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:
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.
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:
“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?
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.
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