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The Flash #18 – Review: Tricked

Fresh off of “Gorilla Warfare” the five part story arc that pitted the Scarlet Speedster against one of his greatest foes, and which have a preview to “the” greatest, it seems that the time has come for a small breather as Francis Manapul (main artist and co-writer) takes a full leave of absence for the next two issues – including this one. So for the first time since the series has started Brian Buccellato, who also serves as the title’s excellent colorist, is writing solo – and what, one might ask, does he bring to the table when given the reins? The answer to that is none other than a two-parter featuring the youngest Rogue – The Trickster! Now it just comes to see whether or not Buccellato can handle writing alone, given that the series is not particularly known for its great writing, which is not to say that the writing is bad, but it does not hold much of a candle to the beautiful art that Manapul and Booch provide.

To put it in short form Buccellato does a serviceable job all things considered and it does not seem that there is much, if any, drop in quality with thus latest issue. It is as fun, poppy, and (to admit to having no better for it) quick as the series has been since the end of the first arc. The latter point of which, “quick”, has always been a point on contention against the series – which the amount of story/information relayed per issue is too light and insufficient and this month it is no different it is sad to say. What might have been, and what could have been, shortened down a few pages is stretched out over to fill the entire required length. It does leave a pervading sense of emptiness.

Although that is just a statement on the series as a whole, of which only the “Zero Month” issue seems to have balanced out, which includes The Flash #18. There were highlights in the issue itself, however, but one hopes that pacing-wise the series evens out soon. Of said highlights there was the ever-continuing development of Barry Allen, who it seems has more of a distinct voice and clear personality under Buccelllato lone pen. In most other issues Barry has been a mainly vanilla/generic protagonist and his voice came off as strictly formula, but here he seems to finally pop out somewhat – and with the inclusion of actually showing The Flash being an active part of Central City life (and not just when it comes to super villains) in helping with repairing public institutions – it is a nice pathway to take after the largely action-filled “Gorilla Warfare”. Other than that it also surprisingly follows up on a few plot threads both recent and past – ie. The Trickster’s “Outsiders” group, People getting Speed Force powers, and Barry working as a Bartender – and what makes this surprising is that there are quite a number of floating plot threads that the pacing make very apparent are a long time coming in being resolved. That Buccellato is tackling these head on so quickly is somewhat reassuring that things are heading in the right direction.

On the subject of people getting speed force powers we are introduced to two of these said characters and it seems that a whole new avenue of story progression could very well open up for the series in terms of plot possibilities – especially since quite a few people were trapped there during the previous story arc. In any case there is not much to talk about with this issue writing wise – since there is not much to work with it is just feels too light. Buccellato does fine by the series so far, but as a whole it needs to find a way to balance story with art and not just self-indulge on the latter. The issue ends on a great cliffhanger but it loses impact because it feels that not much else of consequence has happened throughout the issue and so one feels cheated given that only now has the real entertainment begun. Said cliffhanger is of course part of a “half” crossover with Dial H, in which Nelson Jent has dialed The Flash – and so we are promised next issue to finally see Barry confront an enemy using only his wits and not his powers. It is a great plot to go with and hopefully Buccellato makes the best of it

Speaking of art, as said previously Manapul is taking a well-deserved break after “Gorilla Warfare” – in which there was much self-indulging - and so he is filled in for by the hands of Marcio Takara (The Incredibles, Incorruptible) and a better guest artist for this particular story-arc I cannot think up. His wispy, kinetic, and fluid art is a great pair for both the titular character and the subject of this two-parter, The Trickster. Both are very exuberant characters and while Manapul manages to hit that mark every issue he has done, Takara comes just close with his impressively relaxed, yet still clean, line work. It has become shorthand knowledge with fans of the series that whatever it may lack is story it makes up for in the art and it is once again no different for this month. Overall it is as good as an issue as one can come to expect from the series and so I judge it on those terms, though there is call for improvement – though it seems that the second half of this story might be more balanced since it carries forth the actual plot.



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