The Flash 2021 Annual #1 review

Wally West’s Quantum Leap adventure comes to an end in this double-sized annual. For the last several issues of his regular series the formless hero has been borrowing the bodies of speedsters past, present and future on a mission to cleanse the Speed Force of a blockage that’s sparking surges of explosive energy. He’s about to find out just what – or rather, who – the cosmic kidney stone is. But first, one last time trip.

The Speed Force has spat Wally out again – into his own body, on the worst day of his life. But it seems to be giving him a second chance.

You’ll recognise that offscreen voice… well, maybe not, this being comics. But Wally does.

Roy Harper, Speedy, one of his oldest and best friends. And one of the heroes at superhero rehab clinic Sanctuary apparently killed by a surge of Speed Force energy that burst from Wally in a moment of extreme stress.

You see where this is going? Bless writer Jeremy Adams for sneaking up on me with this issue, which explains that it wasn’t Wally’s inability to keep a lid on his powers that caused the deaths of not just Roy, but Lagoon Boy, Solstice, Nemesis and a host of other heroes. Suddenly it seems obvious that the Speed Force surges we’ve seen in previous Flash issues were leading here, to a Great Undoing of the horror that was the Heroes in Crisis maxi-series.

OK, we don’t have the deaths undone, but we do see that Wally’s speed didn’t kill them. That’s Stage Two of the Great Undoing. Stage One was last year’s wonderful Flash #761, in which Josh Williamson retconned that the truly terrible decisions Wally made after the tragedy were due to an unseen Prof Zoom whispering in his ear, influencing him when he was at his lowest. So I don’t doubt that Stage Three will come eventually; the writer who is itching to revive Hot Spot and Gnaark may not be working yet – may not be born yet! – but it’ll happen.

For now, we have a wonderful scene in which Roy faces approaching death.

It’s a superb moment in a book full of them, not diluted at all by the fact Roy is already back from the dead post-this story, courtesy of DC’s last big event. Wally, too, gets to shine, especially towards the end, as he fights the issue’s surprise villain, the one whose arrogance and lust for power actually killed the heroes at Sanctuary.

Ah, Sanctuary. I hated Heroes in Crisis for not only killing heroes, but for the way writer Tom King dumped on them beforehand, ‘revealing’, for example, that The Protector, whose entire deal was saving teens from drugs, was himself a junkie all along, laughing at everyone. Now it’s time for someone to dump on Heroes in Crisis. Literally.

Cheeky Jeremy Adams and artist Fernando Pasarin open the annual with a pitch perfect impersonation of King’s Heroes in Crisis voice and Clay Mann’s visuals.

The best thing about this page is that its style, the straight-to-‘camera’ nine-panel grid format, puts us in no doubt that Adams is commenting on Heroes in Crisis. And that comment is that there’s no room for despair with this Flash; gone is Tom King’s pessimistic worldview, with a Sad Sack speedster rejecting Hope. Instead it’s Wally quietly reclaiming the idea, via his friendship with Roy.

The two elliptical instances of ‘Redemption is…’ implies that getting back to your best self is a work in progress, while also recalling the repeated hopeless mantra ‘Darkseid is’ that was the soundtrack of King’s Mister Miracle maxi-series.

Pasarin splits the book with regular Flash artist Brandon Peterson. The latter handles the present day sequences while Pasarin homages Heroes in Crisis, if I have it right – I’m basing this not just on my practised eye (yeah, right) but Peterson’s habit of giving everyone auras. Pasarin’s work is nicely observed, giving Wally the humanity he needs in the highly emotional sequences. He captures the reunion between Wally and Roy beautifully, they really do seem like guys who have known, and loved, each other for many, many years. And when the big villain arrives, Pasarin truly brings the power.

Peterson, as ever, composes his share of the action scenes with tremendous dynamism as Wally and the bad guy pit power and nerve against one another.

What’s more, he gets to show us his Superman and Batman, and gives us more of his excellent Mr Terrific and Green Arrow – I’ve enjoyed Ollie’s hanging around Barry Allen throughout the Blink of an Eye story, but as with the Speed Force surge, suddenly his presence really makes sense.

The epilogue has all the heart you could wish for, as Peterson captures the proverbial ‘feels’ of Adams’ script. And it’s all splendidly coloured by Mike Atiyeh, who has developed quite the partnership with Peterson. Meanwhile Hi-Fi handles the Sanctuary scenes – if there were awards for most glorious cornfield or soothing sunset, they would have it. And Steve Wands gifts us some superb lettering – I especially like the new treatment he’s come up with for the villain’s rants.

I like the Peterson and Atiyeh cover – good composition, decent colours, but there’s poor balloon placement, with the villain’s being a case of noises off rather than coming from the looming figure. Then again, maybe they have a side power in super-ventriloquism.

I reckon that the average DC fan could pick up this engrossing mix of drama and, yes, laughs without having read the rest of the storyline – it’s a more than satisfying culmination of the previous issues, but won’t be dependent on deep knowledge of what’s come before… Adams provides the basics.

And by the end we have Wally perfectly placed to take up the reins as DC’s on-duty Flash once more. If Adams sticks with the book, we’re most likely in for a classic run.

8 thoughts on “The Flash 2021 Annual #1 review

  1. I have disliked Wally West since Wolfman’s New Teen Titans and the Baron take as he started Wally’s first ongoing and I’m still glad Heroes In Crisis was altered here. The best part is what Roy did, expunging all of Wally’s guilt. I teared up so much I almost did cry at that. Two things though.

    Roy and Wally are not besties. They were rivals, often ugly rivals, over Donna Troy’s affection. Wally was basically also a young Republican and Roy chaotic. Their only commonality was their mutual bestie, Dick Grayson. In real life it’s common to gloss over differences in the past as you age but not to this extent.

    The other thing is in regards to legacy numbering for the book. Shouldn’t it reflect Wally’s volumes, not Barry’s? Oh right, they’re combined which makes as much sense to me as considering the pre-Thor Journey Into Mystery issues as part of that book’s legacy numbering.

    Okay, there’s a third. Since Princess Diana’s longer tenure as Wonder Woman has been revived, shouldn’t we go back to Donna as the Titan child Diana rescued from a fire and ignore every origin between? Just don’t call her Troia. Titanic? Titanica? Wonder Gal? Wonder Warrior? Titan?

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    1. Wally and Roy as rivals for Donna was pretty shortlived… did Haney actually bother with it before Rozakis went there? Since then both Wally and Roy have had serious relationships, neither has pursued Donna much… I’ve a vague memory of Donna and Roy shagging in the Devin Grayson run, but don’t recall Wally being fussed as he was with Linda by then. Before that, I don’t think Wolfman, in the Terry wedding issue, even had a scene with the chaps talking about how they’d both had teen flirtatious with Donna, and he had loads of room. Anyway, maybe they’re not besties but I accept they’re great friends as first generation Teen Titans (Dick was Wally’s best man but Wally was there).

      Oh, I’m going on! Anyway, you’re right about the numbering but I like big numbers so I’ll take it.

      And there’s every reason to believe Donna has her original origin back, but I’m scared to ask.

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  2. I’m definitely in for this run of The Flash. It’s good to have Wally back, and absolved! Those were some beautiful moments with Roy.

    And while I agree that Roy and Wally were rivals back in the day, I think it’s perfectly natural for two old friends to paper over those differences when a lot of time has passed, and mortality is staring them right in the face. I don’t think either of them is interested in Donna romantically anymore; Wally certainly isn’t. So that sort of thing easily becomes bygones.

    Now we just need to raise Nemesis from the dead.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was a tad disappointed we didn’t get a mass resurrection… then again, doesn’t HiC predate the resurrections that form the background to Infinite Frontier? They could all be back. Mind, if Nemesis is still dead, Diana could meet him on her current tour of the afterlife.

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  3. Finally read this last night.
    You say everything I was feeling.
    Heroes in Crisis was an abomination, trashing the one hero everyone recognized as the hope behind Rebirth. And it’s take on mental health issues and ‘therapy’ was horribly misguided.

    So cheers for slowly ‘erasing’ it’s biggest sins and giving us back a Wally I can root for again.

    Please, no more sad Wally, no more Metron-chair Wally. Just give us Flash Wally.

    As always Mart, brilliant review.

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    1. I wonder how Tom King feels that while he’s still at DC one of his signature project has been rewritten not once, but twice, and very speedily at that!

      I hope that now the Park-Wests are reunited we’ll see the kids integrated into the book without being so foregrounded that they get in the way of Wally’s adventures.

      And thank you for the kind words.

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      1. Do you think that was what killed the Wally series that followed the murder of the adult Bart doppelganger? I always thought it was hysterical that the vocal fans were all ‘We want Wally Back’ quickly followed by ”Not Like That We Don’t’.

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      2. I suspect that King’s alright with it. He went into the project wanting to make a statement about mental health and trauma, which he made.* Lasting changes to the DCU and Wally in particular weren’t really part of his agenda; they were just collateral damages. When he was initially plotting the book, he didn’t know what characters would be used — IIRC, he was pretty astonished when Didio suggested making Wally the centerpiece. (Although with Didio’s record with the Titans, it’s not really a surprise in retrospect.)

        *And which people have also been taking issue with since Heroes in Crisis was published. Although he’s also said he’s had vets and other front-line people come up to him at cons and thank him for it, so it’s struck a chord with some people.

        I think the kids will work better in Wally’s series this time. When the Waid/Acuna series came out, they were seen as an intrusion. (Weren’t they aged up for the series? They were babies, they went to the future, they came back as tweens.) Now, with Superman & Jon, there’s a significant fandom that wants stories with that “young superhero family” flavor. And in the past couple decades, Jai and Irey have been “baked in” to the Wally & Linda dynamic. People would be more upset if they *didn’t* appear than if they did.

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