Robot 6

Grumpy Old Fan | Road to nowhere, highway to Hell

Flashpoint #1

Even at 34 pages, the first issue of Flashpoint feels like it’s missing something.

This is not exactly a surprise. The very premise of Flashpoint is that lots of things are missing, including Superman, the Justice League, and a generally-peaceful world. Mainly, the world of Flashpoint is short on hope — and so is issue #1.

To be sure, while the story itself is fairly bleak, it’s told in compelling fashion by writer Geoff Johns, penciller Andy Kubert, inker Sandra Hope, and colorist Alex Sinclair. Barry Allen wakes up in a world that would have made George Bailey jump off that bridge without a second thought, and by the end of Flashpoint #1 he has little reason to think his old life will ever return. Nevertheless, under Geoff Johns, Barry has literally become an avatar of hope, unironically intoning the Blue Lantern motto “all will be well.” Never mind the reset button implied in most alternate-reality scenarios — by itself, Johns’ history with the character all but promises Barry’s ultimate triumph. If Flashpoint lives up to that promise, and subsequent issues have as much excitement as this first issue has nihilism, it could be one of the great big-event miniseries.

That’s a big “if,” though. The first issue necessarily comes with a good bit of exposition, and Flashpoint risks its readers being lost in a myriad of apocalyptic scenarios and changed characters. Flashpoint might also become nothing more than a framework for all those tie-in miniseries and one-shots. However, Johns wisely keeps the focus on Barry and just a couple of significant allies. Maintaining that focus is the key to this miniseries, and it’ll be the measure of Flashpoint’s success.

SPOILERS FOLLOW

5

4

3

2

1

Flashpoint’s premise gives it two immediate advantages: Johns doesn’t have to spend a lot of time introducing characters who readers might already know; and the aforementioned reset button gives him a good bit of leeway in terms of story possibilities. Issue #1 uses the latter to good effect: in the war between Aquaman and Wonder Woman, Western Europe is 200 miles underwater, and Great Britain has become New Themyscira.

As for introducing characters, Johns limits himself largely to Barry, Batman, and Cyborg. Oh sure, there are a number of bit players, including Barry’s police colleagues, his mom, and the weird assortment of superheroes Cyborg tries to lead, but they’re there (at least for now) as local color. Even the Reverse-Flash, whose fingerprints are (perhaps literally) all over this altered timeline, only merits a cameo.

Compare this to the first issues of Johns’ previous big-event series. Brightest Day pared down its cast pretty quickly, but still had a lot of characters and subplots to juggle. Blackest Night #1 started with four Green Lanterns and went on a survey of the superhero landscape. Infinite Crisis #1 picked up plot threads from various disparate miniseries, “broke up” the Trinitarians, and ended on a callback to Crisis On Infinite Earths. Here, though, the plot is simple: a powerless Barry Allen has to fix the timeline. You don’t even have to have read Flash #12 — which, by the way, helps make Professor Zoom even more hissable — to appreciate how hard that’s going to be. This may shock you, but I have no complaints about Flashpoint’s accessibility. (And given those voluminous tie-ins, I hope that continues, at least for the core miniseries….)

A big part of that accessibility is Johns, Kubert, and Hope’s portrayal of Barry as an ordinary guy who happens to be a superhero. Waking up at the crime lab, hugging his mom, or realizing his super-speed is gone, he’s wide-eyed, stepping into the reader’s place, trying to process what’s happened. When he realizes he can (or, more accurately, should) do something about it, his eyes narrow, his mouth tightens, and the reader can share his confidence. Again, we know (albeit from Blackest Night) that Barry doesn’t lack for hope; but that suits him ideally for the “all will be well” mindset triggered by his horrific surroundings.

Before going too much farther, I want to praise Kubert, Hope, and Sinclair more generally, for their polished work bringing the world of Flashpoint to life. Much of Flashpoint #1 features characters talking and/or reacting, and Kubert sells those sequences fairly well. He frames the mother-and-child reunion with an arched window, decorates a glamour-shot of the Flash with a dumpy fisherman and a well-attended ice-cream cart, populates a crowded newsroom, and peppers the issue with expressive closeups. Hope’s inks are tight and careful, polishing Kubert’s pencils and helping to darken the issue’s mood as its plot moves along. Sinclair’s colors are most noticeable in the Gotham City sequences, giving the alt-Gotham a garish orange-and-blue glow; and they contrast nicely with the warmer Central City scenes. Probably the most effective sequence is the issue’s last.  It starts with a lonely, wordless traffic jam and ends with Barry trudging through a dilapidated Wayne Manor into one of the more dismal Batcaves readers are likely to see. The combination of odd angles, stark blacks, and a muted palette makes Barry’s final-page discovery particularly shocking.

That brings me to Batman, the character who — in a very weird way — was a pleasant surprise. From what I could tell from the hype, Flashpoint’s Batman looked fairly similar to Regular Batman: rich guy, spooky outfit, antisocial, etc. Much of issue #1 is devoted to Batman (both of its action sequences feature him), and for most of that time, Flashpoint is content mostly to give this Batman a harder edge. Again, nothing particularly new. However, I was not prepared for the last-page reveal of this Batman as … Thomas Wayne, who apparently saw his wife and son murdered before his eyes, and who has spent the last few decades — which would make him about 80, but I guess that’ll be addressed — dishing out bat-flavored, glowing-red-eyed punishment. That kinda blew my mind; and while I’d have liked Flashpoint to take a few more steps towards restoring Barry’s speed, “[y]ou’re Thomas Wayne” is a pretty good cliffhanger. (It helps that the way Kubert frames Batman’s face, it’s slightly obscuring Dr. Wayne’s part of the family photo. If I weren’t sure who Thomas Wayne was in relation to Batman, that would’ve been a big clue.)

It also provides a nice counterpoint to Barry’s situation with his own parents. Prior to 2009’s Flash: Rebirth, Henry and Nora Allen lived to see their son marry Iris West and fight crime as the Flash. However, Rebirth revealed that Professor Zoom went back in time to kill Nora and frame Henry for her murder. Aside from altering the details of some of Barry’s adventures, Nora’s death (Flashpoint reminds us) preyed on Barry’s mind for years. Eventually he dealt with it, but learning that Zoom was behind it reawakened all those old negative impulses.

Thus, Flashpoint gives Barry a few options. One supposes that, at the appropriately-dramatic moment, Barry will need to choose between his mother’s life and the fate of the world. (Note that, at such moment, Barry may well be able to save both.) One supposes further that, likely as part of said choice, Barry will be able to defeat Zoom in a way which gives him closure over his mother’s death. This can either be in a good way (she lives and Henry’s good name is restored) or in a bittersweet way (she dies, and Barry can deal with it in a stoic-Geoff-Johns-hero manner).

Batman’s fate seems a lot more clear: he’s got to sacrifice himself (even if it’s through the loss of this timeline) so that his death can facilitate his son’s Bat-career in the restored timeline. Presumably, Flashpoint will contain at least one “I would die for my son/I would die for my mom” scene, perhaps followed by “I die for my son’s sake, and so you can live with your mom.” Before that happens, though, I imagine we’ll get to see some ultra-grim Thomas Wayne moments. Let’s face it: we all know that Regular Batman kept a good bit of his marbles through his relationships with happier people — Alfred, Leslie, the sidekicks, the JLA, et al. Thomas Wayne has had none of that, and Wayne Manor is a dump, and he’s stuck running casinos as a day job. If Flashpoint has a strong buddy-movie component, I think I will like contrasting Barry’s optimism with Batman’s fatalism.

Finally, there’s Cyborg, the odd man out in more ways than one. Throughout the runup to Flashpoint, I have tried to figure why Johns chose Cyborg to fill Superman’s ideal-hero role. I mean, I’ve liked Cyborg since 1980’s New Teen Titans preview in DC Comics Presents #26, but it seems like he got the job because no one else was available. What’s more, Victor Stone was Wally West’s friend and colleague (first when Wally was Kid Flash, and later when he succeeded Barry) — so there’s a second-degree relationship with Barry, and maybe not much of that. Still, Cyborg arguably personifies Earth-Flashpoint: put back together after a catastrophe, and heavily armed. Like Barry, too, he represents hope; or at least he did, back when Victor Stone learned to master the possibilities of his new life.

In the rapidly-deteriorating world of Flashpoint, though, such acceptance is unlikely. What I thought was missing from Flashpoint #1 was a sense of progress, and specifically (as mentioned above) the satisfaction of seeing Barry’s powers return. That would have given the issue more momentum, as opposed to Batman’s devastating reveal. Certainly, Flashpoint’s actual cliffhanger makes me want to read issue #2, but partly to see if it does what issue #1 didn’t.

Nevertheless, as a first issue, Flashpoint #1 laid out an intriguing (if relentlessly grim) scenario, plopped our hero in the middle of it with little chance of success, and subverted this reader’s expectations about a key player. Alternate takes on Captain Marvel, Captain Cold, and Green Lantern may also make Flashpoint more entertaining. Flashpoint has a lot of potential, and right now it’s off to the best start of any of Geoff Johns’ recent big-event miniseries. Here’s hoping it gets even better.

News From Our Partners

Comments

27 Comments

I think Steel would have been a better show

Simon DelMonte

May 12, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Good assessment of the first issue.

All I can say is that I am willing to give Geoff the chance, after the success of Blackest Night and despite the messier parts of Infinite Crisis.

I gotta disagree with this and the regular CBR review, I don’t think Flashpoint #1 was missing anything and unlike Fear Itself delivered an opening to the event that gets you excited for the rest of the series. Johns really has become the best writer of events he seems to get the scope and what people want from these summer blockbusters and unlike other events not only is Flashpoint on time but will double ship in August. That’s the first time an event will happen in just 4 months which should stop all the complaints about event fatigue since this will end quicker than any other Flash storyline in the main book since Barry came back.

It’s like I said on the DC boards: I didn’t think this issue was a very good setup for the 15 (!) miniseries associated with the core title. Contrast with last year’s Brightest Day #0, which gave us a very quick walkthrough of the other 11 characters associated with the series, with just enough hints to make you curious about the other BD titles. Here, I didn’t see a whole lot to interest me in, say, Aquaman or Wonder Woman, much less Legion of Doom or the Canterbury Cricket.

Had this issue been a non-depowered Barry confusedly running through a few quick previews of each of the spinoff titles, I’d have found this issue (and the spinoffs) more interesting. It might have even given me incentive to buy some of them. As of now, I think I’ll stick with the FP core title.

Am I the only one who read this who didn’t mind all the exposition? I know it was mostly just dudes chit chatting on a roof, but Goddamn I wanna see what HAPPENS. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a project more suited to Johns’ strengths and I really can’t wait to see how this world unravels itself as time goes on.

I’m with you, Chris, I found this a splendid set-up for what’s to come. I’m not keen on comics that are basically the old DC Primer with added ‘meanwhiles’.

And Tom, why do you want to see Barry discover he has no powers, only to get them back, in a single issue? Let’s see him struggle for at least a month!

On a picky note, am I misremembering … I thought Europe was two miles down, not 200.

…You know, all this focus on negativity makes me wonder: what was the last POSITIVE thing to happen in the DC Universe? I mean, something that mattered and lasted? The last time that question was asked (around Infinite Crisis) the DC brass answered… “Uh, Superman’s marriage?” (which happened in the 90’s.) How about since then? Maybe Green Arrow finally Marrying Black Canary (for all that it lasted.) Even the resurrection of all those heroes in Blackest Night was suspicious (and with good reason.)

What I mean is: if you were a DC character, would you like living there or feel that you’re fighting a pointless fight were things only get worse, not better? Is that how a universe with The Greatest Heroes Ever in it should feel?

The only thing I see good coming of this is the possibility of treating Cyborg/Victor Stone with some respect.

Though, Kubert’s take on him isn’t all that great. Why people can’t stick to the original design is beyond me, and they always seem to bulk it up. If anything a cleaning up of the original would make it work, lose the horizontal lines, lose some of the circular elements on the joints, maybe make it more metallic instead of white (apparently done because the old coloring process couldn’t really handle something shiny and metallic) and pare it down. Instead every redesign has bulked it up or went all wacky (golden Robotman look) just…look at the original issues.

@Adam – issue 2 is out the first week in June. So you really have another issue to get into the characters before majority of the minis start. That being said there are also 4 minis out that first week. Batman is one – but after the first issue – thats a no brainer. Not sure of the other 3.

@EJ – While I agree with alot of what you said – I did really enjoy issue 1. Wasn’t Seige a 4 issue/month event? Just saying! ;)

Seriously? Better than Blackest Night #1?

SERIOUSLY?!

Flashpoint #1 wasted nearly half the issue setting up tie-ins that DC has been saying for months stand entirely on their own. Well, let them stand on their own, then. Also, Johns has had two years to make Barry interesting and make his return worthwhile. So far, he’s failed to do that.

That being said, the issue was competently written, and Johns still knows what he’s doing, even if his character choices continue to disappoint. I’ll check out #2, but if it’s as pointless as this one, then I’m out.

Personally I think Flashpoint will be a great event, this first issue was pretty awesome in mood setting and getting us used to the main characters in the core series, though some of the other ones, like the outsider, failed to make to much of an impression on me. Unlike Fear Itself, which honestly through 2 issues has bored me to tears, FP kept me interested and looking forward to the next, as well as a few of the miniseries, namely Emperor Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Batman.

i bought this to get more background for the Azzarello-Risso Batman mini. (which I couldn’t resist)

I actually had the opposite reaction after the first read. i thought it was the weakest start of any Johns mini event to date. The splash page revealing the alternate heroes was pretty flat, especially when I compared it to the excitement of seeing other alternate line ups in the past (Age of Apocalypse to name one).. But you’ve brought up some interesting points that i will go back and search for more context than i did the first time. And while Cyborg is no Superman, I’ve felt for years, Vic Stone was ready for the big leagues and if this leads to an expanded big gun role for both he and Aquaman after everything flips back, I’m all for it.

The new charcters they’re introducing seem cool and hope they make the leap into the regular DCU at the end of it all (which I imagine is the plan for this event’s lasting legacy).
Also good to see some old ones get a spotlight, like Cyborg and Shade, the Changing Man. Really looking forward to Secret Seven along with Aquaman and the rest.

I think he picked Cyborg to set him up to join a revamped “Big 7″ JLA after this is done.

i did like both Flashpoint and fear itself equally and i am excited for both.

i’m interested in seeing how the other characters are reinterpreted for flashpoint.

For a Flash event there sure was a lot of Batman.

where isn’t these days`?
*goes back finishing Captain Marvel Adventures #26*

“I think he picked Cyborg to set him up to join a revamped “Big 7″ JLA after this is done”

I think you’re missing the point of “Big Seven”:

No scrubs.

Just curious – seeing as we are talking events.

How many pages did both Fear Itself #1 & #2 have?

Thanks!

I’m with David and Jack – I thought it was okay, but I’m nowhere near as excited by #1 as I was for the start of Blackest Night or Brightest Day. Those two series had me buzzing like a two-year-old on a gallon of red cordial.

Faust, Fear Itself #1 was extra-sized, but I believe #2 was the standard 22 pages. I could be wrong, though.

I agree with Mr. Bondurant, this is the best Geoff Johns #1 in quite some time. I haven’t been this interested since maybe Infinite Crisis, although for different reasons. Back then big things were happening in regular continuity to well loved characters, but here most of the regulars are gone and it will be interesting to see how the remaining heroes work with the new ones to fix everything before Aquaman and Wonder Woman put out the lights forever.

How did Zoom manage all this? It seems like quite a few changes would be far beyond his ability. Like for instance, the continued existence of Abin Sur. Jordan’s predecessor was killed by Atrocitus in space, or at least in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Not the kind of place a runner could reach.

@ Kevin: It’s magic, we don’t have to explain it.

Oh wait, wrong company. ;)

I liked it more than Fear Itself, though I found the big reveal a let-down at the end; my first reaction was “that’s supposed to be a surprise?” I’d called the FP Batman as Thomas Wayne for a while now, and when Azzarello described him as “older’ in his interview that sealed it for me.

I’m along for the ride – and have a mix of hope and fear for the post-FP DCU.

I think Cyborg was chosen because of the contrast he has with Superman. Superman lost his family, but due to his heritage he has amazing powers. Vic has no powers of his own, only the fire power given to him after he lost his body. Also, Cyborg isn’t the American hero because he chose to use his natural abilities to stand for truth and justice. Instead he is a display of America’s advance in weaponry. It is innate power vs acquired power, loss of family vs loss of self, etc.

Thanks for the analysis. I enjoyed it alot and will keep reading. I don’t really care if it’s the best start this… or setting up that… I just want comics I can enjoy!

Leave a Comment

 


Browse the Robot 6 Archives