Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Flash #19

"The Stuff of Heroes"

Brian Buccellato Writer pages 1-18; Co-Writer pages 19-20; Colorist
Marcio Takara Artist pages 1-18
Francis Manapul Co-Writer and Artist pages 19-20
Carlos M. Mangual Letterer
Harvey Richards Associate Editor
Wil Moss Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor

So this is the Flash's WTF cover. As usual, it holds up to the Manapul-Buccellato standard of excellence. The colors are beautiful, the action is gripping, and the Reverse-Flash looks pretty scary. Unfortunately, the scene depicted here doesn't really happen, and it only applies to the final two pages of this issue. From what I understand, Manapul and Buccellato had to adjust the story to meet up with DC's demand for a WTF cover. The final product turned out fine, I just hate it when creators have to tweak their work for some sales-grabbing gimmick.

Another unfortunate thing (for me, anyway) is that with this issue, Comixology stopped providing the variant covers. So that means I didn't get to enjoy the beautiful black-and-white version on my iPad, or the MAD variant by Sam Viviano. I don't know why Comixology stopped giving me the variant covers — something they had always done previously — and it really bums me out. And as far as I can tell, there's no option to pay extra to get the variants. They now only exist in print.

So anyway, we start our story in the home of Floyd Gomez and Marissa Rennie in Keystone City. Albert comes rushing over to tell Gomez about the Outlanders attacking Iron Heights. But Albert only finds Marissa, who is watching the news on a new 60-inch TV. Marissa worries that Gomez may have gone over there by himself, so she decides to go there with Albert, who really hopes the Flash is already there. And the Flash is there ... kind of.

The Outlanders have now fully infiltrated the prison, and a de-powered Barry Allen is trying to make sure they don't get their hands on any of the Rogues' old weapons. The Outlanders send one team, led by Costella, to free the Trickster, while another team heads for the armory for Trickster's gear. This team is holding a guard hostage, so Barry tries to save him with Weather Wizard's old wand. At first, he can only make fog, then some rain. Finally, he manages a big gust of wind that knocks them all out.

Meanwhile, Albert and Marissa arrive at the island, via her father's boat, which Albert has "turbocharged." Upon seeing the destruction caused by the Outlanders' assault, Marissa decides to stay with the boat while Albert enters the prison alone.

After Barry knocked out one team, the Outlanders send another group to investigate. Barry is prepared for them, and tosses one of Trickster's stun bombs into the elevator before they have a chance to get out. Albert then overhears Trickster and Costella talking about releasing all the prisoners, so he decides to use his powers to short-circuit a control panel to keep the doors locked. Unfortunately, his plan backfires, and a bunch of the doors are opened. Barry hears Albert call for help while being chased by a group of inmates, so he takes them out with one of Captain Boomerang's electric boomerangs.

Barry then finds Albert in the cafeteria with the Trickster and a bunch of Outlanders. Trickster is very confused to see the "Al" the bartender, and Costella threatens to shoot Barry if he doesn't surrender the bags of weapons he's been carrying around. Albert tries to save him by pointing a gun out of the way, but once again his powers backfire, and he creates a super huge gun for the Outlanders. Barry begs the man not to fire that gun, and Trickster again demands to know what Barry's doing in the prison. Barry explains that he used to be a cop, and he's actually trying to prove Trickster's innocence, and then everybody begins to debate the legal/political aspects of this breakout.

But they're all interrupted by a loud rumbling and an explosion in the cafeteria's wall. The vibrations felt familiar to Barry, and he asks Albert to turbocharge Captain Cold's old gun. Just as the vibrations begin a second time, Barry fires the giant ice gun and freezes everybody in the room, including Marissa, who apparently lied about not having powers. Then, with everybody frozen and unable to see, Barry gets his super speed and costume back.

As the cops clean things up and take away the Outlanders and Marissa, Flash explains to Albert that Marissa robbed the diamond store and killed the guard by vibrating the wall at a frequency that caused the molecules to explode. And just now, Marissa was trying to use her powers to collapse the prison on top of Trickster before he could prove his innocence. Albert feels he's had enough of being a superhero, but he does suggest the Flash start working with Barry. Albert also wonders where Gomez is, while Flash begins to wonder why the Speed Force gave powers to everybody except Iris.

Somewhere above Earth, on the Justice League Watchtower, the Flash starts using its advanced computers to try to figure out what took his powers. Although the computers are quite possibly the most advanced on Earth, they are still too slow for Flash. Cyborg comes in to tell him he's destroyed all the Rogues' old weapons, and Flash finally finds the clue he was looking for. Apparently Batman was keeping track of the Dial H people, and from the data available to the Flash, it looks like they won't be taking his powers again. But just to be safe, Cyborg promises to monitor the situation.

(There's an editor's note right here, telling me to pick up Dial H #12 for the rest of this story. But that issue doesn't even say the Flash's name once, or address the fact that Nelson briefly stole his powers. Just a final fart in this sham of a crossover.)

Flash and Cyborg then have a nice little heart-to-heart, where Flash admits how difficult it was to be in a tough situation without his powers. Cyborg says that he's a hero with or without his super speed, and Flash says this experience has given him a greater appreciation for guys like Batman and Green Arrow. Cyborg says, "So you're saying there is an upside to being a bulletproof robot 24/7." And Flash calls him out for telling a rare joke.

We then cut to a grisly scene of Albert's dead body on the hood of a taxi. We then go back in time and see him fly up through the air and back to the Reverse-Flash, who says that he really is the good guy, and he doesn't like killing, but sometimes you have to do a little wrong to make things right. And if he needs to, he can always put things in reverse.

The Good:

The story. There was a lot going on here, but it still was a fun, fast-paced adventure. I do have to say the prison scene seemed to end a tad on the abrupt side, and I think it would have gone a little better had they not been compelled to add two pages of the Reverse-Flash at the end. However, everything worked out quite well — especially since those two pages with Reverse-Flash were amazing! In this mostly-Buccellato issue, we had plenty of humor with Barry struggling with the weapons, Albert struggling with his powers, and Trickster defusing a tense situation with, "No, really ... why are you here?!" He never seemed mad, just genuinely confused, which was great. And then, of course, there was the great reveal of Marissa being behind the robbery in issue 18. I heard a lot of theories of who that robber was, ranging everywhere from Reverse-Flash to Abracadabra, but I never heard anybody guess it was Marissa. Now we can go back and see the clues that were there, but for me, personally, I have to applaud Buccellato for surprising me with that mystery.

Barry Allen. It's always a dangerous proposition to write a Flash story without the Flash in it, but Buccellato pulled it off. Normal human Barry Allen proved to be a competent action hero, especially with the Rogues' still pretty cool and powerful weapons at his disposal. I also find it ironic that Buccellato included some boomerangs here, because he recently said that Captain Boomerang was his least-favorite Rogue. So I guess that means we won't be seeing good ol' Digger in The Flash any time soon, but having these boomerangs was a nice nod to the character. Ultimately, this issue gives me hope that a future story with just Barry Allen (tied in to the Zero Year story line) will still be entertaining and exciting.

Flash and Cyborg moment. In the early Justice League issues, Flash was one of the most supportive and friendly members of the team toward Cyborg. I always felt they deserved to spend some time together, and here they finally did. And I am so, so glad that this Flash acted nothing like the snarky jerk we saw in Justice League #18. Here, we saw a compassionate, yet still fun Flash, which is the kind of Flash I like the best.

The Bad:

The last time we went to Iron Heights Prison, we saw Tar Pit, Folded Man and Girder. In this issue, nothing but normal inmates. I'm not saying their omission brought this book down, but I do feel like it was a missed opportunity. Just like how I expect to always see Two-Face and Scarecrow whenever Batman visits Arkham Asylum, I would like to see some of the Flash's more notable villains whenever we visit Iron Heights. But at the end of the day, it's no big deal.

Final score: 8 out of 10

Next time: I'll take another quick diversion to review a passive Flash appearance in DC Universe Presents #19.

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