Flashpoint: Week 3

These past few weeks, Flashpoint has finally turned into the insane spectacle we all knew it would be, with five thousand goddamn books coming out every Wednesday.  And in the midst of that, E3 happened, forcing me to put my embarrassing comic book obsession aside in favor of my embarrassing video game obsession for a week or so.  I’ve also sort of gotten into Heroclix, which is an unfortunate development in my life to say the least.  The point is that as far as Flashpoint goes, I am now forced to play hardcore catch-up with a few weeks worth of issues (which I am hoping to do in the next couple of days).  I’ll confess that I’m pretty overwhelmed, but let’s forge the fuck ahead, shall we?

First of all, have you seen the fucking  map??  Well, just in case you’re some asshole who hasn’t already spent hours staring at the fucking map, here it is.  Click to expand both the map and your mind:

This map is one of the greatest things to ever happen to me.  Nazi-occupied Brazil?  Zombie Alaska?  Ape-controlled Africa???  Man, why does the real world have to be so fucking boring??  This map gives a great overview of the state of the Flashpoint universe, geographically and politically, and also sets the imagination ablaze with what wonders lie ahead.  Welcome the map into your heart!

When last we left our friend Barry Allen, he
was still trying to feel his way around the strange new reality that sprung up around him while he napped.  He discovered that his dead mother was significantly less dead, that Superman no longer existed, and that his own superspeedy powers had mysteriously vanished.  In the first issue’s shocking cliffhanger, he confronted Batman only to discover that Thomas Wayne, not Bruce, wore the cape and cowl of the Dark Knight in these parts.

In Flashpoint #2, Barry’s story picks up immediately where it left off, but not before we are treated to a bunch of other wonderfully ridiculous nonsense.

First and foremost among the nonsense is the fact that the Atlanteans have turned western Europe into Waterworld, and Deathstroke the Terminator is the captain of a pirate ship.  I never thought I’d type those words, but life is full of surprises.  Deathstroke and his crew (which includes Icicle, Sonar, Machiste, a Clayface, and some dude named Electric Eel) are sailing over the ruins of Paris, which is apparently “too far inland” because they are attacked by a murderous Aquaman, who is now in league with his brother (and enemy in the regular DCU) Ocean Master.

Oh no!  Will Deathstroke survive??  Probably not, right?

Back in the Batcave, Barry Allen is attempting to convince Thomas Wayne that no, for real, he’s usually really superfast!  Batman’s response is to punch the shit out of his face and drop this hilarious quip:

As Batman continues to beat the living shit out of him, Barry somehow pieces it together that this wacky place is the real world now, and that the Reverse Flash is behind it.  The Caped Crusader continues to be skeptical until Barry tells him about Bruce.  Batman’s reaction is predictable, but for me it was effectively emotional:

Look, from the moment we learned Batman’s new identity, we knew that Flashpoint was going to end with Thomas Wayne sacrificing himself to bring back a world in which his son survived.  I know it; you know it; Geoff Johns jerks off into his own mouth every night thinking about it.  But dammit if this still didn’t choke me up a little.  The immediacy and total desperation of his change of heart was really touching, and made me totally fall in love with this characterization of Thomas Wayne.

At this point we bid a brief farewell to these newfound friends and head over to London, now known as New Themyscira.  Here we find Steve Trevor, a member of the anti-Amazon resistance, in the midst of a raging battle that leads to his capture at the hands of Wonder Woman herself.  Upon being interrogated by the Lasso of muthafuckin’ Truth, Steve reveals that he is searching for fellow Resistor Lois Lane, and then he keeps on talking:

WHAT AN UNEXPECTED ROMANCE!!!  Anyway, after Steve spills his guts figuratively, Wonder Woman is preparing to do the same in a more literal sense.  But before that can happen, we cut back to bestest superfriends Barry and Batty, and this is where the comic gets really hilariously ridiculous.

Barry has decided that before he can face the Reverse Flash and somehow fix the world, he needs to get his powers back.  This leads to a sequence that, to me, seems straight out of The Tick or something like that:

Yes, Barry’s adorable plan is to perfectly recreate the accident that granted him his powers the first time.  For some reason Batman goes along with this, as if it isn’t completely retarded.  After Barry carefully sets everything up, we are treated to two and a half pages of him sitting and waiting for lightning to strike.  It finally does, and check out what happens:


With Barry Allen falling into his new role as The Most Hideously Burned and Possibly Irradiated Man Alive, our story is TO BE CONTINUED.  Before the issue ends, however, DC treats us to some bonus material in the form of character design concept sketches like this one of The Flash:

This is a pretty cool little feature (which also features similar profiles of Cyborg, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Batman), but my favorite part is this notation on the bottom of the page:

Jesus fucking Christ.  Comic books!

Flashpoint‘s Batman tie-in is written by Brian Azzarello, a dude whose body of work I have extremely mixed feelings about, and this book is no exception.  The dialogue here is pretty stilted and crappy for the most part, but the story (which, at this point, is simply easing us in to the status quo of Flashpoint Gotham) is pretty fun, and the artwork by Azzarello’s former 100 Bullshits collaborator Eduardo Risso is beautiful and appropriately moody as fuck.

So here’s the situation:  Thomas Wayne is Batman by night, but his day jobs also focus largely on combatting crime in Gotham City.  He runs Gotham City’s newly privatized police force, as well as a chain of casinos which he uses to keep the city’s criminal element under his watchful eye.  Wayne’s right hand men in these two ventures are, respectively, Jim Gordon and The Penguin.  The book implies heavily that these dudes are both aware of Wayne’s secret batdentity.  Got all that?  Yeah, me neither.

A big problem with comprehending this new status quo is that it is all established via incidental dialogue between characters, and holy macaroni does Azzarello suck at making people talk to each other!  The exchanges that the writer no doubt sees as tense and evocative just come off as awkward, unnatural, and downright confusing.  Take a look at this conversation between Thomas and Gordon, for example:

It’s hard to tell what the fuck these two guys are talking about, mostly because no human beings in the history of the world have ever spoken like this.  I mean, this is awful, right?  It’s not just me?

In any case, Judge Harvey Dent’s twins have been kidnapped by The Joker, and Dent has threatened to have all of Wayne’s operations shut down if his police force doesn’t rescue them.  Batman’s subsequent search for the Clown Prince of Crime somehow leads to him skulking around in the sewers, where he has a chance encounter with a truly awesome-looking Killer Croc:

I gotta hand it to Risso here – Croc has rarely looked scarier or more threatening.  As Batman battles the beast, he experiences the standard Batman flashback of his family getting killed (in this case, his wife and son), and this fills him with so much rage that HE KILLS CROC AND CHOPS HIS BODY INTO PIECES!

This shocking act of brutal violence by the Caped Crusader transitions into the issue’s final page, which features a very Heath Ledgery Joker being creepy as fuck with Harvey Dent’s kids:

CREEP CHILLS!!  Man, as much as the rest of the issue left me feeling a little meh, this rapetacular cliffhanger totally has me on the edge of my seat!  I cannot wait to see more of the Flashpoint Joker!

This is probably the Flashpoint tie-in that I found most boring, probably because it’s the one that is the most similar to its regular DCU counterpart.  A lot may have changed on Earth in this crazy new world, but it seems to more or less be the same ol’ story up in outer space.  What we have here is basically a retelling of Blackest Night, with a few relatively minor changes.

Obviously, the biggest change is that Abin Sur is still alive, and thus Hal Jordan never took over as the Green Lantern of his sector.  So our boy Sur is still the main man of the 281’fo.

Some boring-ass flashback sequences show how a young Abin Sur learned that all life is precious and every sentient creature is a priceless gem that must be cherished and protected and blablabla.  In the present day, this worldview puts him in contrast with fellow Green Lantern Sinestro, who believes that more murdery methods are necessary to combat the Black Lantern threat.  Abin wants to consult the Guardians of the Universe as to what they should do, and Sinestro just wants to go fuck some Black Lanterns up and ask questions later.  They fistfight.

Later, as Abin is weeping at his dead sister’s grave…

…he is interrupted by the dumb-ass Guardians, who task him with going to the planet Earth, where a “white entity, the very essence of life” is being hidden, and waaaaait a minute – are they talking about fucking Swamp Thing?  In any case, this wonderful beautiful entity was hidden on backwards-ass Earth where no one would think to look for it, but now a war between sea people and angry ladies threatens to destroy the planet and the white entity along with it.  Abin is ordered to retrieve the entity and then leave the rest of the planet to die.  BUT DON’T THE STUPID GUARDIANS KNOW THAT ALL LIFE IS SACRED???  They forbid Abin Sur from getting involved with Earth drama; Abin petulantly refuses their order and heads to Earth to save the motherfucking day.

Meanwhile on the planet Ysmault, this awesomeness is going down:

Like the Batman book before it, this story kind of left me a little cold, but then hooked me in at the very end.  What do Atrocitus and Sinestro know about Flashpoint? How is Hal Jordan involved with all this bullshit? Will Abin Sur teach the universe that each breath is like a flower made of rainbows?  I’m staying the fuck tuned to find out!

I nearly shit myself when Swamp Thing and John Constantine were reintroduced into the DCU proper via Brightest Day, and I think one of the coolest things about Flashpoint is how it’s sort of been backdooring even more Vertigo-by-way-of-DC characters back into the mix.  Flashpoint: Secret Seven focuses primarily on Shade the Changing Man and also involves Black Orchid, and though I really love this conceptually, these happen to be two characters with whom I am not personally familiar.  Will this book make me love them in spite of my lack of history with these characters?  Let’s find out.

Early on, we get a quickie version of Shade’s backstory:

This sequence helps a little bit, but for readers new to the character, it still leaves some questions unanswered.  For instance:  Exactly what the fuck is a Changing Man?

His “masters” lure him with visions of his deceased teammate Black Orchid, and then warp him away to some kind of magical trippy-ass realm that looks it was drawn by Lisa Frank.  Shade is introduced to the retarded-looking “Sagan Maximus of Meta Hightable” and holy shit I have no goddamn idea what’s going on!

In any case, Sagan Maximus and his fat assistant strap Shade down and start performing experiments on him, and as they do they have a bunch of exposition-filled discussions that I presume are meant to fill us in on what the fuck is going on, but which I still have no context for.  Here are some of the things these dudes talk about:

-Shade’s magical vest has mutated into a different kind of magical vest than the magical vests that other Changing Mans wear.
-The vest allows Shade to  occupy more than one reality simultaneously, but if he stopped for a minute and thought about how stupid that is, his brain would disintegrate (note: this is not sarcastic commentary by me; this was actually stated in the story)
-Because of the above problem, they are systematically erasing “unwanted or illogical realities” from Shade’s memories
-Sagan Maximo is sad to have to do this to Shade, and insists that they not fuck with memories of “The Seven.”  He then lists “The Seven” by name: Black Orchid, Trigon, Simon Magus, Miss X (whose last appearance in the DC Universe was in 1941!), and Stiletto (I wonder if Stiletto is this character or this one).

Who exactly are “The Seven,” you may be asking yourself?  Luckily, Stradivarius Maximillian’s fat friend is also asking the same question:

Shade is super pissed at this accusation, and is all like “I HAVEN’T KILLED ANYONE. YET.”  He escapes his bonds and starts going absolutely batshit on his captors, screaming and carrying on and setting reality on fire.  Figuring that they found him by tracking his mystical magical vest, he attempts to pull it off himself, and then this happens:

Shade loses consciousness after this mondo freakout, which I can totally understand.  When he wakes up, Sageberry Magico informs him that the vest is grafted to him now and can never be removed.  He then tells Shade some more shit about his own life:

Anyway, a bunch of robots suddenly storm into the room and Bob Saget orders them to kill Shade, but being a Changing Man he uses his vest to warp the fuck out of there.  He winds up in the lair of the Enchantress, who you can probably guess is some kind of witch lady, and in a development that should be exciting to about ten Enchantress fans, the issue ends with Shade helping her transform back into her human form, June Moon.

So what did I think of this issue?  Despite being massively confused by most of it, I liked it a lot.  First of all, it doesn’t hurt that the art in this book is awesome.  But more importantly, I am just really intrigued by all of this.  Reading a whole bunch of ridiculous nonsense that I don’t understand will usually have one of two effects on me: it’ll either cause me to stop giving a shit about what I’m reading almost immediately, or it’ll make me hungry to familiarize myself with the scenario… in this instance, it was definitely the latter.  I really want to learn more about Shade and the Enchantress and Sagan Maximus and all these retarded characters… I can’t wait to see who the new Secret Seven are, and whether or not Shade will murder all of them.  This is a corner of the DC Universe that is entirely new to me, and now I’m totally stoked on it, and if that doesn’t justify the existence of big dumb crossover events, then I don’t know what does.

Hey did you guys know there’s a Green Lantern movie??  And that it debuts on June 17th??  Holy fucking shit, DC, this is just shameless.

Anyway, World of Flashpoint is yet another tie-in that heavily features a character who has come to be known best for his appearances in Vertigo titles: Doctor Thirteen.  My prior knowledge of the character pretty much begins and ends with his role in Neil Gaiman’s Books of Magic.  In that book, Doctor Thirteen is portrayed as a skeptical paranormal investigator who doesn’t believe in magic or the supernatural, and his portrayal in World of Flashpoint seems to fall pretty much in line with that.

The star of this book is Doctor Thirteen’s daughter Traci, who is a sorceress, something her father is pretty unhappy about that.  At the beginning of the story, if I am understanding things correctly, Traci and her parents are living in the regular non-Flashpoint DCU.  Suddenly her mother has a vision and is all like “No it’s too soon” and then Traci and her father are zapped to Flashpointland, where the rest of their family was killed in the Atlanteans’ attack on Europe.  Traci vaguely remembers her former life, but dismisses these memories as false.

In this new reality, Doctor Thirteen is a member of the H.I.V.E. Council, a secretive organization whose goal is to end the Atlantean/Amazon war, and who are responsible for the awesome map seen above.  Traci, meanwhile, is all kinds of bummed out and goth.  She is constantly at odds with her father over her use of magic, feels responsible for her family’s death, feels helpless against all the pain and misery in the world and blablabla.  All emo and shit all the time.  She visits Madame Xanadu, who gives us a little Flashpoint Universe history lesson:

Cool.  I am not entirely sure if this is what they’re going for, but if World of Flashpoint is the book where we gain some “historical” perspective on this world, I really like that idea and think this has the potential to be one of the most  interesting tie-ins.

Having been lectured by Madame Xanadu about making peace with her father, Traci goes into his secret H.I.V.E. compound to do just that.  But when she stumbles upon his organization’s secret plans to nuke Atlantis and the UK, ending the war along with 118 million innocent lives, her cats-in-the-cradle spirit turns into righteous anger.  We then cut to a meeting of the H.I.V.E. Council, and that’s where this book gets fucking awesome.

The H.I.V.E. dudes are voting on whether or not to go through with the nuking, and this narrative device allows us to get a look at some of Doctor Thirteen’s Councilmates.  At first it’s the usual Flashpoint conceit – a bunch of “oh it’s that guy, but he’s different here” moments:

Etc, etc… you get the point.  But then we hear from my favorite member of the H.I.V.E. Council and, hell, my new favorite character in the whole DC Universe:

Captain Nazi!!  His fucking name is Captain Nazi!  And he’s saying “Ja. Do it.” about exterminating millions of people.  Oh my god I love this guy!  Let’s see more of him:

That costume!  He made sure to put a swastika on it, just in case his name was too subtle!  He wants to make sure you don’t mistake Captain Nazi for a guy who isn’t a Nazi!  Wikipedia informs me that this character made his debut in 1941 as a Captain Marvel villain, so I will have to track down all his previous adventures.  Oh Captain Nazi, I love you so much.

Getting back to the story, which almost seems anticlimactic after Captain Nazi’s dynamite appearance, Traci runs into the meeting, slaps her father across the face, and threatens to fuck them all up magic-style if they follow through with their plans.  A big fight ensues, which ends with Doctor Thirteen tranquilizing his daughter and then launching the nukes.  We end with this chilling image:

With the whole world set to be ‘sploded in 12 hours, the future looks bleak for the Flashpoint Universe!  I wonder if someone will save the day somehow!  The World of Flashpoint is, in my opinion, another winner.  Despite all the awesome magic, crazy councils, and Captain Nazi, the best part of this book is the relationship stuff between Traci and her dad, which is surprisingly effective considering I never knew or gave a shit about these characters before.  I look forward to seeing where this one goes.

That’s it for Week 3 of Flashpoint!  I will continue to play catch-up as quickly as I can, so look for the next entry within a day or two!

Booster Gold #45
Flashpoint: Emperor Aquaman #1
Flashpoint: Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager #1
Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown #1
Flashpoint: Citizen Cold #1

Flashpoint: Week 1
Flashpoint: Week 2 

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