01st Sep2011

Change In A Flash: Thoughts on The End of an Era

by Will

So, that was Flashpoint, huh? Ya know, over the years, I’ve bullied DC by saying they should be more like Marvel. I felt they should be better at social networking and also start leaking their big stories to the New York Post. Over the past year, DC seemed to have heard the same suggestions from others more important than me, as their social network presence increased and they got chummier with the press. I did not, however, say that they should ape Marvel’s storytelling style. At the same time, though, they started recreating Marvel’s starting lineup from 1994. They already had the Kuberts and Fabian Nicieza, but they also brought in former Marvel E-I-C Bob Harras and former X-Men writer Scott Lobdell. The end result is that Flashpoint ends up being Age of Apocalypse by way of House of M. It looks like DC had been paying attention to the competition, but at what cost?

I compare Flashpoint to Age of Apocalypse, as it utilizes the same “alternate reality on the verge of cataclysmic war – comprised of minis and one shots” format. The tone is very similar to that of AoA, plus it doesn’t hurt that Andy Kubert did the art on both storylines. Also, Flashpoint #5 is almost a beat-by-beat retelling of the end of AoA. They even do the “final battle as the bombs go off” thing.

I mention House of M because it provides the setup for the story. Everything changes in a flash, as people are living their lives one way, and a flash of light completely changes their circumstances. Also, HoM did have lasting effects in that it allowed Wolverine to remember his past and, more importantly, it reduced the number of mutants in the Marvel Universe to roughly 198. Flashpoint, similarly, has the repercussion that it sets off an entirely new iteration of the DC Universe.

I’m not gonna do a recap, as you’ve read the book. This isn’t even a “review”, per se, but I did want to share a few thoughts I had along the way, bulletpoint style:

-I know, I swore I wasn’t even going to read this “event”. I felt like the Big Two were just repackaging old concepts, and I didn’t feel like rereading the same old stuff. Then, two things happened. First, it emerged that Fear Itself was basically a Thor story, which just solidified my lack of interest in it. Next, DC announced not only the “New 52”, but also the fact that Flashpoint would be the springboard for all of that. So, excited for the future, I decided I should probably board the Flashpoint train.

In all, I enjoyed the core Flashpoint mini. It moved quickly enough that I didn’t focus too much on characterizations and motivations. I got the gist of it, and I knew that if I wanted more, there were always the spin-off minis. I only picked up the Batman one, though.

-The story’s resolution felt like some kind of marketing mandate to ensure that Flash: Rebirth “mattered”. Even though people trust Johns to dust off these older concepts, nobody wanted Barry Allen back. Nobody. We were all fine with Wally. The ending felt like “See? You didn’t want Barry back, but you couldn’t have had this shiny new universe without him. You’re welcome.”

Marvel does a much better job of making you think that everything was connected in some grand plan. Secret Invasion pays off a plot point from five years prior, and you have to wonder if they got lucky, or if they really did have this planned all along. DC didn’t pull off that magic with Flashpoint. I don’t think Flash: Rebirth was ever intended to result in this, as it was *meant* to pay off in a monthly book on which Manapul couldn’t keep up the pace.

-While I understand that Flash has the power set/mechanics to set this ball in motion, it feels like this would’ve worked better as a Batman story. Maybe they couldn’t do it, as Lord knows Batman’s been through enough in recent years, plus they needed to really reestablish Barry’s importance. Just like Identity Crisis was all about loss, this was about familial ties and the notion that “you can’t go home again”.

The problem is that Barry’s momma drama isn’t as well known as Bruce’s. A man on the street could tell you next to nothing about “Barry Allen”, let alone the fact that his mom was killed. Everyone, however, knows that Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed (even if they think the Joker did it), which led him to become Batman. For true gravitas, and to help Batman move along in a more positive direction, it should’ve been Batman displaced in time, working side by side with his father, as master tactician during the war, yet still getting the closure he has sought all these years. In fact, that would’ve been preferable to the whole Quantum Leap drama of The Return of Bruce Wayne.

-Sometimes I have trouble conveying myself outside of analogies, so I hope you can follow this: let’s say a person has an accident and ends up in a coma. The family mourns initially, but if he’s in that coma long enough, when it comes time to pull the plug, they realize the guy had basically been dead since the moment he slipped into the coma. Still there? How does that apply? Well, I felt like this series would pay off in some kind of grand farewell for the old DCU. Instead, by issue #5, you realize they were basically already gone and wouldn’t be making an appearance. There was no “goodbye” or “that’s all, folks”. Silver Age comics would’ve had silhouettes of the JLA waving goodbye from the clouds or something as the last panel. I think was expecting that “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” ending. What a Hell of a way to cap off an era that was!

Even though all of the solo books wrapped up (some better than others), Flashpoint really was just a Flash book, as none of the “real” depictions of the characters ever made an appearance (with the exception of Booster Gold). I guess I expected some kind of spillover into the “real world”, and the end result would be this weird amalgam of them both. Instead, we learn there are *3* timelines, which are all just hastily combined into one.

-What was that 3rd reality? I recognized the one we were leaving (left page) and the new one (right page), but was that the full 3rd along the top? So, it was Wildstorm and alt versions of 2nd tier characters?

-Barry has memories of EVERYTHING now? That’s a seed for a future storyline, if AoA is any indication. In that story, Bishop was the only one who remembered the AoA timeline, which caused him to go insane down the road.

So, in all, I didn’t hate the ending, but it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting. I guess I could call that a success, as it proves this old dog hasn’t seen it all. At the same time, I’m no more jazzed about the New 52 than I was, and I feel that’s a failing. I admit that I haven’t read Justice League #1 as of writing this, so maybe I’ll change my mind. All I know is that this was billed as the end of an era. Everything renumbered. A shit ton of new launches. A clean slate. All that said, I still don’t feel like Flashpoint truly gave me the chance to say goodbye to what we were leaving behind.