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 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.
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.)