Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A farewell to Manapul and Buccellato

What a run it's been. But all good things must eventually come to an end. And I'd like to use this post — my special 75th — to express my appreciation for Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato.

I was surprised at how sad I was yesterday when I heard the news. It almost felt like a family member had died. This is clearly not a normal reaction — people should not be that invested in comic books. But I've never felt a connection to a comic book as much as I've felt with this Flash in the New 52. Perhaps I should provide some background.

I didn't start reading comics until I was in my 20s. I had always been a fan of superheroes through cartoons and movies, but I never actually read a comic book until I discovered Jim Lee's Hush. That was the hook for me, and I soon began picking up every major DC trade paperback. I eventually got an iPad, and slowly started stumbling around the world of current comic books in the digital platform. The New 52 soon started, which was the perfect chance for me to jump on.

I only had the budget to follow one comic, so I carefully investigated all 52 titles. Flash did immediately catch my eye, but I hesitated. I didn't know anything about the Flash or these creators. So I decided to play it safe and stick with the proven talents on Action Comics. And it was a pretty fun ride ... for about eight issues. Then Grant Morrison really started to bug me. I did complete his entire run on Action, but after issue 12, I was ready for something new.

Again, the DC gods seemed prepared for me. The zero issues came out, and I finally had enough courage to pick up The Flash. And I immediately fell in love. After reading The Flash #0, I quickly bought issues 1 through 12 on my iPad. I came for the art, and I stayed for the story. It was almost like these comics were written just for me — addressing and solving all problems I had with other comics in the past. My long search was over. I had finally found a current comic book series I could relate to. I enjoyed these comics so much, I started buying them twice — in print and digital. And then, of course, I started this blog, dedicated to reviewing every Flash appearance in the New 52.

How can I explain what makes Manapul and Buccellato so good? I guess they just provide everything I want in a comic book. They perfectly balance the serious with the fun; they develop characters well; they write great mystery and action scenes. I love how all the issues connect to each other. Look at my picture at the top again. That's 27 issues you can put together and read as one long story. Yes, there are a couple of self-contained arcs within those issues, but overall, it's one giant narrative. There are things that happen in issue #0 that come back to play a major role in issue #23, and I love that. Manapul and Buccellato reward the longtime reader. And if you're not a longtime reader, like I once was, you can easily get all the back issues on your phone.

And I haven't even mentioned the art yet! You just don't see very many comics out there that are as beautiful and thoughtful as The Flash. Manapul loves to play with creative layout designs, and I really enjoy his game of hiding the words "DC Comics Proudly Presents The Flash." But most importantly, I feel like Manapul has an excellent understanding of the limitations and benefits of the comic book medium. He's not just illustrating a storyboard — he's telling stories through his art in ways that can only be accomplished in a comic. If you just read the captions and word balloons, then you will be missing a big chunk of the story. I love going back to past issues to find clues hidden in the background, and Manapul never disappoints on that front.

And, of course, let's not forget Buccellato's brilliant coloring! He somehow manages to be bold and colorful while not being too bright and brash. There is a beautiful subtlety in his work, and it perfectly compliments Manapul's work. And, as Buccellato has recently demonstrated, he can take over the writing duties himself and the story won't miss a beat. Manapul and Buccellato are the perfect team, and they seem to be genuinely nice guys from the limited interactions I've had with them through Twitter.

Now, I always knew, deep down, that these two guys couldn't and wouldn't keep working on The Flash forever. In this day and age, it's rare for one creative team to last more than 12 issues. It felt like the logical spot for them to get off would be at the end of the Reverse-Flash story line. But then I saw they'd be doing a Zero Year tie-in after that, so I had hope they'd keep going for another year or so. Alas, that was not to be. However, there is something poetic about ending a run with a pre-origin story.

The good news is these two have not left DC in a controversial fight with the editorial board like too many creators have been doing. Manapul and Buccellato will start work on a new character in March 2014, and as Manapul tweeted me, they'll stay on that through 2015. So there's no reason to go into mourning.

But now, what does this mean for me and this blog? I've also always known, deep down, that there would come the day that I wouldn't be able to continue this blog. I'm single with plenty of free time to maintain this site, but that could easily change one day. Therefore, it seems only fitting that I close my complete coverage after the Manapul-Buccellato run ends with issue #25 (25 is my favorite number, coincidentally). Many Flash fans are asking who the next creative team for The Flash will be, but I'm more interested in which title Manapul and Buccellato are going to take over. I hate to admit this on a Flash blog, but I think I'm a bigger fan of Manapul and Buccellato than I am of the Flash.

But nothing is set in stone! I could keep this blog going for years to come. In the meantime, I will end this post by thanking Manapul and Buccellato for everything they've given me so far. I eagerly await their future work, be it on The Flash or anywhere else!

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