Or – “The Oncoming Storm…”
So, with all the talk about what’s coming in September, how many people forgot that we still had a ways to go in order to get there?
Previously, on Flashpoint: The Reverse-Flash’s grudge on Barry Allen caused him to use his time-travel powers to change the very fabric of reality. The world that he created lacked a Superman, lacked a Flash, and recast Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Batman into nearly unrecognizable roles. Though Barry has managed to replicate the accident that gave him his super-speed powers (a moment that, by the way, was really hard to swallow from a writing viewpoint), the heroes of this new world can’t get their acts together and unite against the twin threats of a mad king of Atlantis and a vengeful queen of the Amazons. Time has officially run out (in all senses of both words) and only Barry holds the key to saving his native reality.
The Consequences Of Selectivity…
So, I admit that I haven’t read all of the Flashpoint crossovers and minis, and the ones that I have read I haven’t voraciously absorbed, so I’m unclear on what may have happened in between issues 3 and 4, but we open in the Fawcett City foster home of Billy Batson, Mary Batson and the other four kids who comprise the composite hero called Captain Thunder. They’re watching television (which always feels like a cheat as exposition) and arguing about whether or not to get involved in the superhuman conflict that was set up in issue #1. I have to say I was immediately put off by the fact that literally NOTHING has happened in the Flashpoint universe outside of Barry Allen’s quest for speed, apparently, and we’re right where we started out. The kids argue with each other, while, elsewhere, Batman and Flash encounter a new/old hero, the Element Woman. If you’ve never seen her before, I want you to picture a distillation of every aspect of art that you expect from Jim Lee, with flowing purple hair, and you’ll have a pretty good idea what we’re dealing with. After last issue’s quest for Superman, things in Metropolis are all fighty-fighty and arguey, as Flash and the Batman clash over whether the world can even BE saved.
A Pretty Sizable Jump.
After going back and rereading #3, I returned to this issue with a fresher perspective, but still found the ‘gathering of heroes’ portion of the story to be more successful than the fighty-fighty. Hal Jordan appears briefly, flying a bomb into Europe to end the AtlAmazon War, but is reported killed, a moment which takes a great toll on our hero. The Flash finally pulls in Batman by arguing the right points (The argument that they need heroes to save his crapsack world doesn’t work, so Barry flatly says, “Bruce would’ve come.”) and the presence of the Dark Knight brings more heroes into the fold. There are a lot of references to things that have happened in the other books, and a LOT of over-the-top exclamatory and expositional monologues, and the heroes set off for Jolly Olde Englande, where Arthur and Diana’s war is already in progress. Things turn bad quickly, and a Golden Age comic favorite is run through by Wonder Woman, causing an explosion that levels the battlefield. As we close, The Reverse Flash appears out of nowhere to chide Barry Allen with a demented grin, “Look what you’ve done!”
The Verdict: A Bit Too Much Happening Off Panel…
What happened to Shade The Changing Man? Where has Superman gone? What brought Aquaman and Wonder Woman to blows this time? Where has Captain Thunder been? What in the world is a Blackout? What is the deal with the super-perky Element Woman? Answers to all these questions and more are… not to be found in these pages, which weakens the narrative for me. Andy Kubert’s art isn’t bad, but it’s difficult to tell the differences between certain characters (Freddy Freeman and Billy Batson, notably) in certain scenes, and there’s an overuse of armored elements that has become a bit cumbersome. (It should also be noted that I find this issues cover to be particularly jumbled and unattractive, though that is not all on Kubert.) All in all, the story reaches an appropriately dramatic, if overly familiar, climax as our hero finally gets to face the villain behind all the madness in time for the two of them to do something that will reset reality in a few weeks. The choppiness of the story, combined with the awkwardness of much of the dialogue brings the experience down a bit, making Flashpoint #4 a mixed bag, earning 2.5 out of 5 stars overall. It’s always difficult to balance grand scale events with enough perspective to make us care, and this book doesn’t QUITE get that balance right…
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Has the progression of Flashpoint from issue to issue been extremely jarring for anyone else?