The strength of The New 52’s “The Flash” continues to be the art, despite this issue not being executed by its usual artistic team. Guest penciller Marcus To has smooth panel-to-panel transitions in “The Flash” #10 with dynamic camera angles and characters with distinctive facial features. No gorillas this time, but the disheveled chickens in the storm as Flash barrels through town are great, understated humor. Ray McCarthy’s inks gently preserve the fine detail of To’s pencils but also add plenty of depth with cross-hatching and ink-filled shadows. Colorists Buccellato and Herring keep hues quiet and pastel for background shots but bold for action scenes.
Unfortunately, the writing by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato continues to be uneven, but has a well-written mystery aspect during this issue. A character is killed right past the first page and the revelation of the killer’s identity and resolution of family conflict has effective pacing and suspense. While Manapul and Buccellato’s dialogue sounds natural, their use of text boxes is clunky. There are so many text boxes and at one point during the issue, it becomes too much telling with not enough showing.
The lack of plotting also fails to advance characterization. For example, at the end of the issue, Flash works up to ‘fessing up about his identity to Patty, but after she speaks up first about missing Barry, he clams up and claims to himself that “she needs Barry to stay dead.” My reaction: “No. What? Really? Really?” Noble idiocy is a plot device that’s a soap opera staple. It’s when a major character keeps crucial knowledge secret from another character “for their own good,” but the secret is always eventually revealed resulting in much drama.
Usually employed for deathbed scenarios, terminal disease or birth secrets, noble idiocy is even dumber than usual in “The Flash” #10, because the excuse that it would be better to protect Patty from her own emotions is thin. Noble idiocy is questionable even when the person kept in ignorance is a child or in fragile health. Patty is neither, nor is she mentally unstable. She is an intelligent and sensible adult, someone that Barry respects. It follows that she should be allowed agency to make an informed choice rather than being protected or patronized, however lovingly.
The only reason that this scene has any emotional resonance among all the cliches can be credited to the excellent facial expressions courtesy of the art team. The panel of The Flash’s face as he listens to Patty’s pain eloquently conveys dismay, shame and acceptance. It’s too bad, then, that the writing is less subtle than the art.