If you haven’t figured it out, I’m a comic book nut. I love them passionately. But, over the last few decades, my interest, which peaked around 2004 after returning to the medium in 2000, has waned. I’ll pick up the occasional issue here and there, but with nowhere near the gusto of before. Whiz!Bam!Pow! was born out of this waning interest and a desire to make entertainment that I wanted to see.
As Whiz!Bam!Pow! is a transmedia project, I was grabbed by DC’s Flashpoint story, in which Eobard Thane, the nefarious Reverse-Flash, arch-enemy to the recently-resurrected (and insufferably boring) Barry Allen’s Flash, fucked up the time stream and created an alternate DC Universe, one where Wonder Woman and Aquaman have sunk Europe in their war against one another, where Batman is even more pissed off, and Superman is anything but super. It was a whole new world of possibility, just like Marvel’s Age of Apocalypse in the 1990s (a series which I loved, in spite of my overall lack of interest in the comic book iteration of the X-Men). The world-building potential was humongous – easter eggs could abound, it looked like an opportunity to create something huge, something massive, something COOL!
And some of it is very cool – like the identity of the Flashpoint-iverse Batman, his even more pissed-off demeanor, and his war against the Joker (in spite of the upcoming criticism of the Flashpoint execution, you must pick up Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s Batman: Knight of Vengeance series. Can I just have this be my Batman, please?), as well as a few other of the tie-ins.
But the series proper? It looks nice, but it’s filled with overwrought and heavy-handed exposition. Why is this? I fear DC applied the lessons of events past, such as Infinite Crisis which was filled with pointless tie-ins, to an event like Flashpoint, where if you had read everything, it would be more amazing. Flashpoint suffers from having to explain the world in the event series itself. Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth is utilized even more as an expositional device than it had been before – a weak device, to be sure, but now? Ugh.
The Flashpoint series should have been the final piece of the Flashpoint event. Perhaps “Alpha” and “Omega” issues to bookend the various pieces? In three issues, Flash has found Batman and they got his Flash powers back, then went to find Superman. The rest? Exposition for the world. I want time to to care about these characters, and I want to see them reach the point of change where they determine that the only way to change their world is by literally changing their world back to the DC Universe proper – which would make the advent of the DCnU even more compelling. But more on that in a moment.
The reason events like Infinite Crisis failed was because the tie-ins were unnecessary to the world. We already knew the world of DC Universe. It’s been around in various iterations since 1938 (though the modern iteration only since the mid-80s). Flashpoint on the other hand, should have embraced this. Perhaps three issues each of the major players in the Flashpoint saga? One for Barry Allen. One for Cyborg. One for Batman. Maybe a few others, but the rest could have been folded into the others as Easter Eggs. The issue here is that the balance between exposition and plot propulsion is so unbalanced that it’s a mess. The potential for digital comics – of which DC co-publisher Jim Lee is a champion – was limitless. And now? Squandered.
When DC announced its “DCnU” reboot, it became apparent to me that Flashpoint has been reduced to nothing more than a vehicle to get to that point. It feels like an afterthought, an effort to recreate the success of writer Geoff Johns’s Green Lantern epics with a character that is completely uninteresting compared to Johns’s depiction of Hal Jordan.
I hope DC gets itself in order, or I fear we’re going to see less a resurgence of the medium than a last whimper as the faithful and the uninitiated alike turn their eyes elsewhere, reducing one of the most vibrant storytelling mediums ever created into nothing more than an afterthought. But maybe that’s what needs to happen. Maybe we’ll see a balance in the independent comics world and the “big two” (DC and Marvel) world. All I know is that I’m not looking to the Big Two for the direction forward. Give me the interesting stories and untethered creative of independent creators any day.