The latest issue of The Flash kicks off a story arc featuring the newly designed Captain Cold. New looks aside, there is solid storytelling and world building that continue to make this series a must-buy.
The flashback near the beginning of the story is powerful, giving a glimpse of both the past and the future. A young boy running around with a Flash shirt can’t help but be taken for a reference to Wally West, and the girl has a gun that looks a lot like Captain Cold’s old gun.
But the nostalgia only lasts for two panels. This issue introduces plenty of new elements into Flash’s corner of the DC universe, starting with a nice explanation of what his earpieces actually do. Flash’s costume has previously lit up when he’s running, but here the color of the lightning actually changes in a way that matters to the story. Dynamic costume design is underutilized, so it’s nice to see it here.
The key to any good romantic story is the proper level of awkwardness. Too awkward and the reader feels like a creep. Not awkward enough and the story is boring. Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, besides doing all the art for this story, have nailed exactly the proper tone for the love triangle between Barry, Patty and Iris.
Captain Cold’s new powers make the matchup entirely more believable. Any villain that Flash faces is going to have a tough job feeling threatening, especially when by all rights Flash should end every fight before the villain even knows he’s there. Giving Captain Cold exactly the power set he needs to make it a fight against Flash is reinvigorating the classic battle.
There is one thing that is a bit confusing. If Captain Cold’s powers cause Flash to slow down, why should his energy output still increase to overloading levels? Perhaps the speed force energy is distinct from actual kinetic energy. It should be considered a merit that the story even raises these kinds of questions, but it would be nice to have this explained a bit further in the next issue.
The layouts are carefully chosen. Readers will quickly notice the oddly designed panels during the action sequences, but they might not realize that they only appear during the most exciting scenes. Panels with simple conversation stick to the grid. Matching panel designs to the tone of each scene helps every moment be that much more resonant.
This is just a plain good comic. Manapul and Buccellato have something really great going here.