If you’ve had anything to do with any DC Comics property during the last eight years or so—including comics, video games and the CW shows—you’ve heard about Flashpoint. I think Flashpoint Batman was offered as an alternate skin in one of the Arkham games (probably Arkham Knight), and I really didn’t know what that was about at the time.
When I heard that Flashpoint was going to be worked into The CW’s The Flash a couple of seasons ago, I purchased this trade, which collects the 2011 comic book series Flashpoint, issues #1 through #5. I also watched the 2013 animated film adaptation, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, which gave me a better handle on the story than the television show did. So, I understood what this book was about, mostly, even before I opened its cover.
First off, let me just say that Andy Kubert’s artwork on this series is amazing. I know his father was the sequential art legend Joe Kubert, and that he has a brother who’s also in the biz. That’s about the sum of my knowledge about the man. Or, at least it was until I read this book. There wasn’t a single page in this book that didn’t offer something to impress me. I even see hints of Joe in there, but also Perez, Byrne, Kirby and even a bit of Jim Lee. With this single work, Kubert has managed to earn a spot in my personal pantheon of favorite comic book artists. He’s just that good.
The premise begins as a simple one, although it becomes infinitely more complicated. Barry Allen wakes up to discover he’s in an alternate timeline, one in which his mother was never murdered. This is okay, right? Even sweet. Good for Barry. Except . . .
Except lots of other stuff is different as well. In this timeline, Bruce Wayne was killed in Crime Alley and Thomas Wayne went on to become Batman. Not our Batman, but one who carries a sidearm and doesn’t hesitate to kill. Also, Superman doesn’t exist, at least not as we know him, and Cyborg seems to be in his place as the quintessential superhero. And, oh yeah, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are at war and western Europe is in ruins because of this.
Like a fractal snowflake, things grow more complicated from here on out. We get villains who are heroes here, Captain Thunder instead of Captain Marvel (and an alter ego much more complicated than just Billy Batson), and the ultimate realization—and this is not a SPOILER if you’re familiar with anything DC-related—that all of this was Barry Allen’s fault. Sure, we wanted it to be part of the nefarious designs of Eobard Thawne, the infamous Reverse Flash. But, it wasn’t, even though he relished Barry’s unintended outcomes.
Since this was a huge crossover event involving a lot more than just the five issues of the main series, I missed out on a lot of the backstory explaining things in the story that confused me. In a way, I’m happy about this, because this confusion added to the central mystery for me and kept my attention. I am evidence that you can enjoy this collected volume without reading the other seven Flashpoint-related volumes (including two preludes) that exist out there.
Will you always understand what’s going on? Most assuredly not. But, you’re a smart person. You’ll figure it out.
As for me, I enjoyed this one, and am beginning to understand why Geoff Johns is so highly regarded in the realm of superhero comics. The end of the series also serves to fold the DC, Vertigo and Wildstorm universes into one, in that uniquely DC Crisis form of reinvention. Of course, I realized that Jim Lee had joined DC Comics and had performed a decidedly un-hostile takeover, but, until this moment, I hadn’t known that all of the Wildstorm characters I had enjoyed during the beginning of Image Comics were now an official part of the DC pantheon of heroes. This knowledge gladdens my heart while making me a bit sad at the same time. Jim Lee is now part of the Establishment rather than one of the rebels.
The DC Comics of my youth, that gateway drug that eventually led me to Marvel Comics almost exclusively, no longer exists. While nostalgia can be a wonderful thing, the thing that replaced those earlier comics is also something worth experiencing. Flashpoint is an important milestone in DC’s evolution.
Firewater’s Alternate Timeline Report Card: A