WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS ARE INCLUDED IN THIS REVIEW
Yes, I know, it was out in October last year. Yes, I know, it was highly controversial as the vehicle for DC’s company-wide soft reboot “The New 52”. Yes, I know, the Joker’s a woman.
With the release this week of the World of Flashpoint collected editions featuring Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, and with the upcoming editions next week featuring The Flash and Green Lantern, I figured I’d give them a review similar to the way I did Black Lantern Corps on Facebook two years ago. I was initially hesitant to touch them, especially the ones involving Supes and his ilk, but then I took a look at the writers involved: Scott Snyder. Brian Azzarello. Dan Abnett. James Robinson (hopefully out of his Cry for Justice funk).
Only thing missing is a tie-in with Grant Morrison.
So before we dive into the spin-offs, let’s take a look at the mothership title. Released as five single issues across 2011, Flashpoint was DC’s big yearly event that eventually led to The New 52. This wasn’t made known until about halfway through the story, and coupled with the fact that the final issue was the only single-issue release DC had in the last week of August it made anticipation for Flashpoint to be one of the biggest and most game-changing crossover events since Crisis on Infinite Earths.
So does it live up to the expectation of being a super-fun-chocolate-time awesome event? Well, sort of.
Geoff Johns as the lead writer put my mind at ease before I dived into it, since he can generally be relied upon for excellent storytelling that is at once action-packed without becoming overwhelming and at the same time deeply interpersonal and thought-provoking. His arcs on the regular Flash comic leading up to this have all foreshadowed the book’s events rather well, and his varied interpretations of parallel universe DC superheroes makes for an intriguing digression from their established personas.
The story follows Barry Allen – current head of the Flash family – waking up one evening to discover the world around him has drastically changed; Superman has never existed in the public eye, Batman’s a murderer, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are at war (it’s actually a lot cooler than it sounds on that front), and the Justice League never formed. The revelation that this is in fact the real world, rather than a parallel universe that Barry has stumbled into, creates the impetus for Barry to find a way to repair the timeline and get back to the world he knows.
From the get-go the storytelling is tight and fast-paced, and the limited brevity of a five-issue crossover is no wasted. Nearly everything is there that needs to be there for the story to work properly, and every major character (particularly and especially Batman) is written in a way that is at once different and similar to their regular universe counterparts. The story did get a little bogged down during the heroes’ stay at SHAZAM’s house, and the kids themselves seemed a little out of place in the main tapestry of the story. This is also the biggest point where the dialogue falls flattest for me; the SHAZAM kids dialogue is clunky and childish (I know that’s because their kids, but there have been plenty of other times when children’s dialogue in comics has been better – Kid Flash in Rebirth springs to mind), and Billy Batson puts me in mind of a Phantom Menace-era Jake Lloyd when he delivers his lines.
As well as that, Element Woman shits me to tears. She had a few funny lines here and there that made me giggle (particularly “I love your uniform! It’s so…red!” to the Flash) but on the whole she felt as out of place as the SHAZAM kids. Her fluffy dialogue (except for her slightly serious moment when she agrees to aid the Flash against Aquaman and Wonder Woman) was like a layer of melted marshmallow stuck inside a McDonald’s quarter pounder – very unnecessary. I was quietly hoping she’s kark it in the final battle, but no such luck.
Speaking of the final battle, that was pretty well executed too. The highlights for me were the inclusion of Grifter and the resistance movement (led by an un-Supes-domesticated Lois Lane) and an absolutely killer last-minute appearance by Reverse-Flash that worked quite well with the story’s final revelation about what caused the Flashpoint world. While the discovery that Reverse-Flash has become a paradox outside the timeline was a little strange – and delivered in a slightly Saturday-morning-cartoon-villain way – it ended up, in my mind, creating a scenario similar to the way that Doctor Who keeps bringing the Master back; he’s an anomaly, outside the regular rules of the game, and despite the fact that he gets spectacularly offed by Flashpoint Batman (“Doctor’s advice” indeed) I don’t think this is the last we’ve seen of him, and not just because comic book death means bugger all these days. So I’d be interested to see if Francis Manapul explores that in his current Flash run.
Also, that final scene between Barry and real-universe Bruce Wayne made me a little misty-eyed. Johns really knows how to tuck at your heartstrings.
I haven’t talked a lot about the art, because there’s only one word for it: AWESOME. Andy Kubert is in top form, with art better than his previous efforts on Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?, and Sandra Hope’s inking gives the colour a vibrancy that is juxtaposed well by the bleakness of the story’s content. Plus, Batman with red eyes is exceptionally cool.
Before I conclude this review, I want to talk about a character I was most surprised by – Cyborg. Until now I’d only thought of him as the token black teammate of the Teen Titans, but I found his Flashpoint persona quiet engaging as a hero to rally behind. I’ve heard that he continues similarly to that in the new Justice League reboot, which I’ll be checking out in May, so I think it’s definitely an interesting direction for the character. I’d definitely like to see how he holds his own against A-listers like Batman and Green Lantern.
A final note for those new to comics, or hoping to get into The New 52 through this book – don’t. While it does open the door towards the rebooted world, it’s also the conclusion of an arc three years in the making for Barry Allen. It may intrigue you, but it’s also highly possible that new fans may be a bit put off by most of the arc references that are peppered throughout. I’m not saying it’d be impossible for neophytes to read, but it won’t be as rewarding as if you’d read the books preceding.
A solid effort indeed.