By Joshua Williamson, Howard Porter, Christian Duce & Hi-Fi
The first Flash annual post-Rebirth has finally arrived. Writer Joshua Williamson has made it clear that the story within this annual’s pages is very important to the title because it is the prelude to the upcoming “Flash War” storyline and future plots for the title. The Howard Porter cover is a stunning and powerful foreshadowing of the tone and content of the comic and reinforces the importance. The original Wally West, since returning from the Speed Force, is still struggling with his place in the world. As he tries to cement himself, he ignites an old flame in someone. Concurrently, the aftermath of the battle between Flash and Reverse-Flash in the 25th century has caused what will clearly be serious reverberations to Barry and the entire Flash family.
It was really refreshing to see classic Wally come to the forefront in this issue and Williamson really exploring his predicament. Now, Dan Abnett and his collaborators, to their credit, have been doing a fine job of that in Titans, but it’s just nice to see it addressed more thoroughly in a Flash book. The material has a bit of a metatextual element to it where Wally is processing how he was Kid Flash, then the Flash, then back to Kid Flash and now he’s a Flash, but he’s not the Flash, because there’s another Wally West who’s now the current Kid Flash. Just reading that sentence out loud is confusing; imagine how the current DC continuity reads with all this at play.
It seems Geoff Johns saw this convoluted situation and felt there was opportunity to spin a great story out of this, just has he has done with so many other characters in the DC pantheon. Joshua Williamson really takes that baton and addresses these concerns in West’s internal dialog, but the writing really shines in the dialog and the interactions between Wally and the other players in this issue. The passion for and knowledge of the characters shines through in the work and makes this annual a brisk, fun, yet emotional read. Readers who have felt alone, out-of-place or just lonely will find that this narrative will resonate strongly with them. It’s also fascinating to see the selfish side of the character come through because of the grief he’s going through. It’s logical and doesn’t feel forced to set-up the primary conflict of the story – completely organic. Now, the conclusion of Wally’s reconnection is wrapped up a little too neatly, but it’s a minor quibble since the cliffhanger is quite the shock to the system.
Howard Porter’s work is unique, sharp and completely recognizable. The heavy inks and Hi-Fi’s colors clearly make his pages in this comic stand-out. His focus is the time spent in the 25th century and the amount of detail he puts into the Flash Museum is marvelous. There are ton of easter eggs laden within those pages. The other artist on-duty is Christian Duce, who handles the present day material. His art appears inconsistent. There is a discernible difference from the action beats and the dialog-heavy scenes and it’s combination of the pencils, inks and colors being different from sequence to sequence. The comic feels as if three artists were working on it. That’s not to say the work is bad because it isn’t, it’s just baffling at times. Perhaps, Duce and Hi-Fi decided to execute specific sequences with different techniques, which would be fine and their right to do so, but that has to be made clear to the audience from the outset and prepare them for it. His style shines brightest in the quiet moments. A sequence where both Wally’s and Barry are eating hot dogs is a beautiful scene that gives such delicate, fine detail to the characters. It absolutely is dialed into the delicate situation and conversation the three are having; simply, subtle, yet effective sequential art. The color work on that scene was pitch perfect as well. It can’t be overstated enough that Hi-Fi was able to complement two very different artists and make each and every pop with agency and vibrancy. That’s what is essential in a Flash comic and it was delivered nicely.
This is was a strong, surprising annual and continues to exemplify how Joshua Williamson is becoming one of the best writers to take on the duties of the Flash. It taps deep into the titular character’s canon, but focusing on the secondary characters, and keep it completely compelling and entertaining. The art team was able to breathe lightning into the panels and have that heart pop right off the page. All-in-all it’s a strong effort from start to finish.