Review: The Flash Annual #1 By Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato

 

The Flash Annual #1

Written by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato

Breakdowns by Francis Manapul

Art by Marcus To and Ian Herring, Scott Kolins and Mike Atiyeh, Diogenes Neves, Marcio Takara, Wes Craig, and Hi-Fi

 

 

The short of it:

 

Well, for starters, the story is told across five chapters, with each changing the focus, theme, and purpose. The first one is all Barry, using a story about his dad to provide an analogy for his current problems stemming from going too fast without paying attention. Visiting a race track his dad took him to where everyone went at top speed, but the ground was slick enough that anyone not paying attention would just absolutely eat it.

 

The second story is where things get good, as we get to see a much more familiar set of Rogues than we’ve grown accustomed to over the last few months. I’m talking Cold with a Cold Gun, Heatwave not burned to bits, and even Mirror Master! We get to see them attempt a heist in the past, and stress ‘attempt’ as Flash shows up and kicks their teeth in and they escape just in time to evade arrest. Some of the best thieves in the country and they can’t do a thing against the Flash. Is it any wonder Cold is so damn angry? Or that a man teasing super powers for our favorite villains might have the most appealing offer ever?

 

The third chapter is the experiment that gave them their powers…told from the perspective of Cold’s sister Lisa, otherwise known as Glider (not quite so Golden anymore, more like Ghostly). We see Cold and Mirror Master get their upgrades, Heatwave nearly burn alive, Lisa turning into a ghost, but then we find out where Mirror Master has been up through now. They all received new powers, his are just the most torturous…and I say that fully understanding that Heatwave was burned alive and Glider is now a ghost.

 

The fourth chapter is Patty Spivot and the man named Turbine, which is relatively uneventful save for a mention of The Flash turns him from coherent into a stuttering fool. It also jogs his memory enough to tell her that he knows where Barry Allen is!

 

Finally, the fifth and final chapter, otherwise known as the big fight issue. Flash and Cold versus the Rogues! Cold and his sister discuss what it means to be a Rogue while Flash gets taken to the Mirror World! And when all is said done, one side stands tall, the other lays knocked out….AND GORILLAS ARE COMING!

 

What I liked:

 

  • Man, I love the way they handled the art here. Dividing up the chapters to different artists means that they all get their own separate feel, but with Manapul doing the breakdowns they still all feel very much like The Flash. And then given that the layouts in this book, the entire art direction, has been one of the key selling points? This issue really worked for me visually.
  • You know what else worked for me visually? Scott Kolins debuting the new designs of the old Rogues. Scott is an artist that, while I’ve seen him do all sorts of things, will always be a Flash guy in my mind. After all, this is the guy who brought Geoff Johns original run to life.
  • Doctor Elias just shot up my scale of intriguing new characters from “obnoxious science jerk” to “Future Lex Luthor’s with hair of America”.
  • Captain Cold remains one of my favorite villains in all of comics throughout this issue, getting the insight into the rash decision that changed the Rogues forever, his alcoholism, the fact that he knows full well that he is to blame for what happened with his sister. His joining with Flash to fight the Rogues off makes perfect sense when you take into account his rules for Rogues, but his own desire to be his sisters hero and to lead his friends to victory continues to leave him on his current path. So well characterized.
  • Mirror Master stuck in the Mirror World is a status quo I always like when I see it handled in alternate realities, and it’s one I like just as much here. You don’t need to kill him, just have him be completely unable to cross over into the real world. Instant reflective boogeyman.

 

What I didn’t like:

 

  • It’s a minor issue, but Sam Scudder as Mirror Master again? I miss Evan McCulloch and that Scottish accent, it made him stand out in the group just by the word balloons.
  • I get why Turbine needed to return, so that they could push forward with the return of Iris and Flash’s civilian identity, but man, I hate this guy. I don’t even know why, I just know I don’t like him.
  • I love Piper and want more of him, so him getting three panels here to put over that his boyfriend is sorry for hiding their relationship, while a nice step forward, really could have used some more time. It feels glossed over so as to not be forgotten, and I really hope that changes in the near future. Wally might be gone, but that’s no reason to not take advantage of Hartley being a great supporting cast member.

 

Final Thoughts:

 

Still shocked that I don’t hate Patty Spivot anymore. I mean, really, honestly, I am shocked. I hated on that character like it was going out of style.

 

I remember reading 52 and thinking to myself that Keith Giffen’s breakdowns were what kept the story moving forward, but not really fully getting what he was doing at the time. I’m not an art critic, anybody who knows me knows that I like what I like and don’t like what I don’t like. However, after a year of Geoff Johns on Flash followed by a year with Francis Manapul, despite that dude drew the book for both years, it’s just leaps and bounds different. This issue is the final proof of it, as he doesn’t draw a single page (to my knowledge), but his breakdowns keep the entire book with the same pacing and energy that have made the book so awesome to read.

 

That is how you do a last page, the entire issue just builds and builds and builds, and right as you hit the climax….BAM! This story has only just begun.

 

Between this and the Green Lantern Annual people should just take note. These are two perfect examples of how to write an annual in comics; you tie together or wrap up the previous year of plots, and then dump the reader in what’s coming next. It makes for a great transition issue instead of just a one off read it if you want to. Like all of Marvel’s have been this year.

 

Overall: 9/10

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