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Flashpoint (Review)

This January, I’m going to take a look at some of DC’s biggest “events.” I’ll be starting with the most recent one, Flashpoint, following a week full of Flash stories.

Our world is in a violent transition of great change.

– President Obama tells us how it is

I really liked Flashpoint. I liked Flashpoint almost as much as I enjoyed Blackest Night, and far more than I enjoyed most big blockbuster “event” comic books. I think that Flashpoint buckles under the weight of the relaunch that followed – I find it quite sad that so many fans initially ignored the event only to jump on at the last minute because it was “suddenly important.” Does Flashpoint offer a fitting send-off to a version of the DC shared universe that dates back to Crisis on Infinite Earths? It doesn’t really, even if it offers some compelling arguments in favour of the relaunch that followed. Still, it’s a fascinating story about the icons who populate this shared universe, and what makes these enduring characters such heroic figures. Or, rather, what doesn’t make them heroic figures.

Flash sideways…

I have to admit, I’m quite tired of the “alternate continuity stories don’t count” logic that so many fans seem to have – as if they don’t judge a book on the content, but the context. It isn’t about whether the story is “good”, but about whether it’s “important.” Of course, these are comic books we’re talking about – there’s nothing more or less important about any of them, because it’s not like they offer the “current affairs” of a distant country, or that they provide a single historical narrative of a fictional world. Characters are seldom truly consistent from author to author, let alone a shared fictitious universe, so treating it all as “one big story” sounds more than a little silly.

“This is an imaginary story,” Alan Moore suggests in his Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, “but aren’t they all?” They are indeed. And this is why I’ve never understood how fans reject alternate universe stories as not worth their time. Ignoring the long-standing history of such stories in the tradition of comic book publishing, these sorts of tales allow writers to toy with concepts and ideas they would not usually be afforded – they have greater freedom to compare and contrast these icons, to make some commentary on what defines these characters.

Reversal of fortune…

Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman and Richard Donner’s Superman both define the character better than any in-continuity story. The definitive Batman story is arguably The Dark Knight Returns. These are no more or less valid than any other stories because they “never happened” within the framework of DC comic continuity. Similarly, great stories from the past twenty-odd years aren’t suddenly “ruined” by the fact that they may not have “happened” in the post-Flashpoint DC Universe.

At its best, Flashpoint allows us to see what is constant about these icons, and what is subject to change in the right (or wrong) set of circumstances. “And I can say with confidence that no matter where he was raised, he’s a good person,” Barry asserts of Kal-El, at one point – and Flashpoint allows Geoff Johns to put that particular theory to the test. It’s a fascinating little experiment, and it actually casts some interesting light on the regular versions of these characters. For example, Johns points to Bruce Wayne’s crusade against crime as relatively fun and colourful, compared to the bitter and empty shell of a life it could have been.

Aqua War!

Even in his one brief scene, Johns solidly defines the very core of Hal’s character, as the test pilot confronts Hector Hammond about his testflight. “You think after all that’s happened I’m not worried about myself or Carol or the rest of the world?” he asks. “I’m terrified. But I focus on that and I won’t get in the cockpit. I focus on that and I’ll go hide in the shadows like all those ‘super-heroes’. That’s not me. No matter what.” Even when he’s not a Green Lantern, Hal still shines – he still succeeds not because he’s without fear, but because he works through it.

So Flashpoint allows Geoff Johns to tell a broader story than he normally would, freed simultaneously of the shackles of continuity and fan expectation. He is allowed to fully define this world to develop his core themes and ideas – and to tell us a story. Johns is easily dismissed as a blockbuster comic book writer, a term I don’t think is fair. There are reasonable criticisms of his work, but I genuinely believe that he has a deep and fundamental understanding of the superhero comic book that is very hard to come by these days. While his relaunched Flash was disappointing, his Green Lantern has been consistently solid. He isn’t just filling pages here to package and sell as an “event” as he checks items off some grand editorial list.

Marvel at Captain Thunder…

Though Flashpoint leads to the relaunched DC universe (the DCnU, if you will), I can’t help but get the sense it wasn’t conceived as such a lead-in. It serves as an effective jumping-in point, but Johns never feels quite as trapped or confined by his end target in the same way that, say, Matt Fraction did in Fear Itself. Flashpoint has a story to tell, at its heart. It isn’t just a list of things the company has to do to make sales. I suspect, along with a few other bloggers, that Final Crisis was originally intended to lead into the DCnU. I don’t have any proof, but it would make sense. Perhaps the books weren’t ready though, or perhaps it was pushed out, and Flashpoint was the next storyline that fit on a thematic level as a jumping-off point. Or maybe I’m crazy.

Either way, Flashpoint feels like it has a strong central thematic point that holds it together, amid the chaos and the high-concepts and the beautiful artwork from Andy Kubert. Johns loves his superheroes, no matter how corny they might be, and he has a fairly solid understanding of the mechanics of the genre – and he’s not afraid to comment upon it. If Blackest Night was about the lack of closure inherent in comic book stories (and, most obviously, comic book death), Flashpoint feels like a justification for the triumph of energy and enthusiasm over gritty realism and cynical snark.

Flight Instinct…

There is something quite telling, after all, in the way that the story pairs the Flash and Batman. The two are opposite sides of the superhero spectrum. While Batman is the very embodiment of “dark and gritty”, Barry Allen is the metaphysical embodiment of the Silver Age. His appearance in Showcase is widely chosen as the beginning of the Silver Age, arguably the publishing period that has the greatest influence on modern comics. When we think of the core DC characters, we think of ideas that were suggested and developed during this period: we think of the Atom as a guy who shrinks rather than a tiny wrestler, we think of the Green Lantern as a space cop rather than an old guy with a weakness for wood, we think of the Flash in his red bodysuit rather than with his helmet.

Barry’s “death” in Crisis on Infinite Earths represented a symbolic closure of that chapter, but it’s one that has been reasserting itself over the past decade or so. Barry Allen rose from the dead. Hal Jordan became the flagship Green Lantern. Batman actually had all those crazy adventures in the fifties. Even Superman has been known to use some of his more old-fashioned super-powers these days. However, it doesn’t seem “quite” right. Barry Allen returned to the present with a new origin – a tragedy forced into his past by Professor Zoom, Johns’ stand-in for the concept of the comic book retcon. He has found himself struggling to adapt to the brave new world that evolved in his absence – both within his own book and with a fanbase who grew up with his successor.

Think fast, Zoom!

While Johns’ recent Flash run has had more than its fair share of problems, I like the fact that he has cleverly portrayed Barry as the constant. It’s a fascinating contrast with his powers – one might assume that the Fastest Man Alive would be good at changing and adapting with the times, but he seems stuck in the moment. It fits the character quite well – the character has traditionally been described as the heart of the Justice League, and his bowties looked dated even in the sixties. (Though bowties are cool.) Even the revised history of the character – the death of his mother and the framing of his father – can’t shake his core. He’s still strangely static, strangely noble. The notes at the back of the collection seem to confirm this as authorial intent. “With everything else going wild,” the notes explain, “the Flash had to be the constant.”

Flashpoint is essentially the story of what happens when he can no longer do that. It’s the story of the one time that Barry – the paragon of Silver Age virtue – allowed himself to snap, and decided that he couldn’t meet the hardship in his life with the noble resolve that we expect of heroes. It’s the story about the consequences of one single moment of perfectly understandably selfishness in the life of Barry Allen. As much as the character stands for the innocence of a time long gone, there was only so much darkness he could take before he cracked. “And a life of gnawing emptiness finally pushed you over the edge,” Zoom suggests, not unfairly. “To a place you swore you’re never go.” That place is “the past.”

The Bat finally caved…

Johns has developed a fairly consistent thematic line between here and Brightest Day – the author has a very clear idea of what precisely marks the difference between a hero and a villain. In Brightest Day, the heroes all try to live their lives again, while the villainous Captain Boomerang is fixated on what he’s lost. To Johns, heroes are the characters who can endure those unfair moments and hardships and keep moving forward. It’s not about superpowers, but about moral philosophy and attitude. Life can be cruel and random (and sometimes malicious). While Johns villains seem unable to get past those hurdles, and insist on blaming their personal shortcomings on those twists of fate, heroes emerge from tragedy stronger and push forward.

Perhaps that’s why Johns’ villains are so much more fascinating than most his heroes. They have a wonderful pathos and vulnerability to them – at their best, they seem more broken than through-and-through evil. In contrast, his heroes seem flawless and perfect. I think Barry suffered from this characterisation a lot, where his ability to cope with all the horrible stuff that happened to him failed to really generate any sense of complexity to the character. He was a straight-arrow in the purest sense of the world. I think that’s what makes Flashpoint so fascinating is that fact that it lacks a real villain. Or rather, it lacks a real hero.

Super freaked out…

Although the Reverse Flash is present, he serves primarily as a red herring. While the change in setting has allowed several villains (like “Citizen Cold”) to masquerade as heroes, the focal points of the miniseries are all “heroes” in the mainstream DC universe, who have generally been warped and distorted beyond all recognition by the change of circumstances. It’s as if the metafictional fabric of the DC universe collapsed with the corruption of the Flash – if that icon of integrity could compromise himself, then there was nothing that could prevent Batman from becoming a murderer or Aquaman a dictator or Woman Woman an invader. These are all just bitter phantoms and shadows of the heroes they could have been.

This is the DC universe pushed to its most ridiculously cynical. It almost seems like a response to the frequent criticism that DC’s heroes are too “goody two shoes” and lack complexity when measured against those of their closest competitor. Geoff Johns applies a dose of cynicism to the familiar institutions of the shared universe, and illustrates how the entire construct collapses under its own weight. We’re shown, for example, how the first meeting of Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor might have played out differently if she had been more wary of the American trespassing on her island. We see what might have happened to Clark Kent had he not fluked into the stereotypically wholesome childhood with the Kents and had those virtues instilled in him. We witness what Aquaman is capable of, were he not restrained by a noble sense of virtue.

No bones about it…

This is a pale shadow of the DC universe we know, shaped by the Silver Age. Hal Jordan never became the Green Lantern, and Barry Allen was never the Flash. Even the Golden Age heroes that predated them seem to have faded out. Batman describes Barry’s fading memory as “similar to the Sandman” – one of the few major Golden Age characters we see (save Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman). Of course dreams died in this grim alternate reality.

Without their Silver Age successors to reinvigourate them, Johns seems to suggest that the Golden Age heroes ended up trapped in some sort of limbo. “I’ve been asking for years about why that bridge out of Central City leads to nowhere, but no one knows, Allen,” a cop remarks, the closest to an explicit reference to the Golden Age Flash in the pages of Flashpoint. It seems to allude to Grant Morrison’s updates The Flash of Two Worlds story, which saw Barry pull Jay Garrick and Keystone City into the present DC universe. Of the strange bridge, Barry suggests, “Or no one remembers.” It’s possible the Golden Age characters would have been forgotten about entirely without the new wave of heroes DC produced in the fifties and sixties. Another Golden Age survivor, Captain Marvel is no longer Captain Marvel, but “Captain Thunder.” It’s telling that Billy describes the more familiar DCU as “a world with hope.”

The Adjustment League…

Once you examine these core assumptions, the whole thing just implodes. “The US military won’t stand a chance,” Cyborg pleads with the President, with Vic Stone serving as the one impotent example of virtue to be found in the story. Obama replies, realising the odds without a superhero community he can rely on, “And the world won’t either if I just sit here and hope people like Batman will come to their senses.” Even Cyborg, the moral compass of this flawed universe, is forced to make the sorts of compromises that nobody would excuse in the regular DC universe.

After he saves a henchwoman from a fatal fall, Batman remarks, “She slipped.” Cyborg is skeptical, and rightly so. “A lot of them slip,” he observes to Batman. And then he adds, “But I’m not here to judge you, Batman.” Superman is generally regarded as the conscience of the DC universe, and – though he enjoys an occasionally antagonistic relationship with Bruce – there’s no way Superman would ever passively allow such reckless violence from a vigilante under his watch. Cyborg is forced to accept such indifference and brutality, because that’s the nature of this world. When your characters become compromised, standards naturally slip.

He’s not clowning around…

Cyborg tries to piece together a Justice League, but it’s one formed out of political necessity rather than the mutual respect and trust of the “super friends” version. “No one is friends here,” he concedes. “We all know that.” Batman smartly observes the entire idea is fundamentally flawed. “I’m talking about this Fight Club you’re trying to put together,” he states. “As soon as you actually get all these idiots in one room — they’ll kill each other and then they’ll kill you.”

And he’s right, they are all selfish idiots – himself included. These are versions of the heroes who never overcame a significant loss in their lives. Wonder Woman is stirred to violence by the death of her mother, something which the regular version of Wonder Woman was able to overcome. Aquaman’s war with the surface world is provoked by the loss of his wife, while in the mainstream universe she took his passing with much more grace. Thomas Wayne is coping with the death of his son even worse than Bruce coped with the loss of his parents. The whole incident is the result of Barry being unable to deal with the loss of his parents. They’re overwhelmed by loss, and they allow it to turn them into villains.

It’s Miller time!

As much as this is Flash story – in the same way that Blackest Night was a Green Lantern story – it’s Thomas Wayne who is the breakout character of the story. Batman has always stood in diametric opposition to the Flash. If the Flash is Silver Age vitality, Batman is the grim darkness at the edge of the panel. He was introduced as a character who was indifferent to the fates of the criminals he hunted, a pulpy thirties revenge fantasy – and his stock was arguably highest as the “paranoid loner” during the long dark night of the nineties. In contrast to the Flash’s success in the bright and cheerful fifties and sixties, Batman’s sci-fi Silver Age adventures (featuring aliens and ghosts and such) are commonly regarded as some of the worst stories ever told with the character. Adam West’s Batman! is only now going through a slow and painful critical reevaluation.

If the Flash is light, Batman is dark. He’s always cynical, always gritty. However, Johns suggests, even Bruce Wayne at his most “realistic” is still a figure of childish fantasy, when measured against the hulking brute that he could have been. In casting the grieving father Thomas Wayne as Batman, Johns illustrates just how light Bruce is – compared to what he could have been. Fans may claim to like him because he’s buttoned down and grounded, but Johns demonstrates what a real buttoned-down Batman would look like. If you were to define Batman in realistic terms, it becomes a lot more obvious just how much light fantasy there is to the Batman mythos.

A splitting headache…

“Is this the only computer you have?” the Flash asks as they huddle over a slow-to-load computer in a run-down study. This is a Batman without a fancy Bat-computer with a huge monitor. He has no Batmobile that we can see. The Bat-cave is sparsely decorated. There are no giant coins, no mechanical dinosaurs. The only “trophy” he allows himself is the gun that murdered his son, stored like some grim holy relic. There’s a shattered portrait of the family – presumably smashed by Wayne himself in a moment of despair.

All of a sudden, in contrast, Bruce’s adventures seem relatively childish. His Bat-cave might seem macabre by virtue of his flying companions and its grey rock formations, but it’s actually an exotic and wonderful museum to a life that has been lived and enjoyed. Sure, Bruce memorialises his deceased friends, but he also celebrates their lives. He drives a super-fast car (and a plane! and a boat!) and he has a computer that can do the impossible. More than that, his version of Wayne Manor is a home, populated with a family that is always growing. In contrast, Thomas has allowed the building to become something like a tomb.

Standing up to bat…

This version of Batman is the very darkest elements of Batman rolled into one. He feels like Frank Miller’s Dark Knight written with the tongue planted firmly in Geoff Johns’ cheek. Andy Kubert’s design borrows the shoulder pads from Arkham Asylum or even from the Third Ghost of Batman from Morrison’s Batman run, another story that found Batman in one of his very darkest places. This is the character pushed past the realm of cynicism into full-blown nihilism. “The world’s going to erupt into war, Batman!” Cyborg warns him. “And if it does, there won’t be anything left! Including Gotham! Including you!” Batman replies, “One can only hope.”

There’s nothing noble about this version of Batman, who only helps Barry to achieve his own selfish ends. In fact, his trust in Barry isn’t treated as a leap of faith predicated on trust, but on a delusional hope to find some way (any way) out of the world he lives in. The only thing that matters to Thomas is the chance of saving Bruce (and, thus, Martha). Every other life is incidental, including the billions of lives on the planet. When the Flash suggests that they attempt to salvage this alternate world, Thomas makes it clear there are only two outcomes that will satisfy him. “Either we change this world, Flash… or we let it burn in hell.” This isn’t Batman as a hero. This is Batman as a selfish and delusional old man who hates the world for what it has done to him. It’s not Bruce. It’s the anti-Bruce. As with the rest of the DC universe, according to Johns, Bruce worked past that loss.

The let any Tom, Dick or Harry be Batman these days…

And yet, there’s something about the way the Johns writes this version of Batman that makes him work as a character. I think it’s the fact there’s a note of self-parody about this version of grim!Batman that was missing from All-Star Batman & Robin (despite Frank Miller’s retroactive claims that he was always writing a parody). He’s just this incredibly foul-humoured and bad-ass old guy. I think Johns wrote one of my favourite Batman scenes ever, when Thomas responds to Barry’s claims that he’s the Fastest Man Alive… by punching him in the face. He remarks, matter-of-factly, “You weren’t fast enough to avoid that, you delusional son-of-a-bitch.”

Boom! The Flash just got served!

It reminds me of a nice moment from the Justice League Unlimited television show where Bruce is sent forward in time to meet an older version of himself. Let’s just say that time has not mellowed this version of Bruce. Anyway, Bruce is trying to get a goon to talk by dangling him off the roof while his older self watches. The goon isn’t talking. older!Bruce is having none of this, and shakes his head disappointed. “I can’t believe I was ever that green, he remarks, as the pensioner steps up to take his turn at interrogating the uncooperative criminal. The criminal talks. Thomas!Batman feels more than a bit like that. In fact, I would love to see a team-up between Thomas!Batman and Bruce!Batman doing some bonding on a night on patrol. It sounds like the perfect premise for a sit-com.

Superman is Grounded…

Keeping with the theme of the event, an attempt to pick apart the basic assumptions that tie the DC Universe together, Johns allows Thomas to play the part of the avid armchair critic, who seems to spend a lot of time pointing out how incredibly improbable and ridiculous all this is – Thomas seems like the reader who doesn’t have the imagination to embrace the inherent silliness of mainstream superhero comics, and is too busy asking rational and logical questions to actually see the big picture.

Presented with Barry’s fantastic story, all he does is pick mundane holes in it. “What kind of name is ‘Eobard’?” he asks when told about a time-travelling psychopath who may be rewriting history. Talk about missing the point. “The Reverse-Flash?” he asks later on. “Why would his uniform be inside your ring? And how the hell does it even fit in there?” Because, you know, the ring is clearly the silliest thing about a character who can run at ridiculous speeds and “vibrate” through matter and travel through time.

Time for a change?

Later on, Batman can’t even bring himself to overcome his skepticism for the classic superhero origin. “Dousing yourself with chemical and plugging into a lightning rod is going to turn you into ‘The Fastest Man Alive’?” Given that this universe is still populated with freaks and mutants, you’d imagine that stranger things have happened even here, and yet Thomas is still being contrary. He’s the guy who manages to suck the fun out of everything – hell, he’s even trying to suck the fun out of comics. But Geoff Johns won’t abide that. Not one bit.

However, despite some of the wonderful stuff going on here, Flashpoint has its fair share of flaws. The most obvious is that it never really hits that incredible level where it feels justified in wiping out the entire history of the DC universe. I have no problem with the reboot, but it feels like this story isn’t big or grand enough to serve as a “hello” to the new universe or a “goodbye” to the old one. It’s solidly entertaining and – appropriately enough for an event based are the Flash – it breezes by, and I really enjoyed it. But it doesn’t feel big enough to fit the editorial purpose it has been used for. On the other hand, that’s much better than Fear Itself, which sleepwalked through the big event clichés.

The Reverse-Flash’s retcon just got spiked…

The other major problem is one that’s quite common in stories like this. There’s no real exploration of the implications of Barry’s actions. Barry created an alternate timeline with billions of lives diverting down a particular path. Sure, it’s not that great, but why does he have the right to decide that those lives – now lived – should be invalid. The creation of this world might have been an accident, but many pregnancies are also accidents. It doesn’t automatically invalidate their existence. Thomas has a clear bias, and his desire to help Barry is shown as purely selfish, because we know why he wants the world to be rewritten. His nihilism is not shown as a heroic trait, so we don’t need to question the morality of his actions.

However, Barry is trying to seem like a hero. He’s trying to make up for changing history… by changing history again? “I know a better world will replace it,” Thomas asserts, but is that justification enough? Why does Barry have the moral authority to decide which world is valid or invalid? Given that he doesn’t perfectly restore his old universe, he can’t even argue that he’s merely repairing damage that he did. It’s fascinating, because Barry actually suggests attempting to salvage the Flashpoint universe, which I think would have been more heroic – it would certainly have taken more courage and conviction.

Don’t beat yourself up… Batman’ll do it for you…

Perhaps, however, Johns is simply playing of Barry Allen’s “greatest moment”, where he saved a universe by running so fast he pretty much ceased to exist during Crisis on Infinite Earths. This feels like an intentional inversion, where Barry destroys a universe. (Two, actually.) Perhaps it’s intended to deconstruct the saintly image built around Barry, to shatter the monument erected around him – an attempt to cancel himself out (as he does at the climax of this story), hoping that we could end up with a character (rather than a saint) at the end of the story? I don’t know.

I do like the world-building that Johns does here. In only five issues, the Flashpoint universe feels like it has fully grown and developed in its own way. Johns doesn’t burden us with too much exposition or too much information. Instead, he drops playful hints bout how things might have unfolded differently, had things shifted even slightly. We get the faintest suggestion of ideas, rather than having everything explained to us. We never learn, for example, the cryptic back-story of Captain Thunder. “You and Billy might be real family, Mary, but we’re not,” Freddy remarks. “We’re just a bunch of kids who were stuck on a subway cart that got hijacked to Hogwarts.” We meet the mysterious Outsider who operates from India and has no regular counterpart. We never see the other members of the Secret Seven.

The Brave and the (very) Bold…

Which brings me to something that really ticks me off. I’m glad Flashpoint itself reads well without requiring the reader to invest in any of the countless miniseries spinning out of the title, but I am really ticked off that none of them are being released in hardback. In particular, the Batman: Knight of Vengeance miniseries has been described as one of the best Batman stories ever told. I’m dying to see Scott Snyder’s take on Project Superman. Indeed, Jeff Lemire’s Frankenstein sounds awesome. However, they’re only being published in softcover, so I guess I’ll never read them. It genuinely annoys me, since DC did such a wonderful job collecting Blackest Night in the format. And don’t get me started about the lack of hardcovers available for the relaunch.

It’s a minor complaint that has no impact on the miniseries itself, but it bugs me. What was wrong with the established model? Softcovers bend and warp too easily for me, moving between places and shoving them in bags and such. It’s crap, is what it is. Maybe they’ll eventually release hardcovers (like they used to release softcovers after hardcovers), but I doubt it. Even library binding would work. I guess that my coverage of DC comics will be greatly decreasing in the years ahead, if this is a sign of things to come. Or I could go digital. Who knows?

Stone cold hero…

Much like Blackest Night, I do like the way that Johns structures the event around mostly second-level characters, and works hard to build them up. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were largely absent from Blackest Night, allowing the event ot focus on characters like Green Lantern or the Flash or the Atom or even Mera, which is something that I doubt anybody saw coming. It’s great that the events don’t feature the same old characters again and again, and I do admire Johns for developing lesser-known properties.

In particular, this event pushes Cyborg to the centre of the stage, preparing him for inclusion with the “big six” in Geoff Johns’ Justice League relaunch. Johns has a knack for finding angles that work for characters and for pushing them. I suspect that Johns’ work on Green Lantern played a large part in securing the book a movie adaptation (however disappointing). Here, he has Batman illustrate the potential of Cyborg, arguing that even the character himself has no idea of his capacity for brilliance. “You don’t even realise it, do you?” Batman asks him. “You could be the single most powerful source of information on the planet. A physical and digital tank. There’s not a brick wall or a firewall on Earth that can keep Cyborg out.” Hell, even the fact that Vic Stone stepped up to try to fill the void left by Superman speaks volumes to his potential as a character.

Zoom in…

In fairness, Johns also does a fairly solid job of illustrating why Aquaman and Wonder Woman are powerhouses in their own ways – demonstrating what either would be capable of if they weren’t anchored by a sense of morality. Unfortunate gender politics aside, I think that Johns does a very good job of illustrating what neither character should ever be allowed to be (and what they could easily be reduced to), while demonstrating that they are not to be treated as jokes. Still, whoever came up with “ape-controlled Africa” needs a smack in the head. I know that Africa is home to “Gorilla City”, but merely using the phrase “under Grodd’s protection” or “controlled by Grodd” would have had the same effect without the controversy.

Geoff Johns’ second run on Flash might have been a bit disappointing, but I’ll confess to having a soft spot for Flashpoint. It does seem lack a bit of the scale one expects from an event like this, but I welcome its tight focus and relative brevity. It’s a nice little examination or justification for the rather optimistic building blocks that form the basis of the shared DC universe. It’s easy to be cynical in this era of global uncertainty, but perhaps that sort of uncertainty is best left out of these iconic comic book characters. It’s a solid little story, and probably the most enjoyable “event” comic of 2011.

If this of interest, you might like to take a look at our reviews of Geoff Johns’ earlier Flash run:

It might also be worth taking a look at our reviews of Geoff Johns’ work on the title and characters since that initial run:

3 Responses

  1. If there was someone who could offer me some advice on whether to pick up this book, I knew it’d be you. I stopped myself about a third of the way through to preserve most of the surprises – but I will say that it was the alternate universe side of things that put me off, it was the impression I got that The Flash would be without his powers for much of the story. If he can’t run at super speeds, is he actually The Flash or is it just a story about Barry Allen. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not what I’d be after.

    • It’s interesting, because it’s not really a Flash story. It’s more of a reflection on the nature of DC comics, as compared to Marvel – a defence of the brightness of DC compared to the grittier violence of Marvel, if that makes sense.

      If you’re looking for a good Flash story, there are really two options. The first is quite expensive – DC published the first volume of Geoff Johns Flash Omnibus collection, and it’s awesome. It’s a six-issue introductory arc and a bunch of smaller two- and three-issue stories, but they give the character his own identity.

      The alternative is more cost effective. The recent Flash relaunch is being collected by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato. It’ll be a small six-issue collection out in May/June/July, but it’s apparently great superhero fun with lots of clever uses of the Flash’s speed related powers.

      • I actually picked up a collected book of a run by Mark Millar and Grant Morrison. I’m halfway through, and it isn’t how I thought it would be. Te Flash racing through dimensions while being powered by everybody on Earth running in unison – seriously the kind of stuff Morrison would be making fun of.

        I think I spotted the 1st omnibus at the used bookstore, but it was about $80 out of my price range. I’ll keep my eye out for the other collection – just need something to whet my appetite for the fastest man alive.

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