Sunday, May 15, 2011

Review: Flashpoint #1

Flashpoint #1 (of 5)
Written by Geoff Johns; art by Andy Kubert and Sandra Hope; DC

(Spoiler-free review.)

Let's start by talking about the art. I've seen both positive and negative responses to it online. I think it's good. Some of Andy Kubert's faces are a bit weird and occasionally the proportions seems to go a bit wonky, but it doesn't really bother me. I'd much rather have some quirks from an artist who has his own style than bland uniformity or lifeless photorealism. Alex Sinclair's colours are also worth mentioning. They give the book a crisp, saturated look, with sharp contrast between warm and cold hues. It works.

Now, about the story... If you've read my review of the final issue of Flash, which leads directly into Flashpoint, you know that I've been pretty hard on Geoff Johns' lazy scripts. This issue further cements my feeling that his strength is in the ideas, stories and concepts he comes up with, more than in the scene-by-scene scripting or dialogue.

The opening scenes where Barry realizes he's lost his powers and that his mother is still alive are fine, up until the point where they start talking. This is something that always bothers me in alternate reality stories where one character is the only person aware that the world has changed. As soon as they start saying things like "Where's Dad?" when their father died three years ago or "Do I own a car?" people would freak out. They would immediately become extremely concerned about their mental health and want to take them to a doctor. I've had friends who started showing signs of schizophrenia and let me tell you it's a very disturbing and frightening thing to see someone you love lose their grip on reality. It's not something you just shrug off and ask "Are you sure you're okay?"

Like the scenes in Flash #12 that were seemingly lifted right out of a bad TV drama, this tells me that Geoff Johns is not the kind of writer who draws a lot from his own experience  in terms of how human beings interact with each other, but instead takes his cues from television, movies and other comic books. This scene immediately calls to mind dozens of similar scenes from alternate reality stories we're all familiar with and it makes no effort to rise above the clich├ęs.

Fortunately, the rest of the book is a lot better. There's still a lot of exposition through dialogue, but honestly I'm not sure how else you could convey so much information about a completely new world in a single issue without those types of info dumps, so I'm more willing to forgive it. The only thing that bothers me slightly is that all this time is spent introducing characters that will apparently not feature prominently in the main series but whose stories will instead be told in the four gazillion spin-off mini-series. So for those of us who don't plan on reading the spin-offs, this is just a lot of extra information that isn't going to pay off in any way. But, again, I understand that this is an "event" comic and this issue essentially functions as a big advertisement for all the other books DC is hoping you will buy. Anybody who buys the first issue of Flashpoint is a willing participant in that game, so to bitch about it too much would be kind of disingenuous.

The book ends on a very effective revelation about one of the major players, one that most readers will have probably seen coming by the time they get to the last page but that packs a good punch anyway just because of its implications and how it sets the tone for the next four issues.

Flashpoint #1 doesn't really rise above the problems you'd expect from the first issue of a big summer event comic book, but it gets the job done. It was a good choice to keep the two main antagonists (Aquaman and Wonder Woman) out of the book. Their threat is felt throughout the book, but Johns wisely delays the impact of their first appearance for a later issue. The business about the Amazons castrating all males who enter their territory definitely makes me groan - a lot! - but I'm willing to bite my tongue for now and wait to see exactly where they go with it before I critique that story decision. I plan on picking up the next issue. Haven't decided yet if I'm going to bother with any of the minis.



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