There's a new speedster in town, but this one doesn't run, he rides a motorcycle. A decidedly futuristic, demonic-looking motorcycle that shatters the peace of the Central City evening. You might think this would bring Barry Allen running, but we don't catch up with him until next morning - the previous night he was fighting Gorilla Grodd. Sent to check out an unexplained death, Barry finds a man in his nineties in a suit resembling one the late Ralph Dibny - Elongated Man - once wore.
Meanwhile, wife Iris is in the park with nephew Wally West, his other half Linda, their kids Jai and Irey, grandson Bart and friends Jay and Joan Garrick - that's three Flashes and loved ones. They were expecting Barry to join them for a picnic, but he's using the new case as an excuse not to show his face. He's been feeling awkward around family of late.
Tests reveal that the corpse is the Elongated ... Kid, sixteen-year-old Ethan Kramer, perhaps aged by a reaction to stretching serum Gingold. Barry calls his old lab partner Patty Spivot, the best blood analyst he knows, now based in Wally's old Midwest home of Blue Valley after tiring of big city crime. But she's not answering the phone.
Barry's still pondering the mystery of the Elongated corpse when a sudden power outage heralds the arrival of the man he'll come to know as Hot Pursuit. And he's very familiar.
This is an issue to treasure. There's an intriguing mystery linked to Ralph Dibny, one of Barry's oldest friends. A cameo by Wally, Barry's successor but barely seen since his return from death. The first inkling of events that will instigate the Flashpoint crossover. And best of all, the promise of Patty Spivot!
A few pages, rather than a single gorgeous, teasing panel, of Barry battling Grodd would have been nice - the super-gorilla's been all over the DC Universe over the last few years, facing everyone but his greatest foe. Still, there's so much else going on that I shan't be be crabbitt. Especially when we're specifically told that the reason Barry is miserable is the death of his mother, something he knows is due to time being changed by Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash. As Flashpoint is all about altered realities there's reason to hope its aftermath will restore his timeline, motivating him to cheer up and giving Iris her husband back.
Geoff Johns' script hits all the right notes, setting up events for the next few issues and the massive crossover to follow, developing Barry's cop colleagues and - finally - reintroducing his fellow speedsters to the book. And the lack of Rogues is refreshing.
The artwork by Francis Manapul is a treat: the reader is at Barry's side as he examines the corpse of Elongated Kid, while the colours of Brian Buccellatto add to the crime scene's eerie aspect. There's a lovely carefree air to the park sequence, with the mood turning sombre as Iris tries to get her husband to open up about why he's distancing himself from her. And the meeting of Barry and Hot Pursuit revs up the momentum and guarantees I'll be back next issue. Despite the latter's tragic name.
The DC icons cover by Manapul and Buccellatto is attractive, if not exactly novel, but when the remit is 'iconic Flash pose' what else are artists to do?