Friday, September 9

Flashpoint #4 of 5 (E. Oct 2011), Booster Gold #47 and Flashpoint: Kid Flash Lost #3 of 3 (Oct 2011), and Flashpoint #5 of 5 (L. Oct 2011)

Even though I've not yet read the final issues of the pre-Flashpoint runs of most DC Comics which came out in August (heck, I'm still lagging behind in reading a few of the July releases), the furor surrounding the end of Flashpoint and the beginning of the post-Flashpoint era on the same day, 31 August, was too much for me -- I jumped ahead.  The fact that it took me most of a week to put this post together is a separate issue.  Between work and personal issues, free time has been very hard to come by lately.  But let's get right to it -- the end of Flashpoint:

“Part Four of Five”

The US launches a full strike against the warring Atlanteans and Themyscirans in Britain, led by Hal “Highball” Jordan. Meanwhile in Metropolis, Flash, Thomas Wayne Batman, and Cyborg, having been abandoned by the emaciated “Superman” they found, end up being rescued by the appearance of Emily Sung, whose “top secret code name is Element Woman.” She seems to be a bit unstable (pardon the pun) – that's definitely the opinion of Dr. Wayne. Barry Allen's memory reboot seems to be progressing. The small team goes to the home of the seven youths who make up S!H!A!Z!A!M! Captain Thunder, who are divided on whether to join the cause. News comes of the slaughter of the US attack force by “invisible jets” over the UK, including Hal Jordan. Flash says that regardless of their own mission, they must stop the ongoing crisis on this world, an opinion Thomas Wayne doesn't share since he wants this world to end and the world Barry came from, where Bruce Wayne lived, to be restored. “Bruce Would've come,” Barry turns away from him – and whether or not this was a psychological ploy, it shames him into joining them, as do the “Thunder kids.” On the way to the UK, they communicate with other superbeings as well as pick up the Enchantress. But as they insert themselves into the fray between Aquaman and Wonder Woman, Enchantress turns on them, magically reversing the Shazam spell and sundering Captain Thunder into the constituent youths – and powerless Billy Batson is murdered by a Themysciran warrior before the horrified eyes of his sister Mary. “N-no,” Barry Allen protests in shock, “ … just a boy … just ...” – “Oh, Barry,” smirks the Reverse Flash, who has just appeared and thumbs back over his shoulder at the ruins of London where the superhuman battle still rages – “Look what you did.” “To be concluded.”

“Turbulence, Part Four”

Booster and Alexandra have been captured by General Adam, who is about to pharmacologically and psychically rip whatever knowledge Booster has of Atlantean plans directly from his mind – which he refuses to believe is nothing. Although he is bound, Booster is able to use a wrist blaster to try to drop a lighting scaffold on Adam – but succeeds only in activating a viewscreen which shows the Flashpoint Superman in flight. The effect is not exactly what Booster planned – “In my time, it was Superman's presence that attracted Doomsday to Metropolis.” Doomsday sees the screen. “Now that Doomsy knows the Kryptonian is here – the whole lethal mess is gonna play out again. … Especially with no one controlling him!” When a lucky blow from the rampaging monster frees him from his bonds, Booster heroicly sets to defend even his enemies from the monster. He doesn't stand a chance, of course – until Alexandra dons Adam's discarded control helmet and forces Doomsday to kill itself. Then Booster spies another screen – showing the Flash early in the battle in London. “Barry? That's the guy I've been looking for – fighting in Europe! … Together he and I can fix this mess!” – “And erase all of this horror, this war in the process,” Alexandra responds, “Including us. Our time together.” – “No. I'm bringing you home. With me.”

As they approach the UK, Booster reveals his thoughts: “My big mistake was trying to get back to my own time. … I burned valuable chronal energy trying to jump to far – to a place that no longer But to pull it off, I need Barry Allen.” They catch up to Barry (?! – whatever), to whom he explains, “When the timestream reset, I got pulled along! The chronal protection in my suit must've saved me from being erased like everything else was! … The chronal energy residue from your Speed Force is key! … I need more chronal energy! If I can tap into [your] Speed Force – I'll have what I need to jump into the timestream! From there, I can do what has to be done.” But one of the Atlantean soldiers has Barry (I think) in his sights – hence Booster – and fires. Alexandra throws herself in the path of the beam – Booster: “I never shoulda brought her here. Shoulda known it was too dangerous. Shoulda known it'd be a death sentence. … She dies. … And then – ” Swept into the timestream, Booster appears at Vanishing Point, where his memories of a war, and a woman, quickly fade. On the last page, previously in Arizona, we see an ephemeral woman (Alexandra?) appear before the blank chalkboard where she writes the various mysterious Flashpoint blurbs that we saw at the very beginning of the story ….

A couple of comments: Alexandra's death caught me by surprise – I had assumed she would be the mysterious raven-haired woman who briefly appeared on the first image for the new Justice League International. Could still be, or at least the Relaunch Universe version of Alexandra Gianopoulos. But it's not the Flashpoint version. Again, presumably to free up creators to get a jump on their assignments in the Relaunch, the majority of this book is illustrated not by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund, the regulars, but rather by Rick Leonardi and Don Ho (?!). Let's just say I'm very glad that at least the last few pages – the end of this wonderful series – get a fine send-off from the regulars. Frankly, however, even though it was enjoyable in its own right, over all, I can't say that this Booster Gold tie-in to Flashpoint really seems to have had much relevance.

“Part Three”

In a panel at San Diego Comic Con a couple of months ago, Sterling Gates called this his “love letter” to the Flash family. Well, it's a bit of tough love, I guess.

Bart Allen, in a black version of his Kid Flash uniform, is being bounced by the Speed Force back and forth through time, sent to various speedsters it has touched – from a young Max Mercury back in the Old West, to Jay Garrick ca. 1940, to the grave of Wally West (in the Flashpoint universe?). In each case, he absorbs their Speed Force – leaving young Max dead, Jay dead, even gaining Speed Force energy from the already dead Wally – gaining the boost he needs to catch up to Barry, who is racing to save the universe. Along the way Bart sees flashes (oops – pardon the pun) of his native timeline, the Flashpoint timeline, and others as well as a blending of the two? In the end, he realizes through seeing scenes of the importance of Barry's life that his purpose now is to impart that Speed Force energy to Barry, giving his grandfather the boost he needs to accomplish his own task. He also finds resolution in his own somewhat troubled relationship with Barry – then – “I understand everything. The Speed Force encased me with Black Flash armor as it led me around. As I reach deep in me to give The Flash everything … I become the living embodiment of the energy of the Speed Force. I become a White Flash.” Bart becomes one with the Speed Force, fading away like Barry did 'way back in Crisis on Infinite Earths (several images are direct homages to that event). “Run, Grandpa. I've given you what you need to save the world.” His monologue continues: “My name is Bart Allen. I'm KID FLASH … The Fastest Teen Alive. Today is the day that Kid Flash raced The Flash, and it's the day that – in order to save everything – Kid Flash lost. But because I lost? That means an entire universe will win life. It felt good to throw this race. I mean, sometimes you gotta let the old guys win in order to make 'em feel special, right? (But we all know I'm way faster. Kid Flash Fact.)” – “To be concluded in Flashpoint #5.”

An enjoyable enough little series on its own merits, but again I'm not sure how relevant it is to the main Flashpoint story.

“Part Five of Five”

We find out the twist right off the bat – “What did you do to the world?!” Barry Allen Flash rages at Eobard Thawne, The Reverse Flash – “I didn't do anything,” Thawne gloats. “Not a thing. You see, it turns out … You're the villain TODAY.” He forces Barry to remember by “resetting [his] internal vibrations – though it will be extremely painful. Lucky ME.” He is enjoying this.

“Do you remember, Barry? You were at your mother's grave on her birthday. Her first birthday since you learned I was responsible for her murder. And a life of gnawing emptiness finally pushed you over the edge. To a place you swore you'd never go. To the past. To the day your mother died. Do you remember? You found me. And in that instant you pulled the entire Speed Force into you to stop me. To stop me from killing your mother. You were like a bullet through a windshield. You shattered history. The lives of the people closest to you were put on a broken path.” This over scenes of a skinny child Kal-El in captivity; Thomas Wayne tackling the shooter – whose gun is firing right at young Bruce; Aquaman holding the lifeless body of Mera; and a couple more I'm not certain about. “You changed time like an amateur! This is your fault, Barry. This hell is your creation. You traded the life of your mother for the rest of the world! DO YOU remember?!” Thawne grins evilly. “YES! screams Barry.

You did this?” Thomas Wayne Batman demands of Barry. “... Then you can still fix this. We just need to get Thawne out of the equation – ” But that's wrong – Thawne is not part of the equation at all – he's now “a living paradox. … freed … from the shackles of any history!” – free to torment Barry without consequences. So he thinks – until he's impaled from behind by Thomas Wayne: “Doctor's advice: When you're in the middle of a war … Don't stand still.” And Thawne dies. Barry's shocked – but this is not Bruce Wayne. The battle still rages around them – Enchantress still fighting on the side of the Amazons. More superhumans join the fray – Grifter and the Resistance. Enchantress's motivations are pure chaos – not committed to either side – “I just want to have some fun!” She fatally blasts Thomas Wayne – but her fun is short lived as the scream of a falling missile turns out to be the Superman, Subject 1 – landing right on top of her feet first, and she splatters every which way. That's one way for a Kryptonian to deal with a magic-wielder (traditionally one of Superman's weaknesses)! (Apparently, from what I've read on the 'net, Superman's rage results from the death of Lois Lane in her own Flashpoint title which I didn't read.)

Then whatever devices Atlantis had set to bring down Britain start discharging – which Cyborg predicts will crack the planet in half! As explosions go off around them – and Barry's last memories of his own timeline continue to fade, along with them his memory of what his purpose is – the dying Thomas Wayne gives him a letter and tells him he must run, to keep his promise, to save the world in which his son lives, by stopping himself from changing history … his last words are, “I'm sorry about your mother ...” The world crumbles around him as Barry runs into the timestream – but thoughts of his mother throw him back out -- into his mother's front yard. Apparently the destruction is propagating from the epicenter in Britain – “They say this is the end,” she tells him. “It is, Mom. And it's all because of me.” Once she has heard his tale, Barry's mother knows what he must do – she sacrifices her very existence, telling him to focus his thoughts on himself, run, and save all those millions who have died because she lived. Barry catches up to himself – apologizes to himself – and throws himself off the Cosmic Treadmill he customarily uses to pinpoint his time-travelling.

As the cover blurb says, “IT ALL CHANGES HERE.” 
 A double-page spread shows three timelines converging – Wildstorm, Vertigo, and DCU – Flash himself changing – into the “DCnU” post-Flashpoint Relaunch “New 52” Reboot Notaboot (did I catch them all?) – all overseen by a Mysterious Hooded Woman who tells him that three shattered timelines “must become one again. … But at a cost.” Uh-oh – new Big Event in the making? Mysterious Hooded Woman allegedly appears in every one of the new #1's coming out in September. Barry wakes up back where he started this adventure, in the Crime Lab in Central City.

In an epilogue, he visits Bruce Wayne Batman in the Cave and tells him the story. “Trying to change history … I should've known better. Thawne was right. I was selfish.” What may be a new, kinder, gentler Batman (?!) in the DCnU tells him, “Don't beat yourself up, Barry. If I had your power, I would've tried the exact same thing.” Barry reveals that he now possesses dual memories, growing up with his mother living and growing up with his mother dead. He tries to explain it scientifically, but Batman – Batman – tells him, “[I]t could be a gift, Barry. A gift to make it all a little easier.” Barry then gives Bruce the letter from his father, which over the course of two mostly wordless pages and a sequence of many small panels conveying very well Bruce's stunned reaction as he reads it – and the time he took as he obviously read it, and reread it, again and again – ending “Love always, your father. Thomas,” shows something I don't think I've ever seen before. – Batman. With tears in his eyes. – “You're one hell of a messenger. Thank you, Barry.” “You're welcome, Bruce.” “The End.”

I've given this issue 'way more than I usually give to my little blogs about comics, but after several readings I must say that I quite enjoyed it and wanted to convey the gist of the story in more than just sketchy summarized form. Going into Flashpoint #5, I wasn't really sure where this was going except into a new greatly changed universe. And that is of course where we ended up. – Batman. With tears in his eyes. – But the way we got there! Wow! The revelation that it hadn't been The Reverse Flash removing the Flash Family from existence and shattering – truly shattering, apparently – the timeline, but rather Barry himself. The sacrifice made by his mother when he could not go through with it on his own. That closing scene …. I still have my worries about certain aspects of what's coming, but this issue was powerful. In the past I've always wondered what I would throw out as my favorite scene in comics as I've heard the question asked or put forth on various podcasts or message boards. Right now, at least, it's the epilogue to Flashpoint #5. The writing, the art, everything, top notch – even the (IMHO) somewhat over-designed new costumes came off quite well in those last few pages. Well done.

So passes the DCU …  Batman. With tears in his eyes.

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