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In comic book lore, annuals are typically over-sized issues which are not part of the regular run of a title. Released once a year (hence the name), they are usually used to fill in a gap in the publishing schedule. Annuals can be used to tell one-off stories, reprint older tales, to be part of a company crossover, etc. In The Flash’s case, Manapul and Buccellato used it to conclude their second major story arc and kick-off their third. This issue has answers and explanations which have been dormant for quite some time and were begging to be revealed. It wrapped up this storyline with the Rogues which had reached a fever pitch in the fantastic issue 12. This simply could not fail.
Yet, I was a bit let down by it.
I suppose it is really my own fault. I was incredibly psyched for the annual. Not helping matters was that my local comic store (Comix Revolution of Mt. Prospect, IL) was sold out of the issue when I initially went to pick it up. Good for them; unfortunate for me. Being questionably loyal to the store, I had to wait a week before I could return to get a copy. As such, my anticipation built and my expectations rose to, most likely, impossible standards.
That said, The Flash Annual #1 is not a bad issue. It does a lot of good. The revelation of how the Rogues got their powers, while somewhat unremarkable, was well done and understandable. The twist being that it was Dr. Elias (I think – more on that below) who was the brains, so to speak, of the procedure was incredibly unexpected.
I have mixed feelings on that one. The way Elias is currently being portrayed I could buy into him doing it. He is a guy who is pretty much says “Hey, I want to do science to feed my own narcissistic curiosity.” The previous way Elias was portrayed I cannot see it doing it, because he was written in a way where he would say “Hey, I want to do science to positively help people.” I just cannot buy into this being the same character, but he is and this issue (I think) confirms it.
When we get to where issue 12 left off (the annual is largely a flashback), it is over and done very quickly, and I feel that M&B could have used an extra page to flesh out some characterization. Specifically, Captain Cold asks Glider a very pointed question on why she feels the need to prove herself as leader of the Rogues. We never get an answer, but the next time we see the two, all seems forgiven and Cold is ready to retake his place as leader. Even more odd is that the rest of the Rogues seem cool with this. Maybe I read it wrong, but it paints them a bit like sheep (then again…). Since we are not quite done with the Rogues yet, perhaps this will eventually resolve itself.
Glider is still a bit of a mystery herself. It is implied that she has both a spectral form and a human body (last seen in issues 6 and 7). What is not made clear is if she can switch between them, or if she was split. The latter makes for an interesting concept. This needs some clarification down the road. What does not need clarification is that Mirror Master is revealed to be Sam Scudder (previously killed off in the 1980s, two continuities before).
The art in the issue is very strong. Manapul did not grace the issue with his wonderful pencils, which surprised me (somehow I thought he was doing the art). Fortunately, the artists used complement Manapul’s art (which will make this story flow better when read in a collected edition). In a brilliant move, the flashback chapter showing the Rogues use their classic weapons was drawn by Scott Kolins. Though I am generally not a fan of Kolins’s work (I do not have anything against it; just not my thing), he is somewhat known for his collaboration with Geoff John’s run on mid-2000s run on The Flash and, more specifically, known for drawing the Rogues. For Flash aficionados, this was an incredibly nice touch.
The only story-based problem I had with the art was Kolins’s rendition of what I believe to be Dr. Elias. They never mention him by name, but judging from his “I want to see what happens” attitude and the Rogues’ beef with him, I am led to believe it is him. However, Kolins’s art (which does not blend with Manapul’s at all) obscures much of his face and what we do see, it was difficult for me to fully determine if it was indeed the doctor.
That is The Flash Annual. It is not perfect, but it does what it set out to do. It is strong overall. Any sense of disappointment (which is too strong of a word) clearly stems from me setting my expectations up too high. At a later date, I need to go back and re-read this arc all the way through to gain a more objective opinion.
But, no time for that now – we got a monkey of a cliffhanger to deal with first!
To Be Continued in Flash #13: “Siege on Central City!”