The Flash 17

Alternating Currents: The Flash 18, Drew and Pivitor

Today, Drew and guest writer Pivitor are discussing the Flash 17, originally released February 27th, 2013.

Drew: “Move forward” are the words the Flash lives by — both the man and the title. We’ve seen both accept rather profound changes, from the newfound abilities of the Rogues to his own death, rolling with the punches where most superheroes (and their series) might work to return things to their status quo. At the same time, writers Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul are ever committed to their own continuity, recalling and building upon details first mentioned months earlier. The fact that those elements don’t come into play until long after they are introduced gives the series a propulsive sense of forward motion, allowing it to build incrementally. Thus, issue 17 can resolve plot elements first established in issue 6, as the Rogues, Gorillas, and the victims lost in the Speed Force finally get their due.

The issue finds Barry locked in battle with Grodd in the Speed Force, but it’s no longer a fair fight. Barry easily routs Grodd (with an assist from that crazed wooly mammoth), and delivers Iris and company out of the Speed Force, just as the Central City Police, the US Army, and the Rogues have subdued or chased off the remaining gorillas. One week later, things seem to have returned to normal — Barry has used the return of Iris et al. to cover for his own return. One month later, we see the emergence of the Reverse Flash.

The implication is that Reverse Flash is Dr. Elias, who we see opening a secret chamber of Speed Force batteries and twirling his (figurative) mustache, but I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to David West. We know he was rescued by the Rogues, who pulled his bus into the mirror world, and was presumably returned to the non-mirror world when the Gorillas were defeated, but we don’t know what he did after that. He’s still a fugitive, so it’s not like he could just return to his normal life. I can’t help but wonder if the Rogues — who also had a Speed Force Battery — might have recruited a willing fugitive into their fold (as we also see them do with Turbine). Of course, this is just spitballing — we don’t really have much in the way of info on this mysterious Reverse Flash, which means we also don’t have much of a context even if we did know who he was.

Full disclosure: I’m still very new to Flash’s mythos. Everything I know about Flash I’ve learned in the New 52, so I’m completely unfamilliar with any villains that haven’t already been introduced. In fact, Patrick had to correct me a few weeks ago when I confused Reverse Flash with Rewindo, the cartoon character Breaking Bad‘s own Jesse Pinkman invented, whose power was that he could run backwards really fast. Point is, I don’t really know what to expect, but as usual with this creative team, that doesn’t bother me at all. Manapul and Buccellato do give us a hint of what’s to come, which is so brief, I’m happy to include it all here:

Reverse Flash

I can’t help but read that final line as a statement of purpose for the series going forward. That sense of forward motion I mentioned has been exciting, but it’s also exhausting. I’m a big fan of comics that demand close readings, but I can see why needing to remember 10 issues worth of minutiae (not just plot points) could be too much. The implication that Reverse Flash might offer some balance to Flash’s universe (and storytelling) could be a very refreshing change of pace.

Speaking of changes of pace, Manapul and Buccellato have returned to the notion of an Iris-Barry-Patty love triangle with a vengeance. Iris being lost in the speed force and Patty thinking Barry was dead may have put the breaks on things for a while, but things look as cozy as ever between Barry and Patty at issue end, and Barry quite literally sweeps Iris off her feet in the Speed Force.

"Barry and Iris, sitting in a tree..."

That’s a pretty loving look they’re sharing, which may just explain the territorial way Patty steps in to smooch Barry at the end of the issue. I’m not entirely sure what Barry’s game is here, but those of us counting down the days until Barry and Iris get (back) together now have a little more to keep them going.

Like I said, this issue has a LOT of elements, so I’d better get to turning things over to guest writer, Pivitor (who folks might recognize from the comments — or from last month’s write-up of Red Hood and the Outlaws 16). Piv, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on Reverse Flash — is it for sure Dr. Elias, or is it possible it’s Daniel West (or some other player)? What about this love triangle we’ve got cooking? Do you like Patty, or can Barry and Iris not get together fast enough? Oh, and most importantly, are you loving all of these Planet of the Apes references?

Pivitor: Oh, it would’ve been criminal not to include those Planet of the Apes references, Drew. In the “Gorilla Warfare” storyline, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have presented us with a threat that could wipe Central City off the map and a story that’s made Gorilla Grodd more threatening than ever before—and provided a more logical reason for an egomaniacal psychic gorilla to be arch-enemies with a man who can run at the speed of light. It’s been a rousing success, but it also hasn’t left us with much space for comic relief, which is why I appreciated not only this issue’s gorilla jokes, but also this little gem of a panel:

"Are we not apes?" "We are Monkey Devo!"

“Fight like apes!” is an easy joke, but it got a good laugh of out of me, plus it’s an effectively subtle example of the superiority complex of Grodd’s troops—of course fighting like an ape is superior to fighting like a man in their eyes (I’m not sure I disagree—they’ve sure got me outmuscled). But what I really want to point out is the police officer being flung 50 feet into the air after being punched in the gut by a gorilla in the background. I suppose that that should be tragic, but it had me in stitches.

Another thing I love about this scene is the way it incorporates the supporting cast into the battle for Central City. It could have easily been left to faceless soldiers, but by including Patty, Darryl Frye, Director Singh and Forrest, it adds more danger to the scene, and also more joy when they triumph, because we already know and care about these characters. Here at Retcon Punch we’ve been quick to praise the way Manapul and Buccelato have built up the world around the Flash, but they continue to earn that praise month in and month out.

Anyway Drew, I’m glad you mentioned the rekindling of the Barry/Iris/Patty love triangle, because it sure got my attention. Most of you probably know this, but this book isn’t Manapul’s first time illustrating the Flash. He cut his teeth as the artist on Geoff Johns’ 12 issue run directly before Flashpoint, and it gave him plenty of opportunities to draw romantic stares between Barry and Iris. In the current series we’ve gotten our fair share of hints that there might be something brewing between them, but when Barry zooms in to save Iris, it’s the first time Manapul has given us this patented adoring gaze. I may have squealed a little when I first saw that panel, I won’t lie.

That said, the reason why this is a love triangle and not just a mad dash to get Barry and Iris back together is because Manapul and Buccellato have put real effort into making Barry and Patty’s relationship not only legitimate, but actually enjoyable in its own right. And maybe she’s just hitting on some of my personal weaknesses here, but how could someone not love a woman this hardcore?

Patty saves the day

If Gail Simone was writing this title, Barry would end up proposing to both Iris and Patty, and they’d live happily ever faster, but since DC is unlikely to ever repeat that banner moment, it means either Iris or Patty is going to end up hurt. While in the end I think I’d prefer to see Barry and Iris end up together, it still hurts to think of Patty being left behind in the aftermath. So Barry’s decision here definitely has me intrigued, though I think it will be a long time coming.

Until then, we’ve got the threat of the Reverse Flash looming on that stark red and black horizon. How gorgeous is that page anyway? It can be easy to take Manapul and Buccellato’s art for granted when they keep hitting home runs month after month, but this Reverse Flash reveal especially is breathtaking. First we’ve got Reverse Flash’s sleek new costume, starting with the backwards Flash logo on his chest and then with his armor peeling away from his body as he literally explodes into being. Everything on this page was about the creation of something new—the first panel even looks like hands slowly pulling apart black inky nothingness, loosing the Reverse Flash into an unprepared universe. Buccellato’s colors pop here, reminding me of the legendary Alex Ross. I can’t gush about it enough.

As for this new villain’s identity, Dr. Elias seems the obvious choice, and Daniel West is noticeably absent from this issue’s proceedings, but Reverse Flashes have always been tied into time travel as well, which opens up a hoard of new possibilities—I guess what I’m saying is, this guy could be almost anybody. I’m afraid my encyclopedic knowledge of Flash lore is of no use here, Drew, and honestly, I can’t wait to be surprised on this one.

Of course, Gorilla Grodd’s also a factor; we last saw him falling blindly into the Speed Force with Mr. Snuffleupagus, and while Grodd may have been a false prophet, he still has a way to tap into the Speed Force, so maybe stranding him there wasn’t the best long-term plan. When Grodd escapes he’s going to be stronger than ever, so I hope Barry’s working on some serious countermeasures.

The truth is, there’s a lot in The Flash’s past that could trip him up: his parents, love triangles, The Rogues, Grodd. Barry as a person is at his best when he’s facing forward, forging ahead. In that sense, the Reverse Flash might just be the most dangerous enemy he’s ever faced.

Look out, Barry.

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?

22 comments on “The Flash 17

  1. While I enjoyed this arc, I’m glad it’s over. I’m glad to see Grodd go since he’s never been my favorite, but I’m also ecstatic to see Iris back and Barry “back to life.” I can’t wait to see this book go back to the status quo only to see how Manapul and Booch decide to tear all back down again!

    Oh man, and that Reverse Flash design? That’s easily the best look for him I’ve ever seen! I’m really digging how demonic he looks now.

    • The thing I like most about the redesign is that he’s not just a palette-swap Flash, which is how good ol’ Prof Zoom used to look. I really hope that we’re dealing with Dr. Elias or Danny West in that costume – much as I like Flash mythology, I think we could all stand to have a little less reckless time-travel built right into our character identities (i.e., he doesn’t need to be a Flash-fan from the 25th Century).

      • Totally, although I do love me some time travel shenanigans! Regardless of who the new Reverse Flash is, it does make me wonder what happened to Prof Zoom. Since he was the guy who was responsible for Flashpoint, it’d be hilarious to me if he ended up erasing his own existence in the process. He’s all like “Take that Flash, I’m gonna destroy your whole world! Waitaminute…did I just make you younger…and single…and a way better Flash?!? What about me? I DON’T EVEN EXIST?!?!?!”

        Sucks to be him. lol

        • It is funny how much of Flash’s world was blinked away by Flashpoint (kind of nonsensically, too, as Barry should have memory of both Flashpoint and Pre-Flashpoint continuity). But I do like that Eobard would be erased by his own machinations.

        • Well Eobard was murdered at the end of Flashpoint. Rebooting the universe could have easily fixed that, but given how M&B are treating Reverse Flash like a new concept, I don’t think its Eobard.

          Also, the alternate timeline created in Flashpoint was accidentally created by Barry, who went back in time to try to rescue his mother (“fixing” this timeline created the New 52). Eobard just showed up at the end to gloat at Barry about it, and ended up dead as the result. And maybe Barry didn’t land the finishing blow, but it was the second time Eobard ended up dying because of something Barry did, which hit me funny.

        • Man, I guess the New 52 rebooted my memory too cuz I don’t remember any of that! I could have sworn it was Reverse Flash that changed everything.

        • That is what readers were lead to believe until the final issue of “Flashpoint”. It was the twist. The surprise factor was that since Reverse Flash was traveling through time at the moment Barry went back, he was prevented from being altered and became completely independent of any timeline goofiness. He could then kill Barry (which he couldn’t before as it would have erased his existence as he knew it).

          For all the crap ‘Flashpoint’ gets, this was pretty clever.

      • I’m actually not totally sure what the costume is going to look like, since it looks like it’s still assembling in that image. Is he just going to be the Flash in all black (with the reversed and darkened logo)?

        • Oh, good point Drew. I think I was projecting some of that cragginess as part of the final costume design. Maybe he just looks so cool because the suit is still assembling. I have faith in Manapul to make him look cool (I mean, look what he did to Cold).

        • Even if that costume isn’t fully assembled yet, it loks like his leg armor is, and those seams look very different from Barry’s. I don’t think its gonna be an identical pallete swap like before, though obviously there are similarities.

          Regardless, if they can make the finished product look half as awesome as that teaser page, I’ll be more than satisfied.

    • Knowing what we know with how Barry’s suit works, do you think that image of Reverse-Flash is still reforming his suit onto his body? I don’t think it is finished building itself yet, just look at the cowl. Those pieces clearly are going to fit together at the seam.

      • Yeah, I definitely think you are right, but I hope the suit keeps its rough look. It’s so fantastic. I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing it going forward exactly as we saw it on that last page.

  2. Monkeys monkeys monkeys monkeys monkeys monkeys

    My favorite Planet of the Apes reference is when someone calls a random Gorilla “Bright Eyes.” I love the idea that even when facing this kind of peril, people can’t help but make monkey jokes.

  3. Oh hey, I finally remembered the comment I wanted to make on this.

    I compared the Reverse Flash reveal to creation, and that page certainly reminds me of depictions of God creating the universe, or the Big Bang, or whatever version of that the DC universe ascribes to. And while I obviously read it as the creation of the Reverse Flash, I think there’s something else to it. I’d almost bet money that we just witnessed the creation of a Reverse Speed Force.

    It was a concept Geoff Jonhs created for the previous Reverse Flash back during “Flash: Rebirth” that never got fleshed out too much, and I bet were going to see a lot more of it soon enough.

    • I definitely felt that the Reverse Speed Force was one of those Johnsian ideas that never really had the opportunity to take hold the way most of his mythological constructions do. Like, it’s still basically Speed Force, just, like, a different one. It’s hard to take an elemental force like “speed” and present its opposite as something threatening. So the reverse-speed force also just makes things fast. We already have a thing that does that.

      • Yeah, I suppose a “reverse Speed Force” would be…like, a Slow Force, right? Haha I’d actually love to see that.

        I honestly wasn’t too fond of the Reverse Speed Force (or Johns’ retcons to the Speed Force post-Rebirth in general), but I couldn’t help to predict its return based on these pages.

        If they use it I’m sure M&B will find a way to make it work, but I’d be more than happy if we never saw it again too.

  4. Glad I wasn’t alone in my Barry/Iris squeal. Seriously, one of the best things about the pre-New 52 Flash run was their relationship. I got a big ol’ soft spot in my heart for those two.

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