By: Francis Manapul (story & art), Brian Buccellato (story & colors), Marcus To (pencils), Ryan Winn (inks), Ian Herring (colors), and Carlos M. Mangual (letters)
The Story: Grodd is jonesing for his Speed Force fix as Barry sees into the (possible) future(s) of Central City.
The Review: This right here is a tale of two books.
For the bulk of the issue, it’s business as usual plot-wise, this time drawn by Marcus To. The problem is that, if I’m being totally honest, it’s all just a little bit dull. That dullness has been afflicting the Flash’s writing for some time. Grodd, thus far, isn’t a compelling villain and lacks a distinct motivation beyond CONQUER!!! Even stranger, for a book that for a while was moving TOO fast, things suddenly feel glacial – Barry is unconscious for the majority of the issue, Daniel West is still running around the city looking for Iris, Patty is still doing…not much, and Charles Xavier gorillas continue to suck up brainpower at the stadium, and the Rogues are still punching gorillas. Precious little happens this month and worse still, Barry, Patty, and Grodd feel like little more than character archetypes: super-hero, super-villain, love interest. None of them really jump off of the page. Script-wise, this is pretty dry.
That said, The Flash‘s script is rarely something to grab you by the throat – rather, it lets Manapul’s artwork do the heavy lifting. Sure, the script is by the numbers, but Manapul’s gorgeous artwork and incredibly creative layouts and visual storytelling more than make up the difference. That’s a problem, then, when he’s not drawing the book. This isn’t meant as any disrespect to Marcus To – he’s a damned fine artist and his work is sharp, polished, and with a good amount of detail. Hell, I’d love to see To get a regular gig on one of DC’s ongoings. If Marcus To weren’t tasked with illustrating such a dull script, things would be fine, but the thing is, we need the herculean efforts of Manapul to liven things up and provide that spark that the words alone don’t have. THAT is what makes the Flash something more than forgettable.
And that’s where that whole “tale of two books” thing comes in because when Manapul comes in to do his thing for the final few pages, the book skyrockets in quality as Manapul does some of his most creative and experimental paneling/storytelling yet. Hell, during this portion, the pictures are actually doing more storytelling and providing far more info than the words on the page could ever hope to accomplish. Manapul does an amazing job illustrating Barry’s visions of the future: it feels positively otherwordly and epic in scale, a mindbending but distinctively super-hero-y reading experience. It’s grand, creative stuff that gives us that spark that had everyone raving about The Flash back during its first storyarc. All I can say is, “more of this please.” Even the ideas presented in these pages become distinctively exciting; for instance, what isn’t awesome about a post-apocalyptic Road Warrior Patty Spivot? From visuals to ideas to storytelling in general, these few pages are the opposite of dull and stand in stark contrast to the rest of the book.
Conclusion: The Flash is a really interesting book in that it truly is a case of the art carrying a book but not just in the sense of making things look pretty; the art completely changes how the story is relayed, the emotions it elicits, and even the ambition and creativity of the ideas presented in the script. Sadly, Manapul only drew part of it.