Initial impressions count. As we meet Wally West properly for the first time, he’s spraying a wall with anti-Flash graffiti. His first words on-panel are ‘Screw you, man!’
Remind you of anything?
Yep, the intro of the New 52 Wally West, who replaces the original version, is reminiscent of the debut of the Jason Todd who supplanted the first iteration. That character proved so popular readers voted to kill him off.
Good luck Wally West, you’re going to need it.
After Barry Allen ruins Wally’s artistic expression, it’s his first day back in the Crime Lab. After an amusing bit of business involving girlfriend Patty Spivot, Director David Singh and an exotic fruit, he runs into reporter and gal pal Iris West. She’s there to pick up nephew Wally from Central Booking, and asks Barry if he’d be up for a spot of mentoring. It turns out Wally is the son of her deadbeat dad brother Rudy – as opposed to crazed Reverse-Flash brother Daniel – and a missing, unnamed mother, and needs a good, manly influence. Barry hums and has, as you might expect given his complicated life and the brat Wally seemed to be.
Tasked with investigating an apparently open and shut case involving a minor supervillain, Mogul, who is thought to have killed a guy with his snow gun, Barry realises things don’t add up. He’s determined to solve the mystery, but before that grabs the chance for some Flash action, battling a bunch of art thieves armed with a sonic disruptor gun that messes up Barry’s internal vibrations.
Interspersed with the 21st-century doings we have a flashforward to 20 years from now and – surprise! – it’s all a bit grim. Wally is dead, Iris is in a wheelchair and the Flash is determined to put things right. He’s going to go back in time and fix things. Iris, reasonably, points out that Daniel tried the same thing, and that didn’t work out well. But filled with the Hubris Force, Barry isn’t having it. He’s off to the past, after dealing with one final problem, in case he’s unsuccessful – sorting out Gorilla Grodd, once and for all …
Such are the bare bones (and in Grodd’s case, a bit of juicy, tasty brain) of Flash Annual #3 and, ‘edgy’ Wally aside, I’m impressed. Writers Van Jensen and Robert Venditti skilfully juggle an awful lot of story in 38 pages, integrating plenty of satisfying character moments into the action. The aforementioned fruit business, for one thing, plays out silently while the meat of the scene is foregrounded, and works wonderfully well thanks to penciller Ron Frenz and inker John Livesay. They convey Barry’s awkward everyman person with great skill.
New villain Mogul isn’t seen in action, but prisoner Ernest Flake makes an interesting impression and I’d like to see more of him. Mind, while Barry thinks ‘Mogul’ is an impressive name for a snowy bad guy, I had to look it up.
Frenz and Livesay also have fun with the art gallery sequence, skilfully showing the Flash’s super-speed heroics as Jensen and Venditti conjure up dialogue far better than the norm; it’s a trick they pull off throughout, making this issue very engaging.
As I said in last week’s review of Flash #30, I’m not into yet another ‘can the timeline be changed?’ storyline, Barry having been involved in two over the past three years. You might remember that one of them destroyed the whole DCU continuity. Given how engaging the present-day sequence is, there’s no need for a parallel story, and certainly not one involving a second version of our hero. Hopefully it’ll be over and done with the minute September’s 3D-tastic DC-line Five Years Later stunt is up.
Jensen and Venditti, as they did last week, nod towards the old continuity.
Quibble aside, this is one of the best Flash stories of the past three years, and hints at good times ahead.