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.
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.
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