While readers got our first glimpse of the new Wally West in last week's "The Flash" #30, it's "The Flash Annual" #3 that properly kicks off the storyline, courtesy Robert Venditti, Van Jensen, Brett Booth and Ron Frenz. With a mixture of present and future-day adventure, the story is off to a good start.
Venditti and Jensen continue what they began in "The Flash" #30, depicting Central City as a place that is in the process of rebuilding post-"Forever Evil." It's nice to see that it's an idea that, in addition to not being ignored, is playing out in a realistic time frame. Perhaps more importantly, Venditti and Jensen are able to have this shift directly into the story rather than just being a background detail. Barry and the rest of the police department are not only slammed with work but also in need of presenting a good face to the people of Central City, and then there's Barry's first meeting with Wally West.
We only see a little bit of the all-new Wally, but so far it's a reasonable new character. That level of initial belligerence works well in terms of providing a conflict, and based on what we've seen in the future, it's the start of what will be a strong and robust relationship between the two. The future scenes help drive what's in the present day, showing how the loss of Wally will eventually drive Barry over the brink and result in a much more frantic and dangerous Flash than we've seen before.
There's a lot to like about the script. Having the police department being a large part of the story works well; having the balance between fighting crime in civilian guise versus superhero is an interesting one, and having Barry well-regarded in one but not the other provides a certain amount of friction. Readers of the series to date will also like that Venditti and Jensen haven't jettisoned what's come before under Buccellato and Manapul. Gorilla Grodd's connection to the speed force is there, and their Reverse-Flash story appears to be the genesis for a lot of the problems that have echoed into the future. It's rare to find incoming writers treating everything that's happened with such welcome arms.
Booth's pencils here are good; the electric blue Flash with its crackling energy just blazes across the page, and the sad-sack future Barry Allen's face looks wonderfully downtrodden. The blue Flash comes across as genuinely dangerous under Booth's direction, and I feel that's exactly what Venditti and Jensen were going for. Frenz steps in to pencil the modern day segments, and while they're very standard and by the book, that's exactly what we should have. The contrast between the two styles helps normalize the present day, making the leaps into the future that much more jarring and fantastical.
With "The Flash Annual" #3 and "The Flash" #30 both under their belts, I feel like Venditti, Jensen and Booth are a good choice for the series. They've got a clear direction in mind, and so far it's playing out in a strong and pleasant manner. If you're looking to give "The Flash" a whirl, these two issues are good places to begin.