Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Flashpoint #5 review

It's the end ... and the beginning. DC's summer event closes the door on one chapter of the DC Universe and begins a new one, as the Flash, Barry Allen, changes the timeline.

A lot of this issue is fighting of the kind we've gotten used to over the past few months. Amazons attack, Atlanteans assault, people perish ... For several pages we have dramatic exits and entrances, none more so than the belated arrival of Superman.

There is a twist, though, and it's a big one. While holding Barry in a neck-lock reminiscent of the one Barry once used to kill him (ah, comics), the Reverse Flash, Professor Zoom, forces the Flash to remember. Remember that it wasn't the villain who changed the regular DC Universe, but the hero. The Flashpoint event was presaged by a lightning bolt as Barry stood by his mother's grave; I had assumed that was the moment Zoom changed things with his Negative Speed Force. Turns out it was Barry's doing - in a proverbial split second he had returned to the day Zoom murdered Nora, Barry's mother, and caused an explosion of Speed Force that shattered reality.

'You changed time like an amateur,' taunts Zoom, and it's difficult to disagree.

The shift meant Thomas and Martha Wayne lived as Bruce died. It denied Kal-El a happy upbringing with the Kents. It led to the war between Atlantis and Themiscyra.

The reset wasn't all bad news, as it gave lesser-known heroes such as Cyborg, Godiva and Grifter a chance to step up, and brought in such new characters as Mrs Hyde, Element Woman, the Outsider and Britannia (I'm trying to forget the Canterbury Cricket).

But the big picture was that all-out warfare between two warrior peoples led to the deaths of millions, and that has to be fixed.

Which is what Barry tries to do here after a heart-to-heart with his mother, who proves that she too has the soul of a hero by accepting that if her son succeeds, she'll blink out of reality. Thomas Wayne, too, is happy to go so that his child might live, though his death is a violent one (no surprise in a storyline whose grisly death count has long since passed self-parodic levels). Still, he does get to kill the very annoying Zoom.

Barry runs back through the Speed Force, to the moment he changed things, and has an unexpected encounter. A cosmic figure - reminiscent of Kismet from the Nineties Superman books - appears before him and explains, if I'm reading this correctly, that there was one true reality that was sundered into three timelines, 'splintered to weaken your world for their impending arrival'. Which means that the new DCU timeline isn't, as expected, changed due to Barry's fuzzy memories, but because he's restoring the world that was meant to be.

It's another twist, and one whose implications will likely become apparent as soon as DC needs another big event, explaining who 'they' are whom the heroes must stand against.

Before that, we have the new world order, with 'on-screen' changes so far limited to the Flash's fussy new boots, with their silly lightning noodles. Barry wakes up at Central City Police Department, as he did in Flashpoint #1, but rather than rush headlong into a mad world, he visits the Batman and delivers a message bringing Bruce Wayne a rare moment of happiness. And Barry, likewise, is surprised and delighted as he finds that he has kept his alternate reality memories of his mother - but come his new book, will he realise that he's lost his marriage to Iris West? Doubtful in the extreme.

All in all, it's a pretty decent script from Geoff Johns. There's loads happening in this extra-sized issue, but few moments feel undersold. It sets the stage for DC's New 52 initiative and leaves a mystery to be mined later.

I said 'few moments' back there. I am irked that after all the time devoted to the Wonder Woman/Aquaman war in the Flashpoint event, we don't have a final scene between them as the world winds to an end.

The art by Andy Kubert, Sandra Hope and Jesse Delperdang serves the story well. The figures are spiky, energetic, full of all the sound and fury you could ask for in a crossover conclusion. My favourite scene, though, is the quiet moment between Barry and Nora, as mother and son hug for the last time.

The key spread, unfortunately, is a bit of a mess - awkward groupings of heroes surround Barry as he whizzes through the timestream; the bottom left image of the pre-Flashpoint DCU Justice League is particularly poor. My guess would be that the issue was a tad rushed, but if an artistic team is going to have to hand in pages quicker than they'd like, the money shot isn't the one to skimp on. 

In the main, though, I'd say the art is a success, matching the frantic pace of the script, helping to create a comic that leaves me excited to see what comes next. So goodbye, post-Crisis DC, it's been a blast - the new management says you were never meant to be. Don't worry, though, in a couple of decades the post-Flashpoint world will hear the same thing as another DC epoch arrives.

7 comments:

  1. I really would have liked more closure to the Wonder Woman/Aquaman war -- though maybe some of that was dealt with in the individual series? I purposefully avoided the comics that most directly dealt with that plotline -- Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Lois, Hal Jordan, and Abin Sur (was there an Abin Sur? Or am I confusing it with a movie tie-in?). But even so, I'd have liked to have seen a big, apocalyptic conclusion to the battle occurring simultaneously with Barry's run. Cross-cutting might have worked -- though it might also have undercut his final conversation with his mom.

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  2. I thought the Kid Flash Lost was suppose to tie into the finale? The other minis filled in enough for the over all story. The main flashpoint story was slow. Like Rob S. said I was expecting to see the planet ripped apart, as Barry ran.
    Daniel Boyd, Jr.
    Hello, Martin

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  3. Hi Rob, there was indeed an Abin Sur comic. I read the first one, liked it well enough, but then wasn't interested enough to bother with #2. And the Hal book was terribly dull, barely different from the regular Hal story.

    Cross-cutting between Zoom/Barry and Diana/Arthur is a great idea. As it is, DC seems to have lost interest in the storyline, which is pretty poor given all the build-up.

    Daniel, the Bart storyline did read like an ending to his story, with his sacrificing himself so that Grandpa could have his speed force energy.

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  4. Yeah, when one of the big premises of the alternate universe is a war between Arthur and Diana, and we never get a knock-down, drag-out fight between the two, that's a serious let-down.

    Part of the reason I didn't buy those series was because I thought they would be all build-up, and Flashpoint proper would deliver the Main Event. And after months of being told "this isn't an Elseworld -- it matters," the conclusion of the book explicitly says, "This doesn't matter -- go save YOUR world, Barry." Which is honestly the way I expected things would eventually go down, but I thought we'd get *some* sort of conclusion before the reset. As it stands, the book gets less and less satisfying the more I think about it.

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  5. There were things I liked, principally the two intimate moments at the end (Flash/his mom, and Flash/Batman - though the tears were way over the top), but ultimately, I was disappointed with the resolution.

    First, because it neatly explained how the temporal interference did what it did. And by neatly, I mean JOHNS TOTALLY CHEATED. There's a lot of potential in just how Zoom downed half of Krypton on Metropolis, had little Bruce Wayne killed, etc., but instead of writing it, the FP universe didn't really make sense and it doesn't matter, see?

    Secondly, while many of the mini-series promised to be continued in this issue, they hardly were. Nothing is resolved because the universe is undone, and characters built up over 3 issues of their own titles are often relegated to simple cameo appearances in the final (and unfinished) battle. No redemption or tragedy, we just bail along with the Flash.

    And finally, there's the moment of Flushpoint, where the universe reboots, remerges, whatever you want to call it, and it's a weak montage while Flash runs. There's nothing there. The new universe arrives not with a big, dynamic OMGNOOOOOOOOOOooooo splash, but in a stale, stiff, passive page corner.

    (A perfect metaphor for Justice League #1, in fact.)

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  6. The tears seemed pretty much perfect to me. I can guarantee I wouldn't be dry-eyed if someone handed me a note from my own departed Dad.

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  7. Does anyone else suspect that Mystery Lass was a last-minute addition to the script? After all that set-up about Barry losing details of his memory, this doesn't come into play at all when it comes to remaking reality

    I don't know, perhaps it was intended to knit a new universe together out of Barry's memories, then someone pointed out that he wouldn't know anything about the Wildstorm Universe, so ML gets shoehorned in, with half a mind to a multiverse-shaking storyline at some point.

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