see them fight their arch enemies on a regular basis. I used to think Captain Cold was just a Mr. Freeze knock-off, but as I've read more Flash stories, I've realized there are a lot of differences between the characters. I've always liked how "honorable" Cold is, even though he's a villain. I also enjoy his updated powers (especially since I know they'll be explained later) and I like seeing him losing control like this. They gave him a good reason to be pushed to the edge, and now he's become incredibly dangerous.
The story. I like to believe that comic book writers have the next year's worth of stories planned out so they can slowly start alluding to and building plot points months in advance. All too often, I sadly find out this is not the case, and fun little details that I was holding onto are forgotten. Luckily, Manapul is much better at this than many other comic book writers today. Having read through the next ten issues here, I can see that a lot of little details in issue #6 are actually rather important for future stories. This enhances my reading experience by making me read more carefully and speculate more about what's going to happen, which is quite enjoyable.
More explanation of the Flash's suit. The Flash's earpieces are actually kind of ridiculous, when you think about it. Yes, they help frame his face a bit, and they've been a part of his suit for so long that he looks really weird without them, but when you stop and ask yourself why anybody would want little wings on his ears, it really becomes a ridiculous idea. So I like it when we find they actually have a purpose. Early in the Justice League, Flash said he listened to radio broadcasts through his earpiece. That was good. But using them to hear while moving faster than the speed of sound is better. I also consider this one of the things DC has done right with the New 52. Remember when everyone was upset with the new costumes (myself included)? Well, for the most part, I think the reasons behind the new suits have been explained well. And Manapul's good technical sci-fi writing really helps.
Hmm ... well ... I guess I was a little disappointed the Flash-Captain Cold fight was interrupted so much. Manapul was trying a new story-telling technique here, with lots of quick flashbacks, and I can't say that I loved it, but I didn't hate it, either. I think one side effect of it, though, was it made the dialogue during the fight rather redundant. It seemed whenever they went back to the fight, they felt they needed to remind us that Cold was slowing Flash down and he was taking things personal, when he normally doesn't. I think they could've cut out half the fight's dialogue and the Flash's thought boxes and the story would've been fine. But, this is not a complaint, just an observation.
The Flash is back, he's fighting someone we know, and it is awesome!
Final score: 9 out of 10
Next: A chilling sacrifice!