Being one year into the New 52, anytime we can get a flashback is good. We know the basic history of Barry Allen but there's still so much we're not fully sure whether or not they happened. We are about to get a 'zero' issue next month which should give us more details of Barry Allen's past but this annual begins with a flashback involving Barry and his dad. This gives us a little insight into the struggle that Barry is facing over the death/murder of his mom. This clearly won't be the last we see of Barry's dad.
More importantly we get another flashback showing a little history on the Rogues. Since they've started appearing the past few months, we discovered that their powers have changed. They no longer rely on weapons and have somehow become metahumans. The answer to how is so simple but makes perfect sense. Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato are crafting a great story and establishing a great nemesis for Barry.
Seeing the flashback with the Rogues also fills us in as to why there is turmoil among them. Captain Cold hasn't exactly been welcomed by the other members and we see the action continue from THE FLASH #12. Along with this, there is also another development from a few issues ago that will make you grit your teeth as you have to wait to find out where it's going to lead.
The great thing about the art is Francis Manapul does the breakdowns for the entire issue. You can see his style of how the pages and panels are laid out clearly visible despite other artists doing the pencils and inks. I especially loved the perspective in the first page of Chapter 5.
This is an action packed annual that should not be missed if you're reading the main series.
While we do have Manapul's breakdowns, we also have five different artists: Marcus To, Scott Kolins, Diogenes Neves, Marcio Takara and Wes Craig. One of my pet peeves about comics is when there's multiple artists on a single issue. Luckily the annual is divided into chapters and each artist does a great job. The presence of Manapul's breakdowns also helps to give it all a slightly unified feel. In other words, I was willing to overlook this usual gripe of mine when multiple artists are needed.
It's also unfortunate that this issue continues directly from THE FLASH #12. Annuals should have a separate self-contained feel to them. They should be a great oversized issue full of action and adventure with the character. There's also a big cliffhanger that will lead in directly to THE FLASH #13. There are huge events happening here that makes the issue worth reading so hopefully regular Flash readers won't miss this issue when they visit their local comic shop.
Getting two issues of THE FLASH this month has been a treat. This annual continues the story of the newly reformed Rogues against Flash. This isn't the same Rogues Flash has faced before as their powers have been augmented and we finally get to discover how this came to be. The explanation adds a new layer to the series and it's going to be spectacular when Barry finds out what happened. Francis Manapul does the breakdowns on the entire issue but there are five other (talented) artists that do the pencils and inks. This makes the comic feel a little disjointed but you can feel Manapul's design influence on the issue. This issue is important for readers of the regular series and we get a pretty big set up for the events after next month's 'zero' issue. If you're digging Manapul and Buccellato's THE FLASH, there is no questioning whether or not you need to read this annual.