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For the first time in "The New 52" a comic icon and his arch nemesis finally meet face to face within the pages of The Flash #22. The Flash has been stuck within the confines of a small murder mystery, but now begins the prelude toward the final confrontation with The Reverse-Flash.
Now while I dealt with the previous issue harshly, I think it best to explain why I held this issue up to different standards. The Flash #22 marks the midway point of this current story-arc, titled “Reverse”, and due to being a midway point it has different aspects it needs to live up to. Firstly, it needs to be, or rather show, the coalescing of previous plot points and be able to move forward with them. It also needs to have revelations and a hook that can carry into last half. A good midway issue doesn’t need to have a lot of stuff happen in it – but at least show the vague shadows of things culminating. The previous issue, The Flash #21, as an issue that was at the beginning strokes of the story arc was really only filler, and so failed in those respects. The Flash #22, however, as the middle, was able to excel in what it had to do.
The Flash #22 not only picks up plot threads from this arc, of which there are few, but also threads that were though to be forgotten from previous arcs and begins to weave them into the story. We get more intrigue into the growing love triangle between Iris, Barry, and Patty, but also hints at what became of the monorail that was lost track of all the way back during “Gorilla Warfare”. That latter part really shows that while this has been a very straightforward arc within itself, it’s building upon things that have been set in motion from at least one-year prior. It gives the issue extra balance and really gives it to the story arc as a whole.
Of course it would be wasteful to neglect that this issue also marks the return of a major antagonist, Dr. Elias, back into the fray. In a genius stroke of both art and writing it also manages too both introduce and recap what he has been doing since we lasts aw him, but also to playfully showcase the connections he has to the primary villain – The Reverse-Flash. All of these are touched upon within this issue and more, as there is even large headway made into discovering the secret identity of The Reverse-Flash – the driving thrust of this arc. So while, yes, these things get fleeting mentions in general – it’s more in the vein of subtlety than in simply rushing through things at this point.
The character moments are truly what seal the deal within this issue, at least from the writing standpoint. Over the past year, while the pacing is still something far from being admired, one cannot deny that they are truly the ones that are shaping and helping make the mark of Barry Allen into the modern day. The pangs of remorse, compassion, joy, they all seem to have veritable depth of feeling and really give the long milquetoast Barry real personality and style. Also, as mentioned above, the building romantic tension only adds an extra interesting layer on top of it all, as all three concerned are genuinely decent people – and not cliché disposable fiancés or the like. It’s something that is very engaging to see unfold in that respect.
Of course there are two things that you cannot separate from this story arc and that is the art and the main villain. This is simply because, as the story is a general murder mystery, The Reverse-Flash can only be seen in small asides and from the sidelines. Thus, it s up to primarily the art to capture and convey him as a character – which it does so splendidly. Outside of the clearly “evil” design, the character is able to display actual visible animosity through the combined efforts of Manapul’s line work and Buccellato’s coloring. Each of his appearance so far and including this one exude a feral tone and come off as raw, and messy.
Manapul in general is in top form with The Flash #23, with the aforementioned connection between Dr. Elias and The Reverse-Flash, but also with the ever-present craftsmanship that is poured into the paneling and layouts. This issue is peppered with an astounding 5 two-page spreads, but one cannot fault them for being excellent examples in drafting. The cover itself is an astounding piece of art and perfect in terms of composition and general style. It’s the kind of cover that makes it onto the front of the trade. Overall, ending with the first blows of the battle being struck, this is the kind of issue that hypes a reader up for the final half of the story and neatly leads into it. Hopefully it is able to follow through and not end up as pseudo-filler issues like The Flash #22 did.