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This year’s Flash Annual steps outside the current story arc (“Reverse”) and gives readers a one-off tale. Now, at first glance, that might make it seem like it is throwaway filler. However, the main story explores not only the relationship between Barry and his best friend, Hal “Green Lantern” Jordan, but gives us the details of their very first meeting (in the New 52).
The Flash/Green Lantern pairing has always been a key partnership within the history of DC Comics. The most famous pairing is that of Barry and Hal, but the legacy characters Flash and Green Lantern have spawned have also been literary partners.
It was kind of neat. A little bizarre – Flash and Green Lantern find themselves battling in an alien arena – but the banter was really light and a lot of fun. Writer Brian Buccellato did an excellent job of defining the relationship between these two characters. They know each other’s tricks and quirks and can call each other out directly on their crap while not taking offense. The sense of this friendship is wonderfully done.
I guess what also helps is that, by design, Barry and Hal are completely opposite from one another. Barry is very cautious while Hal is completely reckless. That makes for wonderful conflict and comedy. I cracked up when, upon their first meeting, Barry confuses Hal for Superman and, later, Hal seeing through and outing Barry’s secret identity (all the while Barry is trying to maintain it). I don’t really read Justice League where Hal and Barry are both featured, so I cannot comment how their relationship is displayed there, but here, it is fun to read.
There was one element I found to be a bit odd in the story. Hal and Barry learn that they are in a gladiatorial fight to the death. It is literally said that the fight is “to the death”. Naturally, our heroes win. So does that mean they killed all their competition? Or was it a fight to the death in name only? This is not touched upon in anyway. Normally, I wouldn’t care about such a thing, but the characters of Flash and Green Lantern are generally non-lethal. Their fun banter would seem out of place if they suddenly had to kill a bunch of folks, no?
The art in the main story was done by Sam Basri who has a very different, yet complimentary style to series regular artist Francis Manapul (who sat this annual out). I really liked Basri’s work, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him coming back as a fill-in or eventual replacement on the Flash title (not that I want to see Manapul go anytime soon, but no creator is on a book forever).
In the back-up story, “Details”, written by Nicole Dubuc, we find the Flash dealing with a man threatening to blow up a building who is angry with the speedster for not saving his wife years earlier. This was a really interesting slice-of-life story that examines how the small decisions in life can have lasting effects on those around us.
I really enjoyed the low-key nature of the story. It never got over-sentimental or schmaltzy. It found the right balance to carry out its, relatively simple story. I liked it on that level. Because of this, I now want to see out more of Dubuc’s work.
It also, perhaps unintentionally, played into Barry’s ability to “see” different outcomes of events using his “speed mind” abilities. While that power is not present in the story, the tale does play with the idea that “we can’t steer the outcome of every possibility”.
The art by Cully Hamner did not do much for me. It was a bit too rough for my eye to really adjust to it. I do not think I would like it had it been the entire issue, but as a shorter tale such as this, it did not outstay its welcome.
Overall, The Flash Annual #2 was a solid issue. It is good for people looking for a fun Flash story without worrying about not understanding what is going on. As I have said previously, there are many ways to do an annual. This was one of them, and it was successful.