Graphic Detail: Flashpoint
Graphic Detail takes an in-depth look at a new graphic novel or trade paperback released each week.
In Flashpoint, Barry Allen—aka the Flash—wakes up to a world he doesn't know. He can't run fast, no one's ever heard of his superhero alter ego, and Wonder Woman and Aquaman are at war. Barry's convinced that his arch-enemy Eobard Thawne (the Reverse Flash) has somehow gone back in time and altered the world to ensure that its greatest superheroes are never created. But what can Barry do about it?
Flashpoint can rightfully be called "the book that changed everything." At the end of this series, the entire DC Universe gets a new status quo that current comic readers know as "The New 52." In other words, the events of Flashpoint caused DC's entire line of superhero comics to reboot. So clearly this is an important story. But is it any good?
It turns out that the answer is "mostly, yeah." Let's start with the most obvious positive about Flashpoint—its art, courtesy of Andy Kubert, a longtime comics veteran who has a tight pencil and a great eye for detail. Together with his partners-in-crime Sandra Hope, Jesse Delperdang and Alex Sinclair, he makes Flashpoint a great-looking action comic full of cool characters and flashy graphics (yes, that was a pun). Kubert especially does a lot of excellent work with this book's version of Batman, a character he's done great stuff with before.
As far as the story, by DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, it's a little more divisive, and understandably so. The book starts as a pretty standard alternate reality tale—a character wakes up in a strange world, figures out how it's different, and sets his sights on fixing it at any cost. Flashpoint takes a couple of twists along the way, especially at the end, when readers learn the true nature of the Reverse Flash's scheme—or lack thereof, maybe. Johns also keeps the story interesting by doubling down on the plot—even though mostly we want to see Barry fix the timeline, first he's got to deal with the impending war between Aquaman and Wonder Woman, which is a whole other mess for our characters to handle.
And, as usual with these alternate universe stories, there's a lot of fun to be had seeing our favorite characters in a slightly different light. The most obvious example is Batman, this book's co-star, who in this universe is not Bruce Wayne but Thomas Wayne, Bruce's dad. It turns out in this world the famous mugging that left Bruce an angry orphan went down a little differently, and a different member of his family survived, carrying a nasty death wish for the rest of his life (Thomas is very eager to help Barry bring back a world where Bruce survived instead). Other little twists will be a lot of fun for DC readers; Flashpoint finds a great variation on the Shazam character, for instance, by splitting his human form into seven teenagers, each with one different super power (one has the wisdom of Solomon, one has the strength of Hercules, etc.). Very clever.
There are two big issues that might strike you as strange in Flashpoint. First is the method by which Barry regains his speed powers in this alternate world. For lack of spoilers, we won't exactly spell it out, but it seems kind of… clumsy? Dangerous? Not great, at any rate. It's definitely a "kids don't try this at home" moment if ever there was one (and it happens twice, which is where it might really lose you). There's also the bigger question of whether you accept the new version of reality that Flashpoint produces, resulting in the New 52 line of comics currently running at DC. Some fans were completely turned off by DC's in-story reboot; others thought it was kind of a clever way to refresh their line of superhero comics. How you feel's going to come down to personal opinion, but while there are no doubt some amazing books being put out at DC right now, for some readers Flashpoint was just a line in the sand not to cross.
But ignoring the aftereffects of Flashpoint for a second, as well as a couple strange plot points, it's a pretty satisfying read, with gorgeous art and great superhero action. By the time the book reaches its climax and familiar characters begin to retake the roles we know they're destined to have, most DC fans can probably find something to enjoy. If nothing else, Barry Allen is a solid main character, one who it's been a joy to follow over into DC's current flagship title, Justice League. B