By: Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins (storytellers), Michael Atiyeh (colorist)

The Story: Barry, can’t you see we’re trying to stop you because you can’t stop yourself?!

The Review: Juggling two A-stories in a comic can be tricky, especially when one is the ongoing tale and the other is an invasive crossover plot.  But really, Johns should actually have an easier time of it, considering he’s the mastermind of the crossover in question.  And indeed, Flashpoint seems to be integrating pretty well into Barry’s investigation of an age-changing murderer, what with all the time-space wonkiness going on in both stories.

In contrast to Action Comics #900, where Reign of Doomsday clearly distracts from the main events of that title, it’s clear Johns is turning this series into a vehicle for introducing Flashpoint.  This has the strange effect of making the non-crossover related material out of place in its own title, although the still fairly recent drop in page count affected the long-term execution of plotlines that probably would’ve had more opportunity to float with some extra space.

The Flash’s “intervention” definitely feels like it needed more time to build itself to this drastic scene, because it comes across incredibly staged—and futile, since none of Barry’s loved ones make it clear exactly what the problem is.  Jay Garrick and Wally West spend the majority of the time waxing poetic on how much Barry means to them—more of an exercise in nostalgia than doing anything useful to address whatever Barry’s issues are.

The whole thing looks like it gets set up just because “Bart said you didn’t come to the picnic because of him.”  Besides being an utterly laughable overreaction to what should be normal for Barry, given his history of flakiness, it also makes Bart seem angsty, temperamental and high-strung.  This would work if Johns was writing just another fictional teenager, but none of those qualities fit in Bart’s current personality—which Johns kind of established.

So maybe it’s a good thing Bart’s getting the timeout from Barry’s life for a while, although it happens in an underwhelming way.  Hot Pursuit doesn’t exactly do himself a lot of credit by glomming onto Kid Flash as the crux of the timeline problem, without even considering other possible suspects.  As a cop with access to information across parallel universes, you’d think he’d be more thorough in his investigation.

Especially since the real culprit is right under their noses—or Patty Spivot’s, at any rate.  Her return to the Central City police department against her intentions feels very natural, and they definitely need her type of character (read: female) among them.  There’s also a fun intimate tension between her and Barry (call me a horrible person, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the fallout if they take their relationship to the next level).

It’s amazing how a change in art can bring down the overall quality of a comic, but Kolins sadly seems to have that effect.  Everything unlikable about his style from Justice Society of America gets display here: the stiff character poses and the overly dramatic facial expressions plays up the worst emotions of Johns’ script, and Atiyeh’s muddy colors do nothing to lighten the mood.

Conclusion: With Flashpoint on full focus, the personal stuff in Barry’s life gets much weaker treatment.  It doesn’t help the regular art team’s been exchanged for an inferior replacement.

Grade: C

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I’m not a scientist, so I’m willing to give this one a benefit of the doubt: how does Patty Spivot detect a strange electrical energy by looking through a microscope?

– I like how a bowtie is used to caption Barry’s narration—especially since he hasn’t worn a bowtie in this series in a long time.