by Geoff Johns (writer), Francis Manapul (art), Brian Buccellato (colors), and Sal Cipriano (letters)

The Story: The Flash runs from the Renegades and begins his quest to figure out who really killed the Mirror Monarch.

What’s Good: The fun and vitality that had me raving about the first issue is still present.

This is best evidenced this month by a gag that sees Barry save everyone from a collapsing building, before rebuilding said building better than it ever was before.  This sequence is easily the highlight of the issue and it’s guaranteed to put a smile on the face of all but the most stone-hearted.  It’s ridiculous, sure, but that’s why it’s amusing, sunny comedy.  All told, this is the sort of stuff that just oozes the love Johns has for the character and it continues to be infectious.  The scene is representative of a sort of bright cheeriness and niceness that runs throughout the comic and makes it perfect for Brightest Day.

Barry’s office politics are also fairly enjoyable.  You knew he was going to butt heads with Singh and the coldness of the new department sooner or later.  The scene quickly demonstrates Barry’s dogged idealism and it was welcome, with Barry feeling appropriate out of place.  Judging from the strength of this scene, as well as Barry’s warm dynamic with Iris, the Barry Allen portions of this series are just as strong as those focusing on the Flash, despite their more mundane nature.

But despite all of the brightness, Johns also shifts gears and gives us a moment with Captain Boomerang and Captain Cold.  Despite the change in tone, the scene has a “good old fashioned” bad guy feel to it that jives well enough and ensures that the shift isn’t jarring.  There’s a sinister feel to this scene that’s surprisingly welcome and it leaves Captain Boomerang in an interesting place that I look forward to following.  The idea of his having to prove himself once again is one that’s sure to pay dividends.

Francis Manapul’s art continues to be awe-inspiring, accessible, and lovable.  He excels as well in the darkness of Iron Heights as he does in the brightness of the city, which is a good sign of diversity.  But really, I have to really tip my hat to his work on his characters’ facial expressions this month.  Barry’s determined expression is great and quickly becoming a trademark, and the look on a little girl’s face after the Flash rebuilds her building is priceless.

What’s Not So Good: Weirdly, I found myself less in love with the main plot centered around the Renegades and the murdered Mirror Master than I was with everything else surrounding it.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the main story at all, it’s just that it feels a little more familiar and a little less vibrant than the rest of the book.  It’s your standard superhero plot and doesn’t quite glow with the sort of humanity and energy that the rest of the book carries.

As a result, the opening chase scene between the Flash and the Renegades just sort of hummed along without truly amazing me.  I’m just not as interested in the Renegades or this plot as I should be.  Johns is doing so well with his depiction of Central City and its denizens that a future-based plot with future characters feels like a bit of a dilution.

It’s just an odd state when the weakest part of the issue is its central gear.

Conclusion: Still a definite recommend for anyone’s pull-list.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans