How long was Flash in the Speed Force? (Explaining the timeline from The Flash #6-12 and The Flash Annual #1)

On November 16th, 2014, /u/kanchill asked the following on /r/DCcomics:

I have a question for anyone who’s read New 52 Flash. When they did the rouge flashback, it took place 2 years ago and in the battle Captain Cold thanks Flash for saving his sister. The second thing happened before Flash entered the speed force so was the Flash in the speed force for 2 years?

Alternatively, could someone explain the timeline to me because I’m really confused

After working out that /u/kanchill was referring to the second trade, Rogues Revolution – which collected issues #0, 9-12 and The Flash Annual #1 – I was able to answer this:

Darwin Elias

OK, so I scanned a bunch of comics. After Flash entered the Speed Force Barry was declared dead and I know when he revealed himself to be alive there was some mention of how long he’d been dead. Before I found that though I found this:

“But it’s no coincidence that Central City has seen more progress in the months since the Flash’s tragic disappearance than took place in the five years he ‘watched over us.'”

That was Darwin Elias, appearing on TV in The Flash #11. Now Barry is back by then and he’s already been in and out of the Speed Force, mucked around with Grodd in Gorilla City and taken on Weather Wizard in South America, rescuing Patty in the process. To me this definitely sounds like it’s only been 2-3 months at the max.

Anyway, that is only part of the equation, here’s the rest of it.

When they did the rouge flashback, it took place 2 years ago and in the battle Captain Cold thanks Flash for saving his sister.

Yes, but no. What you’re referring to is the big battle between Captain Cold, Flash, the Rogues and their new leader, Captain Cold’s sister Lisa Snart/Glider, and even the Pied Piper that occurred in The Flash Annual #1. The quotes I assume you’re referring to.

“Yeah, we. I owe you one for saving my sister, so we’re gonna kick Rogue ass all over Central City.” ~ Captain Cold, The Flash Annual #1

And this, once Cold has double crossed Flash:

Captain Cold battling Flash back in #6-7

“I owed him one for saving your life [Glider] during the Blackout.” ~ Captain Cold, The Flash Annual #1

Now, that second one even has an asterisk letting us know that this happened back in Issue #7. Now this is true, and as you pointed out, this was (just) before Flash entered the Speed Force. In fact, the big fight with Cold in #6-7 is because his sister Lisa had a brain tumor and the blackout – which everyone thought the Flash caused – meant they couldn’t operate. Flash actually saves her by having Darwin Elias take a fuel cell to the hospital after he charges it at the same time as jumping in the Speed Force:

The Treadmill that Darwin Elias built to power the city. Barry runs on it…

…which gets him lost in the Speed Force.

Even after Lisa was saved we weren’t told yet why she was still paralysed, and it wasn’t yet revealed why Cold now had superpowers instead of his old gun. The answers to all of this, and I think your confusion, comes from the multiple narratives in The Flash Annual #1.

Being that it’s an annual it’s longer than normal, but it also jumps around in time a lot, even breaking the story into chapters. I’m going to break those out here as I think that will help a lot, and include the title, time period in which it takes place and what happens:

    • Chapter 1: The Flats, 2 Hours Ago – Barry visits the Salt Flats and whines about his Dad.

        • Chapter 2: The Opportunity, A Year and a Half Ago – Barry beats up the Rogues, then we see them hanging out with Trickster and Lisa. Captain Cold gets drunk and whines about the fact the Flash has powers and always beats them.

      • Chapter 3: The Price, 2 Hours Ago AND A Year and a Half Ago – This one jumps back and forth between two time periods. In the recent past we see Lisa/Glider visit herself in hospital and reveal that she’s just an astral projection from her paralysed body, and how the new super powered Rogues powers all come with a price (Heatwave was burnt, Mirror Master trapped etc). Importantly, while thinking about their situations we flash back to a direct continuation of Chapter 2, a year and a half ago, with Captain Cold getting them all to agree to get powers and the machine exploding, which is what paralysed Lisa and turned her into Glider.

    • Chapter 4: The Secret, 5 Minutes Ago – Patty meets Turbine. Just more setup.

  • Chapter 5: The Showdown, Now – The big fight happens and Captain Cold says the quotes I mentioned above.

So as you can see, the whole issue isn’t a flashback, only certain parts. You just have to catch the littler horizontal boxes that let you know when the scene you’re reading takes place.

Also, Glider is badarse

So yeah, in chronological order the timeline, just including relevant events, is:

Time Action
1.5 Years Ago Flash stops the Rogues, who are still using guns and wands, robbing a bank. (Annual #1, Chapter 2)
1.5 Years Ago (and a little bit) Captain Cold convinces them to get super powers. This mostly backfires and Lisa is paralysed. (Annual #1, Chapter 3)
A few months ago The blackout happens. (Issue #3-5)
A few months ago (and a little bit) Captain Cold and Flash fight, Iris and others are lost in Speed Force. Flash saves Cold’s sister by powering the hospital with Darwin Elias. He also jumps into the Speed Force to rescue Iris. (Issues #6-7)
More recently He messes around with Turbine inside the Speed Force, Grodd and Weather Wizard outside of it. (Issues #8-10)
2 Hours Ago Flash goes to the flats, Glider thinks about what lead her and the Rogues to this. (Annual #1, Chapter 1/3)
Less than 2 Hours Ago Barry rounds up Cold and Heatwave, Glider appears and starts her plans, steals the monorail etc. (Issues #11-12)
5 Minutes Ago Patty meets Turbine (Annual #1, Chapter 4)
Now Flash teams up with Captain Cold to fight the Rogues, but is then betrayed. (Annual #1, Chapter 5)

Does that help? :)

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