Let's get the obvious jokes out of the way right now; despite being about the fastest man alive, "The Flash" has been a little tardy for its past few issues, showing up on a bi-monthly schedule. (With Scott Kolins stepping in for the next two issues on art, it appears to be a problem that DC is working on fixing.) With that in mind, though? Kudos still go to Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul, because by the time I got to the end of the issue I felt more than satisfied, even with the slight delay in publication.
It helps that this issue is the conclusion of "The Dastardly Death of the Rogues," so while there's still a lot of set-up for issues to come, we see a lot from the first five issues get wrapped up here. Johns manages to make the reason for the Top turning traitor (as revealed last issue) to fit in with everything we've seen about the 25th century police force up until now, and in a way that simultaneously makes you feel bad for the Top even as you still clearly identify him as the villain. It's a messed up system in the future, and Johns lets us see some of its problems first hand.
There's also some blatant lead-ins to 2011's "Flashpoint" event seeded throughout this issue. In many ways, it's the same way that we saw "The Sinestro Corps War" and "Blackest Night" both start showing up far in advance within the pages of "Green Lantern." We're getting hints about something bad on the horizon, and the seed of an idea's been planted firmly in Barry Allen's head regarding time travel. If this had been a mini-series, I suspect its title would have been "Road to Flashpoint" or something similar. And, no doubt, in six months time people are going to be scouring these issues of "The Flash" for additional clues on what's going on.
Of course, needless to say, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato are knocking the art out of the park in "The Flash." So sure, the book has run a little late, but I'm glad DC didn't bring a guest artist in to finish the issue, because every single page just explodes with energy. The Flash chasing the Top through Central City looks full of energy, and for the first time a character with a name as silly as the Top actually looks somewhat menacing as Manapul draws his powers coming to life. He's doing some nice portrait work here, too; from the glimpse of the new Captain Cold's face upon departing, to the civilians at the police station, there's a lot of emotional and storytelling happening in those carefully drawn expressions and reactions. I love Buccellato's colors here, too; the neon greens of the future computer screens look cool (and somewhat remind me of "Tron"), and the gentle shades of blues and yellows look like the book was painted with their gentle gradients. Manapul and Buccellato really bring the speed and power of these characters to life here; they're a perfect match for one another.
Here's what I like the most about this issue of "The Flash," though: We're getting to see not only Barry Allen as superhero, but also him doing good in his regular job working for the police. It helps the character feel more rounded, and a bit more out of the ordinary than an everyday superhero. I'll freely admit that I wasn't a Barry Allen fan (when I started reading superhero comics, the Mike Baron and Jackson Guice "The Flash" series starring Wally West had just launched.) Don't let "The Flash" pass you by; this series is too much fun to miss.