“The Flash” #14 is, thanks to Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, one of the more beautiful comics published by DC these days. That’s an absolute given. But in terms of writing, this is a book that needs to start finding some closure and soon.
Manapul and Buccellato continue to turn out beautiful page after beautiful page. Look at the opening panels, a flashback to earlier times in east Africa. The pale blue shades of rain pouring down, the slightly obscured forms of the gorillas moving through the Virunga Mountains, the sudden burst of lightning from the sky in a streak of yellow and gold, the tight close-up on gorilla eyes. Everything is carefully constructed, from the slight reflection on those eyes to vegetation surrounding the gorillas on their trek.
Then you turn the page, and with the rain gone as we shift to the present day, everything is suddenly crisp and clear. The lightning effect crackling around both Flash and Grodd looks energetic, and I love the simple-but-effective way that they use speed lines and blurs to denote super-speed. Even something as simple as the Flash putting out a heel in front of him to skid to a halt looks great, and by the time we get to moments like the Flash’s sleeve cracking and flecking off, you’re completely drawn into the action because of how good it looks on the page.
The comic becomes less effective, though, as more and more dangling plots from earlier issues continue to hang around. How long will Iris West and everyone else trapped in the Speed Force continue to hang out there? Will the mass of members from the Rogue’s Gallery keep hanging around on the fringes of the comic, kibitzing as they attack gorillas? And now, Patty’s gained a new piece of knowledge about Barry, but instead of feeling like a big moment it’s getting lost in the shuffle with everything else. It’s just a little too much, and it’s preventing “The Flash” from feeling as clear in its writing as it is with its art. This book could use some streamlining with its plotting; let’s see some of these stories wrapped up or at least given closure for now. I’m not saying that all of the villains need to be tied up and put in jail, but maybe they could step off-panel for a while, or at least until they’re in the center stage again? We’re fifteen months into “The Flash” now and the lack of finality on any plot thread is startling to make me feel as a reader that Manapul and Buccellato are spinning their wheels instead of heading somewhere concrete.
It’s a little frustrating because if you just pull out the center plot — the gorilla invasion — it’s a fun comic. But right now, I think some of the extra elements need to be put to bed. “The Flash” #14 gets a lot of points for being beautiful from start to finish, but I wish there was as much grace in the writing as there currently is in the art, too.