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The moment that Flash writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have been building up toward since the very beginning of the “New 52” has finally arrived – the origin of the all-new Reverse-Flash! As part of the line-wide “Villains Month” initiative, 3 years worth of stories finally culminate, but how exactly did it turn out?
The first that that should be noted right off the bat is that while this issue is part of the aforementioned month gimmick it is not necessarily part of the overall theme of done in one villain one-shots. Quite a few issues are simply continuations of the already ongoing story arc for their titles. The Flash #23.2 follows that suit and so will have to be judged on that merit – and not necessarily on how it tells one complete story. A lot of the Villain issues are getting that sort of flack and it seems that there does need to be clear boundaries set.
As for the issue itself one of the main problems of the “Reverse” arc is the same problem that has been found throughout almost all of the arcs for The Flash – really uneven pacing. Especially in what has turned out not only to be the big finale for the first “era” of The Flash but also now the big finale for Manapul and Buccellato’s run as a whole – this is just unacceptable. With only two issues left in this arc #23.2 had half the responsibility on its shoulders to bring this arc the push and bomabasticity it needs to serve as a proper farewell. To that end “Reverse-Flash #1” held up its end of the bargain.
In a fittingly simple, somewhat grotesque, and wholeheartedly silver-age manner Manapul and Buccellato craft the background of Danny West, a wholly original character of their invention and the brother of Iris West. Using various and easily recognizable aspects of other Flash villains, not restricted to the previous Reverse-Flashes, they set about to draw up the reverse of Barry Allen. When they set out for this story they had one goal in mind – for the villain to be complete opposite of Barry Allen in every way – and they succeeded. From his connections to his parents, to the choices they made, from police scientist to career criminal – all with Buccellato’s signature character work to help buff it out.
The issue helps to, but not completely, tie up quite a few plot threads that have hung up in the air. The fate of the Central City monorail, what happened to the hostages, the use of the Speed Force Battery, all get their due in this issue. What had taken so long to build up and get to turns out to have had relatively simple and charming outcome. It’s not the “how” that turned out to be important, but the “why” – as the primary focus of the issue are the transformative moments in Danny’s childhood. The few that turned out to mean so much come across very well and somewhat heartfelt/emotional. One can understand, if not agree, with the Reverse-Flash’s mission – in a way not unlike Hunter Zolomon’s (Zoom).
One of the downsides of this issue was, and on this I am pretty disappointed, is that Manapul was not able to contribute to the art side of this issue. Not after “Mob Rule” has Manapul been able to complete one arc all the way through and given the importance of this one it’s disheartening. His substitute, Scott Hepburn, is competent and creates some incredibly lavish spreads throughout the issue – helped out by Buccellato’s fantastic colors. This issue could have done more, but given that it had only one focus – did that one focus spectacularly. It’s now up to next month’s issue to bring it all the way home – and so it pretty much has the world on it’s shoulders. At the end, I just hope that Manapul and Buccellato land on their feet and end on a good note.