Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing the Flash 12, originally released August 22nd, 2012.
Patrick: Bad guys don’t make for the best teams. Hell, superheroes seldom make functional teams. 90% of team stories center around just how hard it is to put individual egos on hold and actually work as a team. Sometimes the group gels to confront a common, insurmountable enemy; sometimes they’re extorted into working together; and sometimes they seem to be the only people in the whole universe going through the same trials. But bad guys only get together for one reason: take down the hero. Right? Well, The Flash #12 has something to say about that.
The action here centers around the grand opening of the Central City monorail. Not only has Dr. Elias taken credit for the infinitely renewable power source AND turned the entire city against the Flash, he’s completed a pretty amazing public works project. If it sounds like I named two shitty things and then one really good thing, that’s because I did. Dr. Elias’ brand of villainy is confusing in that he doesn’t seem to want to harm the Flash, just re-direct the public’s affection for the Flash to himself. He’s more greedy than evil, that’s my point. Fans of more transparently villainous characters need not fret, however, because this event brings the Rogues out of the woodwork.
Gilder stages a prisoner-transfer-truck break-out, with the aim of liberating Heatwave and killing Captain Cold (who — don’t forget — is her brother). Gilder is assisted in this feat by the Weather Wizard, apparently completing the crime-trio of Gilder, Weather Wizard and Heatwave. But wither Captain Cold? He was saved last-minute by the Pied Piper. But the Piper’s not a friend — not really — so he leaves his former leader suspended from a lamp-post so he can pursue the remaining baddies. Cold catches a break when Trickster shows up and frees him. Meanwhile, at the monorail opening, Gilder uses her intangibility to plant a piece of shrapnel in Dr. Elias heart, utterly ruining his speech. And also putting him in mortal peril. When the Flash steps forward in an impotent attempt to help his friend, the crowd naturally interprets this as the Flash assaulting Dr. Elias.
Glider, Weather Wizard and Heatwave execute a well-choreographed plan that results in a monorail car being launched toward a downtown office building. Disaster, right? Only sorta. Turns out Mirror Master is also at play here: he’s used the reflective surface of the heavily-windowed building to pull the train into the Mirror Dimension. Glider takes a moment to brag about her accomplishments:
The newly-formed, Glider-led Rogues are all ready to follow the train into the Mirror Dimension when Cold – now pissed – coats the building in rough ice, effectively slamming the Rogue’s escape hatch.
Tons of characters, lots of incident – not a lot of Barry. In fact, we never see him out of the Flash costume. I suggested this last month, but this issue makes it very clear that this story is about Central City’s Rogues and not about the Flash. But in the same way Francis Manapul and Brian Buccaletto found inventive ways to explore Flash’s power-set in the first couple issues, they’re being impressively ambitious about exploring the power-potentials of these Rogues. It’s a distinctly less thoughtful approach to the series, but one that is much more spectacular. If previous arcs have been character studies, meta-textual essays on the role of modern Flash, or explorations of time and timelessness, this issue throws the series into full-on block buster mode. Heads up: these guys do block buster incredibly well.
While much of the creative team’s trademark visual subtly goes by the way-side, the insane action benefits from Manapul and Buccaletto’s gift for clarity. They’ve been setting up these villains so carefully, obliquely connecting what they look like with what they can do. The result is some virtuosic visual storytelling as each splash of color explains the next piece of the heist. Heatwave’s red flames, Weather Wizards’ blue wind, Mirror Master’s green portals – the last of which is made more explicit in the following pages. There’s so much going on in this issue (my recap alone was three paragraphs), but not once do I get lost in the action.
Hey and let’s talk introductions! We got a handful of them in this issue. First, there’s the reformed-villain-turned-vigilante, The Pied Piper. We’ve seen Hartley Rathaway out of costume, and gotten little hints of his costumed antics, but this is the first proper appearance in the New 52. Also sort of introduced here: Trickster. I say “sort of,” because I swear there’s a dude in issue three with a similar haircut and pair of pants. Trickster is a bit of a wildcard – he’s traditionally shit on by the rest of the Rogues, but his current outsider status could be beneficial to Captain Cold. And finally, there’s the Mirror Master. Here’s a guy that occupies a reverse-world that he can travel to and from through any reflective surface. That’s a power so nebulous and CRAZY that I can’t wait to see how Manapul and Buccaletto leverage it in the future. High-jacking a train is a great start.
With so many new (or newish) characters in play, there’s not a whole lot of room for our beloved stable of non-super-powered characters. No Patty, no Singh, Iris is still lost in the Speedforce, and (as I mentioned above) we don’t even see Barry out of costume. I can’t really say that I miss them though. The emotional components of this story are pretty well laid out already – it’s nice to just see the action.
Oh and obviously I’m absurdly happy to see Francis Manapul back on his penciling duties. The staging here is just incredible and the action sequences are all crystal clear. All the Flash stuff remains kinetic and energetic. I’ve never noticed how cool it is to have little bits of red lightning tracing his ultra-fast movements – even when he gestures! Also the way he forecasts the involvement of the Pied Piper with tiny insert-panels of rats and pigeons is just amazing.
So I really loved this issue – but not necessarily for the same reasons I’ve loved previous issues. Which makes me cycle around to the question I’m sure I don’t need to ask: What’d you think of this one Drew? Did seeing a Manapul-drawn Barry Allen feel like a nice warm hug to you? Was that enough to earn your unending love? Also, was this too many new Rogues for you?
Drew: When I interviewed Francis Manapul at the Boston Comic Con back in April, I had the opportunity to request a commission which, of course, I did. The Flash is one of my favorite titles, largely because of his very distinctive visual style, so the opportunity to have an original (and to get to watch him make it) was too good to pass up. My request was simple, but specific: I wanted the Flash with a surprised look on his face. Manapul draws Barry like this often — it makes sense that the fastest man alive would often be unprepared for situations he traipses into — and it is as iconic to me as the chest logo or the ear wings.
My point is, Barry is surprised by just about everything this issue, so suggesting that the art earned my “unending love” might actually be an understatement. Just seeing his distinctive, jazzy style — along with Buccellato’s vibrant colors, evocative of ’60s New York — is a pleasure, but Manapul can’t help but announce his return in one of his now trademark title cards.
Now, I was already on board long before that double page spread hits, but the dynamism of that image is too much to not get excited about. For whatever reason, this title seems to rob me of any semblance of objectivity, turning me into a helpless, drooling fanboy — but it really is skillfully done.
Buccellato’s magic hour coloring of the gleaming Central City skyline is just gorgeous, setting the issue in a distinct sense of time as much as space. But, as Patrick pointed out, the real accomplishment this issue is its clarity. For many sequences, the speech bubbles are all but superfluous, as the art itself conveys the story as clearly and efficiently as even the best silent films.
That isn’t to say that the dialogue is in any way redundant — far from it. In fact, the dialogue often adds vital emphasis, as when Barry puts a very fine point on just how awesome the Annual is going to be.
And HOLY FUCK is it going to be awesome. Between Glider’s rogues, the Pied Piper, Captain Cold, and Barry, we have four different groups with four very different goals. Sure, Piper and Barry are on the same side, but I doubt Barry will see it that way — at least initially. I believe the seeds have been set for Barry to team up with Captain Cold, which might mean those two plus Trickster and Pied Piper will be facing off against the rogues in the Annual. That would certainly make for an exciting showdown, but Manapul and Buccellato have goosed the action by putting Dr. Elias in mortal peril, and making all of the Gem Cities hostile towards the Flash. The police are most certainly going to further complicate the proceedings.
Tasked with setting up all of that action, this issue doesn’t have time for Patty or Iris, but I don’t really miss them. Patty’s scenes recently have felt more obligatory than purposeful, and are so removed from Barry as to render them meaningless. Barry’s focus is here on the action, and so should ours. I’m glad that you reminded me that Iris is sill trapped in the speed force, but now is obviously not the time to deal with her.
I’ve often remarked on how the depth of the writing on this title makes it feel like it was written just for Retcon Punch — the symbolism and meta-textual elements make it perfect for the kind of analysis we do here. That feeling was further developed in this issue, where Manapul can’t help but drop in a few cameos from LOST.
This wouldn’t be the first time this title has made me bring up my LOST fandom, but it’s the first time a reference has been so explicit. Between themes of leadership, time travel, and black-and-white notions of good and evil, The Flash has a lot in common with LOST, but I don’t know exactly what to make of the appearance of Locke (and maybe Walt and Michael, and mabier Claire and Charlie — Hurley [and maybe Sun] appear later). Is this just a fun in-joke, or are we supposed to draw some conclusions about the events here? The cameos come and go without any fanfare, so I’m inclined to believe the former, but this title is too good at planting seeds to write off the latter out of hand.
I’m not sure what the connections might be — we’ll need to open that up in the comments — but it speaks to the quality of this title that I believe there may be more at work even when I can’t see it. The Flash continues to be an incredible blend of literary depth and Saturday morning cartoon fun that works far better than anything fitting that description should. Next week can’t come fast enough.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?