Posted by Don MacPherson on August 31st, 2011
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Andy Kubert
Inks: Sandra Hope & Jesse Delperdang
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Cover artists: Andy Kubert & Sandra Hope (regular)/Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (variant)
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US
In some ways, Flashpoint #5 is exactly what people expect it to be: a bridge between DC’s past continuity to the world in which the publisher is setting its “New 52.” So in some respects, it’s a utilitarian comic book, a tool used in the construction of DC’s new “home,” so to speak. But the good news is that Johns doesn’t forget to tell a story here. While the conflict between the Atlanteans and Amazons that seems to have defined the world of Flashpoint goes unresolved in this climax, Johns finally explores the cosmic manipulations that led to the creation of the alternate timeline, and the answer is surprising. Not only is the source of the problem an unexpected one, the catalyst for the changes is one stemming from characterization, not some villainous plot to destroy reality or rule the world.
As the world’s superhumans endeavor to stop the planet-shattering war between Aquaman and Wonder Woman (and their peoples), the Flash finds himself face to face with his deadliest enemy, the Reverse-Flash. The speedster hero demands to know what his dark reflection has done to the timeline to create this broken world, but he’s shocked to learn that someone else is responsible for setting history off course. To make matters worse, the Reverse-Flash is now unshackled from the constraints of history, having been transformed into a walking time paradox by the alterations to the timeline. That’s going to make it all the more difficult for the Flash to race back in time and set history right.
Andy Kubert’s is pretty rough around the edges in several instances in this issue, and I can’t help but wonder if a tight deadline might have had something to do with it. Crowd scenes are incredibly loosely rendered, so much so that characters in the background look distorted. Nevertheless, I’m pleased the series as a whole had a consistent look to it, and the close action between the Flash and the Reverse-Flash really popped visually. Alex Sinclair’s colors are a bit of a mixed bag as well. Again, the juxtaposition of red and yellow for all of the Flash/Reverse-Flash bits dazzle the eye, but the flowing green effects that represent the Enchantress’ magic interference with and obfuscated the line art.
The revelation of what’s gone wrong with the world kind of comes from out of nowhere, but while I would have preferred it if Johns had foreshadowed that development, I have to admit that I enjoyed the twist. There’s a logical explanation as to why the Reverse-Flash was able to take advantage of the changes to the timeline even though he didn’t cause them (he was there when history was altered), and the character’s motive for putting a big dent in history is quite understandable, transforming an impossible, over-the-top science-fiction concept into something relatable for the reader.
Johns also includes a two-page spread in this issue that’s meant to serve as a transition from DC’s established continuity and history to the world of “the New 52″ (God, I wish DC had come up with a better name than that). It’s an awkward, lurching sequence that tries to jam three square pegs into one round hole by means of an all-too-convenient, cosmic being/plot device that’s almost completely unexplained. The sequence reads like DC is trying to dot its Is and cross its Ts, trying to stave off fanboy questions about how the DC Universe, the world of Wildstorm and the once segregated Vertigo characters came to find themselves share the same real estate. It’s a rather pointless couple of pages that’s about continuity housekeeping, not actual storytelling.
The strongest scene in the book is the final one, and it’s also the one with the most implications about the state of continuity in DC’s relaunched, shared universe. It seems the Flash has retained his knowledge of the previous world and of the Flashpoint timeline, but he’s also lived his life in the “New 52″ continuity. And now he’s shared that knowledge with another hero. It’s a bit puzzling, and this link to the now-overwritten continuity seems to muddy the waters a bit. Still, it reads to me like Johns and others at DC have done this to leave themselves a secret backdoor through which they can access the past.
Continuity concerns aside, the final scene is the most grounded and poignant of the entire series. People have been saying from the start that Flashpoint has been a Flash/Batman teamup story, and nothing makes that more clear than the final scene. The story was, at its heart, one about grief on a personal level, about losing a loved one far too early in life. Johns softens the Batman here in a way that makes it clear he’s a human being, not some madman driven to mete out justice. While Bruce Wayne’s parents’ deaths were the catalyst for the Batman, we seldom see the character actually dealing with those deaths. We see him trying to undo them time and time again, but really, the strength of the final scene is watching two men allowing themselves to feel their pain and to appreciate those loved ones despite the sense of loss that’s consumed them for so long. 6/10
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