The Flash 12

Alternating Currents: Flash 12, Drew and Patrick

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.

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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?

18 comments on “The Flash 12

  1. This issue felt a little crammed. Every member of the Rogues up to this point has essentially had their own issue to be introduced, but here we get 3.5 new characters. The half point for the Pied Piper, and Trickster, our first ‘real’ intro to Glider, and the Mirror Master. This feels a little rushed, and I wish there was time enough to at least give Mirror Master and Glider their due diligence. Also, Pied Piper and Trickster don’t seem to have internalized powers like HeatWave, Cold, and Weather Wizard. Maybe they weren’t involved with the Rogues at the time of whatever happened to them? I can’t tell if Mirror Master has internalized powers as well, but he is holding a Mirror Gun.

    • I agree that there are a lot of dude in this issue and that not all of them get their due. But crammed? That’s a far cry from what we actually got. I don’t think it’s fair to say this is our introduction to Glider – as she’s appeared in like the 3 previous issues. And Mirror Master is a surprise reveal at the end. This issue worked for me because it spent the most time with the dudes we were already invested in. Everyone else is accessory.

  2. I am a little confused about Glider’s origin and want to go back to look at the issues where we see Cold trying to get the generators working for his sister’s hospital equipment. Obviously its good when there’s not a spoon fed origin story right when a character is introduced (as the alternative can get old fast) but I know painfully little about Flash’s rogues so I feel slightly behind the curve.

    That said I loved this issue. I literally said ‘wow’ when I finished reading it. I don’t think the characters were rushed; in fact I think the rapid-fire-rogues serve the plot and story by saying ‘you may think you’ve got a handle on things so far, but we are about to pick up the pace BIG TIME.’

    Favorite Flash moment: “Oh great. I guess Mirror Master’s back too.” The point about Barry always being surprised is spot on, in that even he is finding it hard to keep up.

    • I also really really like the implication that Rogues may end up being pretty evenly divided, with Cold, Piper and Trickster on one side and Glider, Mirror Master, Heatwave and Weather Wizard on the other. Like how cool would it be if it’s the war of the Rogues that tears the cities apart – only to have The Flash put it all back together?

      I’m also a little bit washy on Glider’s motivations, but I like the act first, reveal motivations later method of storytelling. We know enough about her to understand her relationship with her brother and the rest is a fun mystery. Why steal that train? Why kill Elias (other than to frame Flash – but by that token “Why frame the Flash?” is a good question too)? She and Mirror Master clearly have SOMETHING going on… it makes me want to dig through earlier issues to look for clues in mirrors…

      • Whoa. The thought that there might be Easter eggs featuring Mirror Master in early issues is a fun one…I’m going to have to go back and check that as soon as I get home.

        Speaking of Easter eggs, what do we make of those LOST characters? I thought my fandom would be an asset here, but I think I could easily connect anything with that show, so I’m not convinced any of my theories hold water. For example: the speed force could be the island (as a space that exists sort of out of time), and the cameos suggest that Barry “has to go back.” But then, I guess, why not have beardy Jack there, too? Or maybe something happened to Elias while Barry was away, so he only looks like the peaceful character we already knew. Or maybe this is just to suggest that, line the characters on LOST, the rogues will be aligning and realigning into ever-shifting factions.

        Point is, I could probably use some help spiralling here.

        • Glider is pissed at Cold because he took her squirrel baby and Mirror Master promised her some mirror-peanut butter and Weather Wizard is this really badass minority character who carries a big stick and seems really important but then is unexpectedly killed in season 3 for no reason while Trickster is all like ‘dude’ to Pied Piper after they play poker for a bunch of mangoes and … Ow I think I gave myself a headache.

  3. Sorry I’m getting to it a day late, I was out of town; anyway, I was waiting for your guys review of this since the day it came out. This was such as good issue. I reread it several times in a row, just sitting there with the dumbest grin in my face.

    That kid with the bad haircut from issue three is indeed the same Trickster who shows up in this issue (In issue three they address him as “Axel”, and Axel Walker is the civilian identity of the Trickster.) Interestingly, in appearance and name this version of the Trickster is obviously based on the more recent Axel Walker version, but his personality seems a little closer to the sly con-artistry of the original Trickster, James Jesse (Axel is an enthusiastic, impulsive, conscience-less punk kid and that’s not the impression I’m getting from this Trickster at all). I’m guessing he might be an amalgam of the two characters?

    Also, as a huge fan of the Pre-52 Rogues, I just want to say that none of you need to worry about their prior continuity at all to enjoy this story. The only facts from the Pre-52 that are important at all to this story are the facts that Cold and Glider are siblings and that Piper is a reformed Rogue, and both points have been purposely pointed out in the title multiple times. Everything else important to this story has either already been introduced in the story itself or will be in a future issue (Mirror Master).

    In fact, Glider’s romantic history seems to have been completely revised; in the Pre-52, Glider dated The Top, and became a Rogue to avenge his death at the hands of Barry Allen. In the New 52, there IS no Top; his character has been completely revised into the new Rogue, “Turbine” (who the annual cover makes me think might show up in it?), so they seem to have changed it to her dating Mirror Master in order to keep some semblance of that old aspect of her character around.

    I do like that, besides the completely different new power-set, Glider’s personality seems almost exactly the same as it was before the reboot; she was always one of the most determined, cranky, and downright mean and ruthless Rogues.

    I cannot WAIT until the Annual next week 😀

    • I did not know that bit about Glider’s romantic history. I’m totally fine with letting Top go by the way-side. The Rogues are always a little bit goofy, but I’ve always thought that Top toes that line a little too gleefully. Anchoring Turbine as a former Tuskegee Airman and giving him this trapped-in-the-speedforce back story makes for a much more compelling character.

      Glider’s actually the Rogue about which I know the least from the Pre-52 continuity. In this run, she seems to command loyalty – possibly even half-seducing Barry. It’s like she got impossibly lucky when rolling her charisma stats. There’s also something really cool about pairing up the intangible character (who may also be enchantingly attractive) with the Mirror Master. Chalk up another point for thematic unity.

      ALSO THANK YOU for the validation on Trickster. Drew and I reviewed that issue before we even had this blog formalized so there wasn’t really anyone paying attention to tell me if I was right or wrong.

      • The Annual helps with a lot of what you guys are talking about. But most the Glider–Mirror Master love fest. Also, I’m not surprised they used Axel as the Trickster instead of Jesse, since they are also using the ‘newer’ version of Mirror Master as well. I am less familiar with Axel as apposed to Jesse whom I actually love, especially in the Underworld Unleashed storyline, which everyone should read.

        • Actually, they’re using the OLDER Mirror Master, Sam Scudder, who was the original MM who died during Crisis on Infinite Earths. The newer MM was Evan McCulloch, who was a Scottish mercenary with a thick brogue.

      • No problem! After reading the annual today I’m actually really intrigued by Trickster. I talked about how Axel was acting a little out of character and that perhaps he was a bit of a composite character, but in the flashback during the annual, Axel was perfectly in character: impatient, impulsive, immature, and a loudmouth. I’m guessing that his his new charisma is NOT due to a change in character but instead to a year and a half’s worth of character development, and now I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s up his sleeve.

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