"The Flash" #25 takes Barry Allen back in time six years to tie in with "Zero Year." Written by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato with art by Chris Sprouse and Francis Manapul, this comic book teams up Barry Allen with Harvey Bullock on the darkened streets of Gotham City as a super-storm looms in the distance.
As the world loses its collective mind this week looking for great deals, readers of "The Flash" #25 are getting the best gift of all: Chris Sprouse art to go with the already wonderful work of Francis Manapul and a handful more pages than the standard issue comic book. The tastes are more like PB&J and pizza, but there's no denying they are both delicious and satisfying. Manapul's art comes in as more of a tasty treat, following the main course of Sprouse's work, which enjoys nineteen pages to stretch its legs. Solidly colored by Brian Buccellato, the art switch comes up organically with the story as letter artist Carlos M. Mangual contributes lettering consistency throughout the issue.
In the desolation caused by the Riddler's attack on Gotham City, a dangerous new drug known as Icarus, is hitting the streets, literally igniting the addicts upon overdose. That provides a nice, if somewhat predictable, plot to engage the services of Barry Allen. Coupled with the backdrop of a darkened city and looming storm, this threat becomes a solid generator for comic book adventure. In addition to "Zero Year" being a massive storyline for the DC Universe and Batman in particular, "The Flash" #25 offers up the notion that Gotham City is the zero point from which the DC Universe grew. Another notable character appears in this comic, in addition to teaming up Bullock and Allen. The issue does a nice job of illuminating the depths of each character through the circumstances surrounding them, especially a closing discussion of morality between Harvey Bullock and Barry Allen that precedes a conveniently quick conclusion for this one-shot diversion.
Once upon a time, this sort of adventure would have filled the back-up story slot in a comic like "The Brave & the Bold," or filled the pages of an eighty-page giant or "Secret Files" issue. With Batman being DC's figurehead and arguably most recognizable property, any Bat-tie-in makes good hay for the company. The procedural aspect makes this a fine issue of "Barry Allen: CSI" and holds true to the character fans love in the pages of "The Flash," but "The Flash" #25 lacks, well, The Flash. It's a nice diversion and a fine character study, and in the end quite an enjoyable comic book. Knowing that Buccellato and Manapul are winding down their time chronicling the adventures of Barry Allen, I find myself hoping against hope that this is a tryout issue for Chris Sprouse, who is more than welcome to return to "The Flash" anytime.