Quietly, in its own little corner of the New DCU, The Flash is carving a niche for itself that definitely puts in on par with the best books to come out of the relaunch. Guided by the steady hands of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, Barry Allen’s story is not just a continuation of his old continuity. It is a revitalized look at one of the most underrated heroes in comics today.
This is the big finale for the initial arc in Manapul and Buccellato’s run. Barry’s friend Manuel Lago has surrendered himself to Mob Rule in an effort to correct their defective genetic code and keep them all from dropping dead. Meanwhile, Barry is trying to rescue citizens from a bridge, Manuel from Mob Rule and Iris West from Iron Heights prison. Ultimately, as we’ve come to expect from superhero comics, the Flash comes out on top in the end but the sacrifices made to save Manuel will definitely have reverberating consequences as the book continues. The Iron Heights scenes set up the next bid bad for Barry, the new and improved Captain Cold. And Manapul and Buccellato add another wrinkle to the super speedster’s power set. Not only do his Speed Force enhanced thought processes have the potential to kill him, simply approaching the speed of light tears at the very fabric of time and space.
That’s how you end an arc. But it’s also how you keep readers into a book that the average comic book fan probably wrote off from the get go. This introductory arc features effective storytelling that not only brings new readers up to speed but introduces new concepts to readers that thought they had seen it all.
Artistically, it’s hard not to gush over every page. Manapul’s clean line work is exactly what’s needed for a book that relies so heavily on motion. Actions are fluid and seamless, details aren’t glossed over or blurred and minute changes in expressions are captured with a consistency that really makes this book a joy to read. Buccellato is no slouch either. His coloring adds an incredible sense of tone and depth that makes this art almost jump off the pages. It’s always very easy to argue with someone that comics are art when an artist decides to do something slightly outside of the traditional comic book standards (i.e. painted interiors). But Manapul and Buccellato are proving with each and every issue of The Flash that you can work within the bounds of pencils, inks and colors to create something absolutely stunning.
This has truly been a sleeper of the New 52. It hasn’t gotten the critical acclaim of stuff like Animal Man or Swamp Thing. It doesn’t have the mainstream appeal of Batman or Green Lantern. But The Flash may have repercussions that affect all those books from the looks of where everything is going or it could be content in its own little corner tackling the everyday problems of our favorite Scarlet Speedster and the science fiction he faces down on a daily basis. If it’s all this good, either way is fine with me.