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

The Story: Barry Allen finds himself assigned to a very unusual homicide case as Hot Pursuit runs amok in Central City.

What’s Good: For the second month in a row, Geoff Johns hits it out of the park on the Flash.  However, what makes it more important this time around is that while last month was a one-shot of sorts, this is a prelude to the coming months of Flash and Flashpoint.  In other words, this issue being as good as it is a very good sign for the future.

That said, I’ll admit that I’m biased.  I’m a huge, huge fan of Brian Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming’s Powers series.  The idea of homicide detectives investigating superhero murders will never stop being awesome.  This month sees Johns send Barry into just such a task.  There’s a mysteriously dead “cape,” pre-naturally aged, found dead under mysterious circumstances.  It felt like Johns had basically taken Barry Allen and thrown him into a Powers comic, and the resulting mash-up of superhero noir and classic DC comic was an absolute pleasure to read.  It’s a plot I’m really looking forward to seeing more of, as Johns sets this up perfectly as a superhero-related detective/police drama.  It’s very, very cool.

Johns also does a very good job this month of highlighting Barry’s faults as a human being.  Barry’s presented as a man tied to his job, but not in the traditional, clichéd sense.  He’s tied to his job because he’s utterly bound to doing what’s right and doing as much public good as possible.  The tension and loss that this creates in his private sphere is obvious, however.  It’s a familiar, but really effective clash that Johns puts forth, that between doing the public good and the private, with Barry seemingly unaware of the latter.  This also leads to yet more fantastic writing when it comes to the Barry/Iris dynamic, which Johns has been doing so well with.  Iris is understanding and forgiving beyond belief, but she’s also clearly aware of Barry’s failings and isn’t immune to disappointment, however patient she may be.

Art-wise, this the best looking Flash comic in months.  The reason for this has been colorist Brian Buccellatto’s major adjustments.  While Manapul’s artwork is always really awesome and likable, I’d found that Buccellatto’s colors were getting increasingly brown and muddy to the point where they were starting to mute and detract from Manapul’s great work.  This month, Buccellato completely reverses on that.  Things are lighter and crisper, augmenting Manapul and allowing him to shine.  What results is crisper, cleaner, and much more impressive.  I also have to mention that both men did really well depicting Hot Pursuit’s motorcycle in action, which was a treat to watch.

I should also mention that there’s a really brain bending twist on the last page regarding Hot Pursuit’s identity.  It makes an otherwise lame character instantly fascinating and really came out of nowhere.

What’s Not So Good: Up until that big reveal, Hot Pursuit is sort of a lame character.  In fact, from the outfit, to his dialogue, to his name (“Hot Pursuit?” Seriously?), the guy is downright cheesy.  A little cheese factor is permissible in this comic but man…”Hot Pursuit?”  Calling out to “citizens?”  That’s a bit too far into cheesecake country.  Thankfully, most of this is made up for by the reveal regarding his identity.

Conclusion: Really fun with both the Barry Allen and Flash portions delivering the goods, albeit very different goods.

Grade: A –

-Alex Evans