Putting The Band Together – Review of THE FLASH ANNUAL #4

flash annual 4We already know that Professor Zoom is back, and that he has a whole team of super-powered people with him…but where did all these people come from, and how did he put this group together? Writer Van Jensen goes solo on the script to give us the backstory, including the first appearance since FLASHPOINT of…don’t worry, we’ll get to it after the jump.



Eobard Thawne has mastered time travel, and that’s what we see here as he travels as far back as 1520 to the remnants of the Aztec Empire to put together his team. Zoom meets each of his team at a particular low point in their lives, convincing them that only he can help them…and getting them to join his team. The members of that team? We find:

Magali – Considered an Aztec god by many in her time, she has the power to make anyone younger or older with a touch. Her power is critical to putting the team together and giving them the time they need to train.

Xolani – the new imagining of The Folded Man, he was one of many forced laborers in the diamond mines of southern Africa. His abilities are similar to the old Folded Man, but he does not need a special suit to access these abilities (more on that later).

Human Block – if someone spotted her actual name please mention in in the comments below. She is Maori by ancestry, and that plays into her opening scene in 1957 Australia. She can slow her atoms, becoming more dense so that she is harder than steel.

Roscoe (yes, THAT Roscoe, though he isn’t referred to as “The Top” just yet) – struck by lightning when he was 5 years old, “every time I start spinning…something bad happens.” He is found at the center of an F5 tornado that he created (without meaning to do so) in Oklahoma.

Selkirk – already introduced in prior issues as one of the people trapped in the Speed Force, this is the man whose spine is shattered after a failed attempt to siphon the Speed Force away from Barry Allen.

This diverse group of super-powered beings have one thing in common…the Speed Force itself. Except for Selkirk (who tried to steal the Speed Force), all of these characters are now connected to the Speed Force as the source of their powers. This is a change for some, especially the Folded Man and Roscoe, but it fits in with how several Flash villains (including Grodd) have been depicted since the beginning of the New 52. All now work for Thawne, who notes his own powers by saying, “time doesn’t move the same for me as it does for others.”

This issue gives us how (and when) Thawne found each of these characters, and how he convinced each that they needed to work with him to stop the “evil” that is Barry Allen. Without spoiling too much, you’ll see how Thawne seemingly had a talent for finding each of them at the point where they were most likely to be convinced to join him…and then you’ll learn WHY Thawne was always there at just the right time. Professor Zoom has long been one of the very toughest foes for the Flash…and you’ll certainly come away from this issue with that impression of the DCYou Eobard Thawne.

CHARACTER NOTES: I’ve been e-mailing back and forth with some of the other folks on the Speed Force staff about this issue, particularly about the connection that every character here seems to have to the Speed Force. This has been happening more and more post FLASHPOINT, and for some characters it is an update that works very well. For Roscoe, his history of spinning very fast fits well with being struck by the Speed Force. For others, it’s forcing things just a bit to tie everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) to the Speed Force, but I do still like the characters and we’ll see how they are developed moving forward.

Just another note about Roscoe (it’s hard to not say “The Top”, but maybe that will happen later). He is brought into the DCYou at a much younger age than we’ve seen him before, with a heart-wrenching backstory that makes him a very sympathetic character. There is a lot that can be done with Roscoe moving forward, especially if/when he leaves the influence of Eobard Thawne. That leads me to my second set of notes:

PLOT NOTES: It is interesting to have an issue of THE FLASH where you don’t really see much of The Flash…he only appears in a vid feed on one page…but in many respects this story is still all about him (or at least the search for a team that can destroy him).  The biggest question for a story arc like this is, “WHY does Zoom need a team? Isn’t he powerful enough on his own?” We don’t get the answer as to why he hasn’t been successful on his own, but it is clear in this tale that he in fact has NOT been able to beat Barry Allen alone…and we do get a least a little sense of why he needs each of the people he recruits to his team. This story is sweeping in scope, covering everything from the 16th century and the Aztec Empire to 19th century Africa, 1957 Australia, 1982 Oklahoma, and present-day Central City. When you attempt to put together a tale with such scope, there can be questions left unanswered and potential plot holes as well. How many years had Zoom been searching when he found Magali? How did Thawne learn to travel so easily through time? Did they really train for that many years? (It seems to be inferred that the team trained through the centuries, kept young by Magali). And, most important, how could Zoom stay that mum about himself for THAT many years without creating much more doubt and concern among his team? If you can put that aside, it provides a good backstory and gives a solid guide to the present incarnations of Zoom and his crew (Zoom Crew? Nahhhh, sounds too much like…). The only thing that I can see (or think I see) in the future is the time that this crew finally figures out what a creep Thawne is…and I do look forward to what happens if that occurs.

SUMMARY NOTES: Some Annuals wrap things up from prior arcs, some are one-shots that put a lot of characters together for the fun of it, and some are given a task like this issue of THE FLASH – to set the table for the next several months of storyline. It can be a challenge, especially when introducing new characters and revised versions of characters we’ve seen in past continuities.  Overall, this issue was solid – I may quibble a bit with EVERYONE being connected to the Speed Force, but I’m okay with how at least some of the characters are tied in, and I especially was glad to see what Jansen and company did with the re-introduction of Roscoe. There are some potential plot holes in this story…but future issues will tell us if the team avoids those. The artwork by Bong Dazo (pencils), Norm Rapmund (inks) and Andrew Dalhouse (colors) was good throughout, with great action and excellent expression.

BOTTOM LINE: This was a solid issue – not spectacular, but still a good backstory for a group of characters who should provide Barry Allen with a major challenge moving forward. I may have some minor quibbles with so many characters with such diverse powers being tied to the Speed Force, and there are some unanswered questions that I’m hoping will be filled in as the storyline progresses. Still, it’s a solid effort and worth checking out. I’m looking forward to what comes next as Zoom and his team go after Barry Allen.



16 thoughts on “Putting The Band Together – Review of THE FLASH ANNUAL #4

  1. Lee H

    “For Roscoe, his history of spinning very fast fits well with being struck by the Speed Force.”

    “…with a heart-wrenching backstory that makes him a very sympathetic character.”

    These were great ideas, when Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato did them in #8.

    1. Lia

      Lee, I haven’t asked Ed about it, but I’d presume he’s glad to see the return of a longtime Flash character and is happy for me; I’ve never made a secret of who my favourite DC character is.

      And in all honesty, I don’t think Manapul and Buccellato could really complain about somebody redoing their ideas. Turbine was himself a strange hybrid of the Top and other concepts, and the Glider/Mirror Master relationship was taken almost beat for beat from the Golden Glider/Top relationship. It happens.

      You could reasonably argue that there was no need for a new Top given that Turbine already existed, but you know what, that’s exactly what I argued when Turbine debuted and replaced the Top. I’m pretty sure it ultimately comes down to preference, just like in any Barry vs Wally debate. Neither side is ‘right’, and feelings are going to get bruised every time DC tries to replace one character with another (which is why I’d prefer they didn’t do that). I felt pretty darned lousy that my favourite character was erased and replaced in the reboot, so I have sympathy for Turbine fans now, but I don’t think their preference is any more valid than mine.

      In all honesty, I’d prefer New 52 Roscoe/Top to be more like his pre-reboot self because that’s the character I love (no matter how awful he is sometimes). But I liked the kid in this issue, and hope I’ll continue to like him in the future. He isn’t the same and that bums me out, but I understand that none of the New 52 characters are the same as they used to be. I’m actually really just glad that the Top/his fans haven’t been forgotten, at least, and for that reason I’m glad to see at least an incarnation of him.

      Sorry for the essay, but I thought I’d offer the perspective from a diehard Top fan who’s found the last four years to be awfully lonely.

      1. Lee H

        I’m glad you like the character. Different tastes and all. I just think he’s absolutely redundant, and that it’s too soon.

        When Turbine was introduced, it bothered some people because they missed the classic version of The Top. I understand that completely.

        The thing is though, the new Roscoe doesn’t appear to be a more traditional version at all. With this new guy, they haven’t brought back any of the classic traits of The Top that weren’t present in Turbine, other than his skin colour. And the new elements they’ve added (sympathetic origin, an antagonist for Flash but not evil, powers came from the Speed Force, origin tied to the 20th century) were already done with Turbine.

        If they wanted a more traditional version of The Top he could have been a pure villain, egotistical, a career criminal, had his “mind over matter” powers, had his spinning top weapons etc.

        As it is, the new Roscoe doesn’t come across as “The Top done properly”, but rather a white variation of a character who already exists in the New 52 Flash universe.

        It’s ridiculous that under 50 issues into a rebooted Flash narrative, we already have two antagonists with the unlikely forename of Roscoe who gained spinning powers from the Speed Force in the 20th century.

        But I also think it’s pretty dumb that we’ve had four consective “Evil Flash” characters (Reverse-Flash, Johnny Quick, Future Flash and Professor Zoom).

  2. David Vickery

    I actually liked this issue. The pacing was a LITTLE compressed, but they moved the plot forward really well for a single issue (kind of making up for #42’s ponderous pace). Zoom’s dastardly manipulation of them all to suit his purposes is great.

    Not sure how I feel about everyone’s powers coming from the Speed Force. The thing with the Speed Force was that Waid created it to interconnect all the Speedsters with differing origins. Now it’s being used as a plot device to grant powers to basically every Barry enemy — if you count Grodd eating Speed Force, every single major villain Barry has had thusfar has been Speed Force powered for quite some time. Grodd->Daniel->Future Barry->Thawne and his doom patrol.

    Maybe the mashup killer deserves a bit of a nod there but then he’d be sharing the space with Future Barry as the primary villain of that arc which I don’t buy.

    I’ll give them time to kind of explain it but teleportation and …being immovable don’t seem very speedstery to me. I guess Age powers was established by Thawne in Rebirth so there’s some precedence there and the new Top might as well be a speedster so that’s fine.

    Also I have to note on the “reintroduction” of Roscoe…didn’t the company already reintroduce Roscoe? As an African American man? He was Turbine. His power was spinning really fast and his name was Roscoe. That seems like a pretty egregious oversight. It’d be like introducing Leonard Snort, a man who has a gun that shoots absolute zero! Heh.

  3. Ed Garrett Post author

    Just a note about Roscoe vs Turbine – it is true that Turbine was introduced by Manapul and Buccellato as a replacement for The Top. However, the character of Turbine was purposely different in almost every way other than power set, as M & B had stated in some interviews their dislike of The Top. Given the differences between the two, and given that we are getting the character back with the original name of Roscoe, I considered this a reintroduction. I do understand if others disagree.

    1. David Vickery

      Turbine’s name is also the original name of Roscoe. I suppose his last name isn’t Dillon(neither is the new Top’s but it’s probably going to be). It’s just a little weird to have two guys named Roscoe with identical powersets.

      Chances are Jensen just forgot about Turbine because, let’s face it, Manapul and Booch immediately dropped him as soon as they introduced him in their run. Guy didn’t do anything worth remembering besides have a really cool origin so I can hardly blame Jensen for the oversight.

      Sadly, this probably spells the end for Turbine and his cool origin. That was one of my biggest gripe with the Manapul run, creating a cool character just to immediately forget about him. Oh well, atleast we didn’t get attached to him!

    2. Lee H

      Other than skin colour and (presumably) surname and code name, how does this New Top have more in common with Classic Top than Turbine does?

  4. Mr. F

    I wish some brave writer would come along and just destroy the speed force. I’m getting pretty sick of reading about the damn speed force. It’d be great to hear a new story now and then.

  5. banks

    People seem to be focusing on Turbine VS The Top. Why not have them join forces? Turbine can be The Top and the new younger Roscoe could be Kid Top!

      1. Lia

        Hundreds of years..? Kid Roscoe is from 1982. And judging by how old he looks in the present, Eobard must have brought him and the others forward in time because he doesn’t appear to have aged much. It’s possible Magali has been manipulating his age, though.

        1. David Vickery

          In the issue Eobard he says “We’ve walked the same road for centuries” then talks about how they’ve all been training to beat Flash and that, yeah, Magali is who kept them at the same age during that time.

          1. Lia

            Fair point. I figured he was talking about Magali and the people from the earlier time periods though, and I don’t know why they’d keep Roscoe as what seems like a teenager (though maybe that’s the fault of the art, which isn’t my favourite). Wouldn’t it make more sense to keep him at the age of a young adult, when he’d be stronger and probably more powerful?


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