Today, Scott and Mikyzptlk are discussing The Flash 25, originally released November 27, 2013.
Scott: Have you ever said goodbye to someone outside a restaurant and then proceeded to walk down the street in the same direction as them? It’s weird. That’s what I was expecting out of The Flash 25, since writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato are back one last time after penning what felt an awful lot like their farewell issue a month ago. But rather than an awkwardly silent side-by-side walk to adjacently parked cars, this issue feels like a wake-up call. Manapul and Buccellato illustrate (I mean, literally illustrate) the reasons why I’m going to miss them. The issue is merely a tie-in with little significance to Flash as a series, but when these guys are doing the art (as they are for only a portion of this issue), they don’t need much story to turn out something great.
This issue takes place during Zero Year, which means it features a pre-Flash Barry Allen who has only just graduated from the police academy. Barry is in Gotham City, lending his services to the GCPD in the wake of Riddler’s city-wide blackout. Barry, along with officers Bullock and Thompson, are investigating a new drug called “Icarus”, which causes users to believe they are superheros, and then spontaneously combust! Barry also meets Iris West- an intern for the Gotham Gazette at the time- who proves to be much more helpful, and attractive, than the other officers. Barry and Iris follow a lead to a refrigerated warehouse, where they discover Thompson is behind the distribution of Icarus. Thompson forces Barry to take the drug, sending him into a prophetic hallucination.
Thompson nearly kills Barry, but Bullock arrives in the nick of time and shoots his longtime partner. Barry gets a kiss from Iris, then heads back to Central City. The rest is history.
While The Flash 24 served as Manapul and Buccellato’s proper send-off, this is truly their final issue together (Buccellato will return for a few more issues). It makes for a slightly awkward prolonged farewell, as it feels more like an obligatory Zero Year tie-in than a story this creative team needed to tell before parting ways with the series. But having Barry, as a rookie cop, volunteering in blacked-out Gotham is a neat enough excuse for a tie-in, so I can’t really complain.
Plus, the inclusion of Barry and Iris’ first meeting makes this issue relevant to the rest of the series, while adding fuel to the notion that the two are destined to end up together. The instant attraction they share, the candle-lit crime lab, the him-saving-her-from-a-burning-building, it’s all pretty romantic. And you don’t often see such a stunning first kiss unless the relationship is ultimately going to be something more (sorry Patty).
If this issue makes one thing clear, it’s that I’m really going to miss what Manapul and Buccellato bring to this title artistically. Chris Sprouse pencils the first 19 pages of the issue, while Manapul takes over for the final nine. Sprouse’s art is traditional and perfectly serviceable. His versions of Barry and Iris look noticeably different than how I recognize them, but that’s to be expected when a new artist steps in after 25 issues. There isn’t much else to say about Sprouse’s art. It looks Gotham-y and it’s fine.
When Manapul takes over, the issue immediately takes on a new energy. I’ve already included three of the nine pages drawn by Manapul, so it’s probably unfair for me to show any more, but it’s incredible how lively those pages are. Manapul just has a way of stylizing every panel to make it as compelling as possible. No one else can make a hand dropping a gun look as cool as he does (OK, I’ll throw in one last panel).
This particular nine-page sequence relies heavily on the art to tell the story, and it’s impressive that Manapul renders the action with so much clarity. If I were to read the stage directions for the warehouse fight scene, I’m not sure I would understand what’s happening (Barry hallucinates, Barry nearly combusts, Iris blasts Barry with some refrigeration thingy, etc.), but it makes perfect sense the way Manapul draws it.
It’s also clear that Manapul brings the best out of Buccellato. Buccellato colors the entire issues, but only busts out his signature water color style for Manapul’s pages. The shadowing on the faces is so much more dynamic in the final third of the book. It’s a bit jarring actually- the more I flip through it, the more this seems like two separate comics glued together. But it’s awesome to have Man and Buc do Flash one last time, and set in Gotham no less! It’s enough to make me wish they were doing the art for just about every title out there.
Mikyzptlk, it’s sunk in for me just how much Manapul and Buccellato’s art has been the main appeal of this title. I’m very sad to see them go, and hoping there isn’t a huge drop off in the art going forward. If that is the case, is the Iris-Barry-Patty love triangle enough to keep you invested in this series? I can’t promise anything.
Mikyzptlk: To be honest, I’ve never been interested in the love triangle, as it’s always seemed to be a certainty that Iris and Barry would end up together eventually. Regardless of what I know of their collective past in the Pre-52, Manapul and Buccellato have always presented Iris and Barry’s will-they-won’t-they relationship with a knowing wink and smile. It’s like you said Scott, sorry Patty, but it’s only a matter of time for Barry and Iris.
As for whether or not I’ll be sticking around for this series, I certainly will, although tentatively. What will keep me on The Flash depends on what the new creative teams decide to do with Barry. DC Comics brought Barry back from the dead after 20 years and bumped off fan-favorite Wally West in the process. For me, it’s incredibly important that the creatives in charge do something new with the character. It’s clear that Manapul and Buccellato felt similarly. I had the best time with their Flash when they “killed” Barry Allen off and had him working at the Rogues’ bar.
For one thing, it allowed Barry to know what the Rogues were up to. More importantly though, it allowed Barry to see the Rogues in a way that he’s never seen them before, which gave the creators a chance to explore the humanity of the Rogues in a fun, new way. It was also a way to muss up Barry Allen’s hair a bit. Keep in mind that this is only my opinion, but Barry is normally a pretty boring character, and putting him in that grimy dive-bar atmosphere did a lot to make him interesting to me, as it gave me the chance to see the character in a new light.
That’s why this Zero Year tie-in worked so well for me. Seeing Barry play the pre-Flash hero was surprisingly exciting. We’ve seen a de-powered Flash in Manapul and Buccellato’s run before, but seeing a pre-powered Barry, especially in Gotham, is something different.
Regardless of his powers, the creative team shows that Barry Allen is a hero. Harvey Bullock can’t understand his heroic exuberance and Barry doesn’t understand his reticence to do what is right. In the end though, the two seem to rub off on one another, as Harvey stops his long-time partner and Barry learns that not everything is black and white. Here’s Harv talking about the actions of his partner.
Today, Barry works as a cop in one persona and as a vigilante in another. That’s okay though, because sometimes “you gotta live in the grey” to do what’s right. It’s an important lesson for Barry, and he learned it because he was placed in a new and unfamiliar situation. Here’s hoping that the new creative teams continue to put Barry in unfamiliar situations, as doing so sure made for one hell of a send off.
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?