The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Flashpoint Read-Through, Part Four

Posted by BigWords on May 16, 2013

Backing up a moment, I want to highlight something about Flashpoint which has been bugging me since the second issue, though has only become an problem here in the penultimate issue of the series. While I have pointed out the irregularities in plotting and character, there has been something else lurking in the series which has the potential to irritate and aggravate other problems. This other niggle is something so slight as to have been overlookable. The thing about telling such a complex narrative in a confined number of pages is that some things will never get properly explored within those pages (leading naturally to other titles examining those events and locations), but to tease readers with non-story about those things? Ugh.

The world map in the second issue was an entirely skippable couple of pages. They were filler. Nothing of merit or note was contained therein for those who decided to purchase all of the tie-in titles – something I found remarkably easy to resist – but it was there, lurking with tantalizing glimpses of things which sounded infinitely more interesting than the story in that issue. Land Of The Dead? Hell yeah. That sounds like something that could make for a great story. Nazi-occupied Brazil? Gorilla-controlled Africa? That kind of pulp-infused insanity is the kind of thing sorely missing in the main title, which has, for three issues, been as pedestrian as possible in every regard. The title needed something like that.

With the third and fourth issues featuring full-page sketches, I have to raise a question here as to the popularity of such a wasted opportunity – who would rather have a few pages of these sketches rather than extra storytelling pages? Anyone? Come on, who is to blame for this kind of thing? It is endlessly annoying to find these things in regular issues. If I was even the slightest bit interested, I would go out and buy the shiny limited edition hardcovers or whatever, but no. I don’t care. I don’t want to see crappy sketches that detract from the story. I don’t want to be subjected to the prospect that I may have bought the wrong series – that Land Of The Dead story is looking better all the time – and I really don’t need the headache of working out how these things all fit together from the starting point of the main timeline.

Yes, this is another assault on common sense – an intelligent reading of Flashpoint.

Flashpoint 4: Blood, Sweat And Tears

Opening pages. Important, remember. Now, when I say that the dramatic potential of the first page in a comic has the ability to drive the reader along with any twists and turns, or to turn them off completely, it is the kind of first page as seen here that I am thinking of as an example of the latter. Skipping over the fact that it is a direct result of earlier scenes, I have to say that it isn’t an ideal opener. The final page of the last issue would have been massively improved with the smallest of restructuring – the immense force of the US flying off to face the Amazon threat. You remember the scene in Memphis Belle when all those giant planes were filling the sky as far as the eye could see? THAT. Times ten. Really ramp it up.

But no. We get a glimpse of a bunch of kids watching television. Then, to add insult to injury, we oversee a pilot chatting to a grease monkey about the former’s shit-eating grin. Goddammit, DC, are you trying to devalue your characters to the point where I actually want to watch as Batman is disemboweled by an Amazon blade? To get my pulse racing at the thought of Cyborg being turned into a bloody smear?

The mandatory chatter between characters has been the downfall of most of the “dramatic” scenes thus far, and the fourth issue is no different. The problem of Barry Allen’s memories being slowly overwritten – with agonizing pain – is fixed by, I kid you not, magic. Yes, a wizard really did it. This removes the main threat to the success of the mission at hand, and as a way to get to the end of the story it also kills any dramatic potential inherent in the ticking clock. Without the threat of his memory eroding further, there is ample time for a man who can move at the speed of light to do whatever the hell he wants to do. Such a major move so far from the close of the story does nothing in the series’ favor.

The scene with the kids rambles on for two or three unnecessary pages as time is killed and pages are filled, adding nothing to the narrative that couldn’t have been better played by being shown. We do, finally – thank the gods – get to where the action is, though it is via a double-page spread and then a pin-up page, so is ultimately rather a let-down. There are no small moments, no pained faces of people trying to get their breath, or nursing their wounds, no fear in the eyes of the combatants as they try to find cover. There’s no tension… All too quickly, the battle lulls into a pause with the defeat of Captain Thunder, and the death of Billy Batson contains no sense of momentous tragedy.

Since when did DC decree that killing kids in their comics had to be played for laughs? It is the single most hilarious scene in the series so far, with lightning spurting from his mouth and eyes – reminding me of Doctor Who more than anything – amid some sort of poorly illustrated explosion, with no scale or horror to it. This isn’t even up to the level of the opening gambit of Civil War, never mind the beautiful, moving scenes of destruction from Akira or Marvelman. Explosions, more especially these days than ever, should be entirely fucking terrifying. People should feel their guts lurch, their head swim with thoughts – there should be some real impact in their use.

The really annoying aspect of Flashpoint is the wasted potential. This really could have been an important and watershed moment in the history of DC, but the constant and complete waste of that potential renders all of the promise naught.

Then we get a final page which all but says “forget the dead kid – here’s a supervillain!”

Why am I reading this with the Benny Hill tune rattling through my head? For that matter, why the hell am I still reading? I… am not actually all that sure by this point, although I am sure I’ll come to some amazing conclusion when this farrago concludes tomorrow. Same Bat-Time. Same Bat-Channel. Or something.

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