By: Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato (story), Marcus To (pencils), Ray McCarthy (inks), Ian Herring (colors)

The Story: In which Weather Wizard pulls out a wand and does his best Harry Potter impression.

The Review: It took me a long time to learn this lesson myself, but excess may be the one of the least productive tactics you can take for any kind of writing.  When I used to grade my students’ papers, I sometimes got the impression they believed they’d be graded by length or weight, which misses the point entirely.  Writing too much does nothing for your work except obscure your ideas and make it harder for people to read.

It’s especially surprising to find Manapul-Buccellato guilty of this same crime.  You’d think with such talent for artistic storytelling, they’d know better, to show the story rather than tell it.  Yet from the opening pages of this issue, straight through to Barry’s monologue at the end, that’s exactly what Mananpul-Buccellato do.  They leave almost nothing to the imagination; everything gets explained to us through some awkward chunk of expository dialogue or other.

The most egregious example has to be Barry’s recollection of events up to his opening battle with the Weather Wizard, a streak of internal narration that goes on for six pages.  Not only does he waste a bunch of time getting you up to speed on the last couple story arcs, he also engages in a lot of sterile emoting, the kind of stuff which has bogged this series down from the beginning.

His over-the-top profession of love for Patty reminds me vaguely of the first six episodes of nearly every Korean drama ever written.  There’s always a person already attached to some third party at the very beginning, his desperation so pathetic and excessive that irony almost requires him to realize how superficial his feelings are halfway through the series.  In all the time they’ve been together, Barry and Patty have probably shared about three moments together, each of which only vaguely romantic, and even then in an embarrassingly chaste sort of way.  For him to say, “I need her more than she needs me,” thus seems like quite a stretch of emotion.

Speaking of Patty, you’ll be nonplussed at best to discover that Manapul-Buccellato decide to just skip over the part where they actually show her investigating a murder and getting kidnapped in Guatemala.  In the span of seven panels, the whole mystery unravels in bulletpoint fashion, making this two-year whodunit a complete wash, lacking stakes or tension of any kind.   And don’t get me started on that last scene, where the Flash makes a totally inside-out exercise of logic to deprive Patty of all the secrets he’s been keeping.  So to save her from the pain of “losing” the man she loves over and over, the Flash decides to keep his alter-ego dead, a move that makes absolutely no sense.  If this is Manapul-Buccellato’s way of making it seem like Patty can’t handle the truth about Barry, so she’s less deserving of knowing it than, say Iris—well, that’s a pretty poor way to treat the character.

You have to wonder if all this surplus in text comes as a result of Manapul-Buccellato not trusting any artists other than themselves to execute the story they envision.  But To seems well-equipped to work with any script on his hands.  His figures are clean and credible, and he does action and drama with equally pleasing results.  Of course, he doesn’t have quite the sheer imagination and style Manapul does, but there’s no reason why he deserves to have all his artwork plastered with text bubbles and captions.

Conclusion: Rather than chipping away at their flaws, Manapul-Buccellato’s shortcomings as writers have only grown more pointed with each issue.  Close as we are to the one-year mark, I may have no choice but to Drop this series for better things.

Grade: C

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – And the award for Most Awkward Bit of One-Sided Banter goes to the Flash for this particularly killing set of lines to Weather Wizard: “After all the times we’ve fought, you really think you can hit me with lightning?  Why don’t you try dousing me with chemicals while you’re at it?  …Never mind.  Inside joke.”  There is just nothing cool about Barry Allen, is there?