In Review: The Flash Annual #4

I was angry, frustrated, and bored reading this, but it did look pretty.

The cover: Artist Brett Booth, inker Norm Rapmund, and colorist Andrew Dalhouse have created this cover which is a solid summary of what fans can expect in this yearly book. The dominant image is the Reverse Flash, aka Professor Zoom, aka Eobard Thawne, screaming for joy as black strands of energy exit his body as he stands within a crimson diamond. Before him, if you look closely, are five individuals who appear to have unique energy abilities. The bottom right corner proclaims “The Acolytes of Zoom”. So this appears to be a group Zoom has formed to battle his arch nemesis the Flash. I’ve been a huge fan of this trio’s work on the monthly Flash comic and their work looks just as good gracing this cover. Overall grade: A

The story: In 1520, during what remains of the Aztec Empire, a beautiful young woman climbs a cliff and finds a baby Quetzal abandoned in its nest. She picks the bird up and purple energy rushes from her hands into the animal that is now cured of its maladies. Her joy at helping the little critter is cut short by the arrival (who must have done so extra quietly) of the Spanish army. The commander of the men speaks something in Spanish but is interrupted by a wizened man in tatters who wants to speak with the woman. Speaking with her in her own language he says, “Oh, I know all about you and your…abilities. But trust me, I am not one these conquistadors. I am called Eobard Thawne. I am here to save you.” This is a good hook for readers from writer Van Jensen, introducing a new character with powers and the ultimate Flash villain, granted in a very unusual state. This scene is then repeated three more times in three different time periods with three different, new power using characters. This was okay for the first two characters, but I quickly got bored since the format of this story was established and there was no deviation from it. On Page 25 the story finally comes to the present, where a Danger Room sequence is occurring with the new characters, ultimately joined by their leader. The final eight pages are supposed to be shocking, but if a reader is even vaguely familiar with Thawne, this will be an unnecessary coda. Sad to say, that’s what this story was: unnecessary. All this does is give origins to four new potential Flash villains…and they never fight the Flash! I normally expect to see the title character in his or her annual, but that’s not the case with this annual. I was completely underwhelmed. Overall grade: D-

The art: There’s no faulting the artwork in this issue, penciled by Bong Dazo and inked by Norm Rapmund. The opening three pages are drop dead gorgeous. I was completely taken into the time period because of the visuals. Now the fourth page is also good, but I can’t say gorgeous because Thawne is an absolute horror. His fingers give him a Fu Manchu feel as he uses them to horrific effect. The second time period has a stunning new character whose abilities remind me of a classic Flash villain, but is rendered in a fantastic new way. I love the look of this character, and when he rages he’s a fright. The next character looked like she was drawn by Adam Hughes, and that’s a compliment! She’s beautiful, but she’s also really tough, and if you’re thinking she’s drawn in the “Good Girl” style, you’re wrong — she’s attractive but doesn’t have to be showing any skin to be so. She’s great, and I love her emotions when she gets her dander up. The next character I wasn’t so keen on. The destruction that he causes looks great, but he’s just too pouty for me. Yes, that’s the way the character is written, but there’s nothing about him visually that has me rooting to see more of him, unlike the previous three characters. The Danger Room sequence was good, with each character demonstrating their abilities at a much stronger level. The final image of the book was fantastic. These visuals are really good. Overall grade: A 

The colors: The colors on this book are also well done. Andrew Dalhouse does some beautiful work on the double-paged spread that makes up Pages 2 and 3: the rocks, the girl, the soldiers, and the story’s title look fantastic. I also like the nice job with the colors surrounding Thawne’s dialogue that separates him from the other humans. And, Wow!, does he look great at the end of Page 4 and in the final panel of the book. He’s a glorious decrepit mess! The next setting’s use of black and red is also beautiful. I love the orange colored skin on the third new character and her hair has some amazing highlights. There’s a lot of blue and grey for the final character introduced. They are drab colors but they realistically represent this boy’s abilities. The Danger Room has the brightest colors of the books, since everyone has been training for some time, and it looks good. I’ve nothing but praise to sing for Dalhouse’s work on this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene settings, sounds, dialogue, yells, opening title and credits, Thawne’s beautifully disgusting old man speech, grunts, moans, computer screen font, and the issue’s tease for Flash #43 are all created by Carlos M. Mangual. As much as I am a fan of sound effects in comics, and Mangual does some super ones in this book, I delighted in his font for old man Thawne. It made his character so much more evil with each of its painful scrawls. Overall grade: A+

The final line: The visuals are terrific, but the story is just awful. I felt ripped off. These origins could/should have been done in the monthly title and not in an annual. And there’s no Flash in this Flash Annual. I was angry, frustrated, and bored reading this, but it did look pretty. Overall grade: D+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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