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

The Story: It’s safe to say Patty won’t be putting this in her top five romantic getaways.

The Review: The first arc of this series started off with a bang, almost universally blowing everyone away with Manapul and Buccellato’s dynamic art and fairly strong storyline.  As the arc progressed, however, Manapul-Buccellato’s inexperience with writing became more apparent, and though the last issue ultimately ended on a solid note, it also illustrated that you shouldn’t expect first-class or consistent scripting from this title.

You have to give credit to the duo for trying, though, and on the whole, they bring some interesting ideas to the table.  Elevating the threat of Flash’s rogues is a start.  As much notoriety as they have, the Rogues have always been third-tier villains individually (if you class Joker in the first tier and someone like Scarecrow as second-tier), only really posing a danger as a group.  While that sense of fraternity makes the Rogues rather unique among their peers, now seems a perfect time to make them even more dangerous by building up the powers of each criminal.

Beginning with Captain Cold seems natural, as he’s regarded as the Rogues’ leader and he has the most recognition of them all.  Some traditionalists may think taking away his guns and internalizing his freeze powers is a radical change to the character, but considering this man has had to pit himself against one of the most powerful metahumans on Earth with only a couple pistols, I’d say Cold desperately needed the update.  And I must say, the added ability to slow down the Flash in addition to his ice powers is a very nice, natural touch.

It might be a bit of overkill, though, since Flash can’t exactly run at full speed anymore, or else risk damaging the time-space continuum.  Again, some might think this a random and arbitrary limiter on his powers—and it is—but from a storytelling point of view, it’s kind of necessary.  Considering all the nutty physics-defying feats the Flash is capable of when he stretches his legs and goes all out, he needs every reason to do so as rarely as possible.

Not only do things get personal with Cap. Cold (who now has good reason to hate the Flash’s guts, seeing as how the speedster may have inadvertently contributed to the death of Cold’s sister), the love triangle between Barry, Patty, and Iris heats up a bit as well.  Now that Barry and Patty are officially an item, I can only predict he’ll go for Iris in the end.  How often, in any story, does the guy end up with the girl he started out with?  That’s not to say it’ll be an ugly breakup; Patty may well decide that it’s too stressful having a beau who disappears in the middle of every crisis that pops up.

On the narrative front, Manapul-Buccellato make the non-linear structure work this time, but I wouldn’t advise making it a habitual device, because it does get a little bothersome placing all the different scenes in sensible order.  Fortunately, the writers thoughtfully place certain flashbacks where they would best clarify what’s happening in the present action.  Now, if only they can learn how to scale back the ridiculous strings of expository dialogue they got going on at times: “I get it, Dr. Elias.  The use of my powers is causing a buildup of Speed Force energy that is creating wormholes…”  “…which tear at the fabric of space and time.”

You can always depend on The Flash to offer some lively and exciting art.  Manapul has been killing it on conveying the Flash’s speed ever since he started work when Johns was still writing the previous version of this title.  The fight between Cold and Flash is easily one of the best-looking action sequences from any of the new DC titles thus far; Buccellato’s use of Flash’s costume seams to show when he speeds up or is getting slowed down by Cold’s powers adds a whole ‘nother layer of energy to the scene.

Conclusion: A good start to the second arc, one set to build up Flash’s mythos for a new generation.  For the most part, Manapul-Buccellato are delivering great new dimensions to our hero and his world.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Editor Brian Cunningham, I appreciate your efforts to keep everyone informed, but at a certain point, those captions have to stop.  There is a thing called Wikipedia, after all.