By: Geoff Johns (writer), Francis Manapul (artist), Brian Buccellato (colorist)

The Story: Nothing like staring yourself in the face and realizing he has a way cooler outfit and ride than you.

The Review: Big events can make for fun comics, but they definitely have their downsides too.  One that comes to mind is all the prep-work that has to be lain down before the event can take place.  It’d be one thing if you didn’t know what’d coming down the line, but with all the promo pushes that inevitably accompany big events nowadays, you actually have the luxury of knowing what’s happening to the characters before they do.

As soon as Hot Pursuit (iffy name, by the way) reveals his true identity to the Flash, you already know he’s just the first in what’s likely to be a long stream of Flashpoint visitors.  He basically shows up to tell Barry about an impending, reality-bending disaster to his world, but to not get involved.  The warning is just a “courtesy,” he says, but we all know the scene takes place for our benefit; just a friendly reminder that Flashpoint is indeed coming soon.

Still, it’s a fun taste of the alternate universe nonsense that’s about to infect the entire DCU, which I have to admit is the kind of thing I love.  It’s completely corny, but it’s fun to sit back and enjoy whatever zany ideas Johns’ imagination can come up with, like Hot Pursuit with his Speed Force-channeling Cosmic Motorcycle and his hologram-projector/scanner nightstick.  Sure, it won’t win awards for thought-provoking sci-fi, but good golly, it entertains.

Besides the threat of an oncoming “timestorm,” Barry already has a lot of drama going on in his life.  Kid Flash’s appearance on the scene comes a bit randomly, but Johns writes his exuberant personality so well (“I came back to this era because the future is lame.”), you have to hope he’ll pop up often.  And it seems he will, as Bart needles Barry about why he’s been avoiding him, a new wrinkle in the Flash’s personal life that hopefully pans out without too much angst.

Then there’s the ongoing drama in Barry’s work life, as his newest case involves a youth-stealing criminal.  The case heralds the return of one Patty Spivot, who accompanies him to investigate the latest victim though she insists she’s done with the CSI life.  Also present are Barry’s colleagues, Forrest and Director Singh, and the four’s interaction at the crime scene feels both professional and intimate, which you have to give kudos to Johns for.  A lot of superhero writers say they want to flesh out their characters’ civilian lives, but Barry’s out-of-costume work is the most convincing I’ve seen, aside from Clark Kent’s at the Daily Planet—which, interestingly enough, Johns also spent a lot of time playing with when he wrote the Superman titles.

Manapul has really grown on this title.  He strikes a great balance using his angular, kinetic style while at the same time giving his lines just enough depth to produce evocative expressions from the characters and details in the backgrounds.  And no one beats him at cool character designs—not only is Hot Pursuit’s bike one of the slickest looking vehicles I’ve seen in comics, but only Manapul can sell red and blue police lights as shoulder adornments.  Buccallato’s strong colors really help make Manapul’s figures look that much more substantial.

Conclusion: A fun read that brings all the qualities that make enjoyable, if not exactly genre-busting, comics.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – For a while Bart’s been going with a more conservative hairdo, but this issue sees traces of his old Impulse shag come back.  I don’t mind it. It’s old-school.