Review: The Flash Annual #3

By | May 2nd, 2014
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Barry Allen teams up with Deadman to take on a vengeful spirit from the past, in a perfectly standard issue of “The Flash”.

Written by Robert Venditti & Van Jensen
Illustrated by Brett Booth & Ron Frenz

The start of a major new arc for the Fastest Man Alive! In the future, The Flash is a broken man. His powers have failed him time and again at great cost to him and the city he has sworn to protect. Now he’s coming back to 2014 to stop the one event that destroyed his life. Meanwhile, in the present, Barry Allen must contend with thieves trying to capitalize on the devastation of FOREVER EVIL. It’s a tale of two timelines that ushers in one of DC’s most storied characters…featuring The New 52 debut of WALLY WEST!

One of the biggest casualties of the New 52 reboot was Wally West. Yes, Stephanie was missed in Gotham, but she was a relatively new introduction to the DCU. Wally West, on the other hand, was the Flash for an entire generation of comic book readers. Stepping into the red tights after Barry Allen’s death in ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wally West accomplished the incredible task of being a sidekick who actually stepped into the shoes of the mentor so well that the later’s death actually seemed permanent. Barry Allen did return, however, and with a TV show and Justice League film in the works, it appears that he is once again the headlining Flash at DC. But now, after 2 and a half years in comic book limbo, Wally returned but it’s not quite the character readers are familiar with.

Fresh off the events of “Forever Evil” (which actually hasn’t finished yet due to delays), Barry Allen is determined to repair Central City after the damage done by the Crime Syndicate and the Rogues. Barry’s mood is damped when he finds a 12-year-old spray painting in an alley. He brings the kid to the precinct until his guardian shows up, and Barry is soon distracted by an irate police captain and literally hundreds of new cases that have been opened. Reporter Iris West arrives at the station, not for a scoop, but to retrieve her nephew Wally, the young vandal. At this point a second parallel story begins, set two decades in the future as Barry, having achieved new levels of power, mourns the death of Wally and tells an aged and injured Iris that he will go back to change the future. Flashback to the future!

The status of this book as an annual gives writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen about a dozen more pages to play around with, and they use the extra space to their full advantage. This is a big story, dealing with the wide range of the Flash’s allies and adversaries in two different timelines. They fill their plate with tasks, like dealing with the ‘Forever Evil’ fallout, starting a new “Flash” arc, and revamping beloved characters, and the writers seemingly accomplish everything they set out to do. The story is very well paced, and doesn’t feel overstuffed, and perfectly sets up the world of “The Flash”. The issue is a little heavy on the dialog, but it’s not wrought with exposition.

The thing that everyone will take away from this issue is the return of Wally West, but not the Wally that readers remember; he’s not the co-Flash, he’s not even Kid Flash, and he has been re-imagined as biracial. There are going to be some ugly comments on the message boards. To the writers’ credit, the race change doesn’t come across as gimmicky or worse, exploitive in this issue. If this is an honest attempt to diversify the rather waspy world of superheroes, they’re off on the right foot. The flipside is that it’s Wally’s death that propels the actions of future Barry, and stimulate an emotional response from the reader. It feels like they are using the audience’s attachment to old Wally, while revamping the character to such an extent that it’s really just a shared name. It works, more or less, but it is like the authors are trying to have they’re Wally West cake and eat it to.

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The present and future timelines in “The Flash Annual” #3 are pencilled by two different artists. The present scenes are drawn by Ron Frenz, whose clean and angular lines seem will suited to a city emerging from turmoil. The best way to describe the look of Frenz’ scene is crisp, making Central City seem almost Metropolitan in nature. His style is just slightly less than realistic but this gives this portion of the issue a lighter and airy feel, even as everyone is trying to dig out of the rubble of the Crime Syndicate. One thing about Frenz’ style that definitely stands out his the angular borders he gives to all the panels. It suits a character like the Flash, and is designed to give the pages a strong feeling of momentum, but some readers could find it distracting.

Brett Booth draws the darker future timeline, and it provides a great dichotomy with the Central City of the present. Booth just wrapped up an extended run on “Nightwing” so he knows exactly how to draw angry, night-based heroes, which strangely applies to future Barry. Booth’s style is very realistic, and is apt for the grim timeline, and for making a potentially comical villain like Gorilla Grood seem pretty terrifying. Flash himself has new costume/look, which manages to seem like a gritty version of Flash’s duds without going all ‘90’s on it. The bulk of the action scenes are found in the future timeline, and Booth renders the brutal fight to a visceral level of detail. This is a far more ruthless version of Barry, and Booth’s art greatly adds to the feeling of wrongness in the future.

Final Verdict: 8.5 – Buy. This issue is the best jumping on point for “The Flash” since the reboot, and even if Wally West is a little different, it’s still nice to have him back.

Matt Dodge

Matt Dodge is originally from Ottawa (go Sens!), where he attended University and somehow ended up with a degree in history and political science. He currently resides in Toronto where he is a full-time procrastinator who occasionally takes a break to scribble some pretentious nonsense on a piece of paper. He knows way too much about hockey, Saved By The Bell, and Star Wars. Find him on Twitter @Matt_Dodge.