STORY BY Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato
ART BY Marcus To, Scott Kolins, Diogenes Neves, Oclair Albert,Marcio Takara, Wes Craig
COLORS BY Ian Herring, Mike Atiyeh, Hi-Fi
LETTERS BY Carlos M. Mangual, Dezi Sienty, Pat Brosseau, Wes Abbott
COVER BY Rafael Albuquerque
Review by Peter Winsky:
The tradition of Annuals in DC Comics stretches back to the 60’s, when republications of Batman and Superman adventures were collected in 80 page ‘Giant’ collections for 25 cents, and Giant Batman Annual #1: 1,001 Secrets of Batman and Robin has a special place in the heart of this reviewer in particular. The Annual became, however, the home of some of the greatest, and occasionally most horrid, tales from the publisher, most of which occurred outside of normal storylines and occasionally out of continuity. The Annual gave birth to Elseworlds and Bloodlines, notables that could be taken on either end of the spectrum of what one might call ‘extra continuity comics’ meaning the company could take a rather light approach to either including or dissolving characters or plot from continuity.
With the onset of the New 52, DC has taken the Annual in a different direction, one in which creators are allowed few extra pages to bolster the main storyline, rather than telling one offs or leaping into the realm of the ridiculous or fantastic. Flash Annual #1 falls into the constraints of this new scheme and reads as a finale/bridge into the upcoming story line. Since issue 12 was released a mere two weeks before, it seems that there should be a 12.5 on the cover, as the annual brings the what seems like the climax of the arc, yet sets up the next issue in the final panel. Any one reading Flash on a normal basis would be left completely in the cold if they skirt this chapter in Barry’s journey.
There is, however, very little reason for one to skip this annual if they are a regular reader of Francis Manapul and Brain Buccellato’s take on the Fastest Man Alive. While faithful followers may be disappointed to see that Manapul is not on art duties for the issue, he both maintains his role as co-author and plots the breakdowns for the art. Yet any fear that the art would suffer due to the change is quickly assuaged, as Marcu To’s pencils for the first chapter of the story fit wonderfully. In fact the guest art is one of the most alluring components of the annual. Although Manapul’s unique style is missed, it is quite fascinating to see how other artists work within his frames and approach to layout. The wonderful hands of Scott Kolins returns to his former friends the Rouges and his familiarity with the characters shines through, no matter what costume or personality changes they may have befallen them, taking the crown for visual duties in the comic.
The annual suffers from a few set backs, including rather intrusive text banners between each chapter, demarking change in artist and section of the story. One would think in a comic about the worlds fastest man flow would be crux to maintaining the essence of both story and character, something that the regular art of Manapul pulls off rather precisely during regularly scheduled programming. There must have been some reason that the editorial powers found for giving credit to each artist at the starting line of their separate legs of the story, however, the banners are obtrusive, emblazoned in large, red type against white background. Secondly the story suffers from rather poor art in the final chapter. The action is captured in such a way that everything feels accomplished or predestined, as if the reader is not watching a battle but comes in just as the action has ended. While it may seem overly critical to judge this art in such a manner, a battle scene that feels static while so much is occurring in the story is unfair to the reader, especially considering the quality found both earlier in the issue, as well as in the regular run of the series.
The annual itself is worth a read if you have been following The Flash as it began in the New 52. If you are looking for some life altering event, imaginary tale, or the seemingly impossible return of Wally West, this is not the book for you. As regular issues go, it’s a pass. As an annual, and for an extra two dollars, one might think of spending the money elsewhere. Releasing five annuals during the same week makes one think that DC is using these annuals to bleed a few more dollars out of their readers. Had they sold this comic two weeks later and pushed issue #0 off for another two weeks they might have had this gone by unnoticed, but the decision to release the annuals so close to the regularly scheduled programming makes it too hard to ignore the little bit of extra green that was passed across the counter this week.