Before I go any further, these comics are not aimed at me…nor should they be. I am a long lapsed superhero reader, but surely not the kind that the DCnÜ wants to entice into reading their comics. So accept this as just one review out of 8264 that will be posted today and tomorrow. AND YEAH, SPOILERS, so don’t read until you’ve read the comics in question.
FLASHPOINT #5 by Geoff Johns, Andy Kubert, Sandra Hope and Jesse Delperdang.
I read issue #1 of FLASHPOINT and then skipped 2-4 and this issue STILL made perfect sense. That may not be an endorsement, but I was quickly able to fill in the blanks — the off-kilter world Barry Allen experienced in issue #1 was the work of Reverse Flash, Eobard Thawne, who used Barry’s desire to save his mother from dying to turn the world into a war-torn, death-crammed, miserable parallel Earth of misery and corruption. Because, as we know, whenever you use your powers to change the past bad things happen. (Remember that Doctor Who episode where Rose tried to save her dad?) The issue opens with a splash page that screams “COMICS FIGHT” with dialog and speed lines of the highest order. I liked it! It was dramaticky!
As the story begins, Barry and Eobard have a big fight. And Barry’s about to die because he really wants his mommy, but Doctor Thomas Wayne, this universe’s Batman, steps in at the last moment and saves the Flash, allowing him to get back on his cosmic treadmill and create the universe where the New 52 will now take place. But at a terrible cost — because now his mother will die and all the wonderful memories will have of her will be just that…memories.
A 7 page epilogue unfolds in which the Flash not only resolves his issues with his mother, but allows Bruce Wayne (now Batman again) to at least confront his father issues.
I had no trouble enjoying this story. The themes — sacrificing your own happiness for the greater good and surviving the death of a parent — are universal and well staged in the terms of a superhero fight comic. I didn’t much like FLASHPOINT #1 because all of its dramatic effects were based on knowing DC continuity. But this was pure character and plot, and included one awesome bit — Bruce Wayne’s “And don’t think I haven’t thought about it,” in regards to his own potential time traveling effort to save his parents. Why doesn’t Batman just grab one of the time travelers in the DCU and make him go back in time and stop the robber? I’m sure this has been done in a DC comics a time or 8, but these kind of meddlings with the time we know must always be punished with a worse world. I read enough issues of Marvel’s WHAT IF…as a kid to know that.
So I enjoyed that, then. And didn’t expect to. And then, I immediately picked up this comic:
JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 by Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, and Scott Williams
…and I was kinda stunned. The tone was SO DIFFERENT. The dialog was so much…simpler, to be blunt.
In case you haven’t read the comic (I told you to do that!) or 259 other reviews, the story is this: it’s five years in the past of the new Flash world, and there is no Justice League! Batman is a vigilante chasing robots on rooftops. Suddenly he’s confronted by…GREEN LANTERN! A cocky space cop with a ring. The majority of the issue is these two getting to know each other, accompanied by spectacular Jim Lee/Scott Williams fights and explosions (much aided by Alex Sinclair, who also colored FLASHPOINT. )
I’m impressed. JL #1 is definitely aimed at those teen readers Dan DiDio was talking about. This comic hopes to target people who have never read a Justice League comic before and are discovering this world for the first time. So we have Batman and Green Lantern learning about each by witnessing each other’s powers — Hal is stunned that Batman HAS no powers, while Batman is able to disarm the sloppy, over-confident Green Lantern.
A lot of people are wondering why this had to be an intro book, but I say …what a great idea! Go back and watch the first episode of any TV show still on the air — it set things up! You met people! People met people! There was intrigue so you would come back next week, but also introductions. No one had ever seen it before so you had to do that.
The problem I have with JL #1 is that it’s all done so…stiffly. The dialog is awkward in the extreme.
“Sounded like a death cry.”
“It combusted into fire.”
“But it did it on purpose.”
“How do you know that?”
“It was trying to incinerate us with it.”
If you guessed GL is the one who doesn’t know what’s going on and Batman is the one with the answers, you figured it out, but…who cares. This issue reminded me of Todd McFarlane’s first issue of SPIDER-MAN. It was so on the nose that it’s hard to take seriously. It’s definitely supposed to mimic video game dialog, but on the printed page it comes off as not sparkling.
The scene shifts at the end to an intro of Cyborg, who is still human-looking, and here things liven up a bit, with the introduction of his mysterious dad, who never comes out to watch him play sports. Bad dad! The last page introduces Superman in a big dramatic reveal.
So what to make of all this? More than ever I feel the conflict of knowing that this is not aimed at me. This is a somewhat uninspired introductory comic for readers 13-up.
Which is what it should be. Really, was there any other tack to take with this book? You want new readers, you must appeal to new readers! I have no idea if the flat video game dialog was the result of second guessing, editorial mandate or what, but the vivid, heroic art by Lee will probably make up for it for the younger reader. I hope. I guess. How the hell should I know? I think David B. and Tony Millionaire are spectacular artists!
I do know one thing: that new logo is ass ugly.
I’m told the other 51 books are more over the spectrum as far as tone and potential audience, which is again as it should be. Until we get to read more of them, I would say to take the reaction of any jaded, cold-cast statue-owning DC reader on JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 as superfluous. Give it to some 13-year-old boy of your acquaintance if you can pry him away from Batman: Arkham Asylum and see if he likes it. That’s your future of DC Comics right there.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.