Saturday, November 30, 2013

Justice League Dark #22



"Trinity War Chapter Three: House of Cards"

Jeff Lemire Writer
Mikel Janin Artist
Jeromy Cox Colors
Carlos M. Mangual Letters
Kate Stewart Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

The cover is the third of the three-part image by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis. It doesn't work very well on its own, but it does help round out the other two covers. This is also the first cover of this storyline to feature the Flash, although I'm not sure why Frankenstein is grabbing him by throat. The two of them were just working very well together in Justice League Dark #21. I'm also not sure how Frankenstein was able to grab the Flash. Frankenstein isn't necessarily known for his speed.

Our story begins with Madame Xanadu, clairvoyant and mystic, blindfolded and imprisoned in an unknown location. She has a brief conversation with the Outsider, who is quite confident in his plans. At A.R.G.U.S. headquarters in Washington, D.C., Firestorm successfully creates some kryptonite at the request of Amanda Waller. Batman has asked Zatanna to assist with the autopsy of Dr. Light, but she doubts her magic will help them prove that Dr. Light triggered Superman's heat vision. Suddenly, they're all visited by the Phantom Stranger.


The Phantom Stranger tells them that Wonder Woman and the Justice League Dark are hunting down Pandora's box, and if they find it, it'll be the death of them all. Batman quickly throws together a team to stop Wonder Woman. In the ARGUS sub-level holding cell, the Question frees the sick Superman and hands him a piece of paper that convinces him he needs to break out of ARGUS. In New York City, Wonder Woman successfully recruits the JLD, although John Constantine wanted to find Xanadu first. They all head to the House of Mystery, where they're met by Batman and his team.


Back at ARGUS, Cyborg tries to stop Superman, but he shows him the newspaper clipping stating that Dr. Psycho was in Kahndaq a day before their battle. Cyborg is surprised he didn't know this, but he and the other remaining heroes agree to help Superman find Dr. Psycho — despite Waller's protests.

In the House of Mystery, Wonder Woman uses her lasso of truth on the Phantom Stranger to prove he doesn't know what is to blame for Superman's condition. Wonder Woman opens up the call for more heroes to help her find Pandora's box. Constantine convinces Shazam to go away with him, and Hawkman, Aquaman, Stargirl and Zatanna side with Wonder Woman. Batman is left with the Flash, Vibe, Phantom Stranger, Steve Trevor, Katana, Catwoman and Simon Baz. At ARGUS, Superman, the Question, Martian Manhunter, Cyborg, Element Woman, Atom, Green Arrow and Firestorm fight their way past Waller and her agents.

So to recap: Wonder Woman's team is looking for Pandora; Superman's team is looking for Dr. Psycho; and Batman's team (at the suggestion of the Phantom Stranger) is going to visit Dr. Light in the afterlife. The issue ends with the Outsider telling Xanadu that he has a mole among the Justice League.

The Good:

The story. The mystery is building nicely with three potential suspects now (although Dr. Psycho is a fairly weak suspect). But the epic feel of the story continues. Just about everybody who's important in the DC Universe is involved, continuing to make this a must-read. And it is kind of fun splitting the teams up into three new teams. Unfortunately, it seems like the story just isn't long enough to thoroughly explore the dynamics of these new teams.

The Bad:

Mishandling of the Flash. I'm not really mad that Flash had nothing to do or say here — with so many characters involved that's bound to happen. But I am upset that there was absolutely no reference to him having teamed up with the Justice League Dark. The previous issue of this title tied up a three-part arc with the Flash and Swamp Thing helping the JLD fight Dr. Destiny. Now he's reunited with that team, but nobody acknowledges him. If you remember, the Flash actually had a great time with them and almost felt more at home with the JLD than the regular Justice League. So why did he side with Batman over his newfound friends?

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next time: The search for Doctor Light's soul begins in The Phantom Stranger #11

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Justice League of America #6


"Trinity War Chapter Two"

Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire Writers
Doug Mahnke Penciller
Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen Inkers
Gabe Eltaeb and Nathan Eyring Colorists
Rob Leigh Letterer
Kate Stewart Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

The cover is by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis. This is the center of the three-cover image, and is probably the best. However, it can't entirely stand alone, as Superman's fist looks quite out of place.

We open our story with the Outsider talking into a special coin. He says, "My fellow society members … it's time." We then cut to the Question, who is still trying to figure out "who is the evil behind the evil." He believes that if he answers enough questions, then one day he'll learn who he really is. We then cut back to Kahndaq, where everyone — and I mean everyone — is fighting.


Martian Manhunter suspects Superman's been poisoned, so he phases his fingers into Superman's head. Flash doesn't like that idea, so he vibrates his hand through J'onn's chest. At the order of Steve Trevor, Vibe then attacks the Flash, and seems to actually cause some damage. While he's using his powers, Vibe senses something beyond their world. Eventually, Superman gets everybody to stop fighting by pounding the ground real hard and demanding to be locked up.

So everybody heads back the A.R.G.U.S. medical wing to get treated for minor injuries. Trevor suspects Amanda Waller had something to with Dr. Light's murder since it proves how dangerous the Justice League is. The Flash is still feeling wobbly after Vibe's attack, and Atom is feeling guilty about betraying the League. Waller asks Firestorm if he can make kryptonite, and Wonder Woman rebukes Trevor for not telling her about the Justice League of America.

Superman, who is looking very sick, has been locked up in a chair with a helmet covering his eyes. Batman believes Dr. Light triggered Superman's heat vision, and he has Cyborg and Martian Manhunter conducting Dr. Light's autopsy to prove this. Wonder Woman, however, believes Pandora's box caused Superman to attack, and she visits Hephaestus to prove her theory. But the god tells her that contrary to legend, he didn't make the box, and none of the gods know what it is. So Wonder Woman visits the Justice League Dark to ask for their help in unraveling the mystery of the box.

Back at ARGUS headquarters, the Question disguises himself as Trevor and releases Superman, asking him, "Do you want to find out who really killed Dr. Light?"

The Good:

Nice mystery. I like that Batman and Wonder Woman each have different, yet plausible theories about Superman's "murder." Even though I wish there had been some suspicion that Superman acted under his own will, I was happy that we quickly got into the true issue at stake here. We're going to be splitting up into different teams now, and we have plenty of suspects to choose from. The main goal of this comic book is to entice readers to pick up the next issue, and I think this issue succeeded on that front.

Flash vs. Vibe. Yes, this was a very, very brief fight — if you can even call it a fight — but I was happy that it happened. After a lot of build up in the first three Vibe issues, we've finally confirmed that Vibe can actually hurt the Flash. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like DC will follow up further on this, as the Vibe title is (unsurprisingly) being cancelled. So this is it for the big Flash-Vibe showdown. It should have been more, but I am happy we got something in a book with tons of characters that basically did nothing. I mean, poor Aquaman's big moment was telling a lady to not touch his trident. At least Flash bravely took on the Martian Manhunter before being attacked by Vibe.

The Bad:

Rather boring issue. This issue did a good job of setting things up for the next chapter, but what actually happened here? Everybody stopped fighting just as soon as they started, then they all happily went to the hospital to lick their wounds. It feels like this story originally wasn't long enough to merit the $3.99 price tag that DC demanded of this big event, so the creators had to hastily stretch some things out to meet the page requirement. It also seems like Mahnke had a hard time getting all his pages in on time, since his pencils required four inkers and two colorists. There is a big difference between carefully crafting a work of art and rushing a book out to meet a deadline. And this issue falls into the latter category. I had raised expectations for this issue because of the magnitude of the event, and DC let me down by presenting this story that felt like everybody was just standing around and stalling. Don't worry, we'll do something interesting next issue! I still consider this an above average issue, but only slightly so. I just thought it should have been something bigger.

Final score: 6 out of 10

Next time: Trinity War continues in Justice League Dark #22!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Justice League #22


Before I begin my review, I have to include the cover of Trinity of Sin: Pandora #1 because the Flash is on it. But then again, just about everybody else in the DC Universe is on this cover. This issue serves as the prequel to Trinity War, but I found it highly disappointing. It didn't tell me anything I didn't already know or wouldn't have guessed. Basically, the important thing we learn in this issue is that Pandora "opened" her "box" (a golden skull with three eyes) in 8000 B.C. She didn't really open it so much as she simply picked it up. Anyway, this act unleashed the Seven Deadly Sins on the world, and she was punished to forever wander the world of sin. I find it hard to believe that it took Pandora 10,000 years to come up with some sort of a plan to catch the Sins, and I was really sad this issue said nothing of her role in the Flashpoint event. The issue had really disjointed art and suffers from an overly long and clunky title. I did not pick up issue #2, and I'm surprised that anyone did. Now, on to the main event.


"Trinity War Chapter One: The Death Card"

Geoff Johns Writer
Ivan Reis Penciller
Joe Prado and Oclair Albert Inkers
Rod Reis Colors
DC Lettering Letters
Kate Stewart Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

Of a slightly interesting note, this is the first time I've seen a comic lettered by DC Lettering. I guess this is the direction we're moving now, since everything is done on computers and its more efficient to everything in big teams. Some fans might bemoan the lost art of a good letterer, but that's where we are today. The cover is by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis, and its actually only one third of a larger image. I'm quite indifferent on the whole concept. There is a sense of satisfaction when you finally get all three covers together, but I think they each suffer a little bit individually to serve the bigger purpose. And this cover unfortunately features a nonexistent fight between Dr. Light and Madame Xanadu.

Our story begins with Madame Xanadu acting as a fortune teller for a young woman. But instead of seeing that woman's future, she sees the aftermath of the Trinity War and the events that lead up to it. First we see Billy Batson, who has just killed Black Adam. Despite the protests from his foster family, Billy decides he needs to spread Black Adam's ashes across his homeland, Kahndaq. At the Belle Reve Prison, Superman and Wonder Woman argue about what to do with Despero, who recently destroyed the Justice League Watchtower. Pandora approaches them and presents Superman with her infamous box. She says that Superman is the purest of heart and can help her recapture the Seven Sins that she unwittingly freed.

At the headquarters of the Justice League of America in Washington, D.C., Amanda Waller is blackmailing Dr. Light to join the team in order to take out Firestorm. At the remains of the Justice League Watchtower in Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, the rest of the Justice League are searching the remains of the satellite for any salvageable items and to figure out how Despero got past the security systems. Cyborg is upset with Batman for not telling anyone he had a kryptonite ring until it got stolen. Element Woman and Firestorm are impressed that the female Atom took down Despero, but she doesn't tell them Martian Manhunter really did it because he asked her not to tell. Atom then finds a chess set with figures shaped like the Justice League members, but the Superman piece is missing.

Speaking of Superman, he has now taken hold of Pandora's box, but instead of capturing the Sins, he gained a third eye on his forehead and attacked Pandora and Wonder Woman in a rampage. Pandora is able to shoot the box from his hand and he quickly returns to normal. Batman then calls them and tells them that Shazam has arrived in Kahndaq and doesn't seem to realize he's attracted the whole Kahndaqi army. Americans aren't allowed in that country, so the League decides to pull Shazam out. And since Shazam is magical-based, Superman decides to bring Zatanna with them.

The Justice League of America also heard about Shazam entering Kahndaq, so Waller decided now is the best time to take down the Justice League. For the first time, the members of the JLA learn who they are supposed to fight, and Vibe seems especially worried that he's supposed to take down the Flash. He asks Hawkman if he'd like to trade for Aquaman, but Hawkman refuses.

In Kahndaq, Shazam is attacked by the army before he can spread Black Adam's ashes. Before he can retaliate, he's hit by Superman. The two heavy hitters duke it out for a little bit before they're joined by the Justice League. They ask Shazam what he's doing in here, but before he can answer, the Justice League of America arrives.


Everybody starts to argue for a bit and Atom tells Element Woman that she's been working with the JLA. Xanadu sees that Pandora is taking her box to someone else, while the Phantom Stranger has decided to become involved, and the Question is trying to figure out who is the evil behind the evil. He has a big board of clues set up, with everything leading to Superman. Dr. Light tries to prevent any escalation by telling a passionate story about his wife, but then his powers go haywire when he approaches Superman. Dr. Light accidentally attacks Wonder Woman, and Superman grabs Dr. Light and kills him with his heat vision.

Madame Xanadu's client then reveals herself as Plastique. She was sent by the Secret Society to capture Xanadu and prevent her from warning anybody about the future. Everyone in Kahndaq begins fighting, while the Outsider watches from afar with an evil grin.

The Good:

Epic storyline. I have an interesting love-hate relationship with Geoff Johns. Sometimes I love his stuff, sometimes it bugs the crap out of me, but almost always, I am compelled to read his stories. And that's usually because he gets to write these big, massive events that involve just about everyone imaginable, and are essential reading for any DC fan. Simply put, if you want to know what's going on in DC, you have to read this issue, whether you like it or not. And I think that's the first time I've been able to say that about an issue in the New 52. DC built up the Trinity War for a long time, including a big preview on Free Comic Book Day 2012. So we had more than a year of excitement preceding this issue. It may or may not have been overhyped, but regardless, this is something that everybody needs to check out.

The art. I'm not a huge fan of Ivan Reis, but he was the perfect choice for this story. What really won me over in this issue, was seeing how much Reis' Billy Batson and Shazam looked like Gary Frank's. And Reis draws enough like Jim Lee to keep his fans interested, as well. But in addition to blending Frank's and Lee's styles, Reis is really good at managing scenes with dozens of characters. He's had a lot of experience in this area, and it pays off. Everybody looks good and everybody's doing something interesting.

The Bad:

Superman's "murder." This is one of my biggest complaints with Johns: He doesn't let the reader live in any doubt or suspicion. In Blackest Night, Johns spent a lot of time building up to the revival of Batman. When that moment finally happened, Reis drew a massive, two-page vertical spread to show the shock and horror of a zombie Batman. But then Johns immediately got rid of him and carefully explained to everybody that he wasn't the real Bruce Wayne, effectively killing any impact of that moment. In this issue, he did the exact same thing with Superman killing Dr. Light. Instead of letting us think for even a moment that Superman intentionally committed murder, we get a bunch of quotes from people explaining that Superman wasn't in control of his actions. Superman first says, "N-no … I didn't mean to … what have I done?" Then Xanadu says, "Superman did not do this!" Then Question says, "Who is trying to impute the man of steel?" Then the Outsider says, "Thanks to me, everyone will believe that Superman's killed Doctor Light." Couldn't all that have waited one issue? Couldn't we have spent one week in shock and disbelief that Superman killed somebody? But even if we didn't have all those quotes, we would've presumed Superman's innocence because of Pandora's box. And how are we supposed to feel bad for Dr. Light when we weren't given any time to get to know him. I don't care about him, I don't care about his daughters, and I sure as heck don't care about the morality lessons his wife taught him.

Now Flash didn't get to do much here, but I know it's tough to balance a cast of roughly 30 characters. With so many people around, most of them aren't going to do or say anything. But at least we did get a nice moment with Vibe thinking Aquaman would be easier to fight than Flash. And considering they're out in the desert, there might be some truth to that.

Final score: 6 out of 10

Next time: Trinity War Chapter Two in Justice League of America #6

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Flash #24


"Reverse"

Story by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Art by Francis Manapul
Colors by Brian Buccellato
Letterer - Taylor Esposito
Associate Editor - Harvey Richards
Editor - Wil Moss
Senior Editor - Brian Cunningham

I like this cover by Manapul and Buccellato, but I must confess: I don't love it. It's just very … purple. And as much as I love seeing images relating to their origins in the background, I think this cover would have been strengthened had those images been clearer. But then again, this cover had to be out for the solicits long before the Reverse-Flash was identified, so I guess a certain degree of obscurity was required.

Picking up right where we left off last issue, the Reverse-Flash has drained a lot of the Flash's powers to take them back in time 15 years. Daniel West is finally exacting his revenge by killing his father, but he didn't count on the 8-year-old version of himself with a 12-year-old Iris witnessing the murder.


The depowered Flash is helpless to stop Daniel from killing his dad and lashing out at everybody in the room. Reverse-Flash then starts to grow and mutate, and Flash realizes that Daniel has caused more trauma to himself then his dad ever did, which is altering time and causing the transformation. It's only when Iris calls him a monster that Daniel ends his rampage and begins to calm down. Flash tells him that going back in time only creates more problems. Instead, we have to learn to deal with the bad things in our past to grow stronger and keep moving forward.

Getting slowed down gave the Flash the chance to think things through. And although he doesn't entirely understand how, he is able to drain Daniel's powers and allow the Speed Force to move time forward and "right the ship." In no time at all, Flash and Daniel are back in the Salt Flats with Iris. Flash tells Daniel that he hit the reset button and his father is still alive. Iris begs Daniel to tell her he didn't kill Albert, Marissa and Gomez, but he confesses to the murders and says he'll do it all again once he gets the chance. Dr. Elias then pulls his gun on the Flash and yells at him for causing more damage with his powers. But Flash simply knocks him out, tells him to shut up, and destroys his gun, saying, the Speed Force is his responsibility, not Elias'.

We then head over to the Central City Dining Hall, which is host to the 40th anniversary party of Mr. and Mrs. Spivot. Patty is dancing with her dad when Barry shows up in a red bow tie, apologizing for being late. Patty's dad is happy to finally meet Barry, and he leaves the two of them to share a romantic dance. Barry tells her there's no more Speed Force killer, and she tells him to set the superhero stuff aside for the evening. As the two lovers dance late into the night, Barry is reminded he needs to find the balance between his two lives and occasionally slow down to appreciate moments like this.

Dr. Darwin Elias then returns to his lab, which seems to be in a constant state of disrepair. Flash pays him a visit to say he's very lucky that Iris didn't die, and he leaves with a final warning: "Stay out of my way."

Iris visits Daniel at Iron Heights Prison, and he asks her to use her powers to free him. But she reminds him that she lost her powers when he shot her with Elias' gun. She asks him why he did what he did, and he says he only wanted to give the two of them a pain-free childhood. Iris explains that she is who she is because of her past, and she wouldn't ever want to change that. She says that her real brother died years ago, and walks away. But as a security guard passes Daniel's cell, his watch goes backwards a couple minutes.

We cut back to Barry, who is having a hard time sleeping. He considers going back in time to save his mom, but he realizes he couldn't do that without risking his present with Patty. He realizes that he can't change the past, but he can change the present. Even though he had Patty hide the case file of his mother's murder, Barry decides to find it and reopen it. Not to dwell on the past, but to fight for his dad's future.

The next morning, Patty wakes up to a news report of a damaged fighter jet falling out of the sky, and Nora Allen's case files spread across the floor. As Flash races to save the jet, he repeats his mother's words: "If your'e not moving, your'e not living." He renews his vow to run for everybody. And no matter what happened in the past, or what will happen in the future, he will always keep trying.


The Good:

The End. Well, this is not technically the end of the Manapul-Buccellato run, but for all intents and purposes it is. This last image of the Flash they give us might be the last time Manapul draws the Flash, and it is a beautiful reminder of The Flash #1. Manapul and Buccellato also did a great job of wrapping up their story and setting things up for the next creative team. Barry has been through a lot in the past two years, and now he's primed and ready to jump into some more adventures. He now lives with Patty; he still wants to solve his mom's murder; and he has plenty of new and upgraded villains to keep him occupied.

The story. To truly appreciate this issue, you need to read at least all six parts of the Reverse storyline, and preferably the entire Manapul and Buccellato run. Almost everything got wrapped up nice and neatly, yet nothing was closed off entirely. The Reverse-Flash can and will return when the time is right. And who's to say that Dr. Elias is done trying to kill the Flash? This last issue was the perfect denouement for this run. After so much wild running around and fighting, it was nice and necessary to calm things down, take a deep breath, and prepare for the future.

Emotional resolution. If you wanted this fight to end with a big slugfest, then you'd be disappointed with this issue. But I'll point out that issue #23 had more than enough fighting for this story, and by the time we got here, the only way to stop the Reverse-Flash was to appeal to his emotions. Daniel West has now lost all sense of reason, but when he sees his sister in distress, he'll listen. This wasn't exactly the way I expected this to end, but it made sense. And for anyone who might be mad that the Flash didn't know how he saved the day, I'll just remind them that this is entirely consistent with the New 52 Flash. He has never fully understood his powers. Dr. Elias told him one thing, Turbine told him another, and the gorillas said a third thing. All of these theories about the Flash's powers don't necessarily contradict each other, and they add a healthy dose of ambiguity to give future writers some wiggle room. I like that there's an amount of the unknown and unexplainable with the Flash, but I can understand why someone won't like that.

Nice romance. Barry's relationship with Patty has been through a lot, and at several points, I thought it would end. Even heading into this issue, I wouldn't have been surprised had Barry missed the anniversary party and that led to a breakup. Of course, Patty might be mad at Barry for reopening his mom's case, but I now think this relationship is too strong to fall apart over something like that. And as much as I love Iris, I don't want her to break up Barry and Patty just because "that's the way it's supposed to be." If and when Iris gets together with Barry, we're going to need a pretty darn good reason.

The art. Is there anybody else who draws in such a fun, innovative style? If there is, please let me know. In the meantime, I'm going to keep telling everybody that Francis Manapul is the best artist in comics right now, and every issue he works on is worth picking up just for the art. I am really going to miss him drawing the Flash, but I have two years' worth of back issues that I can and will continue to re-read over and over again.

The Bad:

I did notice that Patty's parents were now celebrating their 40th anniversary when we were previously told it was their 30th. Perhaps they became 10 years older as a side effect of this story's time traveling. Or it was probably just a boring and innocent typo. I also am very sad that Turbine wasn't mentioned here, either, but I'm holding out hope that Buccellato will get around to him with his final three Flash issues.

Final score: 10 out of 10

Next time: Now that the Flash has finally ended the threat of the Speed Force killer, he can rejoin the Justice League, which is headed into the Trinity War in Justice League #22.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Flash #23.2/Reverse-Flash #1


"Reverse-Flash"

Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato Writers
Scott Hepburn Artist
Brian Buccellato Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual Letterer
Harvey Richards Associate Editor
Wil Moss Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor

Sadly, Manapul did not draw this issue like he was originally solicited to. However, he did still draw the cover, which Buccellato colored, and I think it is incredibly awesome. For those who may not be aware, in September 2013, DC decided to let the villains "hijack" the comic books and gave them fancy 3-D covers to accompany the event. The end result was a financial success for DC, but it created a lot of annoyances for fans and retailers alike. DC didn't make enough 3-D covers, either in a brilliant scheme to increase demand or because they legitimately feared that fans would be scared away by the increase in price. Whatever the reason, DC ended up having to allocate many comics that month, and many fans were left without their pre-ordered 3-D covers. My local comic book shop said this was the first time in 20 years they were unable to get their entire order. Luckily, DC did offer all the books in a 2-D format that cost the usual $2.99 instead of the inflated $3.99. I am very happy DC provided this option, since I personally did not care for the 3-D covers. I didn't like the feel or look of them, and I didn't feel the effect justified an extra dollar. I was fortunate to be able to compare the 3-D Flash #23.1 with the 2-D version side-by-side, and I just preferred the "standard" look and feel of the 2-D. But I do feel bad for those who really had their heart set on the 3-D covers and were unable to get them.

Another annoyance with this Villains Month event was the introduction of decimals to the issues' numbering. It doesn't make any sense to me. The second issue of a series is labeled #2, and the 23rd issue is #23. That way you know how many comic books comprise this series. An issue labeled #23.1 messes up this order and logic (as do the annuals and #0 issues). These Villains issues also kind of messed up the continuity for many titles. Some connected directly to the Forever Evil event, a select few (like Flash #23.2) continued the main story, and others still simply told the origin story of that featured villain. The Flash was lucky to get three Villains issues, but a handful of titles were not represented at all during September. All in all, I guess it was an OK event, but I wish DC would've handled it better by giving the books a clearer direction, and making enough of the special covers for everybody.

So enough of that, let's get on to our story, which begins two months ago at the Keystone Nursing Home. Daniel West has finally decided to go visit his father, thinking it would help him get his life in order. His mom died when he was born, and he grew up in a broken home with an overachieving big sister, Iris, and a real jerk for a father, William. When Daniel finally meets his dad, he get a cup of coffee thrown in his face. This makes Daniel become very angry very quickly, and he transforms into the Reverse-Flash to reverse time to right before the coffee hits his face. He tells his dad he could easily kill him now, but he doesn't want to since he's a broken-down old man in a wheelchair. Instead, Daniel vows to go back in time to kill William when he actually mattered, so he can stop him from ruining his relationship with Iris. William calls Daniel the monster, but he yells, "I'm what you made me!" Daniel then crushes the coffee mug in his dad's hand and leaves to get his sister back.

Three months ago, Daniel was released from prison after spending five years "for being a stupid kid." He tried to find Iris in Keystone City, but instead found himself in the middle of the gorilla invasion. He was captured by the gorillas, but then saved by the Rogues and pulled into Mirror World. But before the Rogues released all the bystanders, they demanded each person surrender all their money and valuables. Daniel didn't like the idea of being robbed, so he punched Heatwave and tried to make a getaway in a car. Captain Cold tried to stop him with a big chunk of ice, but it only acted like a ramp and sent Daniel on a collision course with Dr. Elias' monorail. Mirror Master tried to send Daniel out of Mirror World before he hit the Speed Force energy battery, but he was too late.

Daniel went flying through the Speed Force energy and Mirror World, and landed with a big crash in the Salt Flats. He eventually discovered that the Speed Force gave him the ability to reverse time, and as the monorail shards fused with his body, he was shown glimpses of others who've been touched by the Speed Force. Daniel saw these people just as fuel to give him more power to go further back in time.

Five years ago, Daniel joined an up-and-coming stickup crew, and he excitedly ran to Keystone City Community College to tell Iris all about it. He says once he pulls off this big job, she won't have to take that internship in Gotham City. Iris, however, doesn't want to hear anything about Daniel's criminal activities, and she berates him for leaving her with their father.

The next day, Daniel acted as the getaway driver for the bank heist. They'd paid off one of the guards, and everything seemed to going smoothly … until the Flash showed up for his first day of superheroing. Since Daniel had just turned 18, he was tried as an adult and spent the next five years in Iron Heights.

Eleven years ago, Daniel was a 12-year-old boy living in a suburb just outside Keystone. His dad never bought him any toys, so he learned to entertain himself other ways, like collecting crickets from behind his house. Even though their chirping was noisy, Daniel liked to keep them in a glass bowl by his bed to help him sleep. But one day, his dad came into Daniel's room in the middle of the night and killed the crickets with a scalding cup of coffee. He then topped that off by saying, "Your mother never liked crickets." Enraged, the young Daniel tried to attack his dad to no avail. But then he pushed his dad as he was heading down the stairs. William took a hard fall, and became paralyzed because of the accident. Daniel felt that Iris would never look at him the same way, so he ran away from home in his pajamas in the rain.

The last time Daniel remembers being truly happy was 15 years ago, when he was 8. William had been drinking and beating his kids, so Daniel ran away to the woods behind his house. Iris eventually found him and told him that it's not his fault their mother died. Iris says she was really sick, and they're lucky that Daniel survived. As they walk home, Iris tells Daniel that the crickets' chirping is the boys telling the girls they love them. Daniel vows to catch some crickets to show his love for his sister, and Iris vows to always protect her little brother. But when they open the door, they see a monster attacking their dad.


The Good:

The story. It was really fun and fitting to tell this story in reverse — he is the Reverse-Flash, after all. But more importantly, I liked how nicely everything fit together, starting from The Flash #0 through Gorilla Warfare. This Reverse-Flash arc is the culmination of everything Manapul and Buccellato have done on The Flash, and they reward those who have read all 23.2 issues before this … er, I mean all 25 issues (or 26 if you want to count the Grodd issue that chronologically happens after this). And one thing that really made this issue wonderful was a bit of foreshadowing from issue #17.


That is a picture of Daniel West in the Mirror World, standing right in front of the monorail's Speed Force energy battery. I knew the monorail would come into play somehow, and I knew Daniel would eventually play a major role in the story, but I didn't have these two connected until issue #23. But even though I figured out that connection, I still didn't know all the details, and it was great seeing everything unfold here.

Sympathetic origin. All year long, Manapul and Buccellato have been teasing us with Daniel West. Now we finally know everything about him, and I actually feel kind of bad for him. He had a very rough, very sad childhood, and constantly seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. His first bank robbery happened to be the Flash's first adventure. And even when Daniel was finally able to go back in time to kill his dad, he messed up by allowing his younger self witness the act. Poor guy can't catch a break. Reverse-Flash isn't just evil for evil's sake. He's a somewhat tragic figure with a very clear and direct mission. Of course, how he goes about achieving that mission is all wrong, but it's great to be able to understand where he's coming from.

Stalwart Iris. I mentioned in last issue that Iris has become one of my favorites, and this issue has only strengthened that position. She is the ideal big sister that everybody would want. But even more importantly, she shows us that even though one can have a tragic childhood, one chooses to let that tragedy make them stronger or weaker. Iris suffered just as much as Daniel did, but she made the choice to make a life for herself. She went to college, got internships, and eventually a job as a reporter. Daniel, however, allowed the tragedy to consume his life. He dedicated his life to crime and revenge, when he could have made the more difficult choice to forgive his father and become a productive member of society.

The Bad:

Scott Hepburn is not a bad artist, but it was a bit of a letdown to see that Manapul didn't draw this issue — especially since we were told that would be the case. However, Hepburn did seem to reign in his usual "cartoony" style and tried to mimic Manapul's style. Some parts were so similar, that I suspect Manapul provided some page layouts, but I don't know for certain. Buccellato's colors really did help, though, and altogether the shift of artists isn't quite as jarring as it potentially could have been.

I do have another slight complaint that I hope will be resolved before Buccellato leaves The Flash for good. And that is: Where is Turbine? He was last seen in The Flash #17, being recruited by the Rogues. He wasn't seen or mentioned at all in this issue, even though he logically should have still been in the Mirror World before they kicked everybody out. Also, Turbine was in the Speed Force for 70 years. Wouldn't he be somebody Daniel would want to pay a visit? The lack of Turbine doesn't make this issue any less enjoyable, but it does start to form a dark cloud of worry for me over the whole Manapul-Buccellato run. Did these great writers let one of their original characters slip through the cracks? I hope not. I hope Buccellato will tell us what happened to Turbine in either The Flash or Rogues Rebellion. We'll just have to wait and see.

Final score: 8 out of 10

Next time: The Reverse storyline concludes in The Flash #24