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Retro Speed Reading! – Flashpoint
September 23, 2013Posted by on
Well, we have finally arrived to this. Flashpoint by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert was the 2011 summer comic book event that changed everything. Well, sort of. Not really. We’ll get to that. It was a big deal at the time. While many threads were being laid down for this story in the The Flash title, Flashpoint, as a whole, is completely accessible to all audiences. In other words, you do not need read anything prior to this, but reading what came before will enhance the overall experience (more on this below).
This makes Flashpoint somewhat unique when compared to some of the other DC Comic “event” series such as Infinite Crisis and Blackest Night. With those two examples, there was a lot of set-up and a first-time reader would be completely lost as to what was going on when trying to read them. Flashpoint isn’t like that. Everything important you need to know is right there (which is probably why Warner Bros. decided to adapt it into one of their animated features).
Let’s get right down to it. I liked Flashpoint. Like everything else online, don’t believe the internet hate for it. While it won’t be for everyone, it is far better than comic book neckbeards give it credit for. Personally, the people who claim to completely loath it probably are angrier because it was used to reboot the DC continuity. Comic book fans can be incredibly picky about their continuity, even though it is largely meaningless and there are better things to fret over.
But, I digress.
In Flashpoint, Barry Allen wakes up in a completely changed world. There is no Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are at war, and Batman is a very different person (figuratively and literally). Even stranger, Barry has lost his speed abilities. On the flip side, he discovers that his mother is still alive. Obviously, Barry is overjoyed about this, but he needs to discover why history was changed and why he is the only one who remembers. He eventually learns that his nemesis, the Reverse Flash, is in this world too, and the villain is screwing with him. Barry is convinced that the Reverse Flash is behind everything (or is it?), and is determined to regains his powers to fix everything.
I am always a sucker for a time travel/alternate reality story. Of course, I was drawn to this tale. What I really liked about it was that Johns took his time getting us into the story. There is very little action, and it is much more low-key when compared to other summer “event” comics. Instead of constant fisticuffs, time is given to develop each of our major characters. This was important since the entire story takes place in an unfamiliar world.
The Batman here (who is incredibly awesome by the way) is an all-new character. Since he is, basically, the second lead, we need to know who this guy is and what he is all about. Johns does that. By the time we do get to the heavy action in the fourth and fifth issue, we care about these characters. We want to see them succeed. If Johns just threw these new/revised characters at the readers, but didn’t take time to explore them, then the action at the end would be meaningless. Our investment as a reader wouldn’t be there at all.
This is the primary reason why I dug Flashpoint the way I did. The quieter nature of it and the subtle exploration of the Flashpoint world (which would be explored in further detail with multiple auxiliary tie-ins – which are not necessary to read to understand the main series) gives the story a much more epic feel than it would have if it didn’t do that.
Andy Kubert is on art duties, and he is always great. He especially draws a kick-ass Batman (or alternate Batman, in this case). He really is one of the top talents in the industry today, but I feel that he is somewhat forgotten about at times. This would seem odd considering his father, Joe Kubert, is a legend in the industry. I don’t know. Perhaps I am wrong on this, but that’s just been my stray observation.
As mentioned earlier, the threads for Flashpoint began all the way back in The Flash: Rebirth. I suppose it is worth asking how well the whole “Flashpoint saga” works. To be honest, I am not convinced it really does work well as a cohesive whole. Each individual chapter works well enough on their own. They each give an entertaining and fun story, but each one introduces concepts and ideas which are never really paid off. The prime example is the mirror that Barry crashes into during The Dastardly Death of the Rogues which deliberately foreshadows Flashpoint by giving readers snippets of scenes and dialogue from the Flashpoint world. How this was able to happen or what the effect of it are never explored. This is a bit of a shame. I suppose there was some story changes as Johns was writing The Flash main title and planning Flashpoint. Ideas come and go. This is the nature of writing a long-form story.
It is also worth mentioning that Flashpoint was used to introduce the New 52, the line-wide reboot of DC Comics. I’m going to be honest: the reboot element was handled so halfheartedly. There was a double-page splash of things changing at the end, and we see our heroes in their new costumes. However, nothing in the story really suggests that this tale was going to change it all. It felt really forced into the last issue, as if everything was already written before the reboot was decided.
However, none of that really matters in terms of the story itself. I recommend Flashpoint. It is a bit quieter than most “event” comics, but I think it is stronger for it. The characters are well developed, and we get an overall good tale with some nice action and twists towards the end. It is just a really good story, and you cannot go wrong with it.