Review: Flashpoint #3

DC's alternate reality prelude-to-reboot continues to plod along, despite being centered around the fastest man alive.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Flashpoint #3

There was a lot of hype leading up to Flashpoint, indicating that it was going to be a huge deal.  Now that we know exactly what that deal is going to be – essentially rebooting the DC Universe with what they're calling "The New 52" (as in 52 new #1 issues), it now seems somewhat like the remainder of Flashpoint is just playing out the string while we wait for the ACTUAL huge deal. 

That's not to say there aren't some really cool ideas floating around in this particular temporary reality, but there's just something off about the whole endeavor.  It's fairly common to have event-book tie-ins that outshine the main book – after all, the tie-ins get to tell focused stories while the main series has to juggle about 500 different ideas and angles in a compressed time frame.  What's kind of strange about Flashpoint #3 is that it feels like it's robbing some of those tie-ins of absolutely crucial moments in their focused stories.  The main book feels so much like an afterthought that the tie-ins feel more important.

That's more of a "meta" criticism, though.  Truth be told, those stolen moments seem handled better here than they might in their respective titles.  For example, intrepid reporter Lois Lane meeting up with The Resistance feels like it should have happened in a book entitled Lois Lane and the Resistance, right?  Not the case here, although Geoff Johns does better in two pages setting the tone for what that series should have been than Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning managed in the actual book.  He even gives us our first experience with the DCnU by putting Grifter at the head of that particular pack of rebels.  Wildstorm has officially arrived, for whatever that's worth to you.

Most of this issue focuses on the Thomas Wayne Batman helping Barry Allen's crusade to end this misbegotten reality and restore life as we knew it.  First, it's about Barry's drive to get his powers back – and his will is undeterred after frying most of his body in the first unsuccessful attempt.  The second go-around works better, and now, three issues in, we've finally got a Flash in Flashpoint.   Next comes the quest to try and put together a new Justice League to deal with what's happened – which is something Cyborg was already trying to do in the first issue, and Batman turned him down. 

This time, Cyborg is drawn in with a speech from Thomas that is fairly provocative.  "You could be the single most powerful source of information on this planet," Batman says.  "A physical and digital tank.  There's not a brick wall or a firewall on Earth that can keep Cyborg out."  That particular nugget begs the question: is THIS why DC had to take Barbara Gordon out of her Oracle chair and put her back in the Batgirl suit?  So Johns' latest pet project can co-opt her role as a data broker?  Food for thought.  Along those same lines, we get a peek at the new Element Woman, who looks an awful lot like she'll be a replacement for good ol' Rex Mason, aka Metamorpho.

The last chunk of story is what's advertised on the cover – essentially swiping the cool part of Project Superman from the folks behind the Project Superman tie-in, which might explain why they had to concoct some other "super" super solider creation for that series which will likely only tangentially involve the baby from Krypton.  Again, it behooves us to remind ourselves that the main book is supposed to be the main book and the tie-ins merely fleshing out backstories.  The actual reveal of Kal-El as a pasty, scrawny, gaunt thing that's been locked in a bunker underground (and more importantly, away from the sun) for his entire natural life is fairly interesting, though.  Barry extolls the virtues of the man and believes they'll exist regardless of his upbringing, but at first brush of freedom, he seems to bolt to the sky and leave his rescuers behind – although he also seems to make a point of not acting out lethally against his captors when his powers finally manifest.  So who knows where he's going?

Andy Kubert's art in this issue is pretty darn intricate and involving, by the by.  Even small panels are given some visually interesting flourishes, like Batman casting a cool shadow in the glow of Kal's cage.  Johns also has a couple of amusing little bits to illustrate the difference between Thomas and Bruce – namely in age.  Not only does Thomas have a grunting discomfort moment due to being old, but he also has only one crappy old computer in his headquarters. 

So here we are, with only two issues left in the series which needs to resolve absolutely massive timeline chicanery at the hands of Reverse Flash Eobard Thawne in what little time it has.  Obviously, given the reboot, it won't settle things cleanly or completely, as evidenced by Barry's little explanation about the "butterfly effect" of changing the past leaving cracks in history.  But dollars to donuts, this is also going to feel overly rushed, given all the plot points it's going to have to mesh together into some kind of climax.  Then again, Flashpoint as a whole is already feeling pretty anticlimactic, so maybe that'll hold true for the story itself just as it seems to be doing for the concept.

Flashpoint is hardly offensive or painful or punishing like a lot of event books have been.  It has its cool aspects and curious little what-ifs.  But it's just kinda here, and it's something we just have to wade through to get to what we're waiting to pass judgment on – or what we're dreading.  Part of the trouble with it is that this is it.  This is the swan song for the DC Universe we grew up with, and it's not even IN the DC Universe we grew up with.  Sure, DC is calling this a "soft" reboot and in their eyes, their changes aren't going to be drastic enough to warrant some kind of farewell or even a proper denouement or epilogue, which is why we're not really getting one.   But we're moving to a world where we're trading the Justice Society of America for Wildstorm people.  That change alone is plenty to deserve a legitimate tribute, and Flashpoint so far just ain't it, and it's not even trying to be.