I promise, I wasn't really looking for a pun to start this off, but this one was unavoidable. With the sixth issue finally out a couple of weeks ago, I finally had a chance to sit down and re-read THE FLASH #1-6, only to realize that Geoff Johns let the story run away from him early on, and couldn't quite catch up. Get it...? "Run away... from... him..."? Oh, okay; I'll just say what I mean, then. I'd hoped, before re-reading, that the weird disjointed feeling that'd plagued me reading these issues as they came out would, if not disappear, then be lessened by the experience of getting everything in one sitting, watching all the pieces fall into place without months of waiting in between. But instead, the opposite happened; it seemed to become more obvious that the pacing of "The Dastardly Death of The Rogues!" is really badly off, and for reasons that don't seem apparently obvious. Reading the first four issues in particular evoke a strange feeling of deja vu: Wait, didn't we see the Flash spend a few pages performing what should be a visually impressive feat of superspeed before being confronted by the time-traveling Renegade Task Force last issue? The plot doesn't really get going until the series' fourth issue, at which point there's at least enough of a premise put forth that we finally get some forward motion. The problem then becomes that it's a fake out - Essentially, the entire arc is a series of "What if this happens? Only joking! Here's something unexpected interrupting to make sure that the cliffhanger isn't really followed up on!" delays and false starts; insert your own "Who'd've thought The Flash would have trouble getting up momentum?" jokes here - and the resolution to the plot gets pretty much squashed into the final chapter, where it becomes unconvincing and, because it not only ends with foreshadowing for Flashpoint next year but also doesn't really address the McGuffin that took up the last half of the story, pretty unfulfilling.
Not helping, sadly, is Francis Manapul's art which is lush, attractive, beautiful and entirely wrong for the series. This isn't a dig at Manapul, whose work I really do like; it's just that his attempts at the large-scale spectacular action scenes never seem to ring true to me, and instead, I find myself drawn to his quieter moments - which he himself seems to enjoy himself, it seems. I can't quite say what would work as a speedster style for me, but Manapul's brushwork and toned art seems more leisurely, more relaxed and at odds with the non-stop, impatient world that we're supposed to believe Central City has become.
The annoying thing is, there's actually a lot to like about The Flash, when taken out of context: I like the Barry and Iris relationship, the concepts behind a lot of the new status quo (That Barry will, by his actions, teach the forensics department the value of taking their time and valuing their jobs, for example. Or that people in Central are generally pushy and impatient), and Manapul's art. But none of it has managed to really come together in a way that works for me, yet. It's sad; I like Johns' work, normally, and had high hopes for this series after his short run with Manapul in Adventure Comics, but based upon the first arc, The Flash is a high Eh, or Okay at best. Here's hoping for better in future issues.