When all the New 52 #1s came out, I made a point to read every damn one of them, including the constipation that was Hawk and Dove #1. Our friend Blair Marnell reviewed The Flash #1 and liked it well enough, with some reservations, but we haven't touched on it since, partially due to the fact that both Iann Robinson and I had a hard time getting over Flashpoint, which did it's damnedest to sour everybody on Barry Allen by making him kill off the old DC Universe just because he missed his mom. That's not a guy we want to read about.
However, in the interest of second chances, I've been making a point of checking back in with New 52 titles I'd dismissed the first time out. It didn't work out so well with Suicide Squad #6, but it's quite the opposite with The Flash #6. I figured it had a good chance now that Captain Cold was making his big splashy return, and the focus wouldn't be on Barry so much. The Rogues are some of the most fun villains in comics, so I'm keenly interested in how they'll be treated in the DCnU. For his part, Len Snart has gotten a significant power upgrade, although apparently he used to be the gunslinger we all knew and enjoyed until recently. The parka, we don't know about yet. But in Barry's opening inner monologue (seen here in our preview of Flash #6), he seems to establish that Snart's always been that honor-code criminal we remember. Until now.
This time out, he's got white hair, a slick sleeveless hoodie, with a sleeveless shirt underneath it, and shoulders that frost over with ice chunks. He's just a cold battery now, with a vast amount of power at his disposal, and he's got an extremely personal beef with the Flash. Apparently, there's recently been a huge EMP that's fried the city's power grid, and most everybody thinks it's the Flash's fault. Trouble is, when something like that happens, it really messes with hospitals, where Len's sister is dying of a brain tumor, and they don't have the wherewithal to operate on it during the blackout. Thus, Captain Cold now has a reason to want the Flash dead, and to cross a line he hasn't before.
I'm tempted to ask what the deal is with the New 52 and all the public blame on superheroes as a unifying theme through many titles. They're really pushing the 'just like Marvel now' angle, when the main difference before was that the Marvel Universe distrusted their heroes, while the DC Universe embraced them. Now, it's just scorn and suspicion all over. However, considering the aforementioned Flashpoint debacle, I'm perfectly fine with the public blaming Barry Allen for whatever disaster has happened to The Gem Cities (the nickname for Central City and Keystone City, Flash's turf), even if the editor's note implies that it's not Flash's fault. Barry's still off on a bus trip out of town with his girlfriend (newly minted, as of this issue) Ashleigh Banfield – er, Patty Spivot while his home cities are apparently still suffering the effects of whatever he did or didn't do. Sure, I'm not entirely sure how a guy who runs fast fixes a citywide blackout, but the fact some friend of his invented a giant-ass treadmill to siphon off excess Speed Force energy probably means he could lend a hand – or a couple of feet – to the cause.
All that is nitpicking right now, though. The story from Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato is about Cold, and ratcheting up his threat level. We'll miss some of the goofball charm of the parka and the Rogues, but the Flash is absurdly powerful, and needs powerful recurring enemies. They seem to be taking steps to curtail that disparity in other ways, too – namely, making anything requiring over 80% of his power output extremely dangerous in the reality-warping sense. They also include the nice touch of making Flash's little antennae serve a purpose – namely, letting him hear when moving faster than the speed of sound, as well as to monitor that there output.
But again, the main thing is Cold. Freezing a huge chunk of the Mississippi (I assume) River and holding boats full of people hostage – including both Ms. Spivot and Barry's DCoU beloved Iris Allen, since they were lunching together there. The fight does not go well for our hero, and it's possible Snart's just traded his sister's life for Barry's girlfriend by the end of it. It's kind of intense, actually, helped by Manapul's dynamic art.
Every time anybody talks about this book, they talk about how good it looks, and that's never been in dispute. Manapul is fantastic at Flash fights and speed tricks, although Barry remains fairly nondescript when out of costume. But really, how can you liven that guy up? He is Handsome Blond Man, end of story. It's only a shrugworthy note. The Flash looks cool fighting bad guys, and that's what you want out of a Flash book. Buccellato's colorful details just make it that much better.
There's enough interesting stuff going on in The Flash #6 that I might jump back on the train and see where it takes me. With any luck, it will eventually take me to Wally West, but I can be patient if The Fastest Man Alive's journey to ginger is a slow one.
CraveOnline Rating: 7.9/10