REVIEW: The Flash #31 – A Better Man

Writer: Joshua Williamson
Pencilers: Neil Googe & Gus Vazquez
Colorist: Ivan Plascencia
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Release Date: 9/27/17

It’s the grand finale of the Bloodwork story line in The Flash #31, and Barry Allen is finally facing off with his newest foe. His Negative powers seem to be coming in handy for once, allowing him to burst the villain’s wayward veins and clear the streets of the thick blood covering them. Despite all this, the Flash still sees his new powers as a danger to the city and tries to end the battle as quickly as possible. Ramsey Rosso’s backstory is tragic, but his powers are somewhat confusing and make the fight feel less epic than it otherwise might.

That being said, Neil Googe comes through with the line work in Flash #31, making the torrents of blood menacing and using the blur effect to once more distinguish Barry’s new powers from his old ones. Ivan Plascencia also has a lot to work with in these first few pages, and together the art team create a visual feast that makes up for some holes in the technical side of this particular metahuman’s story. What Williamson excels at is Barry’s introspection, and he quickly gets to the emotional core of the arc when the Flash compares his own lies with the hurt Bloodwork has caused. It may have been part of a ploy to distract the villain and thus finally trap him, but it doesn’t make his words and realizations any less true.

I’ll admit I didn’t even feel that bad for Bloodwork when Barry tricked him, but that’s more because we didn’t have much of a chance to get to know the man himself. And though the fight perhaps went on too long given that the enemy didn’t pose as much of a threat as he was meant to, it not only have Barry a chance to reflect but gave Gus Vazquez a chance to show off some fancy artwork.

Without appearing too different from Googe’s earlier pages, Vazquez incorporated a few more details of the Negative Speedforce that made this version of Barry standout. And Tom Napolitano’s lettering was well-incorporated into these scenes, adding pizzazz to the proceedings without taking over the pages.

Once Bloodwork was in prison, the CCPD side of the story also came to a conclusion of sorts. Barry being transferred to Iron Heights made perfect sense given his behavior (and not to mention the Flash destroying evidence), but Kristen being set with him was a moment where the audience can see the strings being pulled. Given how well she’s done her job – and at a great disadvantage – the only explanation is that she is needed for the next arc. We’ll have to wait a few weeks to see how that plays out, so I’ll withhold judgment for now.

The final pages of The Flash #31 are also its best from a narrative standpoint. Barry is once more watching Iris from afar, but the explanation he gives for not speaking to her is sound: actions speak louder than words. Barry is learning that pushing people away doesn’t protect them, and that if he has to prove himself before he can win back the trust of his loved ones. Thankfully, he still has someone in his corner, as Wally West accepts his olive branch and shows once again that not being the same Wally that fans are used to doesn’t make him any less of a great character.

Verdict: 3.5 out 5 stars. Though I’m ecstatic to see that Negative Barry is on his way out, and at the very least will be controlling his powers, the issue felt a bit rushed. That being said, it served as a good set-up for whatever the next arc might be and gave hope that Barry and Iris will find their way back. I am very much looking forward to Wally and Barry being a team once more, and cannot wait to see what Williamson has in store at Iron Heights.

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