Jul 26, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 152: The Flash Annual #4, 1991


I've just finished re-watching the first season of The Flash, having forced my wife to watch it with me. She loved it, as I knew she would. It's inspired me to go back and re-read Mark Waid's amazing run on the title in the nineties. That run, pun intended, is one of the great sustained superhero stories ever, and the new TV show owes so very much to Waid's depiction of the third Flash, Wally West.

While on vacation over the last couple of weeks, I've managed to get the list of comics I need to read this run down to two, which is pretty good, I think. This includes numerous other titles into which Wally's adventures crossed during this period. The last two comics I need are a couple of Green Lanterns. I'll find 'em. Anyway, I've decided to do a series of posts about them, and about the comics finds I made on my trip down the coast, but first, a 40 Years of Comics Project sneak peek!

Flash Annual #4 is the earliest Flash story in Waid's run, I think. Anyone who knows better, please let me know. I'm always excited to add something to my hunting list. It's a part of the "Armageddon 2001" crossover, a strange story about a time traveller trying to uncover which of Earth's greatest heroes becomes a deadly despot in the futuristic time of...2001. Apparently the whole thing was supposed to (SPOILER ALERT) culminate in Captain Atom being the big bad, but they decided against that at the last minute and made it Hawk. Of Hawk and Dove? Angry red and white guy? Yeah.

But let's leave that behind, and consider it in Waid's run on The Flash. What's remarkable about this story, though in many ways it's a pretty unremarkable tale, is that it presages so many of the themes Waid would take on in his run, about a year later, on Wally West's life. Alternate timelines, the Flash's children, his future spouse, the ramifications of his public identity. The framing sequence is frankly quite sinister, ending with a young lady probably about to be rubbed out by organized crime, and the Flash standing oblivious. The story of the year 2001 is a pretty standard piece, a bit sentimental, about a future that the Flash could have had, one seemingly averted on the very last page by the interference of the time travelling Waverider. Making the whole story seem a bit pointless, as that timeline ceased to exist.

Or did it?

Rather famously, about a decade after this story, Waid and a number of co-conspirators introduced the concept of "Hypertime" to the DCU, one that restored, in some ways, what were perceived as the losses that surrounded the demolishing of the Multiverse in Crisis on Infinite Earths. In essence, Waid et al suggested a framework in which all possibilities happened, and made up the fabric of a far-less-traversable medium called Hypertime. A concept Waid explored in detail in the end days of his Flash run. And here's an alternate timeline flaring briefly into existence all that time before.

I'm not claiming Waid had a giant master plan before embarking on The Flash. But I've had it suggested to me that all great writers pick a theme, or a story, and come at it from every possible angle, figuring out all the possible ways to ask a single question. I think Waid's a writer who does this. What he writes in one Annual here he dissects completely over the course of eight years on the main title. Which is what I'll be writing about for the next little while.

This does not mean I'll be blogging Flash comics every day from now on. If I find a good one, I'll pop it on here, but I'm going to also read another comic as a contribution to the project. Reading more comics in a day? Yeah, that sounds rough. See you tomorrow.

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