So, it’s finally over – Flashpoint ends today, and with it, the DC Universe as we know it. But every ending is just the beginning of something new, so I’m going to briefly discuss – since lebeau has already handled both books already – the beginning of the DCnU as well, including how DC’s same day digital release process treated me. As always, spoilers ahead…
I have no idea what just happened. Flashpoint #5 is over, that much is for sure. But how? Why? That, I can’t really say much about.
You see, at some point in the past, Barry Allen apparently traveled back in time and tried to save his mother’s life. But Barry is apparently quite bad at time travel, and in doing so, he made Superman’s rocket land way off course (and later); he made Wonder Woman and Aquaman into genocidal maniacs; he shattered the Marvel clan; he changed World War II; and he killed Bruce Wayne. No wonder Geoff Johns thinks Barry is such an important character: his mother is apparently the most important human being of all time.
The first nine pages feature an extended expositional monologue by Thawne intended to wrap up any lingering plot holes before Thawne, one of the fastest men in the world, gets stabbed in the back by Batman for not paying attention to… well, anything. It’s lazy plotting – and it’s lazy plotting that doesn’t end there.
The laziness permeates every inch of the issue and, appropriately enough given the story, retroactively makes previous issues and tie-ins seem lazier, too. We get a war scene, one that brings in all the characters from the other tie-ins (but doesn’t offer them even a single hint of resolution: the entirety of the Wonder Woman/Aquaman storyline that took 10+ issues of tie-ins to tell was resolved in a one-panel fight with Superman before they got erased from history without a word.) and then promptly erases them all before we have to deal with any icky consequences.
There are precisely two redeeming moments in the issue. The first is Superman’s return, a brutal moment in which the gothed up hero splatters the wicked witch. It’s just the sort of surprising, character-based action beat that Johns so excels at, a plot twist I should have seen coming but was delighted not to have predicted at all. The second, even stronger moment involves a letter from Thomas Wayne that Barry carries into the other world, the closure that Bruce has needed all his life as he gets to say goodbye to a father he never knew as well as he should. It’s a tense, emotional moment that is pleasantly underplayed.
I confess, I was concerned about Justice League #1. The preview was uninspiring. Advance reviews were mediocre. And Flashpoint #5 was worrisome at best. But then something happened: I sat down and read it. And you know what? It wasn’t bad. In fact, it was some of Geoff Johns’ strongest writing in some time.
Don’t get me wrong. Justice League #1 is far from great. It is not a particularly inspiring debut. I can’t imagine anyone who has never read a comic, or even lapsed fans, reading Justice League #1 and being so impressed they will have to come back. This isn’t Swamp Thing‘s “The Anatomy Lesson”, All-Star Superman‘s “… Faster…”, or the recent Marvel debuts of Daredevil or The Punisher.
What this is is a supremely back-to-basics approach, an ultra-simplistic story stretched close to the breaking point and definitely written for the trade. Johns clearly sets up the villain – Darkseid, an interesting choice, extremely well executed so far – but moves VERY slowly in setting up the story. Justice League #1 has to pull double duty, after all: not only does it have to set up and tell a coherent, enjoyable Justice League story, but it has to introduce us to the status quo of the DCnU. In doing so much, it has to make some sacrifices, and it makes a big one.
The Justice League isn’t introduced at all. In fact, outside of Batman and Green Lantern, you only get a few seconds of any other named character. No Wonder Woman. No Aquaman, or Flash. The bulk of the issue is geared towards familiarizing us with the new DC status quo, and how two of the company’s bigger icons fit into it.
It’s funny: I originally was going to give the issue a ‘C-‘, but as I write about what it set out to do, I’ve talked myself into raising the grade repeatedly. It isn’t a flashy success, it isn’t a classic issue, but it IS an extraordinarily functional one, succeeding at all its goals and still managing to kick off what looks like a promising action story. Yeah, it doesn’t introduce the League, but no one said it had to, and what it tries to do, it does successfully.
The ‘combo pack’ issue worked out great for me. Inside the back cover of the issue was a code. Taking it to http://redeem-dccomics.com allowed me to enter the code and download the issue directly. Because I was already logged into Comixology on my iPad, the issue was immediately available on my DC App without having to log in again or jump through any hoops at all. It downloaded quickly, and then was available through Comixology like all my other iPad comics.
I actually thoroughly enjoyed reading Justice League #1 on my iPad. Jim Lee’s art, which I normally find bland, really came to life blown up on the bring iPad screen. Scott Williams’ inks and Alex Sinclair’s colors really pop, too, and small details I missed on my read-through of the print edition came out much stronger on the Comixology panel view. Though the digital edition isn’t available until 2 PM the day of release, it’s a quick download, and definitely affordable in the combo pack.
I have no idea if the allure of Justice League #1 will be strong enough to justify DC’s relaunch decision. But they executed the same day digital with flare, told their story with confidence, and started a whole new era of DC Comics. I’d say it was a pretty successful beginning, all things considered.
Grade (Flashpoint #5): D-
Grade (Flashpoint): D+
Grade (Justice League #1):B+
– Cal Cleary