Flash Annual #1: Rogue City

Everything comes to a head as Central City's bad guys make Barry Allen's book interesting and fun.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Flash Annual #1

I've tried a couple of different times to get into reading The Flash, and both times I've found my interest waning because I do not find Barry Allen particularly interesting. Part of it might be lingering resentment about how bad Flashpoint was, part of it might be my preference for Wally West. I kinda like the notion that Barry's girlfriend Patty Spivot hates the Flash, but Barry himself tends to just make me yawn. I like a lot of the stuff around him, but I don't really like him.

That's why Flash Annual #1 is great – it's all about everything that's cool around the Flash and barely about Flash at all. Namely, the Rogues. We get some backstory on the team that makes us unclench about New 52 changes a bit. At least once upon a time, it was pretty much the team we remember – the group of gadget-toting crooks with a code of honor and a general sense of family, albeit a dysfunctional one. This issue is mostly about the Rogues reclaiming that identity for themselves, after disaster drove them apart.

What kind of disaster? Well, it turns out a mysterious red-haired science guy (I'm assuming it's this Dr. Elias who has betrayed him, who I'm guessing was the guy who'd made the big ol' turbine to help Flash burn off excess speed-force build-up, but that's what comes from only reading intermittently – can't quite be sure who's who in the supporting cast) offered Captain Cold the chance to turn his gadget-based powers into inherent superhuman powers, and Cold then herded the rest of the Rogues into going along with that. The result was Heatwave becoming walking burn-scar tissue, Weather Wizard being an emotional wreck, Mirror Master being stuck in the mirror world, and Cold's sister Lisa being turned into an astral projection who can barely touch anybody, while her real self remains laid up and unable to walk. That'll mess any family up, and it explains why Cold was so freaked out and pissed when he appeared in Flash #6 to take out his frustrations on Barry.

However, Lisa Snart, who was involved with Mirror Master all romantical-like, has led the Rogues on some kind of revenge trip, and this is where her brother Len (aka Cap Cold) has intervened to actually side with the Flash against them. Sure, it's only because he owes the Flash for saving Lisa, but his main goal is to corral his criminal family and make them remember the original "three simple rules" about being a Rogue – 1.) Don't kill unless you have to, 2.) Don't go near drugs and 3.) It's all about the score. Not revenge, not vendettas, just the score. It's a cool dynamic, refreshing to see that it's all carried over from what was cool about the Rogues pre-New 52, and the colorful crazies may look a bit different – hoodie instead of parka, etc. – but they still feel like the Rogues. 

Also, you can't ever go wrong by ending an issue with "…and then gorillas attack!"

Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato are the writers behind this, and Manapul did the art breakdowns for each chapter, while other artists were brought in to pencil. Marcus To handles the opening inner monologue for Barry as he reflects on his father, although he does make Barry's dad seem a little sinister – no idea what the deal is with that. Scott Kolins handles the next bit where we get Cold's story, and he's pretty solid, complete with very expressive faces, although he does get a little too Liefeld-mouthy with Trickster. Diogenes Neves gives us Lisa's self-reflections explaining why she's so angry at her brother, and it has a more ethereal quality to its artwork – as it should when dealing with astral forms. Marcio Takara gives us a couple of pages of interlude with Patty and the mysterious Turbine guy from the Speed Force dimension, and then Wes Craig handles the big-time smackdown extravaganza featuring the Flash fighting in the mirror world while Cold argues with his sister. Craig's got a somewhat more cartoony look, and a lot more Liefeld-mouth teeth-gritting business, but not nearly as bad as invoking that name might imply. I don't like his faces much, but the rest of it ain't bad.

I want to say Flash Annual #1 will get me back into reading The Flash again, and I'll definitely check out Flash #13 if it upholds the promise of Rogues vs. Gorilla City, but I know that, eventually, all of these bad guys will have to exeunt with a flourish, and we'll be back to focusing on Barry Allen. Then, my eyes will glaze over and I'll forget to buy it again. It's not something I blame Manapul and Buccellato for, though. I have no idea what to suggest to them that would make Barry interesting. He's not cool in Justice League and he's not cool in his own book. He's just okay. He's not really fun, and that's what I'd prefer out of a Flash.

8.5