The Flash 13

Alternating Currents: Flash 13, Drew and PatrickToday, Drew and Patrick are discussing the Flash 13, originally released October 24th, 2012.

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.

That's just how they shake hands in Gorilla City. GORILLA CITY KIND OF SUCKS.

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?

34 comments on “The Flash 13

  1. I actually liked this issue more than you guys did, probably–I’m used to the first issue of a new storyline being a lot of set-up, and honestly, compared to a lot of Part 1s in other books, a LOT happened in this issue–but Trickster losing his arm just really made me mad, especially since I was grinning like an idiot two panels prior when Trickster approached Grodd to offer his “services”; that’s just so in character for Trickster.

    One of Trickster’s oldest tricks is that old “fake arm” trick–The Flash grabs his arm, but Trickster just keeps running cause it turns out the arm was fake, then BAM, the fake arm explodes. And when I saw Grodd grab Axel’s arm I was REALLY hoping that was what would happen (and then Axel flees for his life from one really pissed Gorilla).

    I’m honestly still hoping it was a fake arm a little, despite all the blood

    • Piv! That’s an insight we missed! I didn’t know that one of Trickster’s usual tricks is the ol’ fake arm. That makes me like his actual arm removal that much more. I love Trickster’s hubris – he’s so fucking confident for what amounts to a joke-villain. Grodd ripping his arm off take him down a peg, and reinforces the idea that the Gorillas aren’t playing by the agreed upon rules.

      • haha, I hadn’t looked it at it that way–I mean I knew it established Grodd as a major threat and that the Gorillas didn’t play by the Flash’s/The Rogues’ usual rules, but I hadn’t thought about the idea of the character who plays the fake arm trick getting his arm ripped off. If they had to hurt Axel (and I assume the writing team has future plans for him), I guess that’s an appropriate way to do it, heh. Irony!

        The ol’ fake arm trick:

    • Maybe this sets up a permanent fake-arm gag… LUKE SKYWALKER ROBO-ARM. Actually, it sounds like a legitimate New 52 update to the classic trick

      • Please just pretend this comment was branched correctly under Piv’s last comment… this page looks really wonky at my work due to our content blocker settings

        • I had considered for a moment that it might still be a fake arm (albeit with a lot of fake blood), but that wouldn’t really explain Trickster’s reaction. Dude just actually had his arm ripped off.

    • Piv, you’re probably right about cutting some slack for the first issue of an arc. This title seems to struggle with that especially, given how complex the arcs tend to be. At the same time, the first issue of this title was one of my favorites — as light and fun as this title can be, while still planting seeds for that first arc and beyond. I think there’s a great issue in here somewhere, but this feels like an issue-and-a-half-worth of material into a single issue. I wonder if I would have liked this more if we skipped seeing the rogues make their truce with Barry and just started with them all fighting for the good of the Gem Cities. That they would team up against the Gorillas was a foregone conclusion for me, so seeing them hem and haw over it just feels like a waste of space.

  2. I was thinking, one of the admirable things this book has acomplished over 13 issues and an annual is introduce many of the iconic players of the franchise in a quick succession, brew them into a thick continuity (rather than one-and-done each of them separately), possibly initiate a face-turn and possible breakout character with Lenny by turning these folks into punkish, rough-and-tumble local hoods, and having packed so much activity into the run you would still consider it a character-driven book… It’s a pretty awesome juggling act. To say nothing of the quality of art

    • Totally, the world built up around The Flash is all the more remarkable considering it’s only happening within this lone series. There’s enough material in what Manapul and Buccalleto are exploring to support maybe two or three (still fairly dense) series. I’ve voiced this before: but it’s strange to me that neither Flash nor Wonder Woman have second-string books associated with them.

      On the flip side of that, it’s awesome that both Flash and WW have such incredible dedicated storytellers, so there’s nothing to tarnish their names (save the occasional wonky appearance in Justice League). Still, if DC wanted to make a few extra bucks a month, they could branch off these excellent titles.

      ON THAT TOPIC: Let’s pitch Flash or Wonder Woman 2nd string books!

        • A Rogues series would be my dream come true.

          There’s already been several pre-crisis mini-series focusing on the Rogues: “Final Crisis: Rogues Revenge” was entirely about the Rogues (and was awesome) and “Blackest Night: The Flash” alternated between a story about the Flash and a separate story about The Rogues (which was good but not as good as it should have been, and featured one now infamous scene in the Rogues fandom). I wonder how those did sales wise? Of course, those were written by Geoff, so we might not be able to leverage that into the current Rogues’ chances, but there’s always a shot. Captain Cold is one of Geoff’s pet characters so I’m sure he’d pull for him.

        • I read that Blackest Night run on Flash (which is, like you say 50% Rogues). At the time, it confused THE HELL out of me. Actually that whole trade (I bought the trades): Flash, JSA and Wonder Woman. Literally couldn’t get through the JSA issues. I’m going to excuse the shoddy writing on Johns’ auxiliary stories, because he totally brought it on the main series and Green Lantern.

          Also, holy hell, he wrote SO MUCH of that event: 9 issues of Blackest Night, 10 issues of Green Lantern, 3 issues of Flash, Atom and Hawkman, that Bleez story, that Saint Walker story, that indigo 1 story, that Star Sapphire story, that birth of Nekron story, and two issues of Action Comic about Superman Prime. That’s 29 motherfucking issues.

        • I love Geoff’s childhood rationale for Captain Cold love was that he dressed the same way a kid in Michigan would

      • Rogues book = awesome idea. Also, an ensemble book following the Amazons in Themyscira without WW would float my boat, and would enrich their appearances in WW (think Gotham Central to Batman).

        • Yeah, I’d read that.

          I’d also read a Wonder Woman title that focused on her life as a superhero. I love Azz’ version of the character, but she’s basically just acting as a Greek demi-god in some mythical adventure story. If there was like an Adventure Comics where she fights crime… that’d be fun.

        • I like both of these ideas. ALSO: what if there was a permanent team-up title of Batwoman and Wonder Woman. They could call it World’s Finest, and we could forget that that other series ever existed.

        • I guess I need to to start reading Batwoman, especially with the WW appearances. Good thing that first arc is in a handsome hardcover now and I don’t need to resort to eBay

        • After a few minutes, Mogo, I REALLY like this idea. Like Gotham Central, the main villains (gods) from Wonder Woman’s series could make the odd appearance just to fuck with the Amazons. The stable of Greek gods and monsters is so deep, there’s really an endless supply of problems and supporting characters. It’s also a little bit like GLC. I likes it.

        • Hum, what is GLC? I don’t think I’ve heard of that, unless it is a painfully obvious acronym that I’m blanking on for some reason 😛

        • Ah, and Tomasi is the go-to guy on validating an extraneous title, too… He’d be a good candidate to write anything like this. Although I think I’d like a suprising choice

      • I think there’s also room for a Pied Piper series – especially because the character is in transition from villain to hero and DOUBLE ESPECIALLY because he’s been trying to replace the Flash as the hero of Central City.

        • Ohhhh yeah, that’s a goldmine. Also you can pretty much throw Booster Gold into anything and have a buddy title

      • I would love another Flash book that acts as an Action Comics to this title’s Superman (or maybe the other way around, come to think of it). I love and trust this creative team, but I’m really missing the great balance between the Flash action and Barry’s personal life this title was doing so well in its first arc. We could call it Scarlet Speedster.

        Conversely, I would read a title expressly devoted to Barry’s non-superhero activities — essentially that meeting with Iris from the second issue expanded into a series. We could call it The Fastest Man Alive.

        I haven’t exactly honed these into punchy pitches, but I would read the holy living fuck out of either of these concepts.

        • I think both of those make a lot of sense (and get me really excited for something I’m never going to see). Barry’s personal life and his work as a forensic scientist would be a GREAT focus for a series. The current series is so overstuffed with fun stuff that Barry doesn’t really get to be a detective ever. But if The Fastest Man Alive centered on the procedural crime-solving and his relationship(s) with Patty and Iris, I’d love that shit.

        • Man, thinking about the minimization of Flash and Wonder Woman within DC’s publication line just bums me out now… I mean, everyone loves Batman, but three friggin’ solo titles, an Earth One dupe, OOC Legends Of The Dark Knight stories… it’s totally overkill. Spread the love! Though I’l admit some classic leaguers like Martian Manhunter or now Cybort tend to work better in team books

        • It’s not that it isn’t governed by logic, just that it’s governed by the wrong logic. More Batman titles equals more money for DC, so they’ll keep flooding the market with them, even if some of those titles are terrible. Conversely, the Flash might lend himself particularly well to multiple titles, but because that’s a risky idea, we’ll probably never see it. I really wish DC’s publishing decisions were dictated by my taste rather than the practicalities of selling comics.

  3. My favorite story arcs:
    Amazing Spider Man # 226 – 227 (March – April 1982)
    Daredevil # 227 – 233 (February – August 1986)
    Venom: Sinner Takes All # 1 – 5 (August – December 1995)
    Batman: The Long Halloween # 1 – 13 (December 1996 – December 1997)
    X – Men: Children of the Atom # 1 – 6 (November 1999 – September 2000)
    Punisher Vol. 3 # 1 – 12 (April 2000 – March 2001)
    Daredevil: Yellow # 1 – 6 (August 2001 – January 2002)
    Fury Vol. 2 # 1 – 6 (November 2001 – April 2002)
    Kingpin: Thug # 1 – 7 (August 2003 – February 2004)
    Titans Vol 3: Fractured (August 2009 – April 2010)

    My favorite single issues:
    Redemption (Daredevil # 200) November 1983
    The Deadliest Night of My Life (Daredevil # 208) July 1984
    Badlands (Daredevil # 219) June 1985
    Fog (Daredevil # 220) July 1985
    Batman: Seduction of the Gun February 1993
    Bad Company (Steel # 3) April 1994
    The Meaning of Life (Shadow of the Bat # 72) March 1998
    A Night to Remember (Generation X # 57) November 1999
    Murdock’s Law (Daredevil Vol. 2 # 9) December 2009
    Ladies’ Night (The Brave and the Bold Vol. 3 # 33) June 2010

    Of course I didn’t consider expected titles like The Dark Knight Returns or Batman Year One, because they are graphic novels, not story arcs. What do you think about it?

  4. Pingback: The Flash 23.1: Grodd | Retcon Punch

  5. Pingback: Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion 5 | Retcon Punch

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