Script by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Pencils by Marcus To
Inks by Ray McCarthy
Colors Brian Buccellato (pgs 1-10) and Ian Herring (pgs 11-20)
Letters Wes Abbott
Associate Editor Chris Conroy
Editor Matt Idelson
After giving us nine straight issues of superb artwork, Francis Manapul finally had to take a break. I don't blame him, everybody needs to take a breather now and then. Plus, nine issues of writing and drawing is pretty good. Rags Morales, artist on Action Comics, only lasted four issues before his first break, and the great Jim Lee could only give us six issues of Justice League before bringing in guest artists.
Also of note is the new editing team. I don't know why Brian Cunningham and Darren Shan left The Flash, but things have been pretty good under Matt Idelson's guidance. There are less editor's notes, including the occasional reference to another title, which makes me sad. But it does seem like Manapul and Buccellato are being allowed to tell the kind of story they want to, which is the most important thing.
Although this issue was drawn by a guest artist, Manapul and Buccellato still did the cover, which is another classic Flash vs. the villain of the month. It's eye-catching, exciting and tells you exactly what happens in the book. I normally get a little upset when the cover is not drawn by the same person who did the inside pages, but for Manapul, I will make an exception. The black-and-white version began the stupid sideways, runaround thing, which is why I have so much black space on it. Also, very sadly, this marks the first month without a Flash variant cover. I always liked having another cover, even if the other one was usually pretty bad. Sometimes they were good, though. But what really makes me sad is it seems like DC pulled the variants from the Flash because not enough people were buying it to justify the extra cover. So I guess we need to get more people to buy The Flash!
The story starts in Central City two years ago. Claudio Mardon is on the phone with his brother, Marco. Their dad has died, and Claudio jumped at the chance to run the family business, but Marco wanted nothing to do with it. But now, Claudio is in town for a meeting that will bring big changes to the business, and he needs Marco's help. They're interrupted by a knock on the door. When Claudio answers the door, he someone he recognizes, who immediately riddles his body with tons of bullets, killing him instantly.
Now. The Flash is reflecting on his whirlwind of a life. He went to the Speed Force to save Iris and three others, but instead found Turbine. When he got out of there, he ended up in Gorilla City and was almost killed by Grodd. When he finally got out of that mess, he went home only to find his friend Dr. Elias was holding anti-Flash rallies and his girlfriend, Patty Spivot, had headed to Guatemala to follow up on a cold case, only to get captured by Marco Mardon, a.k.a. the Weather Wizard, who currently has Flash caught in a whirlpool.
Darryl Frye once told Flash the burden of responsibility shouldn't be carried alone, and Flash wants to share the burden of being a superhero with Patty. He doesn't know what he'd do without her. In truth, he needs her more than she needs him. But before he can save her, he has to do something about the Weather Wizard's tidal wave that is threatening to flood a nearby village. He uses his super-speed to draft the millions of gallons of water behind him and pull it out of the village with minimal damage. He dumps the water in the sea and saves a fisherman before his little boat sank.
Marco, meanwhile, used the opportunity to escape in a jeep with his sister-in-law, Elsa. He asks her why the Flash is after him, and she says it's because of the cop (Patty) that's investigating Claudio's murder. This confuses Marco, but before he can ask another question, the Flash has caught up with them. Elsa sends a text saying, "Kill them" and Marco prepares some lightning.
We then cut to Patty, who is tied up in a basement with a man known as The Spider. He tells Patty he used to work for the Mardon family, and his job was to clean up any murders associated with them. One day, he got a frantic call from Elsa, and when he went to the address, he found the 22-year-old head of the family, Claudio. The Spider says that Claudio could never stomach the violence of the job, but he was smart enough to travel to Central City to broker a peace treaty with a rival cartel. But Elsa found out he'd be weakening the family, so she had him killed, blamed their rivals and brought Marco back into the family. Being loyal to the Mardon family, the Spider decided to take the evidence right to Marco, but Elsa got to him first. The Spider assures Patty, however, that Elsa wouldn't kill them as long as he has the evidence, but as soon as he says this, three of Elsa's men, who just received her text, enter the basement with their guns drawn.
Back to the chase scene, Flash is easily able to dodge Marco's lightning and he jokes that he should try dousing him in chemicals as well. He finally pulls Marco and Elsa out of the jeep, and allows it to drive off a cliff and crash into the Mardon's crops (possibly drugs) and start a fire. The Flash then demands to know where Patty is. Marco says he'd never kidnap someone trying to solve his brother's murder, but Flash doesn't believe him. When Flash threatens to tear down the Mardon empire, Elsa speaks up and tells him where Patty is. Flash takes off, leaving Marco to question her why she didn't tell him she kidnapped Patty.
Half a second later, Flash takes out Elsa's men and frees Patty. She asks if this was where he disappeared to, but he just says it's a long story, but he heard she was in trouble so he came running. Patty assures him she's fine, but asks the Flash to do something useful like bringing down the Mardon cartel's drug empire.
Marco, meanwhile, is furious with Elsa, but she tells him she was only doing what was best for the family. Marco was busy playing cops and robbers and Claudio was too young, but it was her sacrifice that took the family to the top. Marco reminds her of his sacrifice: using his powers brings up all his darkest emotions. Creating enough rain for their crops nearly made him want to kill himself. But Elsa dismisses him and admits that she killed her husband for the family. This sends Marco over the edge, and he grabs her and summons a bolt of lightning so they could join their family in death.
The Flash and Patty are watching the crops burn, and he tells her he has something important to tell her, but she wants to go first. She says she blamed him for Barry's death, but realizes now that he really does have good intentions. However, her heart is still broken, and every time she sees that red costume it reminds her of what she lost. After she calms down, she asks Flash what he wanted to tell her, but he just says he needs to put out the fire and then they can go home.
Miraculously, the bolt of lightning that killed Elsa did not kill Marco. He's approached by a spectral form of a woman, who he at first thinks is Elsa, but then recognizes as Lisa Snart. She introduces herself as Glider and tells Marco it's time to come home.
While the Flash is putting out the fire, he realizes that it's not fair of him to place his burdens on Patty. The world needs him to be the Flash, but every time he runs, he puts Barry's life on hold and puts the lives of those he cares about in danger. He can't hurt Patty every time he puts the red suit on. He decides to carry his burdens alone. The world needs him to be the Flash, and for Patty to be able to move forward, she needs Barry to stay dead.
The story. Marcus To's art was very decent, and having Buccellato color the first half of the issue really helped, but ultimately the artwork was nothing spectacular to brag about. But the story was more than enough to justify picking up this issue. Sometimes a guest artist means it'll be a filler issue that has nothing to do with the main storyline. But not here. This wrapped up the small subplot of a cold case Patty began working on back in issue #6, and it dealt with a lot of good emotional stuff the Flash was dealing with. He is officially dead and he just found out he is the necessary release valve for the Speed Force. Then at the end of this issue, he finds out his girlfriend hates his alter ego. So he makes a very interesting decision, which may or may not have been the right one. All this sets things up to be quite intriguing moving forward.
The Weather Wizard. Another classic Rogue hits the scene! I don't really know anything about the old Weather Wizard, but I really enjoyed this one, especially his power limitations. With a power with so much potential like controlling weather, there needs to be a good reason for this person not to completely take over the world. (I've often felt X-Men's Storm should do more.) But here, we're given a pretty viable reason for the Weather Wizard's hesitancy in using his powers.
The gangster back story. I really like The Godfather and other gangster stories. Family mobs, secret murders, powers struggles, all that fun stuff. I've read a couple of good Batman stories with gangsters, but I never imagined it could work with the Flash this well. Yes, the gangster element was limited, but I think that's a good thing. Too much gangster stuff would make the Flash too much like Batman. This was a good taste of the gangster world and a welcome change of pace.
Final score: 8 out of 10
Next time: The Flash really has been going through a lot right now, and he's decided to keep Barry Allen dead. I think before he returns to Central City to face this problem, he needs to go on a nice distracting Justice League mission.