The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Flashpoint Read-Through, Part Two

Posted by BigWords on May 14, 2013

or, Everything Is Better With Pirates

Yes, Pirates. Dear gods, the things I read… With Deathstroke, whose own title started out okay but descended into melodrama of the highest order, as the captain of a vessel sailing the deadly seas, the opening of the second issue strikes out in a different direction to what I expected. The atmosphere is really moody until we get back to Batman beating up Barry Allen, though I could have done without the inclusion of a terrible depiction of Clayface, who doesn’t look anything like Clayface. The chatter doesn’t flow as well as it could have, and it feels like there is a missing scene in the first part of the book.

But before we get further we need a proper title for this issue, published as merely Chapter Two.

Flashpoint 2: Siege Perilous

One of these days I will finally accept the low standards which DC have, but until then I will continue to look for intelligent, nuanced storytelling and deep characterization. Not that it is doing me any good with these superhero titles, which seemingly exist for the sole purpose of maintaining the characters in print for exploitation in video games, increasingly abysmal films and mediocre television shows. Yes, Smallville, I am talking about you. But back to Flashpoint, and the story at hand…

Barry gets off to a bad start with this universe’s Batman, winding up with a broken hand for his troubles in a scene which sounds better than it actually is. As memories flood his mind, The Man Who Would Be Flash realizes that time has been manipulated to bring about events as they are. There’s a certain line in the three-quarter page revelation which actually made me wrinkle my nose in frustration, “Wonder Woman leading the Amazons… On a blitzkrieg in London.” It is the kind of on-the-nose line which demands a red pencil in the editing stage, yet there it is.

Man, this is so disappointing in every regard – yes, even the art, which feels like it has been pulled from a late-90s title – that it is a wonder I can bring myself to continue past this point. It is waaaay too soon for that to be used, and the minimum point where it should have been revealed to be London is the third issue. The story has not gotten to the point where we need to know that Wonder Woman has taken Britain as New Themiscyra. And why the hell does DC continually screw up the spelling? Actually, given everything else I should have expected such sloppiness. This issue should have focused more on the moment, letting events play out towards the issue’s dénouement.

I’ll hold off on dealing with the Wonder Woman sequence until the next issue, but the prolonged scene in which Barry Allen sets about restoring his powers is one of the highlights of the issue – masterfully paced to set up the pay-off, though marred by a few ridiculous pieces of dialogue which fatally undermine the tension. Had it ran (no pun intended) without dialogue, it would have been perfect, but the lines kill the tension with unintentional comedy.

“They say lightning never strikes the same place twice.”
They say a lot of things.”

More than being overly-familiar to anyone who can read, the line smacks of being hastily sketched in to fill space rather than anything that speaks to character. That it is also patently stupid is another matter. Thomas Wayne is a doctor, and Barry Allen is a chemist who works with the police, and both men are undoubtedly intelligent. If anyone in the DC universe knows such a statement to be completely unfounded, it is these two individuals. There are numerous instances of people struck by lightning more than once, and it is a relatively well-known fact that both the Empire State Building and The Eiffel Tower are routinely hit by lightning.

Hell, there are a couple of thousand thunderstorms taking place right now.

It is this kind of writing which I get dragged out of the story by. Had this been Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, or other characters who have previously bounced the idiot ball back and forth, then I might have been more forgiving. But Batman and The Flash? Ugh. It does lead to the best cliffhanger of the series thus far, and for a final image it is well worth trudging through the rather turgid events. It is hard to imagine a more powerful closing scene, and it works perfectly to drag the reader along.

Some people may be wondering why I am expending so much energy on showing up the flaws in this story, but it is important to understand the conventions being used and those broken. To see the way the individual elements come together to make narrative. Even bad storytelling can teach about the way story evolves from events and characters, perhaps moreso than from expertly-told tales which are free from any criticism. By the time we reach the final issue, it should be clear that this could have been one of the most momentous events DC Comics had ever handled, had certain changes been made between plotting and publishing.

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