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

The Story: Apparently, Mob Rule has a strict literal bros before figurative bros policy.

The Review: Let me tell you about a friend I have.  He’s quiet, but good-humored, intelligent, hardworking, honest, makes a fine living, and is good to pretty much everyone he knows and many strangers besides.  In short, he’s so centered and balanced (in direct contrast to me, for instance), and so devoid of drama, that most people never talk of him but to speak his praise.

While all these qualities make for an excellent human being in the real world, it makes for a rather dry character in fiction.  And that’s exactly the problem—if you can call it that—with the supremely well-adjusted Barry Allen.  While it’s true the emotional and social hang-ups Geoff Johns gave our hero in the previous Flash series annoyed me, at least they gave Barry a platform upon which he could experience some conflict and, subsequently, change.

But as I noted in my review last issue, it doesn’t feel like there’s much room for Barry to develop as a character, at least in the traditional way of improving upon his flaws (of which there are few).  Furthermore, he has such a reserved personality that even when he’s being confronted, he tends to react rather passively, which makes a lot of the tension one-sided, much as Manuel’s (highly misdirected) rage at the Flash feels here.

Manuel’s anger is even more unwarranted given the fact that Barry made absolutely the best choice under the circumstances to save the city from a massive electromagnetic blast (although, to be honest, I have no idea what the consequences of that would be—I ain’t no physics expert) at the cost of Mob Rule’s lives.  At any rate, it’s likely few of us have much sympathy for clones, much less violent ones.  Manapul-Buccellato might have generated some compassion for Mob Rule if the gang’s individual personalities had been better illustrated, but we really only get a few hints of that from one Manny clone less aggressive than the rest.

It’d be difficult in any case to view the Flash in a negative light when this issue dedicates itself to showing him off as one of the purest heroes in the DCU: leading several barges stocked with emergency supplies to the deprived Gem Cities citizens; rescuing Iris from the clutches of several escaped inmates, despite her forthcoming critique on him (which she wisely decides to put on hold); hearing Patty praise his virtues just as he returns to her relieved arms.

All in all, though, the issue works because the Flash is a rare kind of hero, one who not only tries to do the right thing in spite of his baser instincts, but whose instincts are just right in general.  Manapul-Buccellato seem to recognize this, and understand the only way to truly bring some genuine tension into Barry’s life is to pit his ideals and kindness against problems where neither offers easy answers.  Dr. Elias comes up with a good one at the end of the issue: “Every time you run, you risk bringing us closer to oblivion.  …We’ve got to destroy the Speed Force.”

Artistically, we don’t get too much of the semi-experimental, hyper-creative stuff Manapul has offered in past issues (although he nails the title splash as always), but everything still looks lightweight, kinetic, and fun, which is perfect for this title.  It’s funny I never noted this before, but Manapul really pulls off the Flash’s speed convincingly, a tricky feat in what are essentially static images.  Credit for that goes equally to Buccellato’s use of blur and glare on the colors to make the speedster look like he’s in motion amidst his stationary surroundings.

Conclusion: The creative team has produced a solidly pleasant and enjoyable read, but one lacking refinement in the writing and clear direction and overall aims for the series in general.  Here’s looking to even better things in the next arc.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Look, Barry, I’m gonna give you some hard-earned advice: don’t go for the “exciting” girl in the tight shirt and tiny shorts.  Stick with the dependable girl who cries with joy when she discovers you’re not dead.

– Time-warp hijinks with the Speed Force, eh?  Will the Flash be the first to visit the newly-minted Earth-2?