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Francis Manapul takes the first of two well-earned months off, but Brian Buccellato takes full writing (and coloring) chores. As such, many of the threads from the previous issues are continued here while still delivering a stand-alone story.
Or at least that is what it seems like given how things are presented. In issue 18, former Rogue, the Trickster, is accused of murder. He claims innocence, but the evidence seems to be stacked against him. While Flash is investigating this, Trickster’s new pals, the Outlander Nation, an apparent sovereign nation operating outside of Central City (more on that below), threatens war due to Trickster’s imprisonment. And just as Flash is zipping around the prison holding Trickster, he mysteriously loses his powers just as the Outlander Nation attacks. To be continued.
I liked this issue for a couple of reasons. For starters, it really felt like the beginning of a new chapter – a season premiere if you would. You have everyone seemingly in a good place. Flash is with Patty and doing “hero stuff”. He is still trying to get his police job back (legalese with him being dead is holding things up), but he is currently content with how things are. We then get some re-introductions with some of the characters previously trapped in the Speed Force. Turns out some of them developed some speed powers and are now trying to be heroes (and failing miserably). This presents some new situations and an almost-new status quo with the Flash without relying on a lot of backstory. In short, this issue provided a good “jumping-on” point for the elusive new reader.
I also really liked how jammed-packed this issue is with story. In modern comics, there is a continued criticism that individual issues are “decompressed” in order to somewhat pad the story arc for the eventual collected edition. This series of The Flash has not been immune to the occasional decompression (although I have not seen such outside criticism directed towards the title personally). That is not really the case with this issue. While the issue is simple and straight forward, there is a lot going on here and a lot to absorb. I appreciate what Buccellato did with his twenty pages.
Some things did not work for me. For one, the Outlander Nation puzzled me. This is mostly due to them being ill-defined. Are they really a sovereign nation or just a wanna-be one? I remember from issue 3 and 4 that Central City has a badland area (which still makes no sense). Is that where they are from? And why would the US government even recognize such a group as a nation? More explanation about who these people are is needed for their threat to be taken seriously.
The other thing not working for me was the art. Artist Marcio Takara (who did a segment in the Flash Annual #1) subs for Manapul, and his stuff is wildly inconsistent. There are some panels that look very crude or at least rushed, and then there are other bits that are slick and very nicely done. However, it wavers too much. Takara is on art duties next month. I am not overly excited, but at least the arc will have a consistent look.
So, largely a thumbs-up job on The Flash #18. It is a great starting point for new readers. If you have not been reading The Flash, now is the time to get on-board especially with a new, epic arc featuring the return/revitalization of a classic foe on the horizon.
Note: Even though the cliffhanger-ending indirectly leads into Dial H #11, I will not be reviewing (nor reading) that here. However, you can check out a review of it at Retcon Punch, a really great blog if you like reading comic book reviews.