GET TO THE FLASHPOINT, WEEK 1: Batman, Abin Sur, Secret Seven, Traci 13
Flashpoint is DC Comics' summer even 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
- Batman: Knight of Vengeance by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
- Secret Seven by Peter Milligan, George Perez, Fernando Blanco and Scott Koblish
- Abin Sur: The Green Lantern by Adam Schlagman and Felipe Massafera
- World of Flashpoint by Rex Ogle, Eduardo Francisco and Paulo Siquiera
The immediate fact worth noting is that so far, none of the tie-in books seem to be at all necessary for knowing what's going on in the main Flashpoint series. If all you care about is having enough information to follow the plot of Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert's flagship event book, you can comfortably skip all of these. There are details dropped in a few, particularly in World of Flashpoint, that flesh out the alternate universe backstory but they're not plot-essential details that can't be summed up in a sentence or two. But I'll get to those details later.
BATMAN: KNIGHT OF VENGEANCE - RECOMMENDED
100 Bullets creators Azzarello and Risso's Batman: Knight of Vengeance seemed like the safe bet of this week's tie-ins and that turned out to be true. In the Flashpoint Universe, Thomas Wayne fought off his would-be murderer but his son Bruce and his wife Martha were shot and killed in the struggle. Afterwards he took up harsh measures to fight crime in Gotham, opening a casino to give him the chance to monitor the criminal element and control its flow of funds; privatizing Gotham's police into his own security force; and becoming the Batman, a costumed crimefighter entirely willing to kill. Assisted in the casino by Oswald Cobblepot and in Gotham Security by Jim Gordon, Knight of Vengeance #1 finds Thomas Wayne currently investigating the kidnapping of Judge Harvey Dent's twins by the Joker, and Dent's threatened to end Wayne's corporate empire if he fails. The fact that he's attempting to rescue children here suggests the story will continue to examine Wayne's obsession with his failure to save his own son, the motivation that saw him grab onto the rantings of an apparently crazy man as his only hope when The Flash explained the alternate realities concept to him over in the main Flashpoint book.
Batman: Knight of Vengeance is very promising. Azzarello and Risso make Wayne an instantly fascinating character and his darker Gotham a compelling one. I particularly enjoyed this Batman's interactions with Jim Gordon, whose Flashpoint version is still the good guy trying to do the best in a harsh world with a corrupt system. This read like a good Elseworlds story, taking an iconic part of the DC Universe, changing one key element and reexamining a character's themes through that twisted lens. Oh, and if you need any more reasons to like Flashpoint's Batman, I should tell you he's already killed Hush before the book started. Why there was a Hush in a world with no Bruce Wayne, I can't say, but he's dead and I wouldn't mind if DC kept that post-reboot.
THE WORLD OF FLASHPOINT
If you want the book that gives the most backstory on the setting of Flashpoint, try World of Flashpoint, which could be more accurately titled "Flashpoint: Traci 13," as the girl wizard's the star of the book. In this universe, Traci's mother and siblings die in the flooding of Paris, which has been submerged by the Atlanteans but sadly not renamed AquaFrance. She survives in a Europe torn apart by the war between the Atlanteans and the Amazonians (who conquered the British Isles but call them New Themyscira instead of the United Queendom. So, again, ball dropped there.).
We do find out a little more about why the war started in this. Apparently there was going to be a political marriage between Diana and Aquaman but Hippolyta's death by spear-through-the-back resulted in war instead, which confirms the old superstition that the bride's mother dying, no matter how tempting an option it may seem, is always bad luck. Traci's father, Doctor 13, is part of an international council that wants to end that war, a council that includes Ra's al Ghul in the body of a child but still with the white hair streaks from Egypt, Dr. Light (the non-rapist one) from Japan, and Prince Osiris of Kahndaq (You know, that guy who only shows up during event storylines?). Their foolproof strategy involves nuking both parties from space, which will kill a hundred and eighteen million people. They trigger a countdown at the end of issue one with an estimated impact time in under thirteen hours, but given that this is all happening in what will surely be one of the least read tie-ins something tells me their plan to blow up Western Europe's going to fizzle out. If the imminent death of that many people is a serious threat, you either mention it in your main narrative or you're bluffing.
While not stellar, I will say that World of Flashpoint does the best job of conveying the collective global fear, depression and lack of hope for a better world that's befallen this version of the DC Universe that's never had its greatest heroes.
Secret Seven is a book that mostly follows Shade, the Changing Man. If you're having trouble keeping track of which DC Universe Shade this is, remember that one wears only black and the other wears every other color as well as several not visible to the human eye. This is the second one. Although writer Peter Milligan's got a long history with the character, it's George Perez's art and Scott Koblish's coloring that are the real stars of the book. The designs are remarkable, the imagery often trippy, and the layouts suitably disorienting.
Shade is the only surviving member of the Secret Seven, a group made up of himself, Black Orchid, Trigon, Klarion, Simon Magus, Stiletto and Miss X. They're all dead and he may have killed them. He doesn't know, his memories keep being erased. The Enchantress comes looking for him, to help him free her original persona trapped deep within her soul. There is about as much innuendo regarding that as you think there is. With no immediate connection to the wider story, I'm tempted to make an early guess that Shade's one of the characters who has been given a prominent role here because he'll be reintroduced to the new DCU as part of the upcoming September reboot. Milligan certainly writes him like a character with more backstory and opportunity for future development than a three issue limited series would have room for.
ABIN SUR: THE GREEN LANTERN
Abin Sur: The Green Lantern is a book that is an achievement in crossover event writing in that it crosses over with the last crossover, tying the events of Blackest Night into Flashpoint. Yes, Flashpoint truly is a more miserable version of the DC Universe, because as long as Blackest Night seemed to go on from our points of view, it turns out it's still going on in the DC Universe! Nekron's Black Lanterns are conquering sector after sector, Kilowog's dead, Green Lantern Sinestro can't convince the Guardians to fight back, and Abin Sur, who values protecting life above all things, is sent to Earth to recover the white entity stored there. The Guardians believe Earth is no longer safe, but Abin refuses to follow their direct orders to ignore the human conflicts and vows to prevent the further loss of life on the war-torn planet.
Abin Sur's the least impressive of the tie-ins so far. While Secret Seven and Batman: Knight of Vengeance both feature interesting characters and World of Flashpoint gives the best overall tone of the event, this just feels like a lazily executed "What if . . . ?" The fact that I had to read the words "Nekron" and "Black Lantern" again probably didn't help.
Next week in Get to the Flashpoint: the first issues for Frankenstein and The Creatures of the Unknown, Emperor Aquaman, Citizen Cold and Deathstroke.