Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Flash #23

"Reverse Part IV"

Francis Manapul Co-Writer and Artist
Brian Buccellato Co-Writer and Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual Letterer
Harvey Richards Associate Editor
Wil Moss Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor

This is a truly awesome Manapul/Buccellato cover. It just makes me say, "Wow." I feel like Alfred describing Bane when I talk about this cover. "Look at his ferocity! Look at his speed! Look at those vibrant colors!" But probably my favorite thing about this cover is that it proved that Manapul and Buccellato can still find new ways to amaze me. Some creators grow stale on me, but so far, everything these guys keep doing remains fresh and fun.

Our story begins in the laboratory of Dr. Darwin Elias, where the Reverse-Flash has the Flash pinned against the wall. Flash's quest to find the Speed Force killer led him to Elias, but it turns out the real culprit is a twisted version of himself. That's not to say Elias is entirely innocent, though. The scientist has created a gun that can extract Speed Force powers, and he's been desperately trying to hit both of the speedsters during this fight. Speaking of the fight, Flash is able to evade Reverse-Flash's grip right before he gets his face smashed in.

We then head back to the Central City crime lab, where Iris West is sitting with Patty Spivot, who's trying to find a DNA match to the monorail shrapnel Flash found in the Salt Flats. Patty's done all she can for the moment and just has to let the computer do its work now. In the meantime, she has to leave Iris with the armed policemen so she can attend her parents' 30th anniversary party. Iris asks whether Barry will be able to attend, but Patty says, "I don't know." As soon as she leaves, her computer finishes its search and finds a 99.9875 percent match.

Back to our three-way fight, which is now spilling out into the streets, Flash demands to know why Reverse-Flash killed those three people. But all Reverse-Flash says is that once everybody connected to the Speed Force is dead, he'll be able to move time backward to change everything.

Meanwhile, Patty is at the Central City Dining Hall, waiting for Barry to show up. Her dad is worried that Barry was afraid to meet him, but Patty assures him that he's just busy at work.

We cut back to Iris, who has discovered the identity of the Reverse-Flash. She can't believe it, and has an emotional outburst that allows her to tap into the Speed Force for the first time.

Back to the fight, Flash decides to lure Reverse-Flash out of the city to protect the bystanders, while Elias follows on a motorcycle. Once they're in the Badlands, Flash starts to gain a slight upper hand, and Reverse-Flash begins to criticize him for not using his powers enough. Elias then catches up and hits Flash with a blast from his power-draining gun. Elias agrees with Reverse-Flash, and says the Flash could have been king. But then Reverse-Flash knocks out Elias, grabs his gun, and aims it at the Flash.

Suddenly, Iris shows up out of nowhere, screaming, "Daniel, NO!!!" She takes the blast from the gun to protect the Flash and collapses in his arms. Flash calls Reverse-Flash a monster, and he seems genuinely sad that he shot his sister. Iris asks Flash not to hurt Daniel, but Flash can't make any promises. He charges at Reverse-Flash, but he's weakened by Elias' gun and he loses control for just a moment, which allows Reverse-Flash to grab him by the throat and start draining his powers. The two speedsters travel back in time and end up at the foot of the stairs of a man with a cup of coffee in his hand.

The Good:

Wow. That's all I can say after this issue. It's rare to find a comic book that will leave me speechless afterward. Everything has been leading up to this moment, and it was incredible. Everything that comes after this is just gravy. The first three parts of this story had a very careful and deliberate pace, and it all paid off extremely well in this issue.

The art. These two artists may have outdone themselves here. Beautiful splash page after splash page. Fun panel layouts to accentuate the action. Gorgeous colors and intense choreography. And never once did Manapul or Buccellato lose control. They stayed true to their form, disciplined in their consistency. And this issue also boasts one of the best title pages from their Flash run. I had a hard time finding all the hidden words, and loved tracking down each letter individually.

The story. Yes, this was just the "fighting" issue, but there were a lot of great character moments here. We got to see a little bit more into the motivations of the Reverse-Flash and Elias, as well as the Flash's own resolve and convictions. We had a very nice moment with Patty and her father —again demonstrating her love for Barry. And for those who complain that this issue had too much action, I will remind you that this is part four of a six-part story. Some of the earlier parts didn't have as much action, which was intentional. When you put this whole story together, it flows very nicely. And besides, the action here was amazing, so why complain about it?

Iris. She has very quickly become one of my favorite characters. She's clearly still in love with Barry, but really is being a great sport about it. She's also proven her heroism over the course of this Flash run. When we first met her, she was writing a story about the Flash's brutality, but then she realized there was no story there and she killed it. I'm a journalist, and I can say that is one of the toughest things to do. You spend so much time working on something, you want to get it printed even if you know it's not very good. But Iris made the right decision. She then get sucked into the Speed Force and acted as the leader of the small group of misfits trapped with her. And now in this issue, she really drove that heroic edge up a notch. I liked that she always had the potential for super speed in her, but just couldn't access it until she was pushed far enough. And what was the first thing she did with her powers? She saved the Flash. And then, even after nearly being killed by her monster of a brother, she still showed she loved him by asking the Flash not to hurt him. What a lady! I now regret that I once suspected her of being the Reverse-Flash.

Wonderful reveal. Daniel West was introduced in issue #0, and kept popping back up over and over again. I knew something big with him was coming down the line, and I did have him on my Reverse-Flash suspects list, but that didn't diminish this moment at all for me. It was a jaw-dropping two-page spread with Iris screaming Daniel's name, getting shot, then the Flash screaming, "You monster!!!" Stupendous stuff.

The Bad:

How are they going to top this? Well, they won't on The Flash, at least. Manapul and Buccellato wrote #23.2, but didn't draw it. They did draw #24, and as great as that issue will be to review, I don't think I can say it exceeds this issue. And then their final issue of The Flash together will be #25, but they're not providing the art for that, either. So if Manapul and Buccellato ever do top The Flash #23, it will be on their run of Detective Comics.

Final score: 10 out of 10

Next: Daniel West's secret origin is revealed in Reverse-Flash #1

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Flash #22

"Reverse Part 3"

Story by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Art by Francis Manapul
Colors by Brian Buccellato
Additional Colors - Ian Herring
Letterer - Carlos M. Mangual
Associate Editor - Harvey Richards
Editor - Wil Moss
Senior Editor - Brian Cunningham

This issue provides us a rather unique cover by Manapul and Buccellato. It is unlike any of their previous Flash covers, yet I enjoy it immensely. I love how bright it is, which helps it stand out on the shelves. And then the whole abstractness of it adds another quality — the Flash's shadow is the Reverse-Flash, which is pretty awesome. Another great thing about this cover is the lack of any text, which I am almost always opposed to. It would have killed this cover to have some cheesy line about Flash fighting Reverse-Flash. We already know it's happening, so why take up valuable space on such a beautiful piece of art?

Our story begins in Keystone City at dawn. The police are investigating the murder of Floyd Gomez, and Barry Allen shows up at the crime scene. It's apparent Gomez was the Speed Force killer's third victim, and Barry realizes that Iris West is the next target. But he wonders why he can't sense the killer the way he senses them. David Singh then notices Barry and reminds him it's no longer his job to visit crime scenes, and since he's a potential target, he should especially stay away from this case. That, of course, is something Barry simply can't do.

We then cut to Dr. Darwin Elias waking up in a cold sweat in his laboratory. He's had another nightmare about the Flash, who he believes is using his immense powers irresponsibly to serve his messiah complex. Elias believes himself to be a greater hero — one that will effect real change. He throws on a bathrobe and heads down to his basement to work on a new machine connected to his remaining battery cells of Speed Force energy. Elias believes that once he unlocks the secrets to the Speed Force, he'll be able to accelerate the evolution of human civilization. It's just a shame that doing so will kill the Flash.

We then head to the offices of the Central City Citizen at 2000 Broome Street, where the Flash is creating a bit of a stir by walking right up to Iris, presenting her with a costume, and telling her she needs to run away with him. Of course, this isn't a romantic getaway, but rather a means of protecting her since Gomez has been killed. The suit Flash gave Iris was designed to cloak her connection to the Speed Force, which is why the killer hasn't attacked the Flash yet. Flash takes Iris to the roof Albert Lim fell off of to help him investigate the scene. Since his death was ruled as an accident, a proper investigation wasn't conducted. It only takes a moment for the Flash to find a clue — some residue of salt from the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

Flash takes Iris out to the desert to look for more clues, and Iris asks if Barry is safe. Flash assures her that he gave him a suit also, and he seems a bit uneasy talking about Iris' concern with his alter ego. Luckily the awkwardness doesn't last too long, as they're able to find a piece of wreckage from Dr. Elias' monorail that was stolen by the Rogues before the gorilla invasion. Flash takes Iris and the shrapnel back to the Central City Police Lab and asks Patty Spivot to examine the debris for any DNA.

Patty notes that the metal was scorched with an incredibly high degree of heat, but she is able to lift some blood from it to analyze. However, she can't make any promises about finding a match. Flash then decides to pay Dr. Elias a visit, leaving Iris behind with Patty and an armed guard. Later, Iris awkwardly asks Patty about her relationship with Barry, but Patty coldly tells her that they were meant to be together.

We cut back to Dr. Elias, who is still working in his robe in his lab. He acknowledges that he's ignored morality and hurt people, but he believes it's all been worth it. If he could turn back time, he wouldn't change a thing. Suddenly, he's attacked by the Reverse-Flash, who drains the Speed Force energy from the battery cells. To protect his life's work, Elias pulls out a gun that can extract Speed Force energy. The doctor, however, is unable to hit the speedster, who zips around behind him and prepares to snap his neck. Luckily for Elias, the Flash shows up in the nick of time to save him.

Reverse-Flash is happy he doesn't have to track down the Flash, and the two begin to fight while Elias tries to hit one or both of them with his gun. Flash regrets not understanding the Speed Force well enough and even thinks he should have followed Elias' advice about running too fast. He feels guilty for putting innocent lives in danger all because he failed to stop this monster. The Reverse-Flash quickly gains the upper hand, grabbing our hero by the throat and pinning him against the wall.

The Good:

The art. Simply another masterpiece by Manapul and Buccellato. I really liked the variety this issue gave us, from the bloody (yet not grotesque) crime scene at dawn, to the dark mysteries of Elias' lab, to the bright happy newsroom with Iris. And that's not even mentioning the wild fight at the end. But everything leading up to that fight was drawn just as gorgeously. Manapul excels equally at the mundane and the super sci-fi moments. I'm just as happy with a picture of Patty working on a computer as I am with an image of the Reverse-Flash beating up the Flash.

The story. The great crime mystery continues with Flash protecting targets, gathering clues, and identifying suspects. I really liked how the monorail has come back to play an important part in the story, especially after many people forgot about it completely. Manapul and Buccellato never do anything without a reason, and something that seemed insignificant in issue 12 can have major repercussions on issue 24. And even though most of this issue was simply clue-gathering, we did get a nice little fight at the end that will surely spill over to the next issue. And how could I overlook the wonderful love triangle between Barry, Patty and Iris? Iris really seems to regret having lost Barry, but now it seems too late for her to ever get back with him. Patty has been really good to Barry so far, so until she gives him a reason to leave her, it looks like Iris is going to be stuck on the outside.

The Salt Flats. As I've written about before on this blog, the Salt Flats are near and dear to my heart. I've been there many times, and I'm always excited to see the Flash visit them. I especially liked how some salt on the roof turned out to be a major clue. For those who haven't had the pleasure of visiting the most desolate place on Earth, you need to know that the salt doesn't stay neatly on the ground. It sticks to your shoes, your tires, your cars, everything. You get salt in places you didn't know you had. Just walking around on the stuff for a couple of minutes you instantly become an inch taller because of the salt caked to the bottom of your shoes. So it makes perfect sense for our Speed Force killer to inadvertently track a bunch of salt around wherever he went.

Nice twist. The speculation for the Reverse-Flash's secret identity ran very high, and I ended up considering just about every possible character in the Flash universe. But at the top of my list was Dr. Elias. I wasn't 100 percent convinced that he would be Reverse-Flash, but I thought for sure he had to be involved some way. In a brilliant move by DC, one key page of this issue was released early, showing the Reverse-Flash's face reflected opposite Dr. Elias' — helping build the theory that Elias was Reverse-Flash. But it all turned out to be a misdirection. We didn't find out who the Reverse-Flash actually is, but we did see who he was not … or did we?

The Bad:

Nothing. Some might complain that there's not enough fighting, but I enjoy the carefully controlled pace of this issue. Keep in mind that this is the third part of a six-part story, and remember that Manapul and Buccellato have never let us down before — well, me at least; I guess I can't speak for everybody else. At the end of the day, this is an amazing issue, but I'm going to hold back my perfect score for something that really blows my mind. Perhaps the usual standard of excellence has been set too high on this title, but a 9 is still a very good score.

Final score: 9 out of 10

Next: The secrets of the Speed Force!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Flash #21

"Reverse Part 2"

Francis Manapul Co-Writer and Artist
Brian Buccellato Co-Writer and Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual Letterer
Harvey Richards Associate Editor
Wil Moss Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor

This is one of my favorite Manapul-Buccellato covers. The blue background works perfectly with the yellow in Kid Flash's costume, helping make this striking image stand out even more. It's about time Kid Flash and the Flash share a cover together, and watching them fight is even more exciting. Although this scene does not happen inside, I could have seen something close to this happening had Kid Flash kept being a punk. There were a couple of times in this issue that I wanted to grab him by the throat myself. :)

Continuing the Flash's investigation to find the Speed Force killer, he decides it's about time he met with this teenager named Kid Flash. Flash knows he's a member of the Teen Titans and most likely isn't the killer, but he would like to get some information from him. But when Flash confronted him, Kid Flash immediately took off — implying he's hiding something. So Flash started chasing Kid Flash around the world, passing through the Haukadalur Valley in Iceland.

Upon seeing he can't simply outrun the Flash, Kid Flash decides to visit the Louvre in Paris, France, to distract Flash by pulling down paintings and priceless works of art. When that doesn't work, Kid Flash goes to the Grand Erg Oriental in Northern Algeria to lose the Flash in a dust storm. This buys him just enough time to zip over to Bangalore, India, to grab a bite of masala dosa and have a quick conversation with Tim Drake, aka Red Robin. Kid Flash tells Tim that Flash said something about a murder, but he didn't stick around to find out, thinking he probably just wants his name back. He then begins to brag that next time Flash shows up, he'll knock him flat on his ... but then Flash shows up and asks, "On my what?"

Flash grabs the teen and the Speed Force's connection to time and space triggers a reaction that shows Flash a glimpse of Kid Flash's past — a trial in the future. Naturally, this only makes Kid Flash angrier, and he takes off again. Flash chases him from Banaue, Philippines, to Sydney Australia, to Taranaki, New Zealand, to Viti Levu, Fiji. As they run, Flash realizes that Kid Flash is not connected to the Speed Force, but something almost alien. He wishes he could just talk to him and that Kid Flash would stop acting so impulsive.

In his desperation to lose the Flash for good, Kid Flash starts to run a little too fast and accidentally breaks free of gravity. He starts floating higher and higher in the air, while the scientist in Barry starts over-explaining everything. Apparently Kid Flash has reached escape velocity — meaning his kinetic energy is equal in magnitude to the gravitational potential energy that keeps us on the ground. This only makes Kid Flash freak out more, but the Flash has had this happen to him before, so he's able to save Kid Flash by grabbing him and controlling his mass through vibration to allow the laws of gravity to kick back in.

They land hard on the shore of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Flash suggests Kid Flash start wearing armor. Kid Flash snaps back at him, but finally asks what he wants. Flash explains about the Speed Force killer, but tells Kid Flash that he's not a potential suspect or victim because he's not connected to Speed Force. Flash tries to ask him about his past, his powers, and even brings up the possibility of them being related. Kid Flash, however, remains on the defensive, refusing to tell Flash anything. He also reveals he doesn't know too much about himself, either. Kid Flash denies Flash's offer to help, but Flash vows to sit down with him as soon as the Speed Force killer is caught. The Teen Titans then show up in a jet to pick up Kid Flash, while the Flash, back at square one in his investigation, decides to pay Floyd Gomez a visit.

In Otis' Diner in Central City, Daniel West is trying to show his sister, Iris, that he's turned his life around. Iris, however, is skeptical, and asks Daniel if he's visited their dad, but he says he promised to hurt his dad if he ever saw him again. Daniel apologizes for all his mistakes, and says he'd erase his negative past if he could. But now he's on the right path and needs forgiveness from his sister. Iris tells him he needs to start with their dad, but Daniel says he can't forgive him.

We then cut to Patty Spivot, who is trying very hard not to get mad at Barry. He forgot to pick her up and made her walk in the rain. But all is forgiven when she sees he remembered her parents' anniversary party and already set up all the tables.

Meanwhile, Gomez, aka Sprint, is trying to run away from the Speed Force killer. But this time, he's not able to get away and is killed by the Reverse-Flash, who says, "Three down ... two to go ..."

The Good:

The art. What a gorgeous race around the world. Spread after spread of beautiful, amazing artwork. This issue is one great example of why I'm buying more individual physical comics. My iPad can't give the two-page spreads justice, and the collected trade paperbacks often hide a lot of action in the middle of the page due to how the books are bound. You gain so much when you read these stories they way they were intended to read.

The story. The majority of this issue was taken up with a high-speed chase around the world. But Manapul and Buccellato still managed to squeeze in a great moment with Barry and Patty, some important foreshadowing with Iris and Daniel, and another freaky attack by the Reverse-Flash. And altogether, I'm still enjoying the murder mystery here. Barry's doing what any policeman would do — he's tracking down every possible lead. And this one didn't work out, and I'm fine with that. It's a more realistic story than the Scooby Doo mysteries.

Barry meets Bart. It's about time! I know Kid Flash's main book is Teen Titans, but he really needs to start making more appearances in The Flash. I really love how his personality clashes perfectly with Barry's. It actually reminds me a lot of my little brother when he was about Bart's age. He would never listen to me and purposefully do the opposite of what I wanted just to make me mad. I don't know if teenage readers appreciated seeing such a snarky Kid Flash, but I did. I can empathize with Barry.

Fun science. I don't say this enough, but Manapul and Buccellato always do a great job of incorporating scientific principles into their stories. Either they know a lot or do a lot of research for each issue. Either way, it's very fun and hearkens back to an essential characteristic of old Flash stories from the '60s. I was so fascinated by the fact that Kid Flash was floating away, that I got carried away in Barry's explanation like he did. Then Kid Flash had to shout at both of us to remind us that he was in real danger. I like to imagine that Bart's voice cracked a bit just then. :)

The Bad:

Why didn't we get to see any other Teen Titans? We got a nice page of them last time, so why couldn't we see Red Robin picking up Kid Flash? Well, this is a really minor quibble from an otherwise fun issue. And hopefully Kid Flash and the Teen Titans will show up in The Flash again before too long.

Final score: 9 out of 10

Next: Flash vs. Reverse-Flash!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Flash #20

"Reverse Part 1 of 6"

Francis Manapul Co-Writer and Artist
Brian Buccellato Co-Writer and Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual Letterer
Harvey Richards Associate Editor
Wil Moss Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor
This story is dedicated to the great Carmine Infantino

The cover is by Manapul and Buccellato, and it is pretty dang sweet. The colors, the action, the intensity. There is a slight problem in that this cover implies Flash actually fights Reverse-Flash in this issue, but he doesn't. But when you consider that this cover is not just for this issue but for a six-part story, then it becomes more acceptable.

Now before I begin my review I need to say a few words about Carmine Infantino. I had no idea who he was until he died on April 4, 2013, shortly before this issue came out. Turns out Infantino is probably the single most important person in the history of this Barry Allen Flash we know and love today. Infantino was the main artist on The Flash through the 1960s, starting with Barry Allen's first appearance in Showcase #4 in 1956. Infantino designed the iconic red-and-yellow outfit that has remained remarkably consistent throughout the past half-century. Besides being the artist, Infantino also introduced a lot of concepts that helped usher in the Silver Age. In those days, the artist frequently drew the cover before the story was written, and it was up to the individual writer to decide whether to write to that cover or not. Infantino's most famous cover was of the two Flashes — Barry and Jay Garrick — which introduced the concept of Earth 2 and the multiverse. Infantino is also responsible for Wally West, Gorilla City, most of the Rogues, and a slew of other DC characters ranging from Animal Man to Poison Ivy. In the '70s, Infantino served as DC's publisher, and helped bring about Superman: The Movie. But he oversaw a turbulent period in comic book history. He made the bold, and unpopular decision to raise the price of comics to 25 cents, which only worsened the already declining sales figures. Eventually he was fired and filed a lawsuit against DC. But time heals all wounds, and after his passing at the age of 87, the very least DC could do was to dedicate The Flash #20 to him. They even took out a full page ad for him in the print version of this comic.

And so, without any further ado, here is our story. We begin in Iron Heights Prison, located on the river between Central City and Keystone City. Marissa Rennie is writing an apology letter to her boyfriend, Floyd Gomez, and asking him to come visit her. As soon as she finishes, the Reverse-Flash appears behind her and attacks her. As he kills her, he reverses time to right before Marissa started her letter.

We then cut to Barry Allen, who is finally unpacking — in real time even — in his shared apartment with his girlfriend, Patty Spivot. Patty asks him to help plan a party for her parents' anniversary, to which he readily agrees. She then awkwardly asks Barry why he never mentions his parents. So Barry takes Patty to the roof and points out Iron Heights, saying his dad has been there since he was convicted for the murder of Barry's mom when he 11. Barry then hands Patty the box of his mom's case evidence. He used to open it every year on his mom's birthday to try to find the real killer, but now he's ready to move on. He asks Patty to hide the box from him and the two share a romantic kiss.

Back in the routine of things, Flash reflects on how nice it is to not have to deal with gorilla invasions, Rogue rebellions or Outlander jail breaks. He also dwells on the connection he has with those he saved from the Speed Force, but he's a little sad that they didn't get any closer after the death of Albert Lim. As far as the Flash knows, Albert fell while installing cable on his roof.

The next morning, Barry begins his first day back at work in the downtown precinct of the Central City Police Station. After being declared dead, it took some time to work through the red tape, but Barry is finally back. But he wasn't able to return to his old job in the police lab. He now works in the basement where all the cold cases are dumped. He's given six months to sort, file and log the cases, but he finishes that well before lunchtime.

Iris West then pays him a visit and asks if he's acquired any Speed Force powers. Barry denies this, as does she, and she gives him a present to celebrate his return to the police department. They're then interrupted by James Forrest, who's dumping off what appears to be a large metal orb. He thinks it was some kind of bootleg satellite hookup that Albert was installing, and since his death was ruled as an accident, the property room upstairs doesn't want it. Forrest then trips and drops the orb, but Barry catches it, causing it to glow bright blue.

Patty then joins the party, causing Iris to awkwardly excuse herself, while she declines a phone call from her brother, Daniel. Patty tells Barry that Marissa was found dead in her cell, and when detectives tried to interview Gomez, he flipped out and fled. Barry decides to go track him down, leaving Forrest to play with Albert's orb.

Since the Flash is connected to everyone who's been in contact with the Speed Force, he's able to quickly find Gomez in a Keystone subway. But instead of talking to Flash, Gomez gives him a good kick and starts to run down the tracks. When Flash catches up to him, Gomez says the same guy who killed Albert also killed Marissa. He explains that the killer came after him first, but he was able to get away. Gomez then warned Albert, but the killer got him. And now, Gomez is determined to do whatever to takes to keep the killer off his trail. To lose the Flash, he rips up a chunk of the track as a subway train approaches.

The train goes airborne when it hits the upturned track and scrapes Flashes earpiece. Flash gets the train back on the tracks by running around the walls of the tunnel to create a wind tunnel. He then jumps in front of the train to bring it to a gentle stop with another mini-vortex. And before he takes off to continue his investigation, he allows a couple of bystanders to take a picture of him.

Barry then heads to the Central City Police Department to examine Marissa's corpse. It appears she was cut hundreds of times by something that burned and electrocuted her. This perplexes Barry, but it does help him rule out Gomez as the killer. He then starts to wonder about Albert and decides to check out his "satellite." Upon closer examination, Barry realizes that the orb is actually covered with a bunch of different cameras, and the whole device is activated by the Speed Force. Barry gets it up and running to be treated to a 360-degree display of the last moments before Albert's death. Apparently he was trying to install the camera as protection, but the killer snuck up behind him and pushed him off the roof. The camera doesn't give Barry a good look at the killer, but he does recognize the reverse lightning bolt on his chest. The only other person Barry knows who wears a logo like that is Kid Flash, so he decides it's time he had a talk with the Teen Titan.

The Good:

The art. Have I ever mentioned what a great artist Francis Manapul is? No? Well, he's pretty awesome. Not only can he handle the big, complex action scenes very well (so many people struggle representing the Flash running at super speed), but Manapul also excels at the little things like backgrounds and minor characters. Everything is so fun and nice to look at, and Brian Buccellato's colors compliment everything perfectly. I've said this before and I'll say it again, but even if you hate this story, you should still pick up this book just to look at the pictures. Of course, I don't know how anyone can hate this story.

The story. One constant challenge comic books have is trying to attract new readers while simultaneously maintaining longtime readers. This is one of the rare issues that accomplishes both of those tasks. A new reader would have little difficulty jumping right in with this issue, while those who have read all the Flash issues before this will appreciate the story on a deeper level and not feel bogged down with repetitive information. This issue also did a great job of balancing the Flash scenes with the Barry scenes. I think it's so crucial to give the secret identity a life of its own, and I love it when heroes use both of their identities to solve a problem. Some scenarios require the fastest man alive, while others require police scientist Barry Allen.

The mystery. I love this setup. We're in a new universe with a new Reverse-Flash, and we have no idea who he is. And he's killing everyone touched by the Speed Force one by one. It was really fun to spend the past couple of months going on this journey with Barry — working through the list of victims and suspects. And everyone is a suspect, even the heretofore unmentioned Kid Flash. The last page of this issue sets up the tantalizing first meeting between Barry and Bart in the New 52, to which I said, "About time!"

Great action in the subway. My review can never do this scene justice. You just have to see it for yourself. One problem a lot of people have with the Flash is that it's hard to give him a real challenge. I mean, he can run at the speed of light — what can't he do? Well, this runaway train made me seriously wonder how Flash would stop it. And then I was completely satisfied with how he stopped it. It made sense and was visually appealing. It's amazing how a seemingly simple concept can become a work of art in the hands of truly talented individuals.

The Bad:

What can I complain about? The almost-meaningless slight disconnect with the cover? No. This was a practically perfect issue, and it gets a practically perfect grade.

Final score: 9 out of 10

Next: The first meeting between Flash and Kid Flash! (Spoiler! It does not go well.)