Ben Reilly Happens While You're Busy Making Other Plans

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Flash 3: The Caffeinated Adventures of Barry Allen

Barry Allen doesn't drink coffee.

We learn this via exposition as Barry's thoughts and a doomed plan race ahead of him. It's a seemingly trivial quirk that makes a lot of sense and *ahem* runs parallel with his attempts to master augmented cognition. And it's yet another example of how seamlessly Manapul and Buccellato blend characterization, theme and action.

Barry doesn't have time to tap into aug cog during the EMP crisis, but he does pull another trick out of his arsenal that makes for a truly stunning visual payoff. This is the stuff of summer action blockbusters, but without the SFX limitations. And it reinforces the simple truth that Barry Allen is first and foremost a problem solver. M & B are taking us on a journey with him as he learns new and innovative ways to use his powers, and it's a fun ride.

Because this is such a fun comic, M & B are liberated to take us to some really dark places without losing sight of the wonder that characterizes Barry's world. They don't shy away from desperate individuals committing evil acts, including torture, amputation, and cold-blooded murder, or from the dark underbelly of science. A group of militarized clones facing death one by one poses not just a physical but a moral threat to our hero and his worldview. In spite of that ever present danger, The Flash is the most thoroughly optimistic book on the market today.

And it's not doomed optimism in the sense of Barry Allen vs. the World. His world is as much a part of him as he is of it. Barry is the social hero, and his positivity is reflected in and returned by the people he surrounds himself with. There's a real romanticism to the supporting cast, whether it's Iris West pursuing her interview at Iron Heights in spite of the blackout, Dr. Elias driving into the desert in a 1912 Stanley Steam car, or the Central City police force taking to the streets on horses. That's the kind of white knight moment that Harvey Bullock and the GCPD just couldn't pull off, and it goes a long way toward showing why Central City is a special place in the DCU.

Flash 3 is yet another flawless comic. M & B fit in a lot of action, deepen the Mob Rule mystery, and give pretty much everyone in the supporting cast at least one character moment. So even though Barry doesn't drink coffee, I suspect Manapul and Buccellato have been hitting Starbucks pretty hard.

And seeing as how The Flash is the best comic on the stands today, here's hoping they won't be going decaf anytime soon!

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