As their final storyline on "The Flash," Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have been telling the story of the all-new Reverse-Flash as he's terrorized and murdered people in order to gain their links to the Speed Force. It's fitting, then, that "The Flash #23.2: Reverse-Flash" is a direct part of that storyline, slotting in quite nicely between "The Flash" #23 and 24. While Manapul didn't draw the issue, guest artist Scott Hepburn's art meshes so well with Buccellato's colors that it ends up being a smart choice of substitute.
Looking at the art of "The Flash" #23.2, the collaboration between Hepburn and Buccellato serves as a sharp reminder that a lot of the look of "The Flash" these days comes from Buccellato's colors. While Hepburn doesn't put ink washes all over his art the way that Manapul does, Buccellato's colors still mimic the overall look and feel of those washes. The art looks painted on at times, with beautiful smears of color that do a great job of meshing with Hepburn's art. Hepburn deserves credit here as well, of course; he channels his own inner Manapul to work on some of the big and crazy layouts that Manapul's become known for. I love the crashing explosion of Daniel West as he breaks through the Mirror World; the melding of moments in time, the massive lightning bolt tying them all together, and the stumbling West as he leaves the wreckage in the real world. West's transformation into the Reverse-Flash also deserves some special credit, as it's both startling and horrific. The strange look of the Reverse-Flash suddenly snaps into focus as we learn just what the armor-like part of his outfit actually is, and Hepburn and Buccellato's depiction of that transformation is so brutal (without being gory) that it ends up evoking a level of sympathy for the villain of this piece.
But then again, that seems on some level to be the purpose of "The Flash" #23.2. While it never loses sight of the fact that the Reverse-Flash is the bad guy of this story, readers also get to see things through West's eyes and find someone who's just horribly misguided more than anything else. Most of the bad decisions he makes are just that: bad decisions. Does Daniel West eventually go over the deep end? Absolutely. But it's a road to hell that was paved with good intentions, as the old chestnut goes, and we get to see him go down that road even as he continues to think that he's about to make everything much better.
Manapul and Buccellato wrap up their run on "The Flash" in November (with a new, yet-to-be-announced title for DC Comics waiting for them in 2014), and while their run has had some ups and downs, it's nice to see "The Flash" #23.2 tying the bulk of their two-year tenure together. They've had a cohesive, long-term plan for the book, and at the moment it's paying off. All in all, a nice addition to DC's villains month.