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GET TO THE FLASHPOINT Week 5: Project Superman, Green Arrow, Hal Jordan, Canterbury Cricket

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

  • Project Superman by Scott Snyder, Lowell Francis and Gene Ha
  • Green Arrow Industries one-shot by Pornsak Pichetshote, Marco Castiello, Ig Guara, Vincenzo Acunzo and Ruy José
  • Hal Jordan by Adam Schlagman and Ben Oliver
  • The Canterbury Cricket one-shot by Mike Carlin, Rags Morales and Rick Bryant

We’re into week five of the Flashpoint tie-ins, the last round of issue #1s and one-shots before we move on to the second issues of all the miniseries. Given how poor the last few weeks have been, expectations were not high for this week’s books, although two of the four Flashpoint tie-ins were really quite good.

PROJECT SUPERMAN #1 – RECOMMENDED

Beginning 30 years before the present day of Flashpoint’s alternate reality, the story of Project Superman follows U.S. Army Ranger Lt. Neil Sinclair as he volunteers to become a part of a government program to create a super soldier. That operation is talking place in a hidden facility under Metropolis and is overseen by General Sam Lane. The General’s become frustrated with trying to recruit metahumans to help the USA and instead seeks to take the most loyal soldiers he can find and give them superpowers.

Years pass as tests conducted on Sinclair give him super strength, super speed, invulnerability, x-ray vision, super hearing and the ability to absorb and expel incredible amounts of raw energy. Sinclair’s eager to go out and show the world what he can do, but the fearful government wants to keep his existence hidden. Lane himself is uneasy around Sinclair, who;s in no way oblivious to the fear and suspicion building towards him. The pages where Sinclair observes and eavesdrops on conversations about him, drawn by Gene Ha in an “x-ray vision” style, nicely display his building paranoia and isolation.

When Sinclair’s finally given the chance to take part in a special ops mission, his inability to gauge and control his own strength results in massive devastation that doesn’t distinguish between friend and foe. Sinclair’s put into confinement just as a barrage of meteors crashes into Metropolis, including a blue, yellow and red rocket carrying a child from another world.

Sinclair’s a great contrast to Superman. Given his abilities as an adult, he’s unable to gradually adjust to them like Clark Kent was and is instead let loose into a world that’s suddenly fragile in a way his mind can’t comprehend. The way Sinclair’s dialogue balloons change color to make him seem like some kind of demonic beast is a nice visual indicator of his increasing separation from the rest of humanity. While Clark Kent tries to be human despite his powers, Sinclair deliberately sought abilities that would make him more than ordinary — a living weapon.

With the possible connection between the cliffhanger and the book’s opening page, in which a present-day Sinclair declares he is “now killing a Superman,” I’m very curious to see where the next two issues of Project Superman go.

GREEN ARROW INDUSTRIES #1 – RECOMMENDED

Green Arrow Industries is both a study of a deeply conflicted, tragic figure and a comic that asks “What if Oliver Queen was both Iron Man and Mega Man?” And I was surprised by how much I liked it for both of those reasons.

In the Flashpoint reality, Oliver is the wealthy owner of weapons manufacturer Green Arrow Industries. At one point, when the company faced bankruptcy, Ollie decided to use the remaining funds to hire a team of mercenaries and go after supervillains. Upon capturing them, he reverse engineered their gadgets into weapons he sold to the U.S. Armed Forces and made all his fortune back. It’s actually a really great gimmick, as it’s a ton of fun to see Ollie go into a fight armed with Trickster’s antigrav boots, the Top’s exploding tops, Rainbow Raider’s goggles and more.

Unfortunately for Ollie, his tactics have made him some enemies. The small towns where he built his weapons factories became targets for villains out for revenge, and when Ollie abandoned those factories the citizens of the towns became his enemies as well. In Green Arrow Industries, a group of assassins comes to Ollie’s secure island and kills most of his men, including his head of security, Roy Harper. As Ollie fights to survive he’s confronted with whether he really believes he can use his company to do good in the world or if he’s really just in it for the money.

Even though Green Arrow Industries was only a one-shot it did a very good job of quickly introducing and telling a story about an alternate reality Green Arrow that confronted the same issues often addressed by the normal DCU incarnation of the character, but with a compelling twist. It’s a shame this concept wasn’t given a three-issue miniseries, because based on this single installment, Green Arrow Industries could have risen to the top of the Flashpoint crop.

HAL JORDAN #1

Hal Jordan is the standard Hal origin story: father killed in fighter plane accident, son takes up legacy of being a hot-shot pilot in a bomber jacket. Hal’s a test pilot for Ferris Air, which is conscripted to help monitor the U.S. coastline against Atlantean attacks. One day on patrol, a shark man jumps out of the water onto Hal’s plane. Let me repeat that: a creature that is a shark that lives in the ocean but has arms and legs instead of flippers and a tail jumps directly out of the water to attack a fighter plane. It’s not King Shark because he’s over in a circus in Deadman and the Flying Graysons, but it does look an awful lot like him so I’m just going to call this guy Baron Shark. Anyway, Baron Shark’s muscular shark legs have him leaping between Hal and Carrol Ferris’ jets and menacing both of them until Hal saves the day by crashing his plane into hers. Carrol then chews Hal out for saving her life. So Hal takes his plane (which is her plane) and leaves to clear his head, leading to Hal meeting a crash landed but very much still alive Abin Sur.

Writer Adam Schlagman and artist Ben Oliver have the unenviable task of trying to tell a story about a Hal Jordan without superpowers and make it interesting. The fact that it chooses the thrilling title of “Hal Jordan: The Man Without A Characteristic Exciting Enough For Us to Add a Subtitle Here’ does not get it off to a good start. It’s not a bad book but by presenting pretty much the same character as we saw in the DCU it wastes time restating the familiar origin story and ignores the opportunity to use the alternate Flashpoint reality to look Hal’s story from a wildly different perspective. Maybe DC was thinking the timing of the book would attract readers who just saw the Green Lantern movie, but even then all this book is doing is restating an origin they’ve just seen while confusing them by presenting it in a slightly different alternate reality.

THE CANTERBURY CRICKET #1

Etrigan the Demon, Godiva, Mrs. Hyde and Wicked Jinny Greenteeth escape from a group of Amazons and attempt to meet up with elements of the British resistance. When all is at its most desperate, they’re saved by a cricket man whose loud screeching gives them the time they need to evade capture. Later, around a campfire, cricket man scolds them for not being patriotic enough in their support of the British homelands and tells them the tragic tale of one Jeramey Chriqui.

Jeramey was a college student who, during the Amazon attack on Canterbury, threw the girl he was flirting with in front of a sword aimed at his own chest and fled for safety in a cathedral where the skull of St. Swithin turned him into a super-powered cricket monster. The Cricket joined a superhero team of fellow insect heroes – Blue Beetle, Queen Bee, the Cockroach and Firefly — and together they fought back pretty ineffectually against the Amazons and everyone but him died. The Cricket’s story concludes just in time for the group to be found again and Wicked Jinny to be exploded by a laser.

Next week: The second issues of Batman: Knight of Vengeance, Abin Sur: The Green Lantern, Secret Seven and World of Flashpoint.

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