Friday, 25 November 2011

Flash #3 review

As openings go, Flash #3 has a winner. Barry zooms up into a plunging plane and vibrates it through a Central City bridge and on to the surface of the river below, saving many lives. It's not easy for him, but he manages it due to his newly activated speed-thinking. He's now able to take in all the information around him, extrapolate possibilities and choose the right course of action. Sounds neat, eh?

The plane falls due to a blackout-causing electromagnetic pulse over Central and Keystone Cities. That means a busy time for Flash both in and out of costume, as he bids to save as many people as possible from harm in his super-hero guise, and aid his police department colleagues in his civvies. Being released from the lab gives Barry and gal pal Patty Spivot a chance to search for Barry's missing friend Manuel and investigate his connection to the pack of crooked clones known as Mob Rule.

They find Manuel - well, most of him - but are spotted by the villains. Barry manages to push his friends on to the street and to safety, giving him a chance to turn on the super-speed and save the day. With speed-thinking, it should be easy.

Not so much ...

Flash #3 is another home run from writers/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato. While Barry is, rightly, the focus of the story, they make room to show how reporter Iris West, and boffin Darwin Elias, work the same case. The former is trapped inside an Iron Heights cell with Captain Cold (looking older and colder, his power internalised), but safer with him than in the corridors where prisoners run wild; the latter bumps into the teenage Trickster, a couple of mystery men, some Mob Rule goons and a tank from last week's Flash-guesting Captain Atom #3 (or so an editor's note tells us - there are tanks in there, but the connection is far from obvious). We also find out a little more about the plausibly sounding mad science behind Manuel's one-man army. Let's just say: oink.

It's a packed issue, typically good-looking with artwork that demands to be 'read' at least as closely as the words on the page - especially in the shocking climax which shows that Barry's newest ability isn't quite the boon it seems.

We hear about Barry's other super-speed tricks in the opening sequence, a smooth-running blend of script and art that helps us get to know the speedster better. The writers have found an appealing voice for Barry, something he's not had in a long time.

The one tiny bump in the visuals is the opening graphic, which lays the hero's name into the cabin of the jet. There's not enough room for a full wingspan, and so much going on - a visual of passengers and crew, the super-size logo treatment, colour blocking - that it's not terribly apparent that we're looking at a plane. But I love that Manapul and Buccellato are striving to give their book a unique visual identity, the foreground figure of the Flash is stunning and they've slipped in a freehand version of the Seventies DC Comics cover font, tickling my nostalgia noodles.
And as implied, the other 19 pages are pretty darn great, with Manapul's illustrations and Buccellato's tones pulling us into the story, emphasising the most relevant information ... and sometimes just giving us a fantastic visual, such as Barry and Patty playing mounties on the streets of Central City, or Flash running across two pages. Every character is distinctive, every scene has its own flavour.

There are lots of great DC New 52 books, but none so successfully rethink how super-hero script and art can blend for the better. The experimentation makes for a ridiculously fresh reading experience. Buccellato and Manapul are going to win readers and awards alike with this series, and they deserve them all.

8 comments:

  1. This book and Batwoman are the two mainstream superhero books in the New52 that best exemplify the spirit of something that's actually New.

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  2. I reckon so - but I like Barry more at the moment, as Kate Kane makes poor cousin Bette dress like a boilerman.

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  3. I met Francis Manapul back in Feruary in New Orleans at a two day convention. I asked why the Flash was only getting twelve issues. He said that it had completed its run. Har har, I laughed at his joke, but you don't just pull Barry Allen out of limbo to cast him away after twelve issues. What's next for him, I asked as a curious fanboy should. He told me that he wasn't at liberty to say. Is he gone forever, I prodded further. He repeated himself. Irritating. So, I paid him a hundred dollars for a black and white watercolor of Superboy and Krypto and forgot about the whole thing. Then along came the editorial surgery and I had my answer. The Flash is back and my initial disgust with the wholesale dumping of DC's mighty history and convoluted continuity gave way to something an aging fanboy can really appreciate. A better personal economy. Sadly, for me, Superman is dead and gone. The JLA and JSA are history. Jonah Hex has become some kind of thug for hire (I know..But there's a difference) and only Flash and Green Lantern seem to have stayed the course, in spite of some minor changes in costume and plot. I can't countenance that thing called Action Comics, cut down before that mythical number one thousand could be reached. Just when Paul Cornell had pulled me back, the new DC direction chases me away. Over all, I hate the new stuff. Something like The Flash, though, with an artist/writer (which I usually detest) with such a splendid design sense deserves a look in until they hand it off to Rob Liefeld to destroy.
    And, damn!, but you should have seen how fast the lad could paint.

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  4. I'll have to pick up the first three issues of this -- I'd been avoiding it because, quite frankly, I was exhausted by Flash-Cancellation Syndrome, caused by all the short-lived Flash books of the last five years.

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  5. I would love to read this. Everybody has been saying it's damn good. However, in the ever confusing adventures of my local bookstore, they don't have it this week, even though they got their comic book orders in on Wedsenday. So, they got last week's issues instead of this week's and even more confusing, they were missing their copies of Batman and Wonder Woman #3. Argh!

    But back on the topic, good review and I hope to actually read this by next week.

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  6. Hi Claude, thanks so much for the con story ... you must indeed have been chuffed to see this comic apppear. It seems Manapul and Buccellato are fired up for a long run and I couldn't be happier.

    (Well, they could give me a Wally series ...)

    I'm hoping that the announced JSA series will be wonderfully classic,a proper pre-Crisis Earth 2 book (just call me Nura Nal).

    Jonathan, I'm not surprised by your weariness. WHisper it, but I think DC have finally got a Flash series with (excuse me) legs.

    Info Geek, it's time for mail order or digital ...

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  7. I concur, but I don't have to put up with this much longer. I have preordered all of my comics (the comic shop in my town only gets books if you preorder them 2 months in advance) and starting in Januray, I'll now actually get them all on time. So, I just deal with December and I'm all free.

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  8. While I second a Wally series this book is my favourite of the new DC. It's just such a great read on every level, it reminds you why you love this damn medium in the first place.

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