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

The Story: This attitude of not knowing where you’ll end up and barging in anyway tells me you’re not the greatest road-trip companion, Flash.

The Review: I lost my first copy of this issue about five seconds after reading it on the bus—and while remaining in the bus.  If you know me personally, this shouldn’t shock you one iota.  My theory is a wormhole within the time-space continuum sucked it in, and any moment now, news will be breaking about someone finding a fifty-year old copy of The Flash #7, an ad for Resident Evil: Raccoon City on the back, in the middle of the Badlands.

Or maybe the homeless person next to me sat on it when he came in and didn’t notice, which isn’t out of the question as he was quite snookered with McGuinness at the time.  Whatever the case, the mention of wormholes seems appropriate in discussing this particular issue of The Flash.  If Barry had any doubt about Dr. Elias’ hypothesized connection between excess use of the Speed Force and time warps, he has incontrovertible proof of it now.  It does beg the question of how he never noticed this effect before if big honkin’ rips in space burst nearby whenever he does this, but let’s set that little bit of inconsistency aside.

If you have a glass-half-full mentality, you might say that this disaster at least prompts Barry to true, self-initiated action for the first time this series.  Considering his upstanding character, and his tendency to wait for the starting gun before running, his decision to use Dr. Elias’ treadmill for his own purposes is practically revolutionary, especially since he himself admits he “can’t pretend to know what will happen” if he generates another wormhole and runs into it.

Of course, guilt over the damage he’s produced is a great motivator, but it’s no coincidence that once one of his love interests gets sucked into the mess, he becomes much more willing to break the rules.  Especially since the reason why she gets caught up in a wormhole is because Barry ignored the warning signs to save another love interest.

On that note, now’s a good time for a love triangle update.  Manapul-Buccellato seem really intent on convincing you Patty’s not just a charming placeholder and Barry has genuine feelings for her.  Still, you can’t help feeling there’s a degree of artifice in this, no matter how many puppy-dog lines Barry throws in, like, “And God does she smell good,” or, “We’re a couple months in and I’ve really fallen for her.”  That tagged-on “really” definitely has a forced quality to it.  It’s also not a good sign that without him, it’s Singh she turns to for comfort, even if she’s in tears about Barry the whole time.  This has the reek of early Plan B maneuvering to ensure Patty has a happy ending should things not work out between her and our hero.

Don’t let all this romantic talk fool you into thinking Manapul-Buccellato skimped on other parts of the plot.  We still have Captain Cold’s family drama to look forward to, as we discover that despite his violent attachment to his sister, the affection isn’t quite mutual.  We get a glimpse of DC’s staple intelligent gorillas as they discuss whether world conquest would be appropriate since “the second coming is upon us!”  Oh, yeah, and the Flash enters a parallel dimension for the first time only to discover he’s not alone.  So we have plenty of material to work on here.

Manapul’s art has grown bigger, bolder, and more convincing since the title first debuted.  His angular sketchwork has always been ideal for smaller panels, medium shots, and sleek action, but now he tackles bigger-scale images and tighter shots with just as much aplomb.  That two-page title splash of the Flash speeding through the falling debris of a ship to reach Patty, various pieces of rubble spelling out his name, comes out at you like an oncoming train, giving you an intense feel of the energy happening in the issue.

Conclusion: Still solid, as Manapul-Buccellato dangle a number of plotlines into the series, proving they have a clear plan for its direction.  The art, however, remains the biggest selling point of the title.  If anything, improvements in the story are simply bonuses.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Okay, Singh, seriously—what’s with all the flutes?  That, more than anything else in this issue, is going to haunt me until they finally reveal the back-story behind it.