Robert Venditti, Van Jensen and Brett Booth’s “The Flash” #43 opens with Eobard Thawne talking through a game plan with his villainous cohorts. In red-outlined word balloons from letterer Pat Brosseau, Thawne informs his crew that they need to reveal the Flash as the threat that he is.
As he does throughout the issue, Booth chooses to use angular panels, like shards exploding around the page. It’s a fine effect for an occasional story beat and action sequence but, with so many jagged, off-kilter panels, the story becomes unnecessarily contorted during its quieter moments. Booth’s ultra-exaggerated figures are right on target in this series, as the longer, leaner exaggerated limbs inform the movement of a speedster, but nowhere is his work stronger than the brilliant splash page of the Flash running into the thick of the issue. In that splash, Booth gives readers a poster-worthy image of Flash running full-tilt. Inker Norm Rapmund uses a nice mix of ink weights and line styles in that drawing and colorists Andrew Dalhouse and Wendy Broome are up to the challenge with their transparent after-image coloring and gorgeous, Midwest-blue skies.
Rapmund’s inks are dynamic throughout, but they are especially critical to the depth of the field in the darker moments or when black-colored characters overlap one another, such as when Thawne and the Folded Man occupy the same panel in the opening scene. Rapmund’s inks prove invaluable once again when Barry tracks down his father. That scene comes closely after the opening, wherein Thawne’s cowl is down. Rapmund holds the lines nicely and follows Booth’s lead to kick up dust around Barry’s ankles, but Dalhouse’s coloring takes a moment to decipher as the moonlight tones and Booth’s tendency for similar facial features encourages the reader to use all of the clues in the story.
Barry is a consistently compassionate character throughout “Flash” #43 and the writers give him ample opportunity to prove that, but this issue is titled “Getting the Drop” for a reason. Unfortunately, between the textbook conversation between Barry and his dad and the oddball bully moment from the football coach at Wally West’s high school, this issue seems to follow a checklist. That bullying scene gives the writers a chance to have Barry stand up but it also leaps out of character, as noted by Iris. The Flash is clearly under a bit of stress, but Venditti and Jensen just mark time with the character and his supporting cast. The pacing of the issue seems a bit slow to me and more than once I felt that this story was being elongated towards a climatic confrontation in, say, seven issues or so.
With Barry trying so desperately to help his dad, “The Flash” #43 seems caught between trying to follow in the footsteps of the television show and forging new ground but doesn’t really do either. There is a lot of minor movement in this issue, nudging pieces forward for a big conflagration to come, but it never quite delivers. There’s enough in “Flash” #43 to keep the reader’s attention, but — once the back cover is closed — there really isn’t a whole lot that is going to keep the readership locked in until they open “The Flash” #44. Yes, there is a cliffhanger, but the cliff doesn’t feel that high.