Flashpoint2

It is a rare thing indeed for a guy who gravitates almost exclusively to Marvel fare to read a book by DC comics, let alone one featuring The Flash. Your friendly neighborhood blogger recently checked out 2011’s Flashpoint by Geoff Johns and was impressed. (Regular readers will note that I was not thrilled with his introduction of Simon Baz in 2012.)

Flashpoint1

I am generally not fond of alternate-universe tales where heroes have become darker versions of their normal selves. With Flashpoint, however, Johns enters territory that was superbly explored by Rian Johnson’s Looper in 2012. When my wife and I watched Looper she asked, “If I was murdered and you could go back in time to stop the person who did it, would you?” My answer: No.

Flashpoint asks the same question, with Barry Allen having no clue that in an attempt to save his own mother’s life he inadvertently created a much darker world than he could have ever imagined.

The challenge for Barry throughout the book is to a.) figure out how he woke up in this new world — where his mother is alive, Bruce Wayne died instead of his father, and Wonder Woman’s Amazons are at war with Aquaman’s Atlanteans — and b.) how to make it right.

Looper

Where things get tricky for readers like me, who are somewhat indifferent towards Flash’s history, is judging a book where writers took liberties with his origin. A friend of mine told me that historically Allen became a cop just because he was a good guy — not because his mother was murdered by the Reverse Flash.

While it is odd to imply heroes need to experience tragedy in order to prompt them to fight evil, in this case Johns inoculates himself from a lot of criticism by simply writing a good story.

Flashpoint3

The final thing to note about Flashpoint is that its ending is amazing. There is an incredibly powerful scene with Bruce Wayne that makes the $17 price of the trade paper back worth every penny. The emotional impact of the moment can only be appreciated by reading the whole book — and for that Johns should be applauded.

If you get a chance, then check out Flashpoint. It’s a product worth adding to your comic library.

Editor’s Note: If you haven’t seen Looper, then make time to do so. Director Rian Johnson is the guy who will bring Star Wars fans Episode VIII

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

13 comments

  1. Season 1 of “The Flash” also used plot points from Flashpoint, although in the show Barry opted not to alter history.

    1. It’s always great to hear from you, Carl! Thanks for the heads up. I was hoping NateWinchester would add his two cents as well since he’s a fan of the show. 🙂

    2. It’s a good show. I’ve enjoyed it immensely. Arrow is pretty good, too and I think Legends of Tomorrow will be as well.

      In the show, Barry chose not to save his mother and went back to the present in order to defeat the Reverse-Flash. But in the second season, his father has been exonerated after a video confession from the Reverse-Flash emerged, so it seems they’ve resolved that plot, for now.

      I’ve been busy the past few months, which is why I haven’t commented at all. I’m almost done with my book! I’ve written 17 chapters and have ten or eleven left to go.

    3. “I’ve been busy the past few months, which is why I haven’t commented at all. I’m almost done with my book! I’ve written 17 chapters and have ten or eleven left to go.”

      Nice! Thanks for the book update. It sounds like you’re well on your way to creating something that you can be proud of for years to come.

    4. OMG I CAN’T WAIT FOR LEGENDS OF TOMORROW!

      Flash is quite good on TV. I compare it to Marvel’s Netflix output is like comparing a perfect bowl of ice cream to a perfectly prepared steak. I certainly approve of not one, but MULTIPLE father figures in the show being portrayed positively.

      Though if one wanted to, they could almost write a treatise on the first Flash series (which has some 90s grim dark to it and silver age touches) to the new one. The contrasts almost perfectly match up with the comic book changes to Barry Allen.

      Oh right, Flashpoint. Well it is the event that led to the nu52 DC comics so there’s always going to be a little bitterness towards it among some fans. I haven’t read the entire thing proper yet but did catch a few tie ins and saw the animated adaption.

      I am generally not fond of alternate-universe tales where heroes have become darker versions of their normal selves.

      Well I will note that one thing Johns did at least was not make the tale innately darker. Yes things are darker for Superman, but better for Cyborg and Abin Sur (just to pick 2 examples). Yeah it’s probably darker than the DC proper (well… setting aside nu52) but if anything I’d say the Flashpoint world is more akin to the Marvel verse than a strictly grimdark place (yeah I went there! ;))

    5. You’ll have to let me know of Legends of Tomorrow after it comes out. It seems like a pretty cool project. I hope DC delivers.

      Oh right, Flashpoint. Well it is the event that led to the nu52 DC comics so there’s always going to be a little bitterness towards it among some fans.

      Yeah, it’s interesting to review a DC book given that I don’t really have a dog in the fight. I’m just the guy who got a book and was plopped into the story knowing the general outline of all the characters involved. I’m assuming there are some DC fans who really don’t like the book for the very reason you mentioned.

      I was saying in another post how it’s difficult to separate the “writer” part of me with the “fan” part at times when it’s a character I care about. It’s a tough balancing act. If I give too much leeway to the “writer,” then there is a risk of disrespecting long-time readers and the character’s history. If I side too much with “the fan,” then I’m consciously putting up obstacles to good storytelling.

  2. In the Silver Age, Barry Allen was a scientist. He worked for the Central City Police Department, but as a civilian employee, not a cop. With all the retcons and reboots, I have no idea what DC canon is now, but the idea of his mother having been murdered was not part of the original premise.

    DC usually did not do grim-and-gritty in Silver Age superhero comics. My impression is that their superhero titles were generally aimed at preteen kids, while Marvel was aiming for adolescents. With DC, the emphasis was usually on straight action-adventure, although there were some variations. The Superman comics sometimes had character-driven, human interest dramas, and the Flash and Elongated Man were sometimes tongue-in-cheek. Plastic Man and Inferior Five were outright camp comedy, and Doom Patrol was almost as angsty as the X-Men.

    The 1990’s Flash TV series was semi-grimdark, mainly because it was influenced by the 1989 Batman movie. (Something similar happened in 1966, but in the opposite direction. The campy Batman TV show was a huge hit, and influenced other action-adventure shows. Lost In Space, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, and The [British] Avengers all got sillier and more juvenile. It reached its saturation point in the 1966-67 season, and then they tried to rein it in and tone it down in ’67-68, when the camp fad was obviously passing.)

    The question of “Would you go back in time and change history if you could” was not really an issue in DC comics most of the time back then. One across-the-board rule was that history could not be changed, no matter what. There were several stories where Superman or Superboy went back in time and tried to prevent some tragedy (e.g., the Lincoln assassination) and always failed. (Another rule was that you couldn’t travel to a point in time within your own lifetime, because it’s impossible to exist in different places at the same time. So you wouldn’t be able to go back and prevent your own parent’s murder, either way.)

    One of my pet peeves with DC and Marvel is their apparent policy that everything has to be done in the same house style. And that style is grimdark. There is no longer any variety in the medium.

    Of course, some characters (Batman, Deadman, Spectre, Phantom Stranger) are well suited to grimdark, but others (Supergirl, Elongated Man, Shazam/Captain Marvel) work better with a lighter tone. What’s appropriate for Batman or Doctor Fate (or for Wolverine or the Punisher) is not necessarily a good fit for Captain Carrot or Plastic Man.

    1. “One of my pet peeves with DC and Marvel is their apparent policy that everything has to be done in the same house style. And that style is grimdark. There is no longer any variety in the medium.”

      My pet peeve is an undercurrent of cynicism that runs through so many books. One needs to just visit the creators’ Twitter feeds to see that many of them are rather angry individuals. I think it bleeds into their work. Maybe it says less about them than it does the overall coarsening of the culture? I don’t know.

      Are there any books out there that truly inspire people to reach great heights anymore? Is there a book that doesn’t just give lip service to being a hero, but actually stirs something inside the reader’s soul to make them turn virtuous ideas into action? I would buy such a comic in a heartbeat.

    1. Do you have plans to watch the animated adaptation of this one?

      The short answer is yes. The problem is that I was given it on Blueray and … I don’t have a Blueray player. 🙂 I suppose I can see if it’s on Netflix, but that would defeat the purpose of watching my friend’s gift on the DVD he gave me. At some point I’ll get around to watching the animated version. I’d like to see that now that I’ve read the TPB.

  3. “Nice! Thanks for the book update. It sounds like you’re well on your way to creating something that you can be proud of for years to come.”

    Thanks! So much for Vunderguy’s insistence that I didn’t “have a script written or NUTHIN’.”

    1. I actually thought of him when I was writing my response but I couldn’t remember his exact insult. I think his ban (on an unrelated offense) ends in June. That’s a long time in the penalty box…

  4. Good review Doug. I am a big fan of alternate history fiction and although I have never read any Flash comics I am tempted to give this a read.

    Nice to see an update on Carl’s book as well.

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