The Flash 21

flash 21Today, Spencer and Shelby are discussing the Flash 21, originally released June 26th, 2013.

Spencer: A mystery story cannot work with only one suspect. Without false leads and red herrings, everything’s too easy; we know whodunit before the story’s even begun. In Flash 21, Kid Flash becomes one of those false leads; the problem is, Barry is the only one actually trying to solve a mystery here. Us readers already know that the Reverse-Flash is behind these murders, leaving the real bulk of this issue to be carried by the first meeting of Flash and Kid Flash. I’m not sure the two of them are up to the task.

Looking for answers behind the killings of the Speed Force crew, The Flash tracks down Kid Flash, leading to a high-speed, world-spanning pursuit. Barry is eventually able to write Kid off as a suspect when he realizes that he’s powered by a source completely separate from the Speed Force, but when he tries to discover more about Kid’s past, Bart rebuffs him and takes off in an indignant huff. Meanwhile, Daniel West tries to get back into Iris’s good graces, while across town the Reverse-Flash claims his third victim, Sprint.

I’ve always been a big fan of the Flash and Kid Flash as a team. Barry and Wally shared a wonderful father/son dynamic, while Wally and Bart’s more tempestuous relationship provided a lot of material in its own right. So while I knew that their first post-reboot encounter would be different—and that this Kid Flash would likely never be Barry’s sidekick—I was still hoping for there to be some sort of spark between them to latch onto.

Instead, Bart greets the Flash with flat-out antagonism, and while this behavior isn’t entirely unexpected from the brash, headstrong, and sarcastic Kid Flash, it still feels slightly out-of-character even for the New 52 incarnation. Of course, all of Bart’s appearances outside of his home title have painted him in a harsher light, but they seem to completely ignore the fact that, despite his flaws, Bart is normally a cheerful, enthusiastic kid.

That's hurtful, Bart

Seriously, I’ve never seen Kid Flash be such a petulant little brat before. The issue implies that some of his behavior might stem from the issues Bart has with his past, but I didn’t think Bart remembered any of his past yet (admittedly, I could be missing some information here, since I finally dropped Teen Titans a few months ago, but still). Regardless, the story of Kid Flash’s past is one mystery I’m thoroughly sick of revisiting. Much like the story of Dinah’s husband over in Birds of Prey, the mystery of Bart’s past has been stretched out ever since the reboot; it’s been explored in multiple titles for nearly two years now yet we’re no closer to answers then we were at the start. Honestly, I got unreasonably angry just to see it brought up again.

What’s worse is just how much attention is being paid to Kid Flash’s origin. Maybe Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato will prove me wrong; maybe Kid Flash’s past and the source of his powers will be critical to taking down the Reverse-Flash, or maybe it’ll be an important part of an upcoming arc. I hope it is. Regardless, as of now it feels like a complete waste of time. We’ve been chomping at the bit to see more of the Reverse-Flash for nearly four months now, and I think this just felt like one roadblock too many for me.

That’s not to say this issue was a bust though; I still enjoyed much of it. This is the first time we’ve really seen the Flash interact with a young character, and dealing with Bart’s moodiness brings out some amusing shades of Barry’s personality. Sure, he’s still a pretty vanilla kind of guy, but now Barry is forced to admit it.

Oh Barry, you're such a dork but I love you anyway

It’s a lot of fun to see Barry cop to his love of science, or to realize how much he’s starting to sound like his father (although I assume he’s referring to Frye and not the one who’s been in prison his whole life). It’s a level of self-awareness I’m not used to seeing from Barry, and I must admit that it’s pretty refreshing, even if just on a more Meta level.

Meanwhile, Manapul and Buccellato’s handling of Barry and Bart’s tussle has me more excited than ever for the inevitable showdown with the Reverse-Flash. Our co-creators have proved themselves more than adept at crafting a flashy, unique battle between two super-speedsters; the various super-speed tricks are fun enough on their own, but I was especially impressed by the various locales the two speedsters visit.

A battle at near escape velocity should be constantly on the move, but while many artists would be content to fill the backgrounds with generic cities or countrysides and call it a day, Manapul and Buccellato certainly aren’t. They label each place the speedsters visit, and each new locale is more exotic than the last. We’re taken to the Louvre, the Sahara Desert, the Philippines, Sidney, Fuji, and even a sheep farm in New Zealand. My personal favorite is the surprisingly beautiful valleys of Iceland, a place I’m now intrigued to learn more about.

Seriously, this is like the coolest place ever

Unfortunately, despite a lot of fun moments and its usual stellar artwork, this issue still felt surprisingly padded and poorly timed. I hate to find fault with one of my favorite books on the stands right now, but I hold Manapul and Buccellato to such high standards that it’s hard to see them fall short, even by a little. Still, with the Flash and the Reverse-Flash finally set to meet next month, I have high hopes that things will pick up soon, and in a big way.

I dunno Shelby, what do you think? Am I being too harsh, or did you have similar problems with this issue? Also, I didn’t even get to mention any of the subplots that came late in the issue: any thoughts on those?

Shelby: You aren’t being too harsh, this issue fell flat for me as well. It’s surprising, considering the story took place in all the four corners of the earth, there was a glimpse into the future, and a murder; despite all that, I felt like there wasn’t much going on.

The biggest issue I had was that the Barry/Kid Flash chase felt ultimately kind of meaningless. Barry wanted information, Kid Flash refused to give him any, we had some you damn kids/you old man moments, and then three-quarters of the issue was over. Barry’s friends are being murdered and his life is in danger, and the whole book is devoted to a false lead? Sprint is killed, leaving only Barry and Iris left. The suspense should be mounting! Even though we already know who the murderer is, Barry doesn’t; furthermore, he is going to be shocked as hell when he finally figures it out. There should be a lot of tension to this story, but instead we get some cute if somewhat tired dialogue between the Flashes Barry and Kid and a mere two pages devoted to furthering the mystery. There’s no urgency.

With so much of the book taken up by the chase, the little moments at the end feel like afterthoughts, put there to move everyone into place (or kill them) in preparation for the Clash of the Flash next month. The one thing I really enjoyed about it was the art. Manapul and Buccellato do not fail to deliver in that regard. Manapul’s pencils are energetic and dynamic, but they are balanced by Buccellato’s palette, which somehow manages to exude a sense of calm even when saturated in the aggressive red and yellow of the Flashs’ costumes. This book is lovely to look at, no questions there. I just feel like the story has lost it’s focus a little bit; hopefully the big fight with Reverse Flash will tighten everything up and get us back on track.

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?

14 comments on “The Flash 21

  1. I absolutely loved the escape velocity stuff. I know it’s ridiculous every time we apply physics to something like The Flash, but it’s just so much fun to tease out those ideas and actually see them happen. Plus – how terrifying: accidentally propelling yourself into space with no clue how to fix it.

    • Easily my favorite part of this issue. I really enjoyed seeing Flash and Kid Flash interact. Like you say below, their encounter is enjoyable. I’m just happy that their co-existence was mutually addressed! It made the issue for me, even if the current arc is mostly a bust at this point. Let’s hope that RF reveal is a doozy!

  2. The Mystery: not a mystery. For my money, this was the first issue to realize that and just focused on something else entirely. Barry doesn’t even totally suspect Kid Flash of being a killer — just as the audience doesn’t — but I sort of enjoyed just watching this encounter play out. I think we can agree than, as an arc, the Reverse Flash Murders is something of a bust, but I actually dug the issue precisely because it didn’t seem all that concerned with its own mystery.

    • Y’know, I can totally agree with what you’re saying about the mystery. I think my problem is that what they decided to focus on instead–the encounter with Kid Flash–was so far removed from the Reverse-Flash story that it just felt out of place. While I would have been irked with Kid Flash’s behavior no matter what, this issue would have worked a lot better for me had it taken place after this whole Reverse-Flash ruckus was over.

      And as for the mystery, yeah, I’m glad that Barry will basically be face-to-face with the Reverse-Flash next issue, and we can stop seeing Barry sleuthing it out. I didn’t have nearly the problem with Barry’s detective skills that Drew and Scott did last month, but still, “who killed the Speed Force Crew” isn’t the real question behind this storyline, so let’s move past it already.

      The real question on the tip of all of our tongues is “who is the Reverse-Flash?!”, and I wish THAT was the mystery we’ve been digging into the last couple of issues.

      • I’m having a hard time imagining who the RF could be that would be meaningful in any way. Daniel West? Who cares? Also, is the Reverse Flash not interested in killing Turbine? His powers come from the Speed Force.

    • I think that Barry remembers that Flashpoint HAPPENED in at least some form (since at the end of Flashpoint, he presents New 52 Bruce with a letter from his father), but I think when reality was rewritten, it rewrote Barry’s memories too.

      At the end of “Flashpoint: Kid Flash Lost”, Kid Flash ran so fast that he turned into energy, energy used to give Barry the kickstart he needed to “fix” the timestream. I’d love if it allowed him to be reborn in this timestream, but he lost his memories in the process or something. I don’t think that’s what’s planned for the character, though: all hints so far point towards him being a criminal from the future, sent back to the past for…some reason.

      I’m not sure whether DC would allow a character with the memories of the previous universe to exist or not. Part of me says no, they’re too committed to making the New 52 stick, but then again, according to Word of God Booster Gold has at least SOME Pre-Flashpoint memories that he can’t properly understand, and the most recent issue of JLA shows that a search is in process for Booster, so maybe they plan to do something with the idea afterall.

      • There are only a few relics from pre-New 52 era, and I don’t know if I’m supposed to (or if “supposed to” means anything), but I chose to believe that there are a few characters with memories of that time. Barry is one and Booster is another – I think they might not understand their memories totally, but they sorta have them. But then there’s Pandora, who straight-up knows what’s going on (which raises questions about the rest of the Trinity of Sin and involved characters). Plus that note from Thomas Wayne, Knight of Vengeance, is a physical carry-over from Flashpoint.

        It’s hard to say just how hardline DC is about The New 52 being the way it is now. I mean, we’re two years later now and every single cover still says NEW 52 on it. That’s weird, right? Plus this summer’s big thing heavily features Pandora – the architect (?) of the combination of worlds. DC’s not done being crisisy, just you wait.

        • The Outsider (in JLA) also remembers Flashpoint apparently. Though since he’s a product of the Flashpoint universe, I’m pretty sure that means his knowledge only extends to that era and nothing before.

          I think characters like Barry and Booster have some notion of some kind of reality before this one, but I could buy if Barry’s memories of that time began to fade.

          If I recall correctly, that’s basically what happened to our heroes after the original Crisis right? Like, writers had them remembering the Crisis pretty clearly following the event, but as the years went on, the writers just had them stop mentioning it entirely until the characters just all kind of “forgot.” I don’t think it was anything “in story” though. More like an editorial edict.

          Then of course there’s the Psycho Pirate. We all know what remembering pre-Crisis continuity did for that poor bastard.

    • I saw the past/future dialogue as a kind of commentary on Barry’s own weird position in the New 52. Most of his history was erased, putting him in his own past — but one where we expect all of the events of his life to come to pass. I thought having him confront an actual relic from both is Pre-Flashpoint past AND his actual future was a brilliant way to address those issues.

  3. So hey, I’m asking this question super-late so hopefully somebody notices, but I was wondering: Anybody have any idea what the little scene with Barry and Patty was about the end?

    Like, I think it’s a sweet little scene, I liked it a lot, it just doesn’t seem like it actually accomplished something besides letting us see Barry and Patty be in love…which is nice, nothing wrong with that, it’s just a weird time to bring a scene like that in. It feels like Manapul and Buccellato just had an extra page to fill.

    The layout of the page seems to contrast the scene with the pursuit–and ultimately the death–of Sprint. Any of y’all think that means something? Maybe Barry will blame himself, maybe he’ll feel guilty that he was enjoying himself instead of continuing to try to solve this mystery, and it cost Sprint his life?

  4. “Bart’s moodiness”

    Those two words should NEVER be put together. Did they seriously ruin him that badly? Looks like I made a good decision dropping DC after Flashpoint (I’m only here because I decided to check what was going on after 2 years or however long this has been going on)

    • The Teen Titans haven’t been handled particularly well since the reboot, but like I said in the article, Bart is acting pretty out-of-character even for the New 52 version in this issue, so I wouldn’t make any decisions about the character based off this alone.

      Thanks for checking in with us!

  5. Pingback: The Flash 22 | Retcon Punch

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