The Flash: Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato, Carlos M. Mangual, Eric Basaldua, Nei Ruffino
I was pretty much blown away by this issue, much like I have been by every The Flash issue so far. We finally get to see the origins of Mob Rule! I want to start with how much I love this cover. It’s very similar to last issue’s cover, with the mainly white background and the splashes of color. It really helps this book stand out on the shelf. Issue #4 starts off very tricky-like. We see a funeral, and there stands Manuel. It almost looks like it’s Barry’s funeral - since, you know, he was shot in the head last issue! And what’s even better?! We don’t get to see how that resolves until well over halfway through the book!!! What suspense! And I really have to tip my hat to Francis and Brian here…because, while we’re waiting to see what happened to Barry……we’re not actually waiting to see what happened to Barry! I mean that we’re not focused on it, because everything else that’s happening in the book is completely engrossing and it’s taking all of our focus! We don’t even realize we’ve wanted to know about Barry this whole time until his signature yellow-background narrative box shows up for the first time! Geniositude. I just made that up. And I really love the explanation given to how Barry got through being shot in the head (sorry to spoil, but c’mon you didn’t think the title character would be killed off in the first four issues, did you? This isn’t Bart Allen as Flash after all [but don’t make me talk about that or I’ll cry]). This explanation we’re given finally let me stick it to a friend of mine who always said that the Flash was lame because all you had to do was shoot him from behind while he wasn’t looking. Well…NOT ANYMORE! So thanks, Francis and Brian, it felt really good to win that one. Anyway, the rest of the issue is so focused on Manuel and how his relationship with Mob Rule had so far deteriorated that he’s basically nothing more to them than a tool and a hostage. I love this dynamic relationship. Instead of the copies and clones worshiping the “creator,” they’re actually pretty savage toward him - chopping off hands whenever they need to add to their ranks! They’ve also taken Barry’s good friend Doctor Elias, who talks about helping Mob Rule with an “experimental energy source.” I can’t help but assume he’s talking about somehow snaking the Flash into being that experimental energy source. Oh yes! And we get another answer to a question I’ve had so far. During the funeral scene, I wondered if Barry had already undergone the transformation into THE FLASH! Well, you get your answer later in the book. Barry knew Manuel before the Flash was ever a part of the picture. So this kind of thing is really important to Barry - possibly more important than keeping his identity secret. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s compromised by the end of the arc. Francis’ art just blows me away every time, too. This time, though, we didn’t get that much of that “kinetic” feel that this book has so often, but I think that’s because the Flash was out of commission for so much of the book. It’s usually with him that we get that feeling of movement on the pages. However, I really admired the suit-up scene as Barry jumps out the window. That was fantastic. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this arc wraps up next issue!
The Flash #4, the verdict: Another really great issue from the “Flash” team. This one, while it didn’t lack action, really showed us the history of a troubled character that I, personally, have grown to care about. He’s important to Barry, and that’s enough for me. He really shows some redeeming qualities in this issue, like with how upset he gets about hearing of Barry’s apparent death, and how he fights Mob Rule out of anger. Part of me really hopes Manuel makes it through this so that he and Barry can continue to be allies and friends. Maybe Manuel can somehow learn to control or at least influence his dupes so that he can be a much more well-functioning team. In any case, I know Manapul and Buccellato will handle this next issue expertly, and with enough care and finesse that we will all enjoy. DON’T MISS IT!