Writers: Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Artist: Francis Manapul
Colourist: Brian Buccellato
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Previously, in The Flash: After a battle with Captain Cold as the Flash, Barry Allen was thought dead by those around him. His girlfriend Patty has mourned his death, and he no longer has a job at the Central City Police Department. Instead, Barry has moved to the roughest area of the city in order to avoid detection, and is working as a bartender whilst still moonlighting as the Scarlet Speedster.
Barry battles several of his old foes, the Rogues, who have undergone a strange metamorphosis, internalizing their powers so that they do not need weapons to battle the Flash any more. He defeats Captain Cold, the Weather Wizard, and Heatwave in quick succession – however, Cold’s sister, herself a Rogue known as Glider, has been secretly rescuing them from prison in order to facilitate her own plans.
‘Breakneck’ doesn’t even begin to explain how quickly the plot in this issue moves. There are mountains of plot development going on here, with certain subplots and characters appearing, even if just for a few pages, as well as enormous fight scenes and one set piece that wouldn’t look out of place in a Mission Impossible movie. And yet, this issue feels chunky, takes a while to digest, and offers up a huge amount of enjoyment for readers without pandering to the more traditional Flash Rogues stories.
From the first page, all of the tropes that long-time readers of the Flash will associate with the Rogues are dropped on their head, making the entire issue unpredictable and even more fun to experience as you’re not sure who or what will pop up on the next page. And yet, there are several moments that pull double duty as culminations of a few subplots, like the Pied Piper, or the small appearance of Axel Walker in an earlier issue, and as little moments that will make longer term fans smile. I know I did; I don’t think I stopped grinning for this entire issue.
The Rogues are obviously the stars of this issue, and rightly so, but the Flash does get a little spotlight in his own issue, as you’d hope. He is most prominent in the first few scenes as he tracks down Dr. Elias and tries to find out exactly what’s been going on in his absence – the reveals here are unexpected, yet they seem to be building to something greater in the future, especially if Elias survives the events of this story arc. I’ve said many times that writers also being the artists on books never usually works, but Manapul and Buccellato continue to show that they know how to craft a fantastic story as well as portray it.
Speaking of the artwork, Manapul and Buccellato return to art duties after Marcus To’s two issue fill-in, and the art couldn’t be any more gorgeous. Whilst some of the pages are a bit more safe than Manapul’s usual choices, with some more traditional gridded pages instead of all over the place, there are still some of his signature style arrangements that are just wonderful to behold – there’s a page mid-issue that looks at Glider, and is shredded into panels like her hair, and is absolutely stunning. There are also smaller points that are well worth picking up on here, such as the colouring Buccellato gives to Glider so that she seems almost insubstantial compared to her fellow Rogues, that show just how talented this art team is, and how much care they take in their craft.
All I can say in closing is that it’s a good thing that the Flash Annual is out next week, so I don’t need to wait and find out what happens next. I’ve said before that issues that elicit emotional responses from me usually get high ratings, and whilst that usually means making me cry, this issue just made me smile all the way through. This is an absolute treat of a comic book, and I loved it from the first to last page; the story is compelling and the completely opposite of predictable, the characters are interesting and varied, and the art is absolutely stunning. You don’t get much better than this.
GO Rating: 5/5