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

The Story: If you can’t find Multiplicity playing on cable, this is the next best thing!

The Review: Today, let’s talk about a fictional tactic I like to call the After School Special (or “ASS”, and please—let’s try to be mature about this acronym).  You know how all those kiddie movies and TV shows always seem to have a pivotal moment where the characters address the big lesson they’re meant to learn, and how annoying that gets when you’re older?  Well, it pops up pretty often in grown-up works too, where it’s equally as annoying.

ASS usually appears in one of two forms.  The first is when the characters have a confrontation, during which they self-righteously proclaim to each other the important takeaway of the story.  In this case, we have Patty wailing into Manuel for leaving Barry behind with Mob Rule.  Her ire would’ve gotten across sufficiently had Manapul-Buccellato stuck strictly to passive-aggressive remarks, like, “I don’t run away at the first sign of trouble.  I’m not a coward.”

Patty can’t leave her disgust at just that, however.  She then launches into a yelling fit which, after a while, just becomes repetitive and overly preachy: “Nobody means anything to you!  You don’t give a damn about anything but yourself.”  It’s not that she doesn’t have good reason for this outburst, but it just seems like a very blunt, overwritten way to get the point across.  I’ll leave it to you, however, to decide if it works or not.  ASS scenes can go either way.

The second form of ASS is when a character, by him or herself, stands and delivers a long speech summing up what he or she has learned about him or herself.  These bits go for less melodrama, but more of the cornball.  In #1, I called Barry out on doing this, and here he’s guilty of it again, breaking into a winding monologue about what kind of duties he intends to use his powers for.  Besides its eye-rolling smarminess, the problem with the scene is it doesn’t actually reflect a change in the character or a revelatory insight; it just reiterates what Barry already stands for: “It’s my job to protect the Gem Cities.  To protect my friends.  No matter what price I have to pay.  I won’t stop running.  I’m the Flash…this is what I do.”

More convincing, but still flawed, is the account of how Manuel got into this wanted-man status in the first place.  While most of the plot involving his clones works (including a really weird aside about how they view him more as a father than anything else), Manapul-Buccellato leave out a few crucial details on his family drama that keeps you from sympathizing with him as much as you should.  It’s unclear, for example, if Basilisk targeted Manny’s dad or if Manny’s dad was simply a tragic casualty of Basilisk’s plan—a rather important distinction to be left out.

Anyway, all this is still just exposition, and most of the important bits you easily deduced from you saw previously, so the issue doesn’t really advance all that far from where we left off.  About the only critical piece of information you get is the fact that Barry’s speed-thinking has its drawbacks, ones that could prove fatal if not for Barry’s other talent (“…the femtosecond [one quadrillionth of a second] I feel something, I will react.”).

With all this talking and narrating and exposing going on, Manapul’s art suffocates under all the word balloons.  You have little of the usual inspired sequences you’ve grown accustomed to (and dare I say, spoiled by).  You even get a few slips in detail, like Patty’s strangely unemotional and expressionless face as she scolds Manuel.  Her mouth is open, but nothing in her eyes or perfectly smooth face shows anger or bitterness or strong emotion of any kind.

Conclusion: For the first time, it seems that Manapul-Buccellato commit the first rookie mistake in writing: telling more than showing.  With such incredible artistic talent, there’s no reason for them to overwrite, and the issue suffers as a result.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I have to admit, though, that room where the floor’s covered with all of Manny’s severed hands is pretty creepy.  I’m just glad we didn’t see too much more of his clones’ “regeneration” process.