Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Flash #23.2/Reverse-Flash #1


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

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