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The Fastest Man Alive teams up with the newly appointed leader of the Green Lantern Corps. THE FLASH ANNUAL #2 takes us back in time, to when Barry Allen and Hal Jordan first met. And what’s all this about The Flash sporting Hal’s power ring?

The last annual issue for the Flash was wrapped up in the plotline of the time. But THE FLASH ANNUAL #2 is entirely optional for readers, which personally I think is better for everyone. Sometimes scheduling conflicts require using the extra space to complete an ongoing plot, but whenever you do that it makes it harder for readers to follow it, especially if they’re reading the book in individual issues well after they were published. You’re going through all the issues found at used book stores or the internet, and then suddenly you find out the story continues in a random annual you didn’t even know existed. So sometimes its better for an annual to do its own thing, that way you aren’t punished for not reading it.

Plus, it helps mitigate arc fatigue if the ongoing series is in the middle of a six month long storyline and one needs something – anything – to break up the monotony.

THE FLASH ANNUAL #2 tells the tale of the first meeting between our titular hero and Green Lantern Hal Jordan. The main story is broken into two pieces, one a number of years in the past, and the other the present day. Years ago, Barry Allen was investigating the disappearance of orphaned children across the country. While waiting for the kidnappers to strike again, he crosses paths with Hal, and after a mercifully short “mistake each other for the villain” tussle, they dive through a portal to a distant planet. Turns out the kids were being taken to be raised as gladiators in an alien fight ring.

So far, so standard.

The two manage to save the kids, but in order to ensure their release, Hal made a deal with the ones who kidnapped them. That deal, as present day Barry finds out, is for the two to return to the alien planet and participate in a battle royale…to the death!

Oh, and the Flash briefly dons Hal’s green lantern ring. Which, if you’ve read Blackest Night, you’d know this isn’t the first time the Flash wore a power ring. Although that event is now of questionable canonicity, having been published before Flashpoint.

I’d like to note that when the ring chooses Barry, it says he has the ability to “outrun great fear”. Which might sound clever until one realizes that the ring basically called The Flash a massive coward. Because when else does one run away from something one fears? Analogy fail.

The art was pretty good, though. Sami Basri did the pencils for this story, with Brian Buccellato writing as usual.

There’s an additional backup story, also with past and present Flash adventures. Wherein the Flash runs around, trying his best to make life slightly better wherever he can. But even the fastest man alive can’t solve every problem or avert every disaster. And when he fails to save a life, it ends up coming back to bite him later.

The pencils for this backup story were provided by Cully Hamner, with colors by Mathew Wilson. The latter stands out due to more heavy use of blacks and darker shades, while still being colorful.

In spite of a few problems I really enjoyed THE FLASH ANNUAL #2. As stated before, the current storyline in the main book has been running for months now. So it’s nice to get a break every once in a while.

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