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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review: 'Flashpoint' #1

By Don M. Ventura

Flashpoint #1
DC Comics

There were three important acts in Flashpoint #1, DC Comics’ summer event that is expected to be a big game-changer for the DCU come this Fall.

The first act, which establishes the plight of our hero—Barry Allen—works on every note. The final act, which reveals how drastically the world has changed is also an enormous success in its jaw-droppingness. It’s the middle act where the story falters. But I’ll come to the second act chronologically.

The story opens with Barry Allen waking up in the crime lab of Central City Police Department. Immediately he realizes things aren’t right. Captain Cold, it would seem, is now the city’s protector. Barry races into action—or so he attempts. Barry no longer has his famous Flash ring. Barry is no longer the Flash.

Johns is a master storyteller and the reader is drawn in immediately to Barry’s dilemma. Barry immediately runs into his dead mother then learns that, not only is Iris West not married to him, she’s with another man. Again, John sets up the pieces quickly and ably in this opening sequence. I suspect that we—and Barry—will be forced to face some gut-wrenching choices when he attempts to repair the fractured timeline.

But then we come to the second act and I question Johns’ approach to the storytelling. Cyborg is a heavy-hitter in this universe. He implores Batman to join him and a cadre of this timeline’s heroes to take on the murderous, bloodthirsty warriors Aquaman and Wonder Woman. Batman declines and the heroes opt out of Cyborg’s league.

What we get in this scene are a bunch of talking heads; the overlong scene is meant to introduce the readers to the all-new all-different take on the characters that will populate the supporting Flashpoint titles (such as Flashpoint: Citizen Cold and Flashpoint: Secret Seven). The scene fails significantly to pique my interest in reading about these other characters. A stronger device would have been to replace these eight wordy pages with a montage of scenes to better illustrate the differences made to this timeline.

Other than the inclusion of Captain Marvel (Captain Thunder here) there was nothing about this scene that made me want to follow these ancillary characters’ forthcoming stories. Captain Thunder is cool because he is made up of six children, each who represent one of the hero’s six powers (wisdom of Solomon, strength of Hercules, etc.).

We end with Barry Allen who is stuck in traffic as he heads to Wayne Manor to solicit his former partner’s assistance in putting things right. This final scene demonstrates Johns’ ability to throw a fantastic twist into the story, one that will be interesting to see how it plays out over the course of story. Ultimately this story seems as though it is also going to be about the tragic loss of family and the sacrifices we would make to protect our loved ones.

Storytelling aside, I thoroughly enjoyed Andy Kubert’s work on the book. Big event books deserve top artists and Flashpoint succeeds with Kubert’s dynamic pages. His work talent for lively panels is wasted for much of the middle act, save a fantastic two-page spread of Batman soaring across the altered skyline of Gotham.

Flashpoint the series has me hooked for sure. However, I’m not yet sold on Flashpoint the event.

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