The Reverse-Flash explodes into the New 52 in a hail of Speed Force energy.
Imagine Superman without Lex Luthor, Batman without the Joker, or Hal Jordan without Sinestro. Barry Allen has been without his single greatest rogue since the launch of the New 52 close to two years ago. This fact is not necessarily a problem, however, as it has allowed co-scripters Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul to emphasize other villains and develop a new tone for one of DC’s legacy heroes, but as the Reverse-Flash blazes onto the scene, does the famed time-traveling character receive a similar treatment?
This issue was teased as the arrival of the Reverse-Flash, and Buccellato and Manapul do a great job of building tension and momentum toward the imminent reveal. Flash #22 follows Barry as he defies his supervisors and attempts to track down the mysterious “Speed Force killer” that has been ravaging Barry’s world, and despite knowing the historical identity of the Reverse-Flash, Buccellato and Manapaul’s red-herring was almost convincing enough to make it seem that they were recreating the villain for a new era. The Reverse-Flash’s arrival, moreover, especially due to Manapul’s art, is explosive and maniacal, and is surely one of the more exciting reveals in a long time. The Flash fell off my pull-list after about six issues, but now that the Reverse-Flash is dashing around the title may just make a return.
Even though the co-written story is good, it’s obviously Manapul’s art that steals the show. The Flash was consistently one of the best looking titles in the New 52 when I read it on a regular basis, and it is quite clear that Manapul has only grown into a stronger artist since then. Each page, especially the large double-page spreads, looks fantastic, with the best example showing Barry and Iris West speeding across the Utah Salt Flats with wisps of sand and air floating around the pair. The design of the Reverse-Flash, however, is a tad bit concerning, as it looks like DC’s (possible) mandate of 90s-esque character designs continues to rear its ugly head, with the villain wrapped in spikes that lift and shoot towards Barry. The design is not terrible, but it definitely looks unnecessary and aged. As awkward as the Reverse-Flash’s costume is, however, it is not concerning enough to completely detract from an overall great looking book.
While this reader is not well acquainted with current Flash status quo, Brian Buccallato and Francis Manapul manage to make the reading experience seamless and fun, with a story that looks fantastic and reads well. Barry Allen’s hunt for the Reverse-Flash is quite exciting, and not as simple as it initially seems. With the deadly time traveler officially making his way into the pages of the New 52, it is an exciting time for The Flash.
Brian Buccallato and Francis Manapul (W), Francis Manapul (A) • DC Comics, $2.99, July 24, 2013.