By: Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato (writers and artists)

The Story: An apple a day keeps the robbers away.

The Review: It’s not shocking why there’s so much buzz surrounding this title.  On a purely visual level, practically everyone and his mother agrees The Flash is a stunner, if nothing else.  The artistic approaches Manapul and Buccellato have taken to storytelling may not earn them the same prestige as Will Eisner, but clearly, they walk in his steps.  Eisner, however, was a skilled and subtle writer in addition to his artistic boldness; it’s uncertain if we’ll get the same here.

No matter how you cut it, Manapul-Buccellato are still pretty new to this writing business, and it shows in little ways.  With Barry’s narration, they seem to follow the short, staccato school of dialogue, meaning strings of lines that like, “I can see everything before it happens.  I can weigh every possibly outcome.  I can make the right choice.  And I can do something about it.  Before anyone even notices.”  It’s a very specific rhythm, one that occasionally jars rather than flows.

But on the whole, the creative team does a more than passable job in delivering an engaging read.  Each character has a distinct voice, down to even the fringes of the supporting cast, like the ever helpful Dr. Elias, the Flash’s go-to science guy (everyone needs one!): “Progressive science is always skating the line of absurdity.”  At this point, no one really ventures beyond the realm of simply credible, but at least they never sound awkward or ridiculous, a feat in itself.

Barry remains a bit impenetrable as a character, mostly due to his reserved nature.  In a strange twist, the fastest man alive spends most of his time reacting to the people and events around him than taking charge, but he does so in such a measured way that you never really get a handle on his personality.  At the same time, he always exudes just a hint of a smile, of someone delighted with a secret no one else knows, and that forms a large part of his charm.

He definitely has reason to smile now, considering the latest updates to his power sets.  Flash’s physical speed sets the bar for all speedsters, but the effect his powers have on his mental faculties hasn’t really been explored.  Geoff Johns played that direction a bit with Kid Flash in Teen Titans, but here Manapul-Buccellato study the possibilities with passion.

And if Barry’s split-second, meticulously fine-tuned manipulation of his environment in a street scene involving a couple robbers, a pile of apples, a tow truck, and a twenty-dollar bill is any indication, we have a lot of exciting, intricate action sequences to look forward to.  A word of warning, though: the results of Barry’s faster processing abilities may be fun and games, but we still need to figure out how and why he’s able to activate so suddenly in the first place.

There’s almost no point in discussing the art, considering the near-universal admiration it’s gotten from readers everywhere.  That said, a couple flaws do pop up, like the often, slightly too pale wash of Buccellato’s colors, or the multitude of little square panels that accompanies Barry’s “Flash thoughts.”  While they definitely communicate the breakneck speed of his thinking, they also get cumbersome and somewhat confusing.

Conclusion: An enjoyable, pleasant read while the creative team lays down the story threads they’ll weave together later on.  Given time and experience, this title may turn out to be one for the history books.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Forrest gets a pretty good line at the end of the issue when, after Patty finds some documents related to a cloning project, the entire city blacks out: “You sure they were de-classified…?”

– I think it’s appropriate to flame the shipping wars early.  Team Patty or Team Iris?

– Generous guy, that Barry.  Sacrifices twenty bucks of his own money to save the life of some poor pedestrian too electronically distracted to notice the car flying towards his face.