Yo ho ho, me hearties, it's Deathstrokebeard and his merry pirate band. Clayface, Icicle, Electric Eel, Machiste, the Fisherman, they are indeed a motley crew. And more than faintly ridiculous in their pirate togs. Still, as Gypsy Rose Lee learnt, you gotta have a gimmick.
Especially in a crossover event. So it is that in the world of Flashpoint, familiar villains have unfamiliar roles. As well as Deathstroke's lot, there's the equally dopey Sonar, forced to probe the bottom of the ocean with his powers because the pirate budget doesn't stretch to science kit, having been spent on guns and Village People cast-offs.
It turns out there are more faintly camp privateers around. Or at least, were, as the good ship Deathstroke comes across the murdered crew of Travis Morgan, the Warlord. OK, so he generally hangs out in a hidden land at the centre of the Earth, but perhaps he was washed upwards when the Atlanteans sunk Paris. You'll recall that the sinking of Western Europe was mentioned in Flashpoint #1 and here we see evidence. Is Paris burning? Nope, it's been destroyed by floods, apparently instigated by Aquaman.
Who shows up, along with his brother, Ocean Master, to scare Deathstroke. Say what you like about the horrors of Flashpoint world, it's nice to see the boys getting on for once. As we leave the pirate king, he's about to be bored by Aquaman's retractable trident. And that's not a euphemism.
Elsewhere - Gotham City, if you must know - Batman Thomas Wayne beats up Barry Allen for several pages as the latter tries to explain that The World Has Gone Mad. Barry finally gets enough words in edgeways to make Batman listen to his assertion that he should have died in Crime Alley, and son Bruce lived. If they're to set things right, Barry needs speed, so Batman helps him recreate the chemicals plus lightning accident that gave him super-powers in the first place.
Meanwhile, in London, England (as they say on TV), renamed New Themiscyra, the Amazons have caught up to Steve Trevor, who's out to save the UK from the invaders. Snared by the glowing noose of Queen Diana, Wonder Woman, he gives up Lois Lane, who's been undercover among the women warriors. Well done Steve, it's no wonder so few people like you.
I'm hoping that Steve's betrayal is part of a plan by the Resistance. Yes, he's saddled with the reputation of a wimp and a git, from his Silver Age appearances, but here DC has a chance to re-present Steve as the hero he was in the Golden Age. And a hero does not give up a friend. I love the idea of the longterm loves of Superman and Wonder Woman working side by side, so hope we see it.
This issue usefully adds meat to the bones of the story laid out last month. It's good to move around this changed world, and see villains Aquaman and Wonder Woman, rather than simply hear about them. And the Flash/Batman sub-story takes a very interesting turn once writer Geoff Johns quits indulging his taste for brutality (see also the gore of the Deathstroke sequence and torture in the Wonder Woman scenes), with a surprise from Professor Zoom - the villain behind the Flashpoint world - and Barry's plan, a piece of Silver Age wackiness warped for today's tastes.
And somehow a joke slips through, as Batman asks a question many fans have voiced before him.
The only real off-moment has Steve mentioning how beautiful Lois is while he's on the verge of getting garroted. It's a ridiculously inappropriate line, presumably meant to evoke the moment in Wonder Woman's origin when he saw Diana for the first time and declared her his 'angel'. There's better in the revelation that just as Lois is undercover among the Amazons, the Amazons have a mole in Cyborg's resistance. My guess would be Starfire, she's a bit of a Space Amazon. And a dimwit.
So far, I'm intrigued enough by the story to forgive the lack of taste in some areas. While I abhor the idea of Wonder Woman as genocide queen, we don't yet know that's what happened, and she seems on the verge of mercy this issue. As for Aquaman, he has a different personality every fortnight; this time he's a baddie. 'What' and indeed, 'ever'.
Where's his wife Mera, that's what I want to know. She's nowhere to be seen, yet the cover of my edition - by Ivan Reis, George Perez, Rod Reis and the spirit of Brian Bolland - promises that she at least has a bit part.
Pencilling the interiors, Andy Kubert again does a bang-up job, finding the drama in every moment. And inker Sandra Hope makes the images haunting, especially the sunken Paris splash (no puni intended). Alex Sinclair's colours add more mood, while Nick J Napolitano does a fine job on the lettering. The entire creative team really comes together in the macabre sequence that has Barry bidding to regain his connection to the Speed Force via electric chair. Very creepy, very well done.
The book also contains a few production sketches by Andy Kubert, The main thing I learned was that Andy Kubert designed Barry Allen's costume, which debuted in 1956. Andy debuted in 1962. Talk about prodigious ...