Six issues into “The Flash,” I almost hate to admit I’m primarily reading the book because of the art. It’s not quite as bad as it sounds, though; Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato’s collaboration on the visuals has been consistently wonderful.
Manapul’s having a lot of fun playing with the form of his art. Sometimes it’s something as simple as a Will Eisner homage of the title of the book embedded into the backgrounds, like “DC Comics Proudly Presents The Flash” formed by two of the pillars of ice holding up the ships — or perhaps it’s using the “Kkkkrrrraaak” sound effect’s letters as individual panels. Even something as familiar as the Flash smashing a sheet of ice, resulting in the remaining panels of the page turning into rough-hewn floes all splintering away from that first panel looks great.
It’s not all just cleverness on Manapul’s part. We’re still getting carefully drawn human figures, a strong sense of motion and a good progression of action from one panel to the next. Buccellato’s colors work well too, running the gamut from what looks like watercolors painted onto a page to computer-coloring effects in the form of the lightning crackling around the Flash’s body as he uses his power. Manapul and Buccellato have always been great collaborators and “The Flash” #6 is no exception to that rule.
As for the writing, it accomplishes its job. Manapul and Buccellato are playing a bit with form here; starting in the “present,” then jumping back one day to show how the Flash got into the battle with Captain Cold, before eventually catching back up and moving beyond that initial point. This issue doesn’t feel like it’s got a great hook, though; it’s a nice enough story and it gives Manapul the excuse needed to have fun drawing a lot of ice, but it’s not going to grab the reader and have them thinking about it for the next month until “The Flash” #7. Even the new gimmick of the Flash trying to avoid using his full power levels lest it start destroying the universe already feels a little tired, having gotten invoked already in this issue. Assuming the concept’s going to be a long-term plot point, testing it this quickly feels like it should’ve been held in reserve for a bit.
“The Flash” #6 is a nice enough comic with a fun little story — but when you go back and re-read it, it’ll almost certainly be to gaze at Manapul and Buccellato’s art. You know what? That’s more than reasonable. Art this nice deserves to be admired.