Not the tie-in we need, but the Flash story we deserve. So far the majority of the Zero Year tie-in issues have felt flat and unnecessary. It’s as if most of these titles were asked to do a tie-in and then given a list of can’t do’s. Flash #25 falls into that category wholeheartedly but the issue manages to find its own footing and, instead of forcing itself into the bat universe, tells an excellent Barry Allen story. While this is technically the last issue for the Manapul/ Buccellato tandem in the Flash universe, they had more of an emotional goodbye in issue twenty-four’s Reverse Flash climax. Here, we get a stand alone story of Barry’s early days. Fresh out of the academy, he finds his way to Gotham amidst the blackout caused by the Riddler. Barry’s not there to help with the blackout and he still doesn’t have his speed force powers. What he is there to do is find the source of a new exotic street drug that kills people. It’s a creative way to give Barry his powers without giving Barry his powers that’s set against this gritty street level story. For those of you who don’t like that Barry and Iris aren’t married in the New 52, this book might leave you with a bit of hope for the future. The art duties on the book are shared between Chris Sprouse and Francis Manapul. Sprouse handles the majority of the pencil duties and it’s superb. His line work is a departure from Manapul’s ink wash style, but it’s still a thing to behold. Sprouse draws one of the prettiest Gotham’s in recent memory. Along with Buccellato’s coloring, it manages to be dark and art deco without being too drab. When the book shifts to Manapul’s art, it isn’t jarring but it isn’t seamless either. It just feels like a different director doing a scene on a film; it blends but there’s a unique stamp there. Also that last splash page he leaves the audience with is just pure wow. Overall, Flash #25 isn’t that crucial Zero Year tie-in bat readers were hoping for, in fact the only thing tying it in is about five pages of Harvey Bullock, and that’s okay. This issue is one of the best standalone Flash issues of the past ten years. We’ll see the dynamic duo of Buccellato & Manapul back in Gotham soon enough and this issue just makes the wait that much more unbearable. 9.5 out of 10! Put some tape over that Zero Year banner and you’ve got yourself one great Flash ride.