This summer, a single Comics Bulletin reviewer takes on the entire flood of tie-ins from this year’s DC Comics Big Event. It is an exercise in madness that we can only call… Flashpoint Marathon.
For comics creators, major crossovers have the potential to serve as a great equalizer. Placed on a high profile tie-in, a heretofore unknown creator has a chance to win over an audience who may not have otherwise been made aware of him. Conversely, the editorial constraints a crossover places upon the imaginations of big name creators can often result in the least inspired work of their careers.
So far, Flashpoint has strongly demonstrated its ability to do the damage of the latter, without any indication yet of achieving the hopefulness of the former. Two of the most notable creative teams associated with the event launch their debut issues this week, and both efforts fall flat. Add that to the pair of mediocre chapters we’ve already received of the main title, and it’s hard to muster up much enthusiasm for the prospects of Flashpoint down the stretch.
Just one week into this effort to review every Flashpoint tie-in, a troubling thought is already echoing through my brain: I’ve made a terrible mistake.
Flashpoint: Abin Sur – The Green Lantern
Writer: Adam Schlagman
Artists: Relipe Massafera, Rod Reis (c)
Judging by the way the GL Corps uniforms in this book are drawn and colored, it seems likely that this book was designed to catch the eye of those interested in the forthcoming Green Lantern movie. DC and Warner Brothers better hope that ploy fails completely, as exposure to this comic could not only scare filmgoers away from seeing GL in the theater but away from superheroes altogether. In other words, Adam Schlagman, the DC editor who slums it here as a writer, might want to hang onto his day job.
In upholding an unwavering dedication to protecting life, his Abin Sur either demonstrates great virtue or a fatal flaw (Schlagman doesn’t appear to be sure which one). Just about everything here is half-developed, from the character relationships to the threats lurking in Abin’s Space Sector 2814. Only one moment in the issue stands out as memorable: the cliffhanger in which Sinestro tries to figure out the details of something called the “Prophecy of the Flashpoint.” Because, you know, it’s neat when characters say the title of things.
Flashpoint: Batman Knight of Vengeance #1 (of 3)
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artists: Eduardo Risso, Patricia Mulvihill (c)
The Flashpoint Batman is one gruff, hard-nosed dude, and the powers at DC want to make sure that you know it. Nary a panel goes by in this tie-in where the character isn’t scowling, grumbling, or cursing — and pleased to direct all three dispositions toward friends and foes alike. His notion of crime fighting involves running a seedy casino where he can keep an eye on Gotham’s underworld, and, when that doesn’t work, he’s perfectly content to take on the role of executioner.
If none of the above is enough to convince you that the alt-verse Bats is a tough guy, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso are the creative team here, their names alone evoking a distinct brand of crime noir. Their efforts are unfortunately an exhibition of style over substance, the pair cramming so much mood down our throats that they neglect to set up the foundations for a compelling story. Azzarello and Risso aren’t the first to try to out-dark the Dark Knight, resorting to a formulaic approach that has grown much staler since the days of 1980s Frank Miller.
Flashpoint: Secret Seven #1 (of 3)
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artists: George Pérez, Fernando Blanco, Scott Koblish (i), Tom Smith (c)
In the second panel of this comic, a young woman remarks that, while she’s never taken LSD, the oddity she’s just witnessed made her feel like she was under the hallucinogen’s influence. Go ahead and slap that line of dialogue on the front cover, DC, because I can’t think of a better way to describe the experience of reading Secret Seven. This is a painfully weird comic, and that’s coming from a guy who generally likes weird comics. I loved The Umbrella Academy. Heck, I even liked Seaguy!
Unlike those books, however, Secret Seven has no discernable core around which its off-the-wall strangeness revolves. For a story about a (possibly insane) alien being with a magical vest who may or may not have killed his earthly teammates, Milligan has a lot of explaining to do. If I’ve never read an issue of Shade the Changing Man, the vested character in question, then how am I supposed to understand how any of this relates to the DC Universe — Flashpoint version or otherwise?
Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint #1 (of 3)
Writer: Rex Ogle
Artists: Eduardo Francisco, Paulo Siqueira, Roland Paris (i), Stefani Renee (c)
Unlike what I suggested in last week’s introductory Flashpoint Marathon column, The World of Flashpoint turns out to be neither an anthology series nor a straight up history book. Instead, it’s a present-day tale starring the Flashpoint version of Traci 13, a relatively obscure Superman character with immense magical powers. As the events of the Amazonian-Atlantean war crumble the world around her, Traci deals with both personal loss and guilt over her failure to use her abilities to help. It makes for an unexpectedly satisfying story.
Rex Ogle is one of those dreaded editors-turned-writers, yet he manages to convey Traci’s tale quite competently. He sets up a believable conflict for the girl, one bolstered by a judicious use of flashbacks. Thrown in are some intriguing clues as to what caused the Flashpoint timeline to go astray, making this the only tie-in so far to enhance the experience of reading the tentpole book. Main series included, this could be the best issue of Flashpoint we’ve seen yet, though I wish that were a more meaningful statement.
For more comic book related masochism, check out the other installments of our Flashpoint Marathon:
Our Sunday Slugfest review of Flashpoint #1
Chris’ review of Flashpoint #2