Friday, September 27, 2013

The Flash Annual #2

"The Quick and the Green"

Brian Buccellato Writer
Sami Basri Pencils and Inks
Stellar Labs Colors
Taylor Esposito Letterer
Harvey Richards Associate Editor
Wil Moss Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor

Sadly, Francis Manapul did not work on this issue, but he did do the cover with Buccellato, and it is very nice. While it does not portray an actual scene from the issue, it comes pretty darn close, giving the reader a really good sense of what will happen inside. The best part of the cover is the subtle use of the color green in the seams of Flash's suit and the letters in the Flash title. Altogether, it is a dynamic, effective comic book cover.

Generally speaking, I am against DC's policy with the annual issues. I don't like the extra price, I don't like the different numbering, I don't like not having my favorite creators, and I especially don't like it when it interrupts an ongoing story line. Flash Annual #1 fit right in with the battle with the Rogues and the gorilla invasion, but this issue was randomly plopped in the middle of the Reverse-Flash arc. I don't think it makes any sense for Flash to stop chasing the Speed Force Killer to go hang out with Hal Jordan, so I'm going to say this story happened before he learned of Albert's untimely death.

We open in the Green Parrot Lounge in Coast City, where Barry Allen is catching up with his old friend Hal Jordan, who is enjoying a rare night off after becoming the leader of the Green Lantern Corps. However, Hal is not enjoying the jazz concert Barry brought him to, and begins to wish they could get into a little a trouble. His wish is immediately granted, as the two friends are suddenly teleported to Agon, aka Arena World.

The alien leader here, Verus, explains that she sent her scouts to collect the heroes so they could fulfill their end of a deal that was made a few years ago. Barry knows nothing of this deal, but he does recall the circumstances that brought it about, or, as Hal calls it, their "first date."

We then go back in time to when Barry was a still a relatively new police scientist and an even newer superhero. He was working on a case of children disappearing from group homes all across the country, and when the kidnappers returned to previously hit locations, Barry was able to establish a pattern and determine the next target — the Coast City Children's Home.

Barry visited the home as himself, but soon was caught in a giant clamp by Green Lantern, who believed Barry was the kidnapper. Barry vibrated out of the clamp and told him that he's a police scientist. Green Lantern was surprised that Barry was able to escape his construct, but Barry was even more surprised to see Green Lantern levitate, and he mistakenly called him Superman. Green Lantern is still suspicious about a Central City police scientist showing up in Coast City, and the two begin to argue a bit before a bright light flashes in the house. Green Lantern flies inside, and Barry follows right behind him as the Flash.

Flash discovers that all the children in the room are gone, and the teleporting portal that took them is still open. He enters the portal and discovers Green Lantern beating up a couple of aliens. Flash is so surprised to be on another planet that he accidentally reveals his identity. He helps Green Lantern take down the aliens, and he figures out how to teleport this group of kids back home, while Green Lantern takes off to find the rest.

A few minutes later, Flash regroups with Green Lantern, who has discovered some kind of military barracks for children. Flash grows upset with Green Lantern for repeatedly calling him Barry, so he reveals himself as Hal Jordan, which only makes Flash angrier. Once again, their argument is interrupted; this time by a child's scream. Flash races ahead to find a giant alien brutally training the children for combat. Flash starts to fight the alien, but begins to lose when his super speed starts to diminish. Green Lantern arrives just in time to save him, and together they subdue the alien. Flash does a quick head count and realizes that three kids are still missing. One of them points the heroes in the right direction, so Green Lantern again takes off to find them, while Flash teleports the kids home.

We then cut to Verus arguing with her rival Priscus about the fighting potential of humans. Priscus thinks they're too weak to pose a challenge to his house, but Verus believes if she abducts enough humans, one or two of them will rise to the occasion. Green Lantern then finds three large aliens fighting each other and he starts to beat them up, demanding where the missing kids are. But then his ring reveals that the kids are inside the monsters, and Green Lantern has a hard time defending himself against them as his ring begins to lose its power.

Flash shows up in the nick of time, and is able to vibrate one of the kids out of the monster. Verus, who has been watching the whole time, becomes impressed and releases the children. Flash wants to confront her, but Green Lantern sends him home with the kids, while he speaks with Verus.

We jump back to now, where Barry has figured out that Hal made a deal with Verus for the two of them to take the kids' place in the Arena World competition. The two heroes suit up and bicker and argue all the way down to the arena floor.

None of the aliens are a match for Green Lantern and Flash, but Flash gradually loses his powers since he is so far away from the Speed Force. Eventually, our two heroes are the only ones left standing, but Arena World custom demands there only be one left to face the champion. So Priscus ensnares Green Lantern in some kind of electric net, leaving the exhausted Flash to face the champion, Marius, alone.

Flash does not fare very well in the fight, so Hal gives him his Green Lantern ring. Using his speed mind, Flash quickly learns how to use the ring and sees several possible outcomes for the fight. One of them kills Hal, and one of them kills him. In one scenario, Flash tries to fly the two of them away, but they're shot down. Ultimately, Flash has the ring detect Marius' weakness — which happens to be his crotch. Flash creates a big laser gun, sneaks under the giant alien, and puts all his energy into one blast that knocks the beast out.

A little later, the Green Lantern Corps shows up and arrests everybody. Hal admits that he had been keeping track of the aliens, but he needed to catch breaking an intergalactic law before bringing them in, and their little "cockfight" was just what he needed. So the two friends make their way home on a green motorcycle, apologizing to each other and realizing that they both push each other to be their better selves.


Nicole Dubec Writer
Cully Hamner Artist
Matthew Wilson Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual Letterer
Harvey Richards Associate Editor
Wil Moss Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor

Our backup story begins two years ago with the Flash helping a bunch of people with seemingly mundane tasks. He gives a homeless man a can to recycle. He helps an old woman catch a bus. He saves a boy and his dog that ran into traffic. He helps a man retrieve a stuck bag of chips from a vending machine, the man was so startled by the Flash that he bumped into a woman behind him, causing her to drop a big stack of papers. Flash helps her pick up all the papers, while the man offers to buy her a cup of coffee.

Realizing he's late to James Forrest's birthday party, Flash quickly buys a bottle of wine and rushes it to the police station. Unfortunately, he accidentally vibrated the bottle at super speed, causing the wine to spoil. But Barry doesn't stick around at the party for long, as an apartment fire calls the attention of the Flash.

A man outside the building, Dalton White, asks Flash to save his wife and daughter, which he does. However, the wife, Lily, had already succumbed to smoke inhalation before Flash could save her.

In the present day, Barry is enjoying breakfast with Patty Spivot in their apartment, when Iris West appears on the TV with breaking news. Dalton is threatening to destroy his apartment building unless he meets the Flash in person. So Flash heads inside the building, while police search the outside with bomb-sniffing dogs.

Flash quickly finds and defuses the bomb, then meets with Dalton on the roof. Dalton blames the Flash for the death of his wife, even though it was his cigarette that caused the fire. Flash apologizes and tells Dalton that causing other people pain won't heal his grief. Dalton refuses to listen and presses what appears to be the trigger to the bomb, but he actually injected himself with cyanide.

Flash rushes the dying man down to the paramedics, and one of them happens to be Dalton's daughter, Gloria. She gives him sodium nitrate, and Flash uses his powers to speed up the chemical reaction to save him. Gloria rebukes her father, and he mentions there being a second bomb. Flash begins to panic, but one of the policemen tells him he already found the bomb thanks to his trusty dog, Honey.

It turns out that Honey was one of the puppies from the dog the Flash saved two years ago. We also learn that the homeless man did recycle those cans and eventually got a good job. The couple from the vending machine got married, and the woman from the bus stop was able to watch her son perform in a concert. And Gloria, who became an EMT after her mother's death, visited her father in prison.

The Good:

Light, fun story. As sad as I was that this didn't tie in to the Reverse-Flash story, I do have to admit that this whole issue was pretty fun. Sometimes it's nice to break up the super serious stuff with something lighthearted. And Brian Buccellato can be a really funny writer when he wants to be. I loved seeing a young Barry completely out of his element and struggle to work with an opposite personality. I also had a fun time on Arena World. I don't know if Sami Basri completely designed the aliens or if Buccellato did, but either way, they were imaginative and neat to look at. I've also become a fan of Basri. His style is very clean and consistent. I don't know what he's up to right now, but I think he deserves to handle one of the many Green Lantern titles out there.

Barry meets Hal. This issue had me begging DC to launch a Flash-Green Lantern series. They make such a great team. Geoff Johns got a lot of laughs out of them in his early Justice League run, and Buccellato just kicked it up to 11. The Flash and Green Lantern have always worked perfectly together, even when their roles are reversed, like with Wally West and John Stewart in the Justice League cartoon. We still haven't heard what Manapul and Buccellato will be doing next March, but at the top of my list is a Flash-Green Lantern series.

Touching backup story. This one really surprised me. It started slowly, and Cully Hamner's art really didn't draw me in, but suddenly everything came together in a beautiful, poignant way. Nicole Dubec has the honor of being the first writer not named Manapul or Buccellato to work on The Flash in the New 52, and she did a great job. This story is a great template for meaningful things Flash can easily do on a TV show or in a movie. And I loved the lesson it taught: a lot of small good acts can lead to great acts. We still don't know who the permanent creative team on The Flash will be, but I strongly nominate Dubec. In fact, forget putting Basri on a Green Lantern title — put him on The Flash with Dubec. That's something I'd read.

The Bad:

The nature of the annual. I've already ranted about this, so I won't say too much here. As much as I enjoyed this issue, I did not enjoy paying $4.99 for it. I think it's time for DC to re-evaluate their annual books policy. Perhaps the change could be something as simple as cutting the page count to get a $3.99 price. Buccellato's story definitely could have been simplified to lose a few pages. Oh well. I guess I have no room to complain after I did buy the issue twice.

Final score: 7 out of 10

Next time: I've changed my mind again. Even though it hasn't ended yet, it seems a lot more logical for the Reverse-Flash story to occur before the Trinity War and Forever Evil stuff. So I will start with Flash #20, and hopefully won't have to wait too long for Flash #24.

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