While Marvel’s big event book of the year has already seen two issues hit the stands, DC’s foray into the genre for 2011 gets underway this week.
Not only did we see the release of Flashpoint #1 this week, the story arc leading up to the event — “The Road to Flashpoint” in The Flash — concludes, so I figured I’d delve into both comics.
The Flash #12
“Case Two: The Road to Flashpoint, Part Four”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Scott Kolins & Francis Manapul
Colors: Michael Atiyeh & Brian Buccellato
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Cover artists: Manapul (regular edition)/Francis Portela (variant)
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
DC Comics, Geoff Johns and others involved in the creation of this comic book break a number of promises here, and those interested in the title character, the Flashpoint event and this series would be well advised to steer clear of this particular issue. I’m a big fan of Johns and both artists who contribute to this comic book, but it managed to be a disappointment all the same. The most frustrating aspect of the issue is the fact that despite the title (and cover dress), it doesn’t lead into Flashpoint and isn’t required or even recommended reading for DC Universe fans.
While Hot Pursuit, an alternate-universe version of Barry Allen, sets out to eliminate Kid Flash, believing him to be a temporal anomaly that threatens reality. But the real threat is the Reverse-Flash, who’s returned with new powers to continue his deranged mission to unravel the Flash’s life while tapping into the secrets and power of the Speed Force. Later, Iris Allen sits with her husband and tells him of the concerns she and the rest of the family have about the distance he’s putting between himself and those closest to him.
As I write this, the listing for this comic book on DC’s website still notes Francis Manapul as the artist on the entire issue; he actually provides only five pages’ worth of art. The rest of the issue is illustrated by Scott Kolins, an established Flash artist himself. The regular-edition cover art on the website doesn’t match the final product either, and the online listing indicates George Perez is the variant-edition cover artist while in reality, it’s Francis Portela. Furthermore, while DC has announced that this is the final issue of the series, there’s no indication on the cover or inside that this is it for the title. While these elements don’t impact the final evaluation of the strength of the storytelling in this comic book, they do serve as a sign that the book seems to be mismanaged and/or rushed.
Kolins has proven many times in the past that he’s adept that bringing the super-speed adventures of DC’s speedster heroes to life, and he does so again here. What’s interesting is that he’s paired with a colorist who employs an exceedingly brilliant color palette to add to those effects. Michael Atiyeh’s colors work well, as much of the issue focuses on the power of the Speed Force and the energies that the villain controls. Of course, when the art switches from Kolins’ and Atiyeh’s efforts to Manapul’s and Buccellato, it makes for a jarring shift. There’s a much softer tone to Manapul’s linework and a more muted approach to the colors. Mind you, those scenes are much more grounded in tone, so there’s a logical reason for a different look or tone. Still, the shift took me out of the story (such as it is) and focused my attention on the creative glitches that arose during the publishing process.
The problem with Johns’ story is that it’s completely inconsequential. Hot Pursuit, the de-aged murder victims… none of it matters. The so-called “Road to Flashpoint” begins in the final two pages of this issue, as the Reverse-Flash makes his next move against his old enemy. Really, those two pages could’ve occurred right after Flash: Rebirth. I’m at a complete loss as to why Johns introduced Hot Pursuit in this story arc. It feels like I invested in the four-issue arc for little or no return. 4/10
“Chapter One of Five”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Andy Kubert
Inks: Sandra Hope
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Cover artists: Kubert & Hope (regular edition)/Ivan Reis & George Perez (variant)
Editors: Adam Schlagman & Rex Ogle
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US
I guess DC’s not “drawing the line at $2.99” anymore, at least not with a major title such as this one. Fortunately, the extra buck gives the reader an extra 14 pages of story and art, so the higher price doesn’t really represent a broken promise from the publisher. While the larger plot of this event book stems from the Reverse-Flash’s apparent manipulation of the past, the real strength of Johns’ script stems from the new character concepts that abound throughout the comic. Johns doesn’t just offer up new interpretations of familiar characters; there are also some brand new ideas and characters at play here. Another great thing about the book is that it’s quite accessible. One need only have a passing familiarity with the DC Universe to appreciate what’s going on here. I was excited about Flashpoint when it was revealed that Johns was building a colorful new universe out of the pieces of the DC lore I’ve come to know over the decades, and I can honestly say I wasn’t disappointed.
Barry Allen wakes up to find himself in a world that he doesn’t recognize. No one knows who Superman is. Central City’s most celebrated hero is Citizen Cold. And worst of all, he’s lost his connection to the Speed Force. Despite his concerns and fears, though, Barry does find one pleasant change, and that’s a reunion with a loved one he lost long ago. Meanwhile, in Gotham City, Cyborg, America’s greatest hero, meets with a much harsher and vengeful dark knight to propose an alliance among metahumans to stave the inevitable disaster that will befall the country should the war between Wonder Woman and Aquaman (and their respective armies) overseas go unchecked.
Kubert’s angular, exaggerated artwork suits the slightly darker, intense tone for which the plot strives. Maybe the most impressive visual in the book is Kubert’s vision of Gotham City as an East Coast incarnation of Vegas; one really gets a sense of a much different world from the two-page spread of a different Batman swinging through the skies over a neon cityscape. Sandra Hope’s inks have meshed well with Kubert’s looser, rough pencilling style. The only aspect of the artwork on this book that didn’t work for me was the first two-page splash depicting the more traditional and familiar incarnations of various DC super-heroes; it looks rough, awkward and rushed and not at all like the impressive charge of action it was intended to be.
There are two dramas unfolding in this book. The first we see is Barry Allen’s drama, as he strives to get the bottom of how and why the world has changed. The thing is, the audience already knows how (if they’ve walked “The Road to Flashpoint”). While DC Comics has promised that Flashpoint is going to bring lasting change to its shared super-hero continuity, “change” is a relative term. The reality is that we know Dc’s icons are essentially static, marketable properties. Eventually, things will be put right; that’s the expectation the reader has, so there’s not all that much suspense to be had from Barry’s conflict.
The other drama is much more interesting, and it’s the one that served as the larger backdrop for this series. I’m interested in a world at war. I’m interested a team of teen heroes who’ve divvied up the powers of several gods. I’m interested in what transformed Gotham from a dark, gothic den of danger into a Day-Glo city of sin. Why is this new Element Woman so keen to please, to be a part of something? There’s such a diverse array of characters to discover, and they all have their own stories to tell. The strength of Flashpoint isn’t how the DC Universe changed but instead the whole universe of new stories and characters that change made possible. 7/10
Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.