written by Geoff Johns
illustrated by Andy Kubert
Geoff Johns has spearheaded many of DC's recent summer comic events and mega crossover series since the publication of Infinite Crisis in 2005. Since then, readers have experienced and in few cases treasured Johns-driven, co-written events, or tie-in minis such as 52, Final Crisis, Flash Rebirth, Blackest Night, Brightest Day, and, most recently, Flashpoint. The unwieldy and longwinded nature of Blackest Night and its sequel Brightest Day aside, Flashpoint is the shortest in Johns' catalog, spanning only five individual issues. Yet, while resembling Infinite Crisis in format in this regard, Flashpoint is a departure due to its unnecessary reliance on tie-ins, mini-series, and peripheral titles all connected to the Flashpoint core. The result, unfortunately, is an uneven, scattered series that even the cohesion of a hardcover collection cannot mend.
In terms of plot and storyline, Flashpoint is a send-off for long-term DC lifers, particularly those who have joined Johns in his campaign to resurrect Barry Allen from the ashes of 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths and to replace Wally West, Jay Garrick, Bart Allen, and the rest of the DC Universe speedsters as the sole, penultimate Flash. As such, readers looking for the foundation of the New 52or new audiences who read Johns' current Green Lantern, Justice League, or Aquaman and want to discover more by the author are bound and destined for disappointment, as Flashpoint is so deeply rooted in DC's past, limiting its scope and appeal. The story centers around the return (once again) of Flash's nemesis, the Reverse Flash, who alters the timeline. Despite this temporal shift, Flash retains all of his memories of his old world—his friends, allies, loves, etc.—and is horrified to discover alternate reality versions of Batman, Wonder Woman, and the rest of the DC pantheon.
Interestingly, the Batman of this new reality is Thomas Wayne, not Bruce, as the father was the only survivor of the gunman. Additionally, the Superman of this world was captured as an infant and raised in a government-controlled facility. While these two creations alone merit attention and could yield intriguing reinterpretations of classic DC icons, their individual stories, motivations, backgrounds—essentially all the significant elements of character development—are abandoned in Flashpoint and left instead for a tie-in miniseries called Flashpoint Batman or Flashpoint Project Superman. Although the impetus behind such a maneuver is commercially clear, i.e., to coerce readers into buying vast separate titles that fill in the gaps and holes left by Johns' central story, the approach demeans and diminishes the collected Flashpoint edition entirely. If telling a solid and engaging story was crucial to Johns or critical to DC's vision of the series' importance and significance in their seventy-plus year ongoing mythology, publishing Flashpoint as an omnibus version with all the associated series would have been the most logical move. Sadly, the leftover tale found in Flashpoint only breaches the surface and relies on high-octane adventure sequences, repetitive fight scene after fight scene, and few moments of clarity or serenity as the multiverse is shattered and realigned anew.
What Flashpoint lacks in substantive narrative is more than made up for, however, in Andy Kubert's visuals. Heir to Jim Lee on Marvel's X-Men in the 1990s following Lee's move to Image, Kubert has come to define iconic representations of DC staple characters, including Batman. Aided by colorist Alex Sinclair, Kubert's crisp and clear linework brings the much needed emotion, vitality, and energy to the series. Although some audiences may tire eventually of superhero battles and fisticuff, knockdown brawls, few industry professionals could pull it off as well or as sharply as Andy Kubert.
Yet, the tantalizing visuals aside, Flashpoint, simply put, is not one that will resonate with wider audiences. Despite the innovation behind crafting alternate reality versions of DC mainstay figures and the untold adventures that could be developed, the collection here possesses little to no instances or examples of such possibilities. Instead, readers have forensic scientist Barry Allen trying to piece together a mystery and reassemble a universe where no emotional investment of threat or fear has been established. Sadly, this appears to be more a result of format than necessarily Johns' content. While the story may begin rather abruptly for readers not versed in Johns' previous Flash series with artist Francis Manapul, the absence of the related tales weakens this volume.