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!

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