The middle chapter of the "Reverse" storyline continues at a brisk pace, filled with ornate art from Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato and Ian Herring with letters from Carlos M. Mangual. "The Flash" #22 has a bit of excitement and adventure with a fine dash of mystery as Barry Allen stretches his crime scene investigator skills while pushing the limits of his speed and reaction time.
The standard "damsel in distress" subplot that drives Barry to protect Iris West may be a trope, but the way the creative team executes it, it spins into a relationship-building event that even has a splash of fun as Flash gives Iris a speedforce-dampening suit of her own. This becomes a nice visual for Barry and Iris, treading delicately into ground that isn't completely smashed under from being traveled over so often. It's likely that Iris will be just fine throughout the events, but Manapul and Buccellato need to be careful to keep Iris strong and independent. The creative team delivers a scene between Iris and Patty Spivot that further complicates Iris' helplessness and continues to reinforce the romantic triangle this series has been building from the first issue.
The first impression from a casual flip-through of the issue is that the art has decompressed the story, giving Manapul way too much space to shine up pretty images, but as a co-writer, Manapul is writing to the visuals -- or more accurately, through the visuals. Manapul tends to go big with the artwork, using multiple double-page spreads, but the artist packs a lot of minor details, story shifts and storytelling tidbits into the rest of the imagery that he sprinkles across the spread and around the main image. The faceoff between Flash and Reverse Flash (although the moniker is not actively applied at that point) is breathtaking, bold and delightfully colorful, thanks to Buccellato with a color assist from Ian Herring.
"The Flash" #22 opens with a crime scene investigation and nice use of blood spatter adorning the background and white space. Manapul continues to playfully decorate the opening double-page spread with the word "Flash" hidden in the background, giving readers a chance to play a little game and inviting them to analyze the artwork more discerningly. From that opening scene, though, the creative team provides a great bob and weave in the story, pulling the rug out from under the reader just when it all seems to be coming together. There aren't any definitive answers yet, but "The Flash" #22 continues to deliver the goods, which is simply a good comic book story with wonderful artwork.