In the comics industry, the market is made up of two separate yet equally important groups. The publishers, who print overblown crossovers, and the readers, who mindlessly buy them. These are their stories.
In a stunning turn of events, the experience of reading this week’s Flashpoint books was not altogether excruciating. Maybe this cynical old heart is just getting soft, but I daresay there were some genuinely enjoyable moments to be had. Now that we’re past the midway point of every tie-in having debuted, it’s good to know that not every creator involved is simply phoning it in.
Of course, this week’s reprieve from terribleness could all be an illusion, brought on by DC’s choice to regale us all with a special Subway-sponsored insert featuring a team-up between the Justice League and some NFL defensive linemen. Compared to this synergistic abomination, just about anything would look good. Except for possibly the Green Lantern movie.
Truth be told, though, I think Week Three’s batch would have seemed okay even without a juxtaposition between it and an ill-conceived plea to sell sandwiches. On the whole, this is a group whose creators seem legitimately concerned with reestablishing their characters within the drastically different Flashpoint context, an effort that hasn’t been a given among their peers. What say we take a closer look? Sounds good, Ndamukong.
Flashpoint: Deadman and the Flying Graysons #1 (of 3)
Writer: J.T. Krul
Artists: Mikel Janin, Ulises Arreola (c)
With two of the DCU’s notable heroes having been born out of tragedies sustained in their civilian lives as circus performers, it stands to reason that they might have crossed paths had those tragedies not occurred. Spared the defining moments of their in-continuity origins, Dick Grayson and Boston Brand, the man who would be Deadman, carry on careers under the big top as they tour the dangerous landscape of Flashpoint Europe. It’s a nifty premise that makes good use of the main series’ status quo as well as forms creative new linkages between characters who were heretofore unrelated.
J.T. Krul highlights why the central characters here are an inspired pairing, and it goes beyond their shared acrobatic vocations. Dick, the beneficiary of a loving set of parents, is a kind, well-adjusted young man, whereas Boston is a brash, arrogant loner. The natural conflict between the two is handled well, though it is often established via some strained, unnatural dialogue. Janin and Arreola’s art can be similarly described, reminiscent of J.G. Jones’ Final Crisis work in the moments it avoids looking too stiff. My qualms with both creators are easily forgiven, as Deadman and the Flying Graysons bears all the marks of a textbook tie-in.
Flashpoint: Grodd of War (one-shot)
Writer: Sean Ryan
Artists: Ig Guara (p), Ruy José (i), Stefani Rennee (c)
It was a wise move to tag Grodd of War as a one-shot instead of a full-blown three-issue mini-series, as its underlying thesis is accordingly one-note. It’s a good note, though, one that amounts to a logical theorization of the course Gorilla Grodd’s life would have taken if the Flash had never existed to thwart his plans for world conquest. Having taken control of the entire African continent, Grodd is found here suffering a severe bout of Alexander the Great syndrome.
Sean Ryan does a nice job hammering home the ironic depression brought on by Grodd’s many victories, even if we’ve more than gotten the point well before the end of the issue. His take has the character constantly seeking a challenge, never finding it amidst the endless violence that Ig Guara so adeptly depicts. It is interesting to see how the Flashpoint Grodd essentially bears the same personality and goals as the official version, yet his place in this alternate world grants him a new story to be told.
Flashpoint: Legion of Doom #1 (of 3)
Writer: Adam Glass
Artists: Rodney Buchemi (p), José Marzán, Jr. (i), Artur Fujita (c)
Lest we get too optimistic, Legion of Doom is here to remind the world that Flashpoint is not on track to become one of history’s great comics crossovers. Despite the title’s evocation of a sense of classic, Super Friends-style fun, this is a rather drab story that so far contributes nothing to Flashpoint‘s world building. There’s not even really a Legion in it. This is essentially a solo tale starring Heat Wave, a villain who appears to essentially play the same role in Flashpoint as he does in the DCU proper.
After murdering one half of the duo that makes up Firestorm, Heat Wave is apprehended and sentenced to a maximum security facility where he encounters an HBO original series’ worth of prison clichés. At times, Glass and Buchemi have a hard time depicting the action clearly, especially in the issue’s opening scene. The effort is partially salvaged by a pretty great cliffhanger ending, but this book could have used many more moments like it.
Flashpoint: Wonder Woman and the Furies #1 (of 3)
Writer: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Artists: Scott Clark (p), David Beaty (i), Nei Ruffino (c)
When you spring for a quality creative team on an event tie-in book, wonderful things can happen. Dan Abnett and Andy Landing make their heroic return to DC Comics this week, bringing with them a lynchpin tale of political strife within the Flashpoint world. We’ve previously caught glimpses of the catastrophic falling out between Wonder Woman and Aquaman that plunged Europe into war, and DnA use that prior knowledge to good effect in unveiling the conflict’s background. The stakes are high and the characters’ motives are believable, making this the first must-read Flashpoint book.
Clark and Beaty bring an artistry to the table as well. Their visuals differ quite sharply from the issue’s conventionally bright Ed Benes cover image, instead relying upon a heavy dose of silhouettes and shadows. Their rendition of Princess Diana is remarkably beautiful and youthful, a far cry from the vengeful warrior we know she becomes. Bonus points go to Clark for never resorting to simple border lines to delineate his panels, making use of Greek architecture, roaring waves, and monstrous tentacles to do the trick.
For more comic book related masochism, check out the previous installments of our Flashpoint Marathon:
Our Sunday Slugfest review of Flashpoint #1
Chris’ review of Flashpoint #2