I’m pretty new to reading “The Flash,” but so far the biggest problem I have with the title is the same one that I sometimes have with Superman, which is that it’s hard to raise the stakes within the story when a character has power that is so limitless. When you show him being able to do just about anything, how do you then bind him within the confines of a believable story? And that is what is beginning to concern me in this title, even though I find much of the execution to be excellent.
This issue establishes The Flash, exhibiting truly awesome power in the first pages, coming to the aid of some 3.5 million in need after an EMP wave has left the city essentially in the dark ages. The Flash is actually able, thanks to tapping into the Speed Force, to vibrate an entire crashing plane through a bridge, landing it (relatively) safely in the water. It’s exceptionally cool, but it makes it very hard to understand why a few pages later he’s out of The Flash costume and in a police vest, riding a horse and trying to do his “day job.” It comes off as somewhat irresponsible and illogical.
Perhaps if there was more conflict within Barry about how he’s trying to live a normal life, or more understanding of why he’s moved from superhero to police officer while the crisis around him is still ongoing, it would work better. But as is, all I could think about was how many people were killed while Barry listened patiently to his Police Captain’s speech. While the conceit is obviously supposed to be that Barry is tracking down the Mob Rule group with partner Patty’s help, it’s hard to believe, given the epic power he’s shown as The Flash, that he couldn’t just do it all better and faster if he kept the superhero uniform on.
This is of course a common problem in superhero comics, and one that requires a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader. But this story would work better if Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato were giving a little more and not asking quite so much of the reader, because in most other ways they are delivering a wonderful book. If a reader can set aside some of the head scratching logical issues, there is great drama and suspense here as well as truly epic superhero moments. And the story itself is nicely layered with an emotional and an interesting villain. Manapul and Buccellato set the stage nicely for the future of the book by laying in a quick reference to The Rogues and a prison escape.
The visuals on this title are inspired. They’re aggressively bold and risky, and they almost always pay off. Manapul has found an exceptional way of visualizing Barry’s powers as The Flash, most especially his newfound ability to tap into the Speed Force, and this aspect adds a significant amount of depth to the conceit. Since Manapul is also co-writing the title, the art and story are wonderfully cohesive. The result is nearly effortless storytelling that feels cinematic and important in ways that a superhero story should. Buccellato is a perfect colorist for Manapul, and the result of their artistic collaboration is beautiful and subtle work that feels flawlessly integrated.
Overall, this book is very close to being brilliant, but while it blows its budget on some of the epic set pieces and larger ideas, it feels like it’s cutting corners on the some of the smaller but unfortunately key storytelling elements that make a story work on the most basic of levels. This is a good comic book in its current form, but it could be great.