Drew: I like The Flash. It’s a crisp, fun, dense comic, full of endearing characters and incredible art. Reading it over the past year has been an extremely rewarding experience as a fan of comics. I also like liking The Flash. The fan community around this title, from commenters to bloggers to the creators themselves have been as open and inviting as anywhere in comics. Writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have been incredibly approachable, and willing to discuss all of the things that make me love this title so much. In many ways, liking this title has been as rewarding as reading this title, thanks to all the wonderful discussions we’ve had about it. For that reason, issues that fail to meet my (admittedly high) expectations for this title are especially disappointing, to such a degree that I lose any objective sense of how good the issue actually is; is it the issue, or is it me? Let that be the grain of salt you take when I say that The Flash 13 is one of those issues.
The issue starts with a young Barry, frustrated by his algebra homework, getting a pep-talk from surrogate-dad Darryl Frye. We then jump to Frye’s office, present day, where Patty has brought Turbine, who promises the both of them that he has information about Barry. Their discussion is cut short, however, as Gorilla Grodd’s army descends on Central City, possibly blowing up Frye’s office. Down on the street, we resume where the zero left off, with the Gorilla Army massing, Barry knocked-out on the street, and the Rogues looking on. They revive Barry, and form a tenuous truce to help fend off the Gorilla Horde. Meanwhile, the Trickster offers Grodd his assistance “for the right price.” Grodd’s response? RIPPING HIS FUCKING ARM OFF.
Yikes. Anyway, by the time Barry extricates himself from battle to find Grodd, Grodd has somehow powered himself up using the batteries Barry charged way back in issue 7.
Throughout the battle, Barry was noticing that the Gorillas were somehow faster than the last time he encountered them. This effectively ups the stakes of this fight, warranting the extra help from the Rogues. It also does a great deal to plant the seeds for the super super-powered Grodd we see at the end of the issue — he won’t go down so easily this time. That increasing sense of drama permeates the issue, from Grodd maiming Trickster to Patty, Frye, and Turbine possibly being incinerated during the invasion, yet somehow, I’m left a little cold.
Perhaps it’s the lack of time we spend with each of these events. We cut away from the scene in Frye’s office as soon as the explosion happens, and from Trickster a panel after his arm is ripped off. We aren’t given any time for the reality of these situations to sink in. Ever looking for the meta-text in these issues, I’d like to think the breakneck pacing and focus on action rather than reaction is a reflection of the hero, but cause-and-effect has been such a present theme in Barry’s mind, it’s hard to see the relation. In fact, Barry is as connected to the past as ever here, as he remembers “Darryl’s well-worn words of wisdom.”
Ultimately, this issue just feels too overstuffed for any meta-text. As if the events I’ve already detailed weren’t enough, this issue picks up where the zero issue left off planting the seeds for Daniel West, Iris’…brother? Cousin? Ex-husband? We don’t get much information — just that he apparently doesn’t know Iris is missing and presumed dead along with Barry Allen and a few randos from that restaurant-boat — so it’s hard to draw any real conclusions. Mostly, this just reminded me that Iris is still trapped in the speed-force.
It’s still a fun issue — and elegantly drawn as ever — but it lacks the emotional resonance I’ve come to expect from this title. It feels very much like Manapul and Buccellato are putting their pieces in place in this issue, hopefully setting up something similar to the payoff of issue 5. Like I said up front: maybe it’s just me. Patrick, what am I missing? Did this issue have the same spark as ever, or did you feel something lacking here, too?
Patrick: I get impossible urges when I read comic books. Like when I read Gail Simone’s Batgirl, I am struck with a profound desire to meet Barbara Gordon. This isn’t that strange – the feeling that you want to spend time with a fictional person is the ultimate reward of a well-written character. But sometimes, a writer extends the cast of characters beyond the people involved in a story to include the location of the story. It’s magical when setting morphs into character, but it’s a spell we see cast time and time again in Batman books: everyone wants Gotham City to be a character. And that’s all well and good, but I’d never want to visit Gotham City. Would you? But the Gem Cities? Manapul and Buccellato have created a set of sister cities that I’m actually affectionate for.
So I absolutely love that Rogues are willing to get their hands dirty to fight for their city. To trot out the Batman example again, it wouldn’t make sense to see Harvey Dent and Catwoman teaming up with Batman to ward off some outside invading force, but damn it all, the citizens of Central City and Keystone City just like their home too much to let something bad happen to it. The fact that Grodd needs to steal the source that’s been powering the cities since the blackout means that he’s another party vying for the resources of these two cities. That may not be that profound, but it is sorta unique in the DC Universe. Quick, name another city — as presented in the New 52 — that you like as much as the Gem Cities. It takes a lot to establish pride in a place that doesn’t even exist.
But, did that happen all in this one little issue? No – the Gem Cities’s identity was important as far back as the Mob Rule story arc. Maybe this issue is thematically thin, but as you mention Drew, it seems like an awful lot of pieces are being moved into place (or ripped out of sockets, whatever the case may be). I look forward to actually seeing all of Central City’s costumed adventurers teaming up to stop the Gorillas. What we got here was really just a preview as neither Turbine or Trickster got to do anything, and Pied Piper was absent entirely. While I’m excited about what’s to come, the teased appearances of all those characters — plus now this SOMEONE West — is starting to feel a little bit like just that: a tease. On top of that, there are even further mysteries teased in this issue. Were it not for the whole Gorilla-invasion-thing, Turbine was going to reveal something CRAZY about who Daryl really is.
Barry’s father figure not what he appears to be? I’m not complaining (because questions are better than answers), but expect to find out about that one in a few months.
There is some really clever staging and more than a few ambitious layouts in this issue. My favorite of which comes at the apex of the Rogue/Flash team-victory. Barry’s running around in circles to tie up the Gorillas that are engaged with the Rogues and this circular motion is reflected in the gently curving top two rows of panels.
The spread right before this one is also pretty good, showing just how the gorillas are struggling to deal with each of the Rogue’s superpowers. Again, it’s all falls under the header “Things I Already Liked About The Flash,” but it’s nice to start off this Gorilla Warfare saga (this is labeled as “Part 1”) in the same step as the first year of this series. Maybe not as fresh as it has been (especially in the last 3 months or so), but neither is it showing signs of growing stale. 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?