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Flash #15: Exeunt With A Flourish

The end approacheth for the gorilla invasion of Central City, and Barry Allen's secret is out.

Flash #15

So I've been following the latest arc in The Flash because it involves Rogues and gorillas. It is called "Gorilla Warfare," after all. When last we left the gang, Gorilla Grodd had the Speed Force and was unstoppable, the Rogues were pitching in to help save the city from the invading ape hordes, and good-ape Solovar sacrificed himself to save The Flash's life, although the Scarlet Speedster is still in a coma. Oh, and his girlfriend Patty Spivot found out that he was still alive AND that he was secretly the Flash in the same instant.

Flash #15 picks up where that left off, and pretty much deflates the built-up tension. There's nothing but devotion out of Patty as she tends to Barry and tries to bring him back from the brink, even though she's previously stated that she hates The Flash. There's no longer even a hint of that conflict. It's a time of crisis and she does love Barry, so it's somewhat understandable, but it's not interesting. Also, it turns out Grodd's connection to the Speed Force is artificial and temporary, and he's burned out and needs another fix, showing us that he's entirely vulnerable and completely punkable by the time the next issue rolls around – and this is further illustrated by the doubts of Grodd's troops about the trickery they've had to use to create the illusion of being all-powerful. Then, the issue just ends with four pages of artistic flourish like what you see in the above image, complete with fancy credits for some reason, and Barry apparently wakes up knowing how to beat Grodd… which is no mystery, because we've just seen his weaknesses exposed.

It's a weird issue. The first 11 pages of artwork are handled by Marcus To and Ryan Winn, and the rest – including the big Speed Force Coma-Thought Flourish – comes from Francis Manapul, who co-writes this series with Brian Buccellato. One might surmise that it would have to be a co-writing artist that says 'hey, I'll just go apeshit with the splash pages and that'll be the end of this issue.' J.H. Williams III does that kind of thing in Batwoman,but it works for him because there's a lot of emotional drama that can be very well served by the elaborately imaginative layout work he does. Manapul's pages here certainly look cool as an attempt to visualize the speed of thought, but rather than build the expected dramatic tension as we watch Barry subconsciously work through potential outcomes to figure out what to do, it just feels kind of shrugworthy. Forming those thought patterns into "DC Comics Proudly Presented" renders it little more than 'cute.'

Part of that still comes from the book's central weakness – Barry Allen is boring. His life and circumstances are fantastical and rife with potential, but the man himself is cardboard. It's perhaps telling that the subplot I'm growing more interested in is this Daniel West looking around for his sister Iris, because something about that storyline might give us Wally West. Now THERE was a Flash with a personality.

Overall, the artwork DOES look pretty cool, and the elements of the story are fun, but while it's been a pretty solid ride the last few issues, Flash #15 just seems to undercut everything that was crafted so far. It's decent enough, and there's nothing actively bad about it. It's… well, it's just okay.

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