Sunday, August 13, 2017

Slideback Sunday: The Flash Annual #4 (1987) Review

Back in a...

Writer: Mark Waid
Pencils: Craig Brassfield
Inker: Andrew Pepoy
Release: September 15th, 1991
Price: $2.00

After a bit of a hiatus I finally get to jump back into Mark Waid’s Flash run for Throwback Thursday’s. With a bit of a weird start in the form of a Special that barely had any Waid actually in it, it should be nice actually getting into a Waid penned story. Although it is Waid and it is Wally West, that doesn’t mean this story will be anything normal, as we seem to be diving into a what if story with a look at Wally hanging up the Super Hero suit.

We kick off with an interesting premise that sets this story in the frame of Waverider trying to protect the world from a possible dark future. One in which a tyrant, known by the name of Monarch, has taken rule over the world. Monarch is looking to prevent this future by finding out who the Monarch was before he turned into a tyrant, with only the information that he was once one of Earth’s Superheroes. With the possibility of it being the Scarlet Speedster himself, we finally jump into the issue and kick of the highly lauded Mark Waid run.

We start with Wally enjoying a fine time at Keystone’s celebration of Flash day. With some slight humor from “Friends of The Flash” it gets to the kickoff point of the story pretty quick as Bonnie Blackman is just about to present Flash with some papers the Waverider reaches out to touch him. With a ‘flash’ we jump off into the far flung future of 2001. We meet Mike Edwards with his wife Diane and son David, to only soon after find out this is actually Wally West himself. He seems to have hung up the costume and the persona of Flash has gone missing.

There’s some small family interaction as we learn the son David has inherited Wally’s speed. There’s a hint of David not inheriting something else from Wally, only to be cut off short of disclosing what it was. Wally mentions he’s a good kid and has learn to refrain from using his speed only to him immediately end up in a situation that needs his speed. After saving another kid’s life David is left hurt due to the fact that Wally’s aura, that protected him from friction, is something David did not inherit along with Wally’s speed.

As Wally speeds off with David toward the hospital it leaves us with Diane to fill in a lot of the exposition for the story. We find out that Diane is actually Bonnie from the beginning of the story and what she was getting ready to disclose to Wally was apparently paperwork that indicated the company she was working for was actually some huge syndicate. The details on how things come about seems a little iffy, we learn that the man behind the company also has a super power in which he’s able to see anyones history after a single touch. The two came together to put him away while at the same time falling in love. With his last moment of freedom Diogenes pats Wally and Bonnie on the shoulder instantly learning everything there is to know about both of them immediately.

At this point we’re basically caught up on what has gotten us to the current point in time, as the previous meeting led Wally to hang up the costume and for both of them to go under Witness protection with new identities. Which then leaves us to catch up with Diogenes in prison as he’s visited by Captain Cold himself who has located Wally and his family for him. Wally and Bonnie learn of the condition of David, but soon get a called away by Diogenes who only intends to distract and inform them of their situation as David actually gets kidnapped.
We then kickoff into a series of scenes with the Rogues wreaking havoc in varied ways as Wally attempts at finding his Flash Ring. Now equipped with his Scarlet suit he sets off to make pretty quick work of the Rogues. Weather Wizard, Rainbow Raider, Captain Cold and Golden Glider and then finally Paradox where he finally learns the location of Diogenes and possibly his son.

Amid an experiment for Diogenes’ son to gain the power of The Flash, Wally arrives sans speedster suit. With not much happening other than the experiment going a little arrai it leaves both Diogenes and his son dead due to plot. Leaving the experimental material, that gives Flash his powers, left open to give to David while leaving Wally himself powerless.

Which is where we leave the ‘what if’ side of the story and jump back into present time when Waverider first touched Wally. Only to leave the story as a whole in a startlingly unsettling way with Bonnie never giving the papers to Wally and in fact being approached by what looks like Diogenes’ son. Kind of a sad finish.

Overall I was kind of surprised at how big the story felt. A ‘What If’ on top of a ‘What If’ with Wally giving up his identity and life while gaining a wife and son. Only for it to undone and eventually lead into a confrontation with the rogues. It lacked in details and fine touches when it came to the backstory and exposition and when it came to what lead them going into the Witness protection the story was just muddy with them sort of just hand waving away the details. No real insight into what exactly he was the syndicate of or how they learned of his super powers. Then when the Rogues showed up they seemed like little more than distractions to deter Flash away from actually finding his son. All that being said, it was still a delight to read. It’s hard for me to be too critical on the details not knowing if it’s just something that’s a product of it’s time or the fact that’s it’s an annual leaves it with enough leeway to look past some of the flaws.

Bits and Pieces:

Fun and entertaining read that feels much larger in scope than an annual. Although it lacks in detail and feels a little hand wavy when it comes to the exposition it’s easy to look past with this fun ‘What If’ tale.


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