I have to hand it to Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul: this issue of “The Flash” is my favorite one so far. I think it’s because it feels like they’ve found a way to reconcile old and new storytelling trends in comics into a single unit.
On the one hand, it’s a little old-fashioned when you look at the basic sketches of the plot. We’ve got the classic turn of events, where one of the good guys sent to stop our hero has to break ranks and explain why our hero is in trouble and how to stop it. We’ve got peril hovering over a loved one, to turn an abstract moment of villainy into a more personal one. And of course, we’ve got our hero being just that, a hero, having him save people even when it’d be more advantageous for him to run and hide.
At the same time, though, Johns adds some modern twists. There’s the specific nature of just what bad thing is going to strike Barry Allen’s loved ones if everything plays out like we’ve been told it will in the future. We’ve got the question of being proactive versus reactive as a hero, an idea that comics over the past decade or so have tried (and failed) to tackle successfully. And all the while, Johns keeps other subplots moving forward, multitasking like the best of them.
It’s a strong balance, and one that has kept me interested in “The Flash,” despite the fact that I’ve never been interested in Barry Allen as a character. Johns is putting him in a fun and interesting story, and just like back when Johns’ “The Flash” run starred Wally West, Johns is making the Rogue’s Gallery just as interesting to read about as the title character.
It doesn’t hurt that Francis Manapul’s art is gorgeous as ever, with Brian Buccellato laying colors over Manapul’s ink washes to making the book look like it was painted right onto the pages. Watching the Flash run up a building and along a helicopter’s rotor feels bursting with energy, Manapul and Buccellato being able to make static images look like they’re animated and in motion instead. It’s a fantastic look for the series, one that feels tailor-made for “The Flash.” Buccellato’s colors especially crackle here, for that matter; everything from the blue edges around Captain Boomerang’s weapons, to the bright yellow and oranges of an explosion, to the red streak of Flash against a gray-toned frozen world backdrop. I love how well these two work together, and I hope their partnership stays around for a long time to come.
It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, “The Flash” was a struggling comic that kept rotating through protagonists. I think this more than anything else goes to show that with the right creators assembled, any comic can be fun. You just need to find the right match of talent. And with that idea in mind? Johns and Manapul are “The Flash” dream team. Bring it on.