It would be easy to relentlessly bash the final chapter of Flashpoint by nitpicking it to death, as it offers many opportunities to do so. In fact, with the past 13 weeks spent doing that exact sort of thing in a feature for this site called Flashpoint Marathon, you could say that I’ve become an old pro at it. As it was with many of the Flashpoint tie-in miniseries and one-shots covered there, Geoff Johns’ grand finale for the event leans heavily on half-cocked sci-fi explanations that don’t meet the burden of proof that readers in today’s world of Warren Ellis and Christopher Nolan have come to expect. It’s very stereotypically “comic booky,” reflecting much of what those outside of fanboy circles purport to dislike about the superhero genre.
Unlike most of those other Flashpoint comics, however, this book has a heavy helping of genuine heart. A well-executed twist in the opening pages of the issue transforms this otherwise bloated and empty event series into an intensely personal character drama, one in which Barry Allen, the Flash, must navigate through an emotional minefield of guilt and self-sacrifice. Upon learning the true cause of the history-altering event that has caused the world to crumble around him, Barry discovers that playing the hero this go-round will require more than simply besting his archenemy in combat. The revelation feels organic to the story and even obvious in retrospect, and Johns is to be commended for disguising it so well in earlier chapters.
Beyond the initial shock value of the intro, Johns keeps it going with some nicely handled interaction between Barry and some of the book’s other major characters, each of whom impacts the story in a unique way. The inevitable final battle with the Reverse Flash is intense and visceral, with the series antagonist exhibiting a vicious sadism born out of extreme hate for our hero. By the end, Johns has elevated the villain to the status of one of DC’s vilest, in the vein of those like the Joker. Moving are the scenes Barry shares with his destined-to-die mother, but even more so are those involving Batman. Throughout the course of the series, Johns has set up the Flash as a man dealing with great loss, and the sight of him sharing that grief with the often stoic Dark Knight is a striking image readers won’t soon forget.
Of the two artists drawing books for DC this week, Andy Kubert takes the prize for creating the best looking stuff. When the other guy in the mix is Jim Lee, you know that’s a big compliment. Whereas Lee packs his Justice League #1 with an uncomfortable overload of detail, Kubert puts his talents to use enhancing the virtues of an already strong story. He keeps his villains snarling and nasty and his touching moments honest and tender. While the ballyhooed two-page spread that illustrates the transition from the old DC Universe to that of the “New 52” leaves a bit to be desired, the rest of Kubert’s work is strong. Considering the numerous other promotional efforts DC has undertaken to publicize its upcoming company-wide relaunch, Kubert can be forgiven for not sticking his perfectly.
Ever since Geoff Johns took it upon himself to reintroduce Barry Allen to the modern DCU, audiences have been awaiting the moment of relevancy found here. Flashpoint #5 puts a coda on the two-year arc that began with 2009’s The Flash: Rebirth, and, like all good finales, it is easily the story’s high point. For all its many faults, Flashpoint suffered chiefly from a forced extension beyond its own capacity to be made into a major company-wide event. As a simple story about heroism and the costs it entails, it turned out not to be too shabby after all.
Raised on a steady diet of Super Powers action figures and Adam West Batman reruns, Chris Kiser now writes for Comics Bulletin. He once reviewed every tie-in to a major DC Comics summer event and survived to tell the tale. Ask him about it on Twitter as @Chris_Kiser!