Welcome to Comic Related's weekly examination of DC Comics summer event series, Flashpoint. Due to the magnitude of this series in both meaning and cost, I'm going to attempt to illuminate the events of the main series as well as each of the supporting series to our faithful readers. Including the main series, the 15 related miniseries and the unofficially related Booster Gold, that's a massive 17 series (by my imperfect count) that I'll be doing my absolute best to inform, entertain, and enlighten you on in an attempt to make this less confusing and if possible for some of you let you decide if one of these series or books is something you want to pick up for yourself.
As a way to make this a little less confusing and easier to digest, I figure it would be best to write separate installments to deal with the main series and with the supporting series. So hopefully you'll be seeing two columns some weeks with updates and details about this game changing storyline from DC. Another thing I'd like to do, and my intention is to do this without malice, is to keep a running total of the cost of following all these titles and giving out a grand total at the end. I'm really just curious for myself because my budget is limited, but I've committed to this event so it means my limited means will force other books to be missed as a result. Knowing what I spent will offer me some perspective and it's not meant as a stab at the industry or state of the economy. Now that we've got all that out of the way, let's dig into the first two issues of the main series, Flashpoint #1 and #2.
Issue #1 opens with a narrative about Barry Allen, and it's instantly clear that the speaker of the narrative isn't Barry. Through mostly sepia toned panels we're given a visual history of the Flash and Barry's origins teamed with a reverent commentary about Barry as the hero of this story. Without revealing the narrator's identity, we're told that the first time Barry comes to him for help, he turns him away. The only insight he reveals is that he's an Anti-hero, with "too much blood on [my] hands to be called good" and that he had nothing left to live for until the day he met the Flash. This introduction sequence that's really meant more for readers who may be unfamiliar with the Flash and culminates with a two page splash of the Justice League rushing into battle. At the same time there are nuggets to find for long time readers, especially the JLA splash page which might be more revealing about Geoff John's plans for the JLA title after the post-Flashpoint relaunch in regards to the choice of a few characters and some costume designs that have already been included.
Flashpoint really opens with Barry in the Central City crime lab, exhausted from working long hours and being woken by one of his co-workers. This is the same cast of supporting characters that Geoff Johns introduced to us in the recent Flash rebirth, so everything appears as normal, until we find out that the case the city is working on is the murder of "Miss Alchemy" who the Central City PD suspect to be none other than Central City's greatest hero, Citizen Cold, A.K.A. Captain Cold. When another of Barry's co-workers mentions that the Pied Piper and Citizen Cold are having a shoot-out in front of the Citizen Cold museum, Barry is off and running.
It's only as he reaches the stairs and notices his Flash ring is missing that he loses his footing and tumbles down the stairs and lands at the feet of his mother. Shocked that she's alive, he learns from her that she's there because he promised to take her to dinner for her birthday. Barry's mother plays an important story role as she fills Barry in as discovers the world isn't what he remembers. From her he learns there is no Flash, no Justice League, no Superman, Iris isn't his wife and is dating someone else, and Barry's father never went to prison. He died of a heart attack three years prior. When she admits to having heard of Batman ("Who hasn't," she says) the story shifts to Gotham city.
Batman is swinging among the rooftops of Gotham, in an almost familiar costume that has more accents of red in it to, and this is a presumption on my part, accent the bloody nature of this Batman. This Gotham skyline is vastly different that what we're familiar with (at least so far) gone are the gargoyles and the gothic building styles. They've been replaced with the bright neon lights and glass the numerous Wayne casinos and hotels that dominate the city. As Batman chases down a low-level thug of Joker's gang and terrorizes her before dumping her over the ledge of a building along crime alley when she fails to provide him with the information she wants, she's saved from death at the last second by Cyborg.
After having a few words that serve to build a the difference in their characters outlooks on justice and view of the world, Cyborg springs the reason for his visit on Batman; he's looking to add him to a team of Super Humans to stop the Atlantis-Amazon war in Europe. Assembled with him, mostly via hologram, is Citizen Cold, the Pied Piper, The Secret Seven, The Outsider, a hero called Blackout, and the Marvel family who can transform themselves into Captain Thunder. After much bickering and some infighting everyone assembled agrees to work together for the common good against Aquaman and Wonder Woman. Everyone except Batman. He refuses and tells Cyborg that the group would turn on itself at the first chance it gets. His refusal to join with them takes the wind out of the other members' sails and the whole plan seems to fall apart before Cyborg's very eye.
The story then switches back to Barry who is still with his mother and learning that he isn't apart of Iris' life. While she's waiting for him, Eobard Thane pays her a very quick, invisible visit, telling her it's nice to see her alive and well again. Like most confused single men in a time of crisis, Barry ditches his mother and borrows her car for quick trip to Gotham City. As he gets to Wayne Manor, he finds the place run down. The outside is overgrown with weeds, the inside is deserted and doesn't look lived in. There is no sign of Alfred. Lucky for Barry, Batman has no security in place and still has the entrance to the Batcave behind the old grandfather clock.
As he descends into the cave there is a stark lack of trophies and massive computer equipment that we've all grown to recognize as part of the Batcave. No giant pennies, T-Rex, Batmobiles, or display cases of Jason Todd's last Robin costume. There are just a few tables, a picture of the Wayne family, and one lone gun in a display. The narrative picks up again as the Batman comes out of no where to beat up Barry for breaking into the Batcave. The narrative is similar to what was said at the beginning of the book, so we now know that Batman is narrating. As Barry tries to talk to Batman and let him know who he is, the book gives it's biggest reveal and greatest shock. Batman isn't Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne died with Martha Wayne years ago. Batman is his father, Dr. Thomas Wayne.
Let that settle in for just a second while we get to the second issue. They're not calling this an Elseworlds story, but it really has the elements of one. The familiar has been changed, and what we thought we knew is now different; left is right, up is down, and there is only one way to say tomato. (With my best Mike Rowe impersonation from The Deadliest Catch), Let me begin Flashpoint #2.
Miles off the coast of France, the fog shrouded waters of the Atlantic hide the ocean vessel of the Captain Deathstroke. His pirate crew of Machiste, Clayface, Electric Eel and others are searching the ruins of the sunken county when the come upon the wrecked vessel of Travis Morgan, The Warlord. As his ship comes alongside the ruins of the Effel Tower, Deathstroke realizes he has gone too far inward and needs to turn around. His attempts are futile as the ocean jumps up on its own and slams into his ship, allowing Aquaman and his brother Ocean Master to attack, vowing to leave no survivors. (End bad Mike Rowe impersonation.)
What happens? Couldn't tell you. Instead we go back to the Batcave and see Batman roughing up Barry as he tries in vain to convince Thomas Wayne that he is/was the Flash. For reasons unclear, despite having touched him numerous times as he was pummeling him earlier, Batman gets Barry's head in a vice-grip and Barry is flooded with memories from this new world about the Atlantian-Amazon war. Speaking out loud about it is enough to make Batman stop kicking the snot out of him and let him go, which also causes his Flash ring to drop out of his coat pocket.
About to feel vindicated, Barry seizes the opportunity to show Batman he wasn't totally crazy and tells him he can show him his costume and begins explaining his whole costume in a ring thing. Only problem with that is it's not his costume. The tricky old Reverse Flash pulled a fast one on him, putting his yellow costume inside instead. This allows Barry the opportunity to explain to Batman (and the new reader) about the Reverse Flash and how his powers can change history. In the context of this conversation Barry is able to give Batman the one thing that he has wanted for years; a chance to fix the wrongs of the past and have Bruce live instead of him. All he needs to do is help the powerless Barry regain his powers.
Now we move to New Themyscira, once known as Great Britain, to find Colonel Steve Trevor fighting Amazons as he calls for backup. The only thing that comes is Wonder Woman's lasso around his neck. After struggling against the lasso's power Trevor reluctantly tells Queen Diana who he is and that he's there looking for Lois Lane. She's become part of the resistance and requested an extraction. He also adds she's one of the most beautiful women he's ever met. Diana orders her Amazons to find "this Lois Lane" as we are left wondering what her plans are for Steve Trevor.
Back at the Batcave or on the Wayne Mansion grounds, we find Thomas and Barry out in the rain attempting to recreate the accident that gave Barry his speed powers at the start of the silver age. Does it work? Well this series would probably suck if it didn't, so we all know it's going to work. What I found fun was the setup for the experiment, which involved putting Barry in something akin to an electric chair and then putting a lightning rod atop of it. This only works in comic books, and it was fun watching this happen, along with a very skeptical Thomas Wayne looking on. As we know, the lightning bolt strikes and bathes Barry in both electricity and a mad mixes of chemicals. Interestingly it leaves him out cold, laying in the rain with Batman looking at him. Barry's clothes are mostly burnt away and his skin looks to be cooked, very burned and damaged.
So that's the first to issues. We've most likely got the principle players introduced, with three issues left to go. Next issue is the Search for Superman, so he may be the last piece, but we will have to wait a few weeks to see.
Also at the end of issue #2 you'll find some nice little extras; the controversial map of the Flashpoint world along with some character sketches by Andy Kubert for Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Cyborg from last year as they were starting this story. It's nice to see some of that in the actual comic instead of having to wait for the trade to see this. It's a nice little value for the reader.
I've got to say I'm really digging this story. Does it delivery on all cylinders? No, but very few stories ever do. What I like is that it's telling me a story that's different and keeping me a bit off balance. I can honestly say I didn't see the Batman reveal coming, and for that I was really excited. I think some of the scenes could have been a little better developed, especially between Barry and Batman, but I have to cut Johns some slack because I think he's doing a great job of writing this with new readers in mind. How often can we say that when reading a major event book from one of the big companies? I give big props for that.
That's it for now. We've spent $7.98 and I think it's been well spent. I've got four supporting books to cover in our next column. Until then, you've got the point. Any feedback would be appreciated.
Chuck Kennedy/Columnist, Reviewer
Chuck Kennedy is active in the Comic Related forums and on the site, and is a former member of the Zone 4 podcast. Chuck enjoys writing and is a long running comic fan. He's also a stay-at-home father of triplets that were born in June of 2006. Before they were born, he was a high school history teacher who I loved teaching and being with his students. Check out more of Chuck's thoughts and commentary at the Comic Book Observatory.
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