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GET TO THE FLASHPOINT, Week 10 – Batman, Traci 13, Deathstroke, Shade

Flashpoint is DC Comics’ summer event of 2011 that promises to change the DC Universe unrecognizably until the event’s climactic finale, when the DC Universe will instead be left changed somewhat recognizably. In support of the event, DC is releasing 60+ issues of comic books across 22 titles in just three months. You’d have to be deranged to expend the time, effort and money to follow it all, but fortunately for you, ComicsAlliance has never been particularly whole in the sanity department. Over the next few months we’ll be reading every single Flashpoint tie-in so we can tell you what you need to know. There are bound to be some good ones and we’ll recommend them to you. The rest of them may contain some facts you’ll need to make sense of what’s going on in the overall Flashpoint, and we’ll help you piece that together as well.

This week in Get to the Flashpoint, we look at the final issues of

  • Batman: Knight of Vengeance by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
  • World of Flashpoint by Rex Ogle and Eduardo Francisco
  • Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager by Jimmy Palmiotti, Tony Shasteen and Alex Massacci
  • Secret Seven by Peter Milligan, Fernando Blanco and Scott Koblish

BATMAN: KNIGHT OF VENGEANCE #3 – RECOMMENDED

Catching up on the events of the end of issue two, Thomas Wayne has tracked the Joker, revealed as his wife Martha, to the ruins of Wayne manor where she’s holding Harvey Dent’s kids hostage and has just killed Gotham Security Chief James Gordon.

The story flashes back and forth between the present and the past: We see Thomas’ failed effort to resuscitate his dying son, Bruce, when he was shot in an alley in a mugging gone wrong. From then on, Martha’s in a state of emotionless shellshock and further disassociates herself from reality. Thomas, meanwhile, seeks revenge. Before he even makes the decision to take up the crime-fighting mantle of Batman, we see him find and kill Joe Chill. Not that the distinction between Thomas and Bruce Wayne’s Batman really needs to be further explained by this point, but that moment does solidify how Thomas’s is a mission of revenge, while Bruce’s is a mission to ensure the terrible things that happened to him don’t happen to anyone else. Thomas returns from his first vigilante killing to find that Martha’s cut a smile into her face.

Back in the present, the two crash out of a window and onto the manor grounds as Martha accuses Thomas of being a failure, which he accepts. It’s not an unfair judgment because Thomas’s revenge never brought his son back and never made his wife sane again. And even Martha’s got enough of a grip on reality left to realize Thomas has changed for the worse since he put the cowl on. But Thomas does tell her there’s a chance to go back and make things right and create a reality in which they died and Bruce lived.

It’s a moment that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny if you look at the whole Flashpoint timeline: Ever since Barry Allen told Thomas Wayne about a reality in which his son had survived and become Batman instead, Barry and Thomas have been together constantly. And since I’m guessing the end of Barry and Thomas’s wacky reality-fixin’ adventures is going to lead directly into the DC relaunch, Batman: Knight of Vengeance doesn’t seem to fit logically into the Flashpoint timeline.

And you know what? I absolutely don’t care. This has been a story that’s been a great read and I’m not bothered by the fact that its timing doesn’t make perfect sense when held up against the main book. Cheating the timeline even gives the story an added twist in the end: When Thomas reveals to Martha that Bruce becomes the vigilante crime-fighter instead of her husband, it drives her even more over the edge. She runs from him, laughing hysterically and falling to her death down a hole into a cave beneath Wayne Manor.

WORLD OF FLASHPOINT #3

The previous issue of World of Flashpoint ended on a cliffhanger: Traci 13 returned to stop her father, Doctor 13, from launching a satellite attack that would destroy the Amazons, Atlanteans, and millions of innocent civilians in Western Europe, but her scientifically-inclined father got the drop on her with a surprisingly powerful magic attack.

Issue #3 picks up from there, with Doctor 13 making a pretty good push for “Worst Superhero Father Ever” by emotionally manipulating his daughter into thinking he’s changed his mind so she’ll hug him and he can then hit her with a magical blast so powerful it’ll knock her out. The fact that he’s pulling a “Ha ha ha I can’t believe you actually fell for that” laugh as he does it isn’t helping me believe he’s a father who cares about his daughter and is only doing this for her own good. Yet most of the issue continues this emotional-whiplash-inducing roller coaster, with Doctor Thirteen jumping back and forth between wanting to side with his daughter and wanting to shoot her with fireballs every two pages or so.

The pair take their magic squabble to the scene of the big showdown in London from Flashpoint #4 and seem ready to reconcile for real when Traci takes a spear through the chest. This drives her father to be so angry he begins indiscriminately melting faces off anyone nearby. But Traci’s magic won’t let her die, and she returns to life and brings about a final reconciliation with her father that’s actually well done and builds upon the foundation of the series so far. The two then have a sacrifice-off, Doctor 13 trying to sacrifice himself to stop the satellite and Traci sacrificing her magic to save her father from the suicide part of his suicide mission.

Father and daughter, who’ve been teleported to an empty field in the middle of nowhere, happily walk off happily into the sunset. Although this ending conveniently forgets about the apocalyptic superhero battle they just left and the Amazons and Atlanteans still poised to destroy the world, it’s still a nice conclusion to the miniseries, and one that found a surprising amount of heart and hope in an alternate reality that lacks both.

DEATHSTROKE AND THE CURSE OF THE RAVAGER #3

Speaking of difficult father/daughter relationships, here’s the conclusion to Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager: At the end of issue #2, Deathstroke’s pirate crew had been saved by the sudden appearance of Jenny Blitz, who used her make-things-explode powers to make a fleet of ships blow up demanded she be given control of Deathstroke’s.

The new issue opens with Jenny taking a shower in front of Deathstroke while the two negotiate how power’s going to be divided on this ship, and that scene ends with Jenny and Deathstroke in bed together.

While pirate Deathstroke is enjoying some booty (get it?), the rest of his crew are planning a mutiny because he’s a terrible captain who keeps leading them on suicide mission after suicide mission to rescue his daughter and make them no money. Deathstroke murders them all with his He-Man sword. The mutineers alert a man called the Caretaker, who created Jenny Blitz and wants her back. In a convenient coincidence, he also has Rose Wilson captive, tied to the mast of his ship in the traditional “hands tied above head wearing a tattered dress but one strap is ripped” damsel in distress pose. Deathstroke suggests trading Jenny to get Rose back. Caretaker suggests killing Deathstroke and taking Jenny and keeping Rose. So Deathstroke counters with trading Jenny for Rose and not nuking everything within 20 miles. Caretaker accepts. Deathstroke lets Jenny loose and once he has Rose she kills everyone on the Caretaker’s ship. Deathstroke gets to ride off into the sunset with his daughter and his new girlfriend (who’s about as old as his daughter).

Like the rest of the series, the last issue tried to pack too much story into its pages, making everything feel rushed with nothing explained. We still never find out who the Caretaker was and why exactly he kidnapped Rose in the first place. Deathstroke’s whole epic quest to find where she’s hidden succeeds through no action of his own, and I still have no idea why this book was even called “Curse of the Ravager” because there’s never really any talk of a curse beyond the fact that Ravager’s crew has a bad track record of staying alive.

SECRET SEVEN #3

Like Deathstroke’s book, this one follows a protagonist — in this case, Shade, the Changing Man — who makes crazy bad decisions that result in his teammates getting killed. And things don’t go as well for Shade as they did for Deathstroke!

At the end of issue #2, Shade was in hiding with team members June Moon, formerly the Enchantress, and Amethyst, the 12-year-old magic princess in an adult woman’s body. Amethyst had just turned up murdered, with Shade believing himself somehow responsible. Meanwhile, Abra Kadabra, a man from the future who uses technology to simulate magic, had outed the identities of the Secret Seven to the public because he no longer wanted to be part of the team. Even though he went about doing this in a way that made him the biggest jerk possible, I’m not exactly sure what harm is done to the team by making them public because that’s never made clear aside from the fact that they have the word “secret” in their official name.

The remaining three team members — Raven, Mindwarp, and Zatanna, whose pants seem to be magically invisible from the hips up — find Shade holding the corpse of a dead 12-year-old grown-up magic princess and become understandably angry. June Moon reverts back to the Enchantress and tries to fight them all at once. In response, Zatanna attempts to make Enchantress’ organs burst out of her skin from the inside in a panel that can be most concisely described as “imagine a sexy Kuato“. Shade wants them all to just stop fighting, so he freezes Mindwarp and Raven, who Enchantress then takes the opportunity to kill. Zatanna then tries to kill Enchantress with a death spell, but that fails and only gets rid of the June Moon personality. Zatanna herself is killed by using her own spell.

Shade is left alone and the Enchantress is free to return to her secret Amazon masters, having successfully performed her vital mission to eliminate a group of incompetent, slightly magical people who had no interest in stopping the Amazons in the first place. Shade is trapped within the area of madness, with the implication that he must escape because there’s still work for him to be done on Earth. The book ends on a “The End . . . ?” so maybe we’ll see him show up to try to help in Flashpoint #5.

Next week- The conclusions to Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown, Deadman and the Flying Graysons, Emperor Aquaman and Citizen Cold.

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