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The Flash story of the year is quickly getting under way as The Flash Family reunites for the first time in "The New 52.” Sparks will fly as The Flash meets his very own Kid Flash!
One of the first things that it seems very prudent to mention is that this meeting has been a long time coming and around two years worth of anticipation has accumulated within The Flash’s fandom. Though one could have hardly guessed that it would eventually go down the way that The Flash #21 presented it. The Flash Family as they were known is gone for good, for the time being, so what Manapul and Buccellato depict for readers in this issue is a jarring and radically different dynamic.
Of course this is not to say that the dynamic presented – that of pithy remarks and rebellious attitudes – is in any way done badly. Manapul and Buccellato do a commendable job at trying to finally integrate Kid Flash into their series proper, as well as trying to keep in line with what has been established in Teen Titans. The very act of at least giving some depth to characters who have mainly been formed by that slap-dash lame excuse for a comic is an act deserving of applause – even though it has already been done within the pages of JLA’s Vibe, but it’s expanded upon here with aplomb.
The main boon that this issue has to the new dynamic is that while The Flash and Kid Flash get along very roughly and do end things on a sour note, to the disappointment of longtime fans, it does showcase why exactly The Flash Family was great in the first place. It displays the very caring and nurturing aspects of Barry Allen, and why exactly he was/is a good mentor. It leaves hope for the future and lays seeds for possible team-ups, which is all we can ask for at this point. Manapul and Buccellato are able to pack very minuet, very subtle, character beats into their brief interactions which is a first for their writing skills – something that I hope they use more of in later issues.
Once more though it is their failings that put a dent in yet another issue – that being the obstacle of pacing. This entire issue is genuinely two set-pieces with multiple two page spreads, all amounting to a story that could have been the first half, or even third, of a more rounded issue. It’s nearly the same almost every issue – everything really did not need to take up as much space as it did. The entire main story is just a big chase that leads to a short resolution that is a singular plot point, which causes worries about the future of this story arc.
The only segment that I felt was properly parsed in was the ending, which once again showed the ruthlessness of the all-new Reverse-Flash, who is a character that is certainly starting to grow on me. The character might not possess the few aspects that made his predecessors stand out, neither Professor Zoom’s outright sadistic nature nor Zoom’s interesting pathos – but he is being played off as a rather tangible and credible threat. This current arc is more that just as “murder mystery” as Manapul and Buccellato have espoused, given the Reverse-Flash’s actions, and the palpable fear he injects into the title, he makes for a great horror villain, and adds all the tension this story-arc needs.
On a technical/art level the issue is as gorgeous and well constructed as any other of the issues this series has had. Manapul finally gives readers a taste of what it looks like when speedsters race and he is on his game for that. While the two-page spreads are excessive Manapul at the very least puts them to work art-wise if not story-wise. Buccellato’s coloring is just the sublime cherry on top, adding depth, warmth, and all around color to each page and really works at color composition. The paneling is, for the longest in a while, another aspect of the art that I must applaud for there are moments of pure ingenious to the drafting that really captures and accentuates what the pages are going for.
Overall this is an issue who main draw is the art. While I try to look for counterbalances as much as I can when reviewing this series there s really not much going on besides Manapul and Buccellato indulging themselves, or so it seems. It has signs of just being another casualty of “writing for the trade” which is a shame, but hopefully they are more restrained as the story-arc goes on because they are various plot beats that are intensely interesting and could make or break the story.