First off I know the reviews are usually Kelson’s thing (and you can expect to see his later in the week) but I decided to share my two cents and take a shot at it. This is my first time reviewing a comic book online so all feedback is most assuredly appreciated. Now on to the review:
Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Francis Manapul & Scott Kolins
Color: Brian Buccellato
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Cover: Manapul w/Buccellato
Variant Cover: Greg Horn
Assoc. Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Ok, this is the way a Flash relaunch needs to be done; Fast and Furiously. Through the last two issues we’ve been on a nonstop action-packed, roller coaster ride that shows no signs of letting up with Part 3 of The Dastardly Death of The Rogues.
As many of you may be aware I was not the biggest fan of Barry’s return. I love Wally and he has been a character that I loved reading about and identified with for years. He was the Flash that I got into and despite the once off story featuring Barry (JLA Year One, The Secret of Barry Allen, and Rogue War), he seemed like a distant memory of a character that died an awesome memorable death. I’m also a huge fan of legacy characters in general. It’s what made DC kind of stand out on it’s own. They had characters that got older, retired, or died and then a new hero would take their place. When Barry died and Wally took his place as The Flash this was huge. It was the first time we had seen a character developed as a sidekick take on the role of their mentor, the first time the inherent promise had been fulfilled. In other words this was ground breaking and it stands out as one of DC’s defining traits. Allowing their heroes to age and move on (quasi) organically while still allowing the character’s previous developments to shine is what DC has been doing pretty well for years.
Just one reason why I don’t like all the back tracking. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve done some great stuff with Barry Allen and Hal Jordan since their returns but I feel like nothing is making them that unique other than that they are older heroes returning to take back their mantles from their previous sidekicks (or letting them co-exist like the superhero equivalent of Gallagher Too). I loved the steady progression we were seeing in the DC Universe and it really made me feel like I was growing up alongside these characters. I wouldn’t be disappointed if a newer younger version would take his place, I would expect it. It needs to happen in order for others to have that feeling as well. Of course as I said, it needs to happen organically; when a character has without a doubt outlived their usefulness and needs a shake-up. The problem is that this is mostly subjective, but certain things like sales, the ability to hold a solo title, etc, etc can (and should) be factors in whether a character is worth keeping around.
With that said, Barry Allen has just about won me over. Just about. First Johns is doing a great job turning these stories into Barry Allen stories. Meaning that you can’t easily insert Wally into these pages and call it the same story. Barry’s occupation is a huge part of this. We get to see a Flash that actually works with the police and at the crime lab. He is at the forefront of all information about Rogues and criminals running loose and then in an interesting twist has to do the forensics to convict them after taking them down. I love how they are playing up the C.S.I. part of it and even flat out referencing it on the cover. CSI: Central City. I could definitely see The Flash being an awesome TV show if they emphasized the C.S.I. elements like Johns does in this issue. There is also a noticeable lack of internal narration that we had with Wally that emphasizes that this is a different Flash through and through. In contrast when Bart Allen took over as Flash they kept the internal narrative from Wally’s run and I don’t think this helped in establishing a whole new ball game.
We open with what we’ve already seen in the Newsrama preview, Digger Harkness (also known as Captain Boomerang) is in the prison infirmary after a welcome home beating from the Iron Heights prison guards. Boomerang attacks a guard in a last ditch attempt to escape his fate and is beaten and subdued fairly easily. Facing another ruthless beating from the guards, Boomerang under duress utilizes his former Black Lantern abilities and creates explosive boomerangs out of thin air and takes care of the guards. I guess that works. I would have liked Boomerang to pull off something a little craftier than randomly developing powers to generate boomerangs out of thin air. It would have been cool to actually see him pull off a real prison escape ala Piper. Also part of the fun of Captain Boomerang was his ingenuity and over the top quality when crafting them. These new developments reek of a nineties revamp. In fact this reminds me of when The Punisher died and came back and was able to pull ghost weapons out of his trench coat. He also fought angels. Don’t believe me?
It was lame then and it’s kind of lame now. I can only hope once this Brightest Day thing is over that he somehow loses them. Would the JLU Episode where he tied The Flash to a huge Boomerang be half as fun? With that said I can’t wait until we see Boomerang face off against The Flash. Hopefully the ghosterangs will have some cooler properties than simply exploding, although it doesn’t seem like it according to the Flash Fact at the end of this issue.
Now we get to the:
When we left Barry last issue the evidence recovered in the investigation of the death of Mirror Monarch identified Barry Allen as the murderer. Luckily Director Singh blames it on scene contamination caused by Barry and the issue is quickly resolved. I was wondering how Barry would get out of that one and I love that. I’ve begun to wonder again. And surprisingly I’m wondering more about whats going to happen next instead of when we will see Wally again. Don’t get me wrong, Barry will never supplant Wally West as my Flash, but I think that with the latest developments with Wally and the West family he should be at most in semi-retirement. He has a family to raise and a daughter to train. Oddly enough Barry while older has neither so I guess it makes sense in the scheme of things, I just wish they could have done this with Bart instead. They were pretty much heading in that direction back in The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive when they killed Bart off anyway. He had just joined the Police Academy and was studying Forensics. Now that I think about it Marc Guggenheim actually used similar story elements to this one when Bart was almost arrested after Steppenwolf broke into Bart’s locker. He was looking for a device Bart recovered earlier from underneath Los Angeles after a fight with the ironically named one-shot villain, Impulse. He escaped from the authorities by revealing that he was the Flash and then running to his final fate at the hands of the Rogues. I guess Barry’s stories are interchangeable with someone but I guess it works a bit better when you are in the actual crime lab and not a rookie recruit. Or maybe Johns should never ever leave the Flash ever again…
But I digress, Barry and Iris meet for Coffee to discuss Barry’s dilemma and a closed case that he is investigating when the Renegades strike again, in a scene that reminds me of Spider-Man 2, when Peter and Mary Jane are talking in a coffee shop and Doctor Octopus throws a car through the window:
And while we are on the subject of art, Mr. Manapul’s sketchy style has a way of drawing (hehe) me in nicely. It seems as if he has come a long way in a very short time. The Flash #3 has impressive work throughout with scenes like this one:
Francis’ style has a way of just making The Flash pop. The way he conveys speed is only enhanced by his sketchy style giving a visually vibrant and unique feel of speed. He really is making the Flash stand out as an iconic hero in a way that hasn’t really been done since Howard Porter left the Flash along with Geoff Johns after Rogue War in 2006. Sure there have been a few flashes of excellence here and there (Karl Kerschl, Tony Daniel) but for the most part it’s been pretty uneven in the art department. Something you can’t have when the main draw of The Flash is his look and his speed. Francis Manapul, Scott Kolins (my personal favorite Flash artist), and Ivan Reis (in Blackest Night and the Green Lantern tie-ins) have done a great job maintaining the momentum and draw the Flash the way he should always be drawn. Slender and sleek, not rippling with ridiculous muscles and kinetic, always on the move and bursting with vibrant energy.
After the initial attack, Barry checks on Iris while simultaneously asking her to check out Iron Heights through a contact and then changes into his working clothes. The Renegades muse about the whereabouts of The Flash just as he appears and surrenders himself to the them in an effort to calm them down and avoid casualties. The Renegades trap him in a supposedly speedster-proof force-field and begin reading Barry his rights. After some back and forth, Barry uses the time talking to figure out the frequency of the field and jumps through. Trixster comments that The Flash should not have been able to break through and Warlock replies that it’s better they know now for their eventual encounter with Professor Zoom. Love all the foreshadowing. After a brief chase with some added foreshadowing of Iris Allen’s future, Barry is apprehended again. He is only saved by the sudden appearance of Captain Boomerang and his exploding ghosterangs setting up a three way battle between Barry, Boomerang and The Renegades next issue.
More props btw for the Renegade character designs. The more and more I read this issue, the more and more it feels like an episode of a TV show or a treatment for a movie. With the right material, the Renegades’ costumes could translate very easily into contemporary Rogue movie costumes. Francis did a fantastic job updating the Rogue’s looks, especially with Commander Cold:
At the end in keeping with the spirit of Barry Allen and also hitting home a little more that this is Barry Allen’s book and Barry Allen’s stories, we have a Flash Fact. Drawn by Scott Kolins and done in two parts, the first is a scientific explanation of how boomerangs work. To illustrate it we have a young Digger Harkness, who is practicing throwing his boomerang before dinner. The second part gives us a mini-profile of Captain Boomerang and his recent exploits. Kind of an update for those who didn’t follow Blackest Night and aren’t following Brightest Day. Geoff Johns has gone out of his way to make this book accessible to new readers, even in the third issue we are brought up to speed fairly quickly on what we’ve missed earlier in the story.
All in all I give it a solid B+. We all know Johns can write a good Flash story and he isn’t disappointing many here. He is little by little fleshing Barry out a bit while also hitting home key things about him that will never change; His unswerving sense of right and wrong, his methodical approach to just about everything, his analytical scientific mind, and his love for Iris. These things are what ultimately define Barry Allen and make him attractive as a character. Johns knows this and plays it up well. Francis Manapul’s art helps move the story along at breakneck speed and stops for nothing. His style fits the Flash better than anyone has consistently in a while and I hope that he is in for the long haul.
A few things, like the unnecessary change to Boomerang’s powers kinda bug me, but I’m a wait and see kind of guy. I’m sure Johns will find a way to make it work or hopefully it will be reversed by the time Brightest Day is over.
Thanks for reading.