By Robert Venditti, Van Jensen, Brett Booth, Ron Frenz, Norm Rapmund & Livesay
Time traveling and fan favorite character updates are a major theme in the New 52 books hitting the shelves this month. The Flash Annual #3 does its part, timestream jumping and introducing a new take on a familiar name. The new storyline switches from present day to twenty years in the future, introduces the New 52 version of Wally West and continues to ramp up Robert Venditti and Van Jensen’s first major story arc from the prelude of last week’s issue #30.
Almost as fast as the title character, the annual kicks in with Barry Allen and Wally West meeting for the first time in the New 52. The two times Wally and Barry cross paths are natural coincidences and both foreshadow their upcoming relationship. Wally’s introduction is smooth and there is some explanation of Wally’s backstory as told by Iris to Barry. There is a risk of alienating fans of the pre-52 Wally West, however, the update is handled well and based on the evidence shown here in his debut, there is potential for good storytelling.
The stress from his meeting with Wally is only the tip of the iceberg for Barry. He has pressure coming from Director Singh concerning a case that on the surface should have been easy but upon further investigation reveals something else. There is new hardware in Central City which may or may not be linked to the aforementioned case. On top of that, Barry and Patty continue to keep their romance a secret around the office. What is unique about this annual is the amount of time Barry is out of costume and his civilian identity is given a chance at more page time. However, the glimpses into Barry’s future twenty years ahead find him in an electric blue Flash costume. The flash forwards show Barry trying to make amends for the results of the incident shown at the end of issue #30. The Flash of twenty years from now has some timestream fixing to accomplish and his first stop is a visit with Gorilla Grodd and then to confront present day Flash, Barry Allen.
Venditti and Jensen have crafted an excellent annual. They pack in a good solid story, excellent pacing and make the annual a must read, not just for the introduction of Wally West, but as an overall part of the bigger picture in their first arc. The writing team make this book worth the price of admission. The plot is fast without forsaking character development and giving away too much in one issue. They provide just enough to lay foundations for the story arc and peak readers’ interest for the next installment.
The switching of art teams in present and future storytelling segments adds to the value of the annual. Present day pages are done with clean, bright panels by Ron Frenz and Livesay. The hazy blue mood of the future is handled by Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund. Having two art teams that are slightly different in approach adds to the present and future differentiated changes in mood and character tone. Frenz and Livesay’s art has a clean style to it, there are few speed lines and the inks and pencils are kept light. Booth and Rapmund’s art is extremely kinetic, dark with many speed lines and heavy inks. Both styles capture well the moments of time that they represent. The art of the present has a calm before the storm feeling and the art depicting the future conveys a devastating aftermath mood.
The annual is a wonderful chapter in Venditti and Jensen’s first story arc. Story threads are established nicely. Readers are given a chance to explore what’s in store not only for the New 52 Wally West and the Flash but the supporting characters as well.