Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Flash #8

"The Speed Force"


Story by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Art by Francis Manapul
Colors Brian Buccellato with Ian Herring
Letters Wes Abbott
Assistant Editor Darren Shan
Editor Brian Cunningham

We are now entering a really fun trend of Flash covers by Manapul and Buccellato, where each cover depicts Flash fighting a new villain. Yes, all the Flash covers have been great so far, but there's something nostalgic about this approach. I've never really read any Silver Age Flash stories, but I imagine that most of the covers were like this — simple, to the point, and something to make kids in the comic shop say, "Wow! The Flash is fighting Turbine this week!"

I don't mind all the yellow on the colored version, but when you take it away, the black-and-white looks a little scarier, I think. There's a lot of tension and a strong element of the unknown going on here. Plus, putting the Flash banner in red really makes it pop.

The variant cover is by Bernard Chang. This is pretty good, and I like having the Flash be a little more in control of the situation, but something about Chang's style makes it look really cartoony for me. Doesn't Turbine look like he came straight out of a Young Justice episode?

Our story begins on May 12, 1944. High above Monte Cassino, Italy, the U.S. Army Air Force's 99th Flying Pursuit Squadron prepares for engagement. They are led by First Lieutenant Roscoe Hynes, who is piloting the world's only P40 Turbo-Nine fighter. Hynes breaks formation and boldly charges ahead, but is engulfed in a bright light and is sucked into a wormhole.

Now. Inside the Speed Force, Hynes has subdued the Flash. He introduces himself as Turbine and says the Flash is his ticket out of there.

Turbine says he knows all about the Flash, even that his real name is Barry Allen. Flash is able to throw Turbine off him, but he starts to spin around, creating a whirlwind. Turbine says he's going to go back home, even if he has to kill the Flash to do it. He uses his whirlwind to launch a bunch of rocks at Flash, who is able to dodge them all. He says he'll try to help Turbine, but first he needs to find someone. However, he isn't able to get Turbine to settle down until he knees him in the chin.

Now that Turbine's stopped spinning, Flash asks him if he's seen Iris and the others, but Turbine says he's been alone there for 70 years. As they talk, Turbine has a hard time maintaining his composure. He'll start to freak out a little bit and stutter and repeat words, but then he'll quickly recover. He tells Flash he's learned all about him through the images in the sky that show significant moments in Barry's life. We see his spelling bee trophy, riding in a go-kart with his dad, and, of course, an image of his mom. Turbine describes the Speed Force as a place where the past and the present happen — all existing in the same place and time. He says the place gives Flash his powers.

As they explore the Speed Force, the floating rocks start to form a path toward images of Dr. Elias, Mob Rule, Captain Cold and gorillas. Flash feels the Speed Force is beckoning him toward the present and the future, but Turbine doesn't like that idea. Instead, he pulls Flash back toward the past to show him images of his mom's death and funeral, his dad being arrested, and Barry becoming the Flash. Flash asks Turbine why he's causing the time anomalies, but Turbine says he isn't the problem, but the solution. Turbine describes the Speed Force as a giant ball of energy that's always moving forward and building up excess energy that needs to be released. When the Flash runs, he lets that energy out, but when he doesn't, things get crazy.

At the Central City Music Hall, Hartley Rathaway and the Central City Symphony are performing at a memorial service for four deceased police officers, including Barry Allen. Darryl Frye gives a speech about how these officers helped the city in its darkest hours over the past two months. Even though they didn't have bulletproof skin, magic rings or super speed, they were true superheroes. Afterward, Patty Spivot, David Singh and James Forrest are arguing about the Flash. Forrest defends him, saying they don't know all the facts, but Patty still blames him for Barry's death and Singh labels him as a self-serving vigilante. Hartley joins the conversation, reminding Singh that some vigilantes do actual good. Singh tells Hartley that not all vigilantes are as easily reformed as him, then he introduces Hartley to the others as his friend, which seems to upset Hartley.

Back in the Speed Force, Turbine shows the Flash what happens when he doesn't run. They find ancient Egyptian monuments, a Mayan temple, Hynes' old plane, a tank and a train. In the sky, they see images of a Mayan civilization being destroyed by the Speed Force, and Gorilla City being created by it. Flash is amazed that the Speed Force did all this before he started running, but Turbine admits that not all the objects were brought there by the Speed Force. He says that when Flash uses his powers, portals open up, and he's tried to go through them, but never has been able to. Instead, he starts spinning and inadvertently sucks objects into the Speed Force.

This makes Flash pretty mad, and chews Turbine out for knowingly causing the vortexes and creating so much pain and suffering. Turbine meekly says he was just trying to go home, but Flash says he can't send Turbine back in time because that could alter the timeline and destroy everything. This is too much for Turbine, and his fragile psyche snaps. He starts spinning again and says he'll kill the Flash. As Flash gets knocked around by the whirlwind, he worries that if he stays in the Speed Force too long he could lose his mind like Turbine.

Eventually, Flash is able to grab Turbine and pull him toward the future. Turbine tries to fight him off, but is only able to rip off one of Flash's earpieces, which is later found by Iris West. She is with the three others who were on the boat that was broken by Captain Cold. Presumably, they arrived in the Speed Force right after the Flash and Turbine left it.

In Gorilla City, an elder is preparing Prince Grodd for his final challenge to adulthood — a fight to the death with his father. The elder paints a red lightning bolt on Grodd's chest, and tells him if he wins, he'll claim his father's memories, knowledge and throne. Grodd is able to defeat his father, killing him by ramming the large spike on his helmet through his father's head. Grodd declares himself king, but his moment of triumph is spoiled by the Flash suddenly appearing behind him in a lightning bolt.

The Good:

The art. Brian Buccellato did need some help on the colors this issue, but I think Ian Herring only colored the first page, which took place in 1944, and I think that was a good move to give that different time a different look and feel art-wise. If Herring did help on any other pages, then I couldn't tell, because everything was executed at the same high level we've come to expect on The Flash.

The Speed Force. This issue was all about explaining the Flash's powers, and I found it fascinating. Even more fascinating, was learning that Dr. Elias was wrong. Usually, in comic books, whatever the scientist says is 100-percent true. But in real life, scientists get stuff wrong all the time, so it was really nice to see this scientist not have all the answers. Of course, Elias wasn't completely wrong — when the Flash ran too fast, he did open a portal that Turbine used to create the vortexes. So I guess Elias was right, with the information he had. In any case, I really like the Flash having mysterious powers, and having this comic slowly unravel those mysteries through different angles.

Barry Allen's death. They had a service. It's official. Barry Allen is dead. Manapul could have all too easily threw in some convenient time travel and had the Flash reappear right after the Captain Cold fight, but instead he chose something unexpected. And since I've already read Flash #17, I know that Barry's death will be resolved in a satisfying way, unlike Clark Kent's death in Action Comics (I'll be reviewing that soon).

Gorilla Grodd. I know Turbine was the feature "villain" in this issue, but like Mob Rule, I don't really consider him a villain. He's just a lost, confused guy who's spent a few too many decades in isolation. He is an interesting character, but nowhere near as exciting as Grodd. This guy is definitely a villain. I mean, he wants to eat his dad's brain. You don't really get more vicious than that. And once again, after having read through the Gorilla Warfare storyline, I can say that this New 52 Grodd is a welcome addition to the DC Universe.

The Bad:

Just one very, very minor issue I saw. In the Speed Force images, we saw Barry's dad with a mustache, but he never had one in Flash #0 or the annual. However, I will write this off by saying Barry's dad is one of those guys who'll grow a mustache for a bit, then shave it off, then grow it back a few years later, then get sick of it and shave it again. I know people who do that it real life, so why can't Henry Allen?

Final score: 9 out of 10

Next: Trapped in Gorilla City!

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