I’m reviewing another western comic already? Apparently so. This is issue #1 of the new miniseries, Flashpoint.
Flashpoint is Geoff Johns’ latest big event, and he and DC themselves have said it’s fine if you just want to pick up this book without reading the large amount of build up to it. To be honest, I hadn’t even heard of it, and I didn’t even know it was a Flash story when I was asked and agreed to review it! So once again, I’m going to be finding out if this comic really can stand alone and be enjoyed by someone who’s completely out of the loop.
The first thing I have to say about the issue is…that the cover is pretty awesome. Having a bit of a slow moment, I didn’t realize Flashpoint was a Flash story right up until I first laid eyes on the cover, but just seeing it once was enough to get me pumped about reading it. The soft blue backgrounds seems to push your attention to both the bright yellow title and to The Flash himself, clad in his bright red costume, which seems to be coming apart at the seams from his incredible speed. In the background, colored more darkly, are the silhouettes of Cyborg, Batman, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman; my first impression, judging from the imposing way they’re drawn alone, was that they might somehow be the villains of the story. Though your attention seems to be diverted away from the passive blue skyline in the background, if you look carefully enough, you’ll find that a lot of the building have Wayne Industries logos on them, further hinting that Batman is a key character in this issue.
The cover, like the rest of the issue, was drawn by Andy Kubert. I think its simple, contrasting color scheme works really well, setting it apart from some of the more kaleidoscopic comics sitting beside it on the comic store shelf. It’s the sort that captures your attention and, for me at least, somehow evokes a sense of excitement.
That excitement only built further over the first few pages. A nameless, unseen narrator introduces us to Barry Allen, the current (and arguably most iconic) Flash. We’re told that after becoming The Flash, Barry found love, a family, and friends, and we’re treated to a two page spread of him and just about every other DC hero charging off into action. Who wouldn’t want to see what they were about to face?
Unfortunately, we don’t find out; the next page drops us into the middle of one big mystery.
Barry awakens in the police station where he works, but things seem strange. Everyone, including him, is meant to be working on a case he’s never heard of. The director, Singh, tells us that they already know Citizen Cold is the murderer, but he’s apparently seen as Central City’s greatest hero. Even someone with relatively basic comic knowledge like me realized that Citizen Cold must be Captain Cold, one of Flash’s villains, and it’s confirmed that things just aren’t right when Barry not only realizes the special ring he keeps his costume in is missing, but also runs into his long dead mother, now apparently alive and well. Welcome to the Twilight Zone, Barry.
Yes indeed, it’s clear even to someone out of the loop like myself that Mr. Allen has found himself in some kind of parallel world, where his mother’s alive, Captain Cold is seen as a hero, and The Flash simply doesn’t exist at all. Seeing as how he tripped down some stairs while trying to speed up and then had to borrow his mother’s car to get around, I don’t think Barry even has his Flash powers in this universe. And frankly, I was a bit disappointed by that.
It seems The Flash isn’t the only superhero absent from this version of reality. His mother’s never even heard of Superman. But we quickly learn that Batman exists, and the story soon shifts to Gotham City—which seems to be covered in signs advertising Wayne Resorts and Casinos—to check him out as he chases down a Harley Quinn-esque Joker henchmen I’ve never heard of. This version of Batman seems to have no qualms about dropping his opponents off of tall buildings, so… … …I have no idea if he’s darker than the regular Batman or not. He’s interrupted by Victor Stone, aka Cyborg, who has with him a large group of heroes and villains.
The remainder of the issue is mostly just raw exposition from Cyborg. It seems that in this reality, Themyscira and Atlantis have waged war on the rest of the world, and Cyborg is trying to organize a group that can put a stop to Wonder Woman and Aquaman—no matter the cost! Several pages are spent introducing us to each of the characters one by one; this is good for someone like me who doesn’t know all of them, and also good for more dedicated comic readers who just don’t know anything about these alternate versions of them. I’m particularly curious about Captain Marvel—or Captain Thunder, as he’s called in this world—who, if I’m not interpreting the scene wrong, seems to be some kind of “by your powers combined” deal now, with the power of Shazam spread between six people.
The issue ends on a cliffhanger, with Barry meeting up with this world’s version of Batman and realizing something startling about him. I won’t spoil what it is, but it’s pretty interesting.
I’m sorry to say, the excitement I had at the start of the issue didn’t last. There’s very little action in this story so far, and most of it was taken up by exposition and character introductions. However, I can’t be too hard on it for this; it’s a 30 page book, and this is only issue 1 out of 5. I really don’t think it’s fair to judge it by itself, and when I look at it like that, having issue #1 introduce the characters and concepts makes a ton of sense. There may not be much action, but I’m still curious to see what happens next.
Andy Kubert’s art is consistently good throughout this issue. It’s not the most polished or detailed I’ve seen, but I don’t remember seeing a single oddly drawn panel or art mistake. Just about everything’s drawn clearly so that it’s easy to tell what’s going on, with only one exception I can think of: I’m still not entirely sure whether those six kids became Captain Thunder or just summoned him. I think they did, since you don’t see them again after he appears, and he seems to be standing right where they were…but it could have been a little clearer, I think.
In a lot of the outdoor scenes, the backgrounds seem to be drawn in quite a subdued way. I kind of like how this gives emphasis to the characters in the foreground, quite like on the cover. Other times, the background is made more clear, like in a two page spread of Gotham covered in Wayne signs; I noticed one reads “Wayne’s World”, which I’m going to assume was intentional. This spread is also our first real look at this universe’s version of Batman, and his design is pretty darn cool.
Though I don’t think the art is quite as detailed as it is in something like Action Comics #900, there are some parts that do stand out above the rest—the above shot being a good example. And since the closest thing I have to a complaint isn’t really much of a complaint at all, I can’t say anything else other than that this issue has some solid artwork.
Flashpoint #1 has its good and bad points. There’s a lot of standing around and talking, but it’s still only the very start of the story. Despite the rather slow pace, it’s still intriguing enough to peak your curiosity, and even I, still lacking any real knowledge of how Barry has ended up in this world or why, am very interested in reading on. Maybe you’ll see an issue #2 review from me not too long from now?
I just hope there’s some actual Flash in it next time…
Cover: A- (Using bold colors against subdued colors really works here, if you ask me. I’m quite a fan of this cover.)
Writing: B+ (A major lack of action, no Flash, and lots of exposition. But despite all that, the dialogue is still well written and compelling.)
Art: B+ (No mistakes. No weird anatomy or postures. The design of this version of Batman is pretty cool, too. Overall solid work.)
Overall (not an average): B+ (It has its ups and downs, but I liked it. Even though I don’t know quite what’s going on, at the same time, I somehow don’t feel that lost. I guess it’s because Barry’s in the same boat as me; I get the sense that all the mysteries will be revealed as the story progresses further, rather than the sense that I need to go back and read any of the build up to the event.)
This comic was purchased at retail.
The mystery of the Flashpoint will continue…
The Flash and all related characters – © 2011 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.