Art and Story by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato got a job I simply did not envy. They had to take over writing the new Barry Allen Flash book with absolutely everything going against them. First, they were losing top selling writer Geoff Johns, the only man to handle Barry really since his return from the dead. Next, they were doing away with his long term marriage with Iris West and, along with that, the very existence of fan-favorite character, the one Barry is replacing as Flash, Wally West. Finally, with the huge Flash event done, there isn’t an overarching event or story for fans to latch on to. Sales were going to be potentially rough without an excellent first issue, and fan reaction was going to be worse. Well, it took this creative duo exactly one issue to set fears at ease – make no mistake, this is a top tier title.
The plot of this isn’t something I really expected from a Flash title. There’s a strong sci-fi element to what Flash facing, as there’s some genome re-writing going on and it ties in somehow to an old friend of Barry’s. The plot is, however, well-handled, allowing everything the issue needs to get by. There’s a solid mystery with a reason to care about the result to keep readers hooked, great action, and enough space to introduce much of the supporting cast.
And all of this is held together by a very likable, adult protagonist. Barry is, as always, a police scientist, with an interest in all forms of science and a complicated love life. In this issue, he’s attending a scientific exhibit with a date, where, of course, villains burst in to rob the place. Flash attempts to stop them, uncovers a mystery, is hounded by Iris West for information to use in her article, works on the mystery at work, and then has a break fall into his lap with a twist. Luckily, while each of these scenes moves the plot forward, they also introduce an important member of his supporting cast, from romantic interests like the aforementioned Iris and Patty to his friends at work.
Barry is, simply, a fully realized human being with a fully realized life, and, for the first time since his return, doesn’t seem to be entirely incapable of handling human emotion. His return focused on him being emo about being alive, of all things, and his series that launched out of that was all about the angst he suffered over the fate of each parent. He went so far as to cause Flashpoint in anger and pain over the death of his mother so many years back. This Barry doesn’t do that. Even when an old-friend is threatened, he isn’t complaining or whining about it, but instead looks for a solution and goes about his normal life while he does so. It’s a strikingly likable trait in a superhero iin the modern era that he’s able and willing to behave in this manner and makes me like the book all the more.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the absolute best part of the book, and, yes, I was saving it for last. The art here is fantastic. It’s so good it gives JH Williams III a run for his work on Batwoman. It’s so good it gives everyone working in comics today a run for their money. From innovative and fantastically fresh panel layouts to amazing lightning effects with the new costume to dynamic action sequences and expressive characters, this issue flat out could not be drawn better… which isn’t to say it couldn’t look better. While the art is phenomenal, the coloring, done by co-writer Buccellato, has a washed out feel that doesn’t quite convey the energy of the book as well as it might. Still, given how gorgeous this is, it’s a small complaint, and merely knocks it off a historically excellent perch. Rating? 9/10.
Tags: Brian Buccellato, DC Comics Relaunch, Flash (Barry Allen), Francis Manapul, New 52 (DC Comics), Reviews