Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Flash #11

"Slow Burn"


Script by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Pencils by Marcus To
Inks by Ray McCarthy
Colors Brian Buccelato (pages 1-10) and Ian Herring (pages 11-20)
Letters Wes Abbott
Associate Editor Chris Conroy
Editor Matt Idelson

It finally happened! I finally got back to The Flash! But what's been several months in real-time, it's probably only been a week or two in comic-time. Sadly, my return to the title is not on a Manapul-Buccellato masterpiece, but at least they did write the script and do the cover.

The cover is beautifully drawn and contains more than enough action and excitement. However, I am a little upset with it because it looks like Iris West and James Forrest are on the cover, but they're not — it's just two people in the bar who happen to look a lot like them. I guess that's Manapul's fault — having so many background characters look so similar.

Our story starts in Keystone City, where a mysterious man in a trench coat and baseball cap enters a cheap, filthy hotel. He hates the place, but feels it's a good spot to help him disappear until he can control the fire inside him. While he checks in, somebody accidentally bumps into him and knocks off his hat, revealing a very badly burned and very angry Heatwave. He opens up his coat and starts spewing flames from his chest.

Nearby, Barry Allen is adjusting to his new life after his adventures in the Speed Force and elsewhere. While he was gone, his old friend Dr. Elias began to turn the public against the Flash. Even Barry's girlfriend, Patty Spivot, is against the Scarlet Speedster, so he's decided to leave her behind by keeping Barry Allen officially dead and starting a new life in Keystone City's roughest neighborhood, "The Keys." He hopes that no one will recognize him here and being in close proximity to the criminal world will help him discover who or what is behind the recent arsons plaguing the city.

Barry feels a bit like Batman doing all this detective work, but unlike Batman, he has to worry about finding a place to stay and a job to pay for it. To expedite this search, Barry uses his speed mind trick, which he hasn't tried since using it almost got him killed by Mob Rule. He thinks about Patty, Darryl Frye, Batman, his own grave and even considers working for the police department. Ultimately, he settles on a "Help Wanted" sign in front of a rough-looking bar. However, using his speed mind put Barry into kind of a trance that was only broken when someone bumped into him.

Barry enters the Keystone Saloon and asks for the job, but the bartender is skeptical. Barry orders a drink, but then realizes the guy who bumped into him on the street stole his wallet. He offers to work for the drink and the bartender hires him. Barry then realizes that he's sitting next to Leonard Snart, aka Captain Cold, who is surprisingly out of Iron Heights. (There's no editor's note here, but I'm going to assume that Cold was broken out by David Graves in Justice League #10.)

We then cut to the Downtown Division of the Central City Police Department, where Director Singh is lecturing Patty for putting herself at such great risk in South America. She points out that she was able to close an open case, but Singh says she should leave that work to the detectives. While he's yelling at her, he mentions Barry's death, but then quickly apologizes. After Patty leaves, we see the real reason behind Singh's anger: a Central Citizen headline, reading "Pied Piper Back."

Meanwhile, Dr. Darwin Elias is on a talk show. He takes full credit for restoring power to the Gem Cities after the blackout and he announces the opening of a new monorail. He makes it a point to say they are much better off without the Flash, and he predicts the demise of superheroes and super villains within six months.

The talk show is playing at the bar, and Snart gets mad enough at Elias to throw his beer mug into the TV. The bartender, Charles, chews him, but Snart brushes him off. He claims that Elias is no different from the Rogues and he laments over the old days when good guys were good guys and bad guys were bad guys. He concludes his rant by complaining that he can't even drink beer without freezing it. Barry helps him out by mixing a rather girly drink that is able to withstand extremely low temperatures. This helps him bond with Snart and Barry introduces himself as Allen.

Suddenly, Heatwave bursts through the door, yelling at Captain Cold. Barry tries to talk some sense into him, but Heatwave tosses him out the window. So "Al" the bartender clocks out and the Flash clocks in. He runs into the bar and tries to talk down Heatwave and Cold, but they naturally ignore him. Flash then asks Heatwave if he's responsible for the arsons, but he says it's Captain Cold's fault. He then yells at Cold for ruining the Rogues' lives, but he says he was only trying to help. Flash has decided he's had enough at this point, so he runs around the two villains to suck away their oxygen. They're quickly knocked out and Flash is happy he was able to prevent them from hurting anyone, all thanks to him being Al the bartender at a notorious villain hang-out.

Captain Cold and Heatwave regain consciousness in a police van headed to Iron Heights. The two quickly resume their argument, and Heatwave says the Rogues are better off without Cold. Suddenly, Lisa Snart, aka Glider, phases through the truck and joins the conversation.

The Good:

The story. It is so good to be back to reviewing Manapul-Buccellato stories. They are so full of detail and references to past issues and teasers for future issues. This title features an intricate level of connectedness that I see more common in Japanese manga like Naruto, but rarely in American comics. It's just so great to have it here! As long as Manapul and Buccellato keep writing the Flash, I'll keep buying it.

The death of Barry Allen. When Action Comics "killed" Clark Kent, they made a really big deal of it and then it only lasted two issues. But Manapul and Buccellato handled Barry's apparent death in a much more subtle way and stretched it out over a much longer period of time. And I've really enjoyed it. They haven't beat us over the head with "Barry Allen is dead!" signs in every issue, but every now and then we see how his death is affecting him, his girlfriend and his work. It's just been really interesting for me.

Heatwave. We're again introduced to another classic Rogue, and like the others, he's been given a double-edged upgrade. I really like his new design, and I kinda feel bad for him. He has a perpetual fire in his chest that is very difficult to contain. That's got to suck. This issue also reminded us that it sucks to be Captain Cold. I mean, the poor guy can't even drink anything without freezing it! Yes, I would have liked a little more Heatwave-Captain Cold fight, but this issue's primary purpose was to set up bigger things down the road, which we will be getting to quickly.

The Bad:

Nothing huge. Marcus To is no Francis Manapul, but his art is very solid and serves the story well. However, whenever Manapul doesn't pencil an issue, it feels like they're purposefully holding back some bigger moments. I guess that is to be expected, though, and I can't complain because these issues did advance the story, unlike some other filler issues out there.

Final score: 8 out of 10

Next: The secrets of Glider!

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