“The Flash” is one of those comics where, right now, the big attraction is the art. That’s not to say that the story isn’t worth reading. Rather, the story is currently being overshadowed by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato’s amazing visuals.
Manapul’s having a lot of fun playing with layouts here; when we get Mob Rule’s rather horrific origin, Manapul takes the gruesome idea and keeps it all off-panel… except that the panels themselves are shaped into hands and feet, with the results of torture shown in those panel borders. A two page spread finishing up the origin has a massive tree at its center, and in-between each set of branches is another panel. Even tears trickling across the floor turn into panel borders, spilling out Mob Rule’s memories amidst his sorrow.
Manapul does more than just turn out interesting layouts, though. He and Buccellato are telling their story with visuals in all sorts of manners. I like the softer, fuzzier, almost-painted look that we get for flashbacks, while present-day scenes are drawn with a crisper line. The icy blue skies for the winter funeral scenes instantly set that particular stage as well, serving as a contrast to the here and now. And when Manuel leaps forward and is tackled by members of Mob Rule and pushed through the panel borders into the white void? It’s a beautiful sequence that is both startling and exciting.
Manapul and Buccellato’s story isn’t bad, either. It’s just not at the level of their (amazing) art. Mob Rule’s origin, as mentioned before, is horrific but it’s also inventive. I suspect it’s not what anyone would have expected for the character, and it casts him in a very different light. They also do a good job with establishing Manuel’s friendship with Barry as being strong, something that I approve of. It makes this new character more interesting than he’d have otherwise been, and adds some stakes to the story. All in all, it’s a perfectly reasonable script, and leads into the conclusion around the corner.
“The Flash” is definitely worth checking out, even if only for the art. Hopefully with time the script will shift from good to excellent, but the art is already at that high level. It’s definitely one of the top-five most handsome books from DC Comics right now, and it’s a pleasure to see Manapul and Buccellato shining so strongly here.