Friday, May 29, 2015

The Flash Annual #3


Robert Venditti & Van Jensen Writers
Brett Booth (future Flash) & Ron Frenz (present Flash) Pencillers
Norm Rapmund (future Flash) & Livesay (present Flash) Inkers
Andrew Dalhouse Colorist
Taylor Esposito Letterer
Booth, Rapmund & Dalhouse Cover
Kate Durré & Amedo Turturro Assistant Editors
Brian Cunningham Group Editor

The cover features the blue future Flash, which isn't that bad of a design. Scattered around him are several random scenes. I believe the top middle is supposed to be the fateful lightning bolt that gave Barry Allen his super speed. On the right, we have Gorilla Grodd, who is in this issue, as well as a spray-painting youth (Wally West), who also makes an appearance here. I think the bottom middle is Flash fighting Captain Cold, who is not in this issue. Altogether, it's rather random and cluttered. Not Booth's best work.

Our story begins now, in Central City. Barry stops at a newsstand on his way to work, and is thoroughly pleased with how well his hometown has cleaned itself up since the Crime Syndicate attack. But just as he comments on how great it is for everything to be back to normal, he spots a kid in a blue hoody spray-painting anti-Flash graffiti on a wall. Barry confronts the youngster, who sprays Barry's shirt and tie, and takes off. But Barry sneaks in some super speed and catches the kid. A couple of cops happen to be passing by, and they take the vandal to the station to call his parents.

At the Central City Police Station Downtown Precinct, Barry enjoys a hot cup of coffee with his girlfriend, Patty Spivot. Patty has a craving for níspero, an exotic fruit she had in Guatemala. I think it's odd that she has positive memories from the trip on which she was kidnapped by the Weather Wizard, but I guess she's a pretty strong, stable woman. Anyway, Barry decides to be a good boyfriend, and zips down to Guatemala to grab some fruit. But when he returns, he finds his coffee is ice cold and Director David Singh is furious with Barry's tardiness.

Singh explains that the crime lab is way behind on the massive amount of cases caused by the Crime Syndicate attack, and he gives Barry a case that should be pretty easy to close quickly. Ernest Flake, aka Mogul, escaped Iron Heights during Forever Evil, and was caught two days ago on a bus to Canada. And detectives found a body they're positive was killed by one of Flake's weapons. Singh orders Barry to visit Iron Heights to swab Flake for a DNA sample and close the case as soon as possible.

On his way out, Barry runs into Iris West, who says she's there to pick up her nephew, Wallace R. West. Barry recognizes Wally as the vandal from earlier, and Wally starts to tease Barry about his shirt before adamantly denying to Iris that he's met him before. Iris tells Barry that Wally is the son of her never-before-mentioned older brother, Rudy, who took off shortly after Wally was born. Wally's mom disappeared during Forever Evil, so Iris took him in to keep him out of foster care. She then rather oddly asks Barry to spend some time with Wally, saying he grew up with no father figure and idolized his uncle, Daniel, even though he was a criminal. Wally blames the Flash for imprisoning Daniel, and Iris is worried that he'll head down a bad path if nobody steps in to guide him. Barry said he'd like to help, but he's busy working a case right now.

Twenty years from now, the future Flash in his blue suit visits the grave of Wallace Rudolph West — Beloved Son and Nephew. Iris soon arrives in a wheelchair, saying she was tipped off that someone was at Wally's grave by the night watchman, whom she has on payroll for some reason. Iris is surprised to see the Flash there, feeling guilty for what must have been just one of many people he wasn't able to save. So Flash takes off his mask and says he loved Wally as if he were family. Iris is shocked to learn Barry has been the Flash all these years, but he cuts her off by saying he's going to leave to repair all the damage. Iris knows he's referring to time travel, and she reminds him how Daniel tried that, too, and failed. She further warns Barry, saying that even if he succeeds, he won't come back the same. Barry says he's not planning on coming back, and he takes off.

Now, at Iron Heights Prison, Barry visits Mogul in his cell. He shows him a photograph of Wyatt Hill, who was found dead in a snowbank in his apartment. But Wyatt didn't freeze to death, he had all the moisture drained from his body. And when Ernest Flake was the villain Mogul, he used guns that sucked up the water from the air to create snow, which he would ski on to get away from the cops. While Flake admits his weapon could have killed Wyatt, he denies the murder, saying he didn't even know the victim. He says he initially built the device to create snow for a year-round ski slope, but the project went under, leaving him broke, but with a nifty gadget. But when Mogul was arrested, his gun was confiscated by the police, and as far as he knew, it was still locked up when the Crime Syndicate attacked. Barry takes his DNA sample and vows to find the real killer.

Twenty years from now, in Gorilla City, Grodd is visited by the Flash. Grodd is munching on a brain, which he says comes from the greatest scientific mind of the 25th century — Eobard Thawne — and by consuming his brains, Grodd claims to gain all his knowledge. Flash says the Speed Force was broken when Daniel West first traveled through time, and they have only been making it worse since then. Grodd says he also ate Daniel's brain, which gave him the ability to travel through time and collect a library of lost knowledge. Flash then attacks Grodd, saying the power of the Speed Force was always his responsibility, and he should have stopped Grodd and Daniel before they abused that power. And Flash promises Grodd a fight to the death.

Now, in the Central City Police Station Downtown Precinct, in Director Singh's office, Captain Darryl Frye is delivering some bad new to the overworked director. Frye wants to send a message that order has been restored, so he's opened 467 new cases in the past two days. As he leaves the overwhelmed Singh, Barry enters his office to deliver more bad news. There was no trace of Flake's fingerprints or DNA at the scene of the murder, no connection with him and the victim, and proof that he was on the bus to Canada at the time of the murder. Barry is convinced the murder weapon was Mogul's, but it was taken from the police's evidence room during the Crime Syndicate attack, meaning anybody could have killed Wyatt Hill. Singh shouts at Barry, and as he leaves, Forrest tells Barry to stand up for himself. But a grumpy Barry makes a snide comment about Forrest's toughness.

Barry then visits Patty to complain about Singh. She helps him realize that Singh's under a lot of pressure to close these unsolved cases. Barry quickly recovers, and Patty teases him about moping. Forrest then interrupts their romantic moment by announcing a robbery at the Dearborn Gallery. So Barry throws on his Flash outfit and rushes off to save the day.

The art gallery is being robbed by about eight people in black outfits. They're prepared for the Flash, using guns that emit ultrasonic vibrations to throw him off balance. The robbers mention their boss, who hypothesized that these weapons would rob the Flash of the ability to control his power. But Flash realizes that just because he can't control his power doesn't mean he can't use it. He spins around in a wild whirlwind, which knocks the crooks down, and takes their guns off him. The whirlwind also knocked all the paintings up in the air, so Flash has to spend time catching them all, while the robbers recover.

With their guns once again aimed at him, Flash warns them about destroying the paintings and losing their big score. But they say the paintings were never their only target, and they open fire on the Flash anyway. But this time, Flash is ready for them, dodging the guns' blast and putting the paintings in one of the crook's arms and dismantling his gun, before turning on the others.

In the future, Flash has engaged Grodd, accusing him of slaughtering his people and plundering the past, present and future. Flash says before he leaves, he wants to make sure Grodd's done batting the world around like a tire on a rope. But Grodd is able to grab Flash by the throat and slam him into the wall.

Now, Flash has pinned one of the robbers up against the wall in a similar choke hold. Flash challenges the crook to see what happens when he's pushed to his limits, but then the other criminals pull out machine guns on Flash and their teammate. Flash is shocked that they would so easily turn against one of their own, and he opts to save the crook's life by swinging him around and into his group — a move Flash calls "bowling for burglars." With all the robbers finally subdued, the police arrive and start to take them away. Flash asks them who their boss is, but they refuse to say. The one who was saved by the Flash asks why he saved him, and Flash says that letting him die would have been the same as killing him himself. And Flash says he'll never take a life for any reason.

In the future, Grodd moves in for the kill, and prepares to feast on Flash's brain. But he's thrown off by a large explosion — negative feedback from the Speed Force. Flash says the Speed Force is the lifeblood of time itself, and it's now bleeding out thanks to Grodd. He then hits Grodd with a series of quick hits on the side of his head, and sneaks a micro-bomb inside his ear. Grodd's fingers are too large to pull the bomb out in time, and his explodes. Flash stands over the headless corpse of Grodd and says that if he succeeds in his mission, he won't have needed to execute him. And the blue future Flash then takes off to kill himself.

The Good:

Follow up on Forever Evil. The first big crossover event of the New 52 was supposed to be Trinity War, but it turned out to merely be setting the stage for Forever Evil — the bloated, disappointing story that lasted way too long, mainly because of some inexplicable publishing delays. But it was still a huge, epic event, and it's nice to see at least one book treat it as such. Yeah, I still have a few questions, such as what happened to all the gorillas and whether Solovar survived. But I am happy that Venditti and Jensen remembered that Central City was destroyed and will take some time to fully get back to normal. And it is a nice touch to see the police begin the long, arduous process of figuring out exactly who escaped from Iron Heights and who killed who during all the ruckus.

The Bad:

Wally West. I've already complained about him being black, so I won't repeat myself here. Now, I'm complaining that he's fallen under the negative stereotype of young black men. He grew up without a father, and is therefore a troubled teen, falling into a life of crime. Such a characterization seems to discount some of the progressiveness I'm sure DC intended by changing Wally's ethnicity in the first place. And it is awfully convenient for Iris to have a never-before-mentioned older brother, completely disregarding the heartfelt look into the West family as told by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato.

Iris West. Why on Earth would she ask Barry to spend time with her wayward nephew? She dated Barry briefly like six years ago. And since then, she's really only used him as a source for her stories. Yeah, I guess she did try to get closer to him after she was rescued from the Speed Force, but she always seemed to understand that Patty was Barry's girlfriend. Is she using Wally to get closer to Barry? Whatever the reason, I think it is very strange and unnatural for Iris to make this request of Barry. Why doesn't she use her reporter skills to track down her long-lost brother, Rudy? Or look for Wally's mom and/or relatives on that side of the family? The answer to these questions is that Venditti and Jensen needed to find a way to get Barry and Wally together, and between the two of them, this is apparently the best they could do.

I also have a bunch of very small, trivial complaints, but nothing large enough to deduct points from the final score. I'm not a fan of the art in this issue, but it was passable. And I suppose I need to mention the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Half of me was disgusted by Grodd's death, but the other half of me kind of liked it. So I remain neutral on the issue. It was an effective way of showing us that this Flash is a very different, and more violent person.

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next time, we'll Flash take on the Dark Knight himself in Batman #35.

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