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

The Story: The Flash goes on trial and tries to settle the score with Top.

What’s Good: I remember a little over a year ago, when I lived in the UK (Bristol to be exact), having a conversation about Geoff Johns with a Forbidden Planet staffer. He said that he enjoyed Johns’ work because, while it was rarely overly cerebral, he could always rely on Johns for “good old fashioned superhero stories.”

As this issue wraps up this Flash relaunch’s first arc, that really stuck in my head regarding this month’s installment, and this new Flash series in general, because that’s exactly what this book’s strong-point is. This issue ties everything up in a “good, old fashioned superhero story” sort of way and yet, while this means it doesn’t re-invent the wheel, in typical Johns fashion, it also doesn’t feel phoned in or uninspired. In fact, the book feels incredibly lively, exciting, and downright gleeful. It may be just your average superhero story, but that only makes Johns’ own excitement all the stronger and all the more infectious.

Breaking it down into its components, there’s a lot to like here. The action scenes are great and Johns does a really great job in making Top and Flash’s dialogue flow amidst and among the fighting, no small feat given how explosive the battle actually is. Johns also does surprisingly strong work on Top, creating a villain who believes the reasons behind his actions to be totally rational, even though those very reasons are so absolutely absurd to everyone else. Despite this, Top never comes across as exaggerated in his lunacy.

Johns also handles the whole time-traveling thing fairly well, which could’ve gone horribly awry given how much this issue is centered around changing the past. It’s all kept as simple as possible, never really leading to any big head-scratchers, while also opening the door for some light ruminating over the Renegades’ MO that works quite well. The fact that this reflection occurs in a conversation between Barry and Iris only makes it better, as the Iris/Barry dynamic has been one of the strongest, and warmest, aspects of this series.

Art-wise, it’s another awesome issue, which isn’t much of a surprise. The action scenes are a blast, the sense of speed tremendous, and the pyrotechnics are impressive. Despite all of this, Manapul still does great work on his characters’ facial expressions as well; Barry and Iris remain as likable as ever.

What’s Not So Good: The falsely imprisoned boy looks absurdly innocent and that whole case is wrapped up just a little too easily. It comes across as simplified, and even a little saccharine. It all comes out a little too easily, mostly because that whole murder, the false accused, and his mother were never fleshed out. I guess it’s all just a little too perfect and I think it’s because Johns sort of neglected this part of the story until this issue. It’s too neat, too clean, and underdeveloped. It also doesn’t help that Manapul makes the kid look like he’s 14.

I do also think that Top’s plan was a little overly convoluted, but he’s a villain in spandex, and at this point, aren’t overly convoluted plans their stock and trade? Given the tone of this book, it’s hard to hold it against the issue to any major extent. Still, it is a bit absurd.

Conclusion: The only part of this book that wasn’t fun was how long I had to wait for it to be released.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans