Today, Patrick and Mikyzptlk are discussing the Flash 15, originally released January 2nd, 2013.
Patrick: Whenever a writer keeps up several narrative threads at one time, one of us will say that he or she is “spinning a lot of plates.” It’s an odd metaphor. I mean — “juggling” works just as well to express the same thing and it’s a much more common activity. My friend Pete Pfarr had a KLUTZ book that taught him how to juggle, but there sure as shit wasn’t any KLUTZ book to teach him plate spinning. So what makes that turn-of-phrase so useful in describing the storytelling in The Flash 15? Possibly because we get the sense that the stories continue (the plates continue to spin) even when we’re not watching them. But I think the real reason we use the metaphor — and the only reason we’d want to see someone spinning plates (because: boring, amirite?) — is because we can’t wait to see what happens when too many plates are spinning and they all come crashing down. Boldly, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato give us just that.
Gorilla Grodd stands over his defeated foes. That’s how the issue starts, with the villain in a position of power. Just as Grodd is about to finish off Flash and Solovar, his Speed Force power bottoms out, and he suddenly has a powerful need to get back to Elias’ lab to munch on some magical batteries. Low blood sugar, I guess. Patty gets Barry to safety (though, sorta shittily leaves Solovar to just deal with his injuries) while the Rogues whisk as many people as they can away to the Mirror World. As Barry starts to come to, the predictive powers granted to him by the Speed Force start playing out in his dreams. The realization that startles him from his coma: resisting the Gorilla army will only lead to further suffering. Barry decides to give himself up. That’s how the issue ends, with the hero giving up what’s left of his power.
I loved Barry’s hyper-cognition when it was introduced early in this series. It makes for some neat, neat layouts, and Buccellato always cleverly employed different color schemes to denote discrete lines of predicted actions. But Manapul and Buccellato were also keen on showing the downside to such a power – Barry would get lost in his own head, and for all his abilities to think quickly, would fail to narrow down his decisions and act in time. That cost proved too high for Flash, so we haven’t seen him tap into this power since the Mob Rule story arc. It is fitting then, that Barry finds himself in the home of Manuel’s mother when this fit of precognition kicks in. And by kicks in, I mean KICKS ASS. Francis Manapul has turned in a single continuous image, spanning nine pages and playing out three different futures – each ending in disaster, one with the world ending. Oh, and just because he’s not a show-off or anything, Manapul also jams the title pages into that spread. It’s the kind of bravura visual storytelling that made me fall in love with The Flash in the first place. I’ve assembled it to the best of my abilities. Click on it to enlarge. You’re welcome.
In the spirit of not-pirating one of my favorite comics, that’ll be the only image I post from the issue (but, Mik, by all means, feel free to post some). But let the record show here and now that if this were available as a poster from DC (with or without the text boxes – I ain’t picky), Drew and I would buy it. That’s two guaranteed sales right there.
This is what happens to the plates when you keep too many of them spinning and take your plate-spinner out of commission: the Earth explodes.
What’s really interesting to me is that this takes place in Manuel’s mother’s house. Manuel, aka Mob Rule, was a childhood friend of Barry. Manuel joined the CIA, hoping to avenge his father’s death (he died in some plane hijacking – it’s not clear if its September 11th or not). Manny was subjected to tests that allowed him to regenerate lost limbs, but when he was captured and tortured by the enemy, they discovered that his limbs could also regenerate him. Suddenly, there was an army of Manuels running around. Mob Rule is still out there, and I would have forgotten about him/them, except that we’re suddenly in the house he grew up in. I’m just saying, if Barry needs a miracle solution to present itself, he could do a whole lot worse than the return of Mob Rule.
The mention of Mob Rule also highlights a theme that’s bubbling along under everything: a theme of ‘too much’ or ‘too many.’ There are too many Gorillas to fight off, there are too many Rogues, too many story lines, too many Mannies, too many doomed-futures Barry imagines. There’s this idea in comics (and to be fair, most media) that more is better, bigger is better. The Flash has shown itself to be capable of personal, quieter stories that have been damn compelling, and it’s only been in the lead up to Gorilla Warfare that the scope has ratcheted up to blockbuster levels. Manapul and Buccellato have effectively tapped into the chaos that comes from a larger story, so it’s not entirely clear where the criticism lies. And perhaps that’s too narrow a read, and this isn’t an indictment of Huge Crazy Stories, but a pastiche thereof, showing just how bombastic they can be.
And even with all that talk of too much, I didn’t mention Daniel West or Turbine or the tanks or the holographic projection of the Gem Cities burning. Christ, there’s a lot to sort through. Mik, with Barry’s options limited, do any of those lose ends seem like they may become extra-important in issues to come? Do you expect the Gorillas to be defeated by some kind of deus ex machina or has the creative team already laid out all the pieces?
Mikyzptlk: Hey Patrick! Thanks for going through the trouble of laying out that amazing 9 page spread. It really doesn’t happen too often in comics these days so it’s nice to see it as a complete spread. That aside, let’s get to your questions! There was quite a bit to sort through in this issue, but that has been the status quo since the get-go right? First off, YES, I do think that the creative team has already laid out all the pieces needed to resolve this story. I mean, with everything that they’ve introduced so far, I’ve got to at least assume that they have!
Let’s take a quick look at those elements. We have the Army waiting outside the city just itching to strike. We also have Turbine who still seems to be willing to help only because doing otherwise would hurt his chances of seeing his family again (but hey, we all have our motivations). Additionally, we have Daniel West who is both on the run from the gorillas and in search of his sister Iris (who, unfortunately for them both, is still lost in the Speed Force). We have Captain Frye who is not what he seems, though we don’t quite know why yet. Lastly, (at least I think) we have the Rouges who are currently (and quite charmingly) playing hero.
Whew, that’s quite a few things going on that can all potentially help or hinder Barry’s chances for success. All of those elements do seem important too, but how they are important is the question. Again, I’ve got to assume that something here is going to help Barry kick some super-gorilla butt. I’ve also got to think that some of these story lines are simply a bigger part of the tapestry that Manapul and Buccellato have been building. That is where I think this series has me hooked. Even as the plates come crashing down, Patrick, everything is still up in the air! It’s obvious that the Flash isn’t simply going to just give up, but the visions he witnessed all led to assured defeat. So how exactly is this all going to be resolved? I’ve been reading comics for over a decade now and I’ve gotten pretty good at predicting outcomes to certain stories. It’s very exciting when a book can keep me guessing and I’m happy to get that from The Flash. I mean this in the best way possible, but I can’t wait for this story line to end. I am interested to see how Barry bests Grodd, but I’m dying to see how all of these other elements play out as well. What’s up with Frye? Will being trapped in the Speed Force change Iris somehow?? Will The Rouges become besties with The Flash??? Well, that’s doubtful, but I can’t wait to find out!
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?