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

The Story: Barry’s leaving behind the girl he loves and making a new life—country song, if I ever heard one.

The Review: I find it pretty amazing how much stuff can happen and how little actually changes.  I mean this in any given context, but most especially with fiction.  Probably the clearest mark of a weak story is one where all sorts of events and twists take place, and yet the character has barely moved one step forward from where he started.  Quite frankly, that is the situation where the Flash finds himself now.

For all of Barry’s time-traveling escapades, run-ins with emboldened rogues, and city crises, he doesn’t seem all that affected, either within or without.  Think about it.  Has he really shifted in any of his values?  Has he become any more or less confident?  Is he any closer to a true relationship with either Patty or Iris?  Has he developed any personal relationship with any other character?  Have either of the Gem Cities changed permanently from the unfortunate blackout?

I argue that if any of these fronts have experienced a change, it’s been negligible.  Barry just started off on too strong a foot, too centered a character and moral ground, and nothing has really shaken him from that position.  He doesn’t have the aid of sarcasm to give him a bit of an edge, either.  It’d be sufficient even if he still had that goofy running gag about his constant lateness, or if Manapul-Buccellato had built upon that funny nerdiness he had in the first issue.  It’s just been this plain, vanilla flavor from start to finish.

And while you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who actively hates vanilla, you won’t find too many people who will go out of their way to have it, either.  I for one haven’t developed so much love for Barry that I care to tolerate his angst, especially since much of it is self-imposed.  You may already know how boneheaded I thought his reasons for keeping up the pretense of his death was, so if he’s suddenly struggling to find work in the roughest neighborhood in Keystone City, pardon me if I don’t feel all that moved.

If there’s any value to this change in status quo, it may be the possibility of toughening Barry up in “The Keys…[which] has the most criminals per square mile anywhere this side of Crime Alley.”  Maybe he can lose some of that cockeyed breeziness and build up some street sense.  Or maybe he’ll develop some questionable relationships with questionable characters.  He is planning to work at a bar which caters specifically to criminals, after all.  Sadly, Manapul-Buccellato nip all such potential storylines in the bud by having yet another pointless, forced fight from out of nowhere.  It’s a formula you’re getting pretty tired of, after a whole year of it.

I nearly forgot how much I like To’s artwork, after so long away from Red Robin.  His lines are clean and precise, but light and supple on the page, capable of rendering nearly any kind of image with equal conviction.  He gives a nice realism to Manapul’s designs, which makes Captain Cold and Heatwave’s new threads and powers look that much more threatening and, dare I say, cool.  Can someone tell me why To isn’t on an ongoing post-relaunch?  How did DC let him get away, yet keep the likes of Rob Liefield around.  Mind-boggling is what it is.

Conclusion: If I have to put it in the plainest terms, I’m just bored by the story we’ve been getting.  No matter how you look at it, it reads like two rookie writers so enthusiastic about their material they can’t see its mediocrity.  Dropped.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Thank you, Shades of Gray, for making it impossible for me hear that phrase without thinking of nauseatingly written mommy porn.

– “It’s time to give the power back to the people.”  I hope Dr. Elias remembers he said that when Darkseid comes a’knockin’ on Earth’s door again.