Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of Flashpoint.
Flashpoint may be DC’s “Big Event” of the year, but it’s certainly not where all the buzz surrounding the publisher is coming from these days. That honor, of course, goes to the looming 52-book relaunch in September, the unprecedented move that’s had everyone in the comics world talking non-stop for the past two months. Comics folk may be naturally prone to constantly looking ahead to what’s coming next, but DC has kicked that tendency into overdrive.
Typically, a publisher would have to be irked at such a distraction, stealing the thunder from what is supposed to be drawing everyone’s attention. In Flashpoint’s case, however, that might be a good thing. Though it’s had its high points, this is an event storyline that, on the whole, has to be considered mediocre at best. The fact that DC has a massive restructuring right around the corner could be just what the doctor ordered for diverting droves of perturbed fanboys and girls from raking Flashpoint quite so viciously across the message board coals.
Regardless, it is nearly impossible to refrain from viewing several of the Flashpoint books as early predictors of the quality of the DCnU. This week’s offerings feature two writers, Tony Bedard and Jeff Lemire, who are at the helm of multiple new series coming in September. In each creator’s case, early returns are looking positive. Based on their respective output in Emperor Aquaman and Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown, both writers appear to be well poised to make the new DC Universe shine, creating some rare bright spots amidst the murky Flashpoint landscape while they’re at it.
Flashpoint: Citizen Cold #2 (of 3)
Writer: Scott Kolins
Artists: Scott Kolins, Mike Atiyeh (c)
Speaking of that murky landscape, here comes Citizen Cold. While some of the more decent Flashpoint books have improved with their second issues, the lesser series, like this one here, only seem to be getting worse. For all the good he has done for the Flash Rogues in his career as an artist, Scott Kolins just isn’t suited to writing them. He sets out to accomplish too much in this issue, all of which fails on the merits of its execution.
As introduced last month, Citizen Cold is a hardened criminal who manipulates a Flash-less Central City into praising him as its greatest hero. Kolins attempts to convey that combination of gruffness and charm by having Cold sit down to a lunch interview with reporter Iris West, but the result is a scene of dialogue that is nigh unreadable. From the way that the villain aggressively forces himself upon her romantically, it’s all we can do to believe that Iris wouldn’t slap him across the face, much less that she’d be starting to fall for him.
Following that, the remainder of the issue is dedicated to a battle between Cold and his own rogues gallery, themselves essentially a cadre of baddies from the regular Flash series. If anything could sell us on the moral ambiguity of Citizen Cold it would be the interaction between him and his foes, but the encounter turns out to be a rather subpar superhero slugfest. It’s a shame that one of the more Flash-centric components of this event centered around the Scarlet Speedster couldn’t have been a finer product.
Flashpoint: Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager #2 (of 3)
Writer: Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Joe Bennett, Tony Shasteen, The Hories (c)
No less violent than the debut issue, Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager #2 is a more focused effort than its predecessor, thereby making it a more enjoyable one as well. In a book filled with almost nothing but fierce battle scenes, Jimmy Palmiotti effectively establishes the unstoppable threat of Emperor Aquaman on the waters, even against a band of metahuman pirates who should be quite formidable. There’s not a lot of room left for story, but the conveyance of that single point should be strong enough to earn most readers’ forgiveness.
The contrast between the two artists who split time on this book is stark, but either one would be adequate to carry this series through to its conclusion. Bennett’s work is more dynamic and fluid than Shasteen’s, but it lacks the latter’s crispness and clarity. It is fitting, then, that Bennett takes the bulk of the action scenes while Shasteen renders most of the talking heads. Rarely does the use of more than a single artist work toward an issue’s benefit, but when deadlines make it necessary it is good to see each one employed to his or her strengths.
Flashpoint: Emperor Aquaman #2 (of 3)
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artists: Vicente Cifuentes, Diana Egea (i), Kyle Ritter (c)
As the backstory to the Atlantean-Amazon war has been filled in piece by piece throughout various Flashpoint books, it has become clear that the genesis of the conflict was punctuated by a number of singular, highly emotional events. Tony Bedard unveils several of those events for us this month in Emperor Aquaman, doing so with a surprising skill at conveying their gravity. Equally up to the task is Vicente Cifuentes, the rare backup artist whose work ends up exceeding that of the original. Cifuentes brings a high level of detail to the table, and, while he struggles with drawing babies and teenagers, effectively communicates the powerful moments Bedard’s script mandates.
Though there are a few present-day scenes, most of this issue’s content involves the origin of the Flashpoint Aquaman. Inside or out of the regular DCU timeline, it is hard to imagine the tale of the sea king’s beginnings having been told any better in such a succinct format. Bedard manages to include all the necessary elements, both tragic and mythic, perfectly framing them all with rolling narration that enhances the sense of grandiose epic. Even when the story splits off from the classic version to include its Flashpoint-specific tweakings, it remains informative of Aquaman’s standard incarnation, crediting his heroic nature as the equal product of two worlds.
Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown #2 (of 3)
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Ibraim Roberson, Alex Massacci, Pete Pantazis (c)
It is one thing that Jeff Lemire could make a character like the DCU Frankenstein interesting (he was, after all, once written by Grant Morrison), but it is yet another that he could do the same for an obscure bunch like the
Creature Commandos. It may be the origin story no one asked for, but darned if I don’t find the flashbacks this issue gives us of Nina’s past a moving and engaging read. (She’s the fish one, by the way.) The same goes for Shrieve, the vengeful monster hunter who is established here as the perfect adversary for ol’ Frank and his team of beasts.
All of which sets up quite the dilemma for DC and its upcoming Frankenstein ongoing, also penned by Lemire. The background laid here in this (very tangential) Flashpoint tie-in is definitely good enough to serve as the basis for a permanent series, though it wouldn’t exactly be new-reader-friendly to ground the forthcoming book in a pre-relaunch crossover. In all likelihood, Creatures of the Unknown has its destiny as a comics footnote — a disconnected preview to what will hopefully be a gem of a series come September. Whatever the future holds, I’m content to simply enjoy what has become a welcome reprieve from the Flashpoint doldrums.
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
Chris’ review of Flashpoint #3
Raised on a steady diet of Super Powers action figures and Adam West Batman reruns, Chris Kiser now writes for Comics Bulletin. He’s currently in the midst of reading and reviewing every tie-in to a major DC Comics summer event and regretting every second of it.