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Tying into the current “Zero Year” storyline over in Batman, this month’s double-sized The Flash features a pre-superhero Barry Allen visiting Gotham City in order to help the local police deal with a city-wide power outage. Also in Gotham City is Iris West completing an internship at the Gotham Gazette. The Flash #25 is the story of how they met.
There has been some criticism online with a bunch of other DC titles tying into “Zero Year”. I cannot speak for the other tie-ins, but Manapul and Buccelleto’s combined swansong on The Flash make their tie in work. The connection to “Zero Year” is loose at best. Oh, sure, it takes place during the current Batman story arc, but the story actually told is so incredibly universal that M&B didn’t need “Zero Year” to do a flashback story. Instead, “Zero Year” provided the window dressing for it to happen (and possibly bump up readership while at it).
While the premise is sound and I was looking forward to the issue, I have to say that I was disappointed with the end result. “Starting Line” isn’t a bad story by any means; it was just underwhelming. I guess I had my sights set a bit too high. The story is a pure police procedural. I suppose I wasn’t fully expecting that given that this team has delivered high adventure after high adventure. The sudden switch is a bit jarring.
But even as a police procedural, this story isn’t all that original. I know, I know. There are not many original cop stories left, but everything here was incredibly clichéd. Corrupt cops trying to score some extra cash by dealing drugs with the young, naive cop versus the old, cynical partner. This story hit every trope and didn’t do anything interesting with it. The overall story did not work for me.
On the other hand, the character work here was perfect. Young Barry is exactly how I would imagine him. Overly optimistic, by the book, and trying to do the right thing above all else. This is Barry Allen. M&B get this character. Yes, they added a tragic element to his origin back in issue 0, but they kept him in the boy scout mentality that he’s pretty much had since the 1950s.
I digress. My point is that I like what they did with the character in this story. I also liked Iris and how we got to see the first meeting between Iris and Barry. If I were to criticize something, it is that I never quite understood what attracted Iris to Barry. It is implied through dialogue that there was an instant attraction between the two, but I never really got that. I think this might be somewhat of the art’s fault. Manapul did the back half of the issue, but the first was done by Chris Sprouse. I am not much of a fan of his work. Or at least of his work in this issue. His faces are a bit blank and unexpressive. Tough to get any emotional read off the characters in many panels.
So, this is the end of Manapul and Buccellato’s run on The Flash (happily, Buccellato will remain on the title for three more issues). I wish I took to the story much more than I did. Still, I appreciate what they were trying to do by switching up gears a bit (and to setting the stage for their upcoming run on Detective Comics), but the result was quite disappointing at the end of the day.