The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Flashpoint Read-Through, Part Three

Posted by BigWords on May 15, 2013

There are two extremely important pages in any comic – pages which the retention of reader interest is won or lost. The first page has to have something to keep the reader turning the pages, and the final page must be shocking, or intriguing, or… anything – so long as people are prompted to pick up the next issue, then the page has done its’ work. Looking through the first three issues, past the midway point in the series, we have a fairly good hit rate. The first issue opens with a “day in the life” moment that is forgettable (I had to go check how the story began), and closed with Batman grabbing Barry Allen. It isn’t the best issue to choose for such an example.

By the second issue we get a dramatic confrontation at sea, pulling us into the wider story, and closes with Barry badly burned in an attempt to regain his powers. It is the perfect way to keep people guessing as to the sweep of the story, and shows the heights this comic could have achieved routinely with a little more attention. Is this a bad series? No. It is a troubling example of the slapdash nature of superhero comics these days, which are increasingly pandering to an audience which is largely unconcerned with the traditional merits of narrative in place of the eternal question of which character is stronger.

Man, am I ever digging a hole for myself here…

And off we go, further into the rabbit hole.

Flashpoint 3: Λονδινιου

Opening, rather bizarrely, with a scene in which Cyborg gets metaphorically bitch-slapped by the President of the United States. It could have served to show the desperate nature of events, or to impart an understanding of where Cyborg has been positioned in this timeline, but like everything else it is more of a vignette than a scene, tapering off before we can discover anything interesting. Some may want to point out the tie-in comics to this series, but as I have made clear elsewhere, that stuff doesn’t count. If, while watching a film, a question is posed and unanswered, then it remains unanswered even if the answer is in a tie-in novel. Even the official soundtrack, should it contain the answer, is not sufficient. Everything should be present.

Making people go buy other books to enjoy a deeper understanding of plot and character is not something to be shied away from, but to insult the audience by offering such a flimsy handful of scenes is. The whole should be greater than the sum of its’ parts, with spin-off tales forming naturally from undeveloped branches, but here we are not presented with even the rudimentary elements required to piece together a reason for the arbitrary ticking clock. The invasion against an overwhelming enemy is not presented with even the slightest bit of common sense, and it appears from all the evidence we are given that there is a suicidal element at work.

This is the issue in which The Flash finally regains his powers, but it also presents something of a problem. Thomas Wayne explicitly states that Barry has suffered third degree burns over seventy-five percent of his body, though this doesn’t stop Barry from getting up from his bed and walking – with a little help – back to the electric chair where he will attempt to recreate the accident which gave him his powers. Lets just look at that for a moment. These are burns which have penetrated to the deepest layer of skin, over most of his body. In his condition, and with the drugs being pumped into him, Barry should not be able to do much except moan feebly.

Whatever. People in tights are gonna be hitting each other soon, which is why people bought this. Fuck the logic.

Immediately following is the reveal which should have been. Had the location of Wonder Woman’s opened this issue, with a dramatic enough scene, then I could have forgiven the mishandling of other elements, but we don’t get such style here. The rationale for Britain being the site of her battleground has not been brought up thus far, and it holds so many possibilities – none of which we get to enjoy. It would have made sense (to me) that the marrying of DC Comics history and the history of London should be intertwined to allow for something approaching a unified history.

Let me dig into this a little. I’ll be very brief. I mentioned the importance of the opening and closing pages in keeping the momentum of the story going, and there was the perfect opportunity present with the midway point to really drive home the difference between this reality and the one in which The Flash was part of the Justice League alongside Superman and Batman. We could have seen a full-page illustration of Wonder Woman, in full battle armor, standing in front of the ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the dome symbolically smashed in a recreation of the damage done in WWII. There is history which ties the fictional character to the site in the form of a Temple Of Diana which is said to have been situated on the site of the cathedral.

Intelligent use of location is not something we are dealing with much in this series. It is the small details, the minute reality, which lends authenticity to the most spectacular and unbelievable scenes. When reality is stripped away, we are left with what amounts to a four-color transposition of a Michael Bay film. The narrative even manages to contradict itself in the telling – the place where the action takes is alternatively named London and New Themiscyra. You do NOT call a place a former name. I know this. Numerous European places have changed names in the last couple of decades, and when you use the old name people get annoyed. Some rigidity should have been followed in this regard.

While I am at it, I may as well speak to the use of mainland Europe as Aquaman’s stomping ground. This… Strangely doesn’t bother me so much. It would have been a nice touch to elaborate more on the societies surrounding the Amazon and Atlantean hostility, and why the situation has become so perilous. More of a solid background would have made the conflict at least slightly less random than it feels. A proper name for Aquaman’s land-grab – or sea-grab, or whatever – would have made sense in this regard. Personally speaking, naming the reclaimed area Ghotichora or something would have been awesome.

We are desperately in need of a character unseen thus far – one who has historically been the center of the DC universe. Unfortunately, Superman is nowhere to be found. The US government in this timeline have stashed him away in an underground hodymoke which only Cyborg can get Batman information on, much to the benefit of the plot. So far, this is ticking along with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The location of the secret base is soon uncovered, with an assault which leaves much to be desired in the way of difficulty. Of course, the combined forces of Batman, The Flash and Cyborg soon free the Big Blue from his predicament, letting him taste freedom for the first time.

Then the extraterrestrial gommeril decides – having tasted freedom – to fly off in search of… fresh underpants, I think. It was all the excitement that did it. For such a momentous turning point in the story it is not handled with any degree of importance. It is merely another scene played out in a story which is intent on disappointing at every turn. The final page, unlike the previous issue fudges any sense of tension by having three superheroes face off against… Wait for it, this is brilliant – a bunch of redshirts. Yes, really. The tension we are meant to feel at the prospect of a massive confrontation was probably higher than the “mediocre” setting.

Where are the giant robots for the heroes to face off against? Or something to keep my attention…

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