We hold these truths to be self-evident, that not all comics are created equal. This Fourth of July, Chris Kiser gives up Life, Liberty, and most definitely the Pursuit of Happiness to bring you yet another installment of Flashpoint Marathon.
Consider my Flashpoint optimism to be officially dead. Though it was pretty clear early on (some would say around the time of the initial DC solicitations) that the tie-ins to this event would be less than spectacular, there was always the chance that a new first issue would bring with it the one book that would be worth raving about. Now that every miniseries and one-shot has debuted, the last slivers of that hope have been completely washed away.
While Iím looking forward to some of the 16 second issues thatíll be hitting the shops in July -- Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown, Wonder Woman and the Furies and World of Flashpoint to name a few -- even those pale in comparison to the best the industry has to offer. This week alone, DC released new issues of Batman Incorporated, Detective Comics and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, three series that consistently blow me (and most of the rest of the CB staff) away.
Also on shipping lists this week, laughing at me from the top of my reading stack, were these four books. Donít say I never did anything for ya.
Flashpoint: The Canterbury Cricket (one-shot)
Writer: Mike Carlin
Artists: Rags Morales, Rick Bryant (i), Nei Ruffino (c)
If you were one of the many who scratched your head in puzzlement over DCís announcement of something called The Canterbury Cricket as a part of its Flashpoint tie-in line, I should warn you that reading the book itself will do little to alleviate your confusion. Its contents fail to justify such an odd editorial decision, as the titular Cricket does not turn out to be a particularly fascinating character, nor does he bear any apparent ties to the non-Flashpoint DCU (thus thwarting my earlier prediction about the comicís significance). Instead, The Canterbury Cricket is a book that truly can be judged by its cover. Which is to say, it really is a story about a giant superhero cricket.
If the bizarre nature of such a thing could be ignored (and I realize thatís a big if), youíd have an inoffensively competent comic on your hands. Carlin and Morales arenít going to wow anyone with their efforts here, but they at least craft a tale with a discernable story progression and clear stakes. Compared to last weekís Lois Lane and the Resistance, which might be considered this one-shotís sister series, thatís a big step up. Sure to nag most readers, though, is a smattering of cornball dialogue as well as some fairly graphic violence, the latter of which feels quite out of place alongside a premise that is otherwise so whimsical. After all, this is a superhero comic whose protagonistís greatest power is the ability to make a really loud chirping noise.
Flashpoint: Green Arrow Industries
Writer: Pornsak Pichetshote
Artists: Marco Catiello, Ig Guara (p), Vincenzo Acunzo, Ruy Josť (i), Stefani Rennee (c)
"What would it take to make a corporation a superhero?"
Thatís the intriguing question asked early on by a character in Green Arrow Industries, putting forth a potential thesis statement for a seemingly promising and unconventional comic book premise. Unfortunately, this one-shot comes nowhere close to actually showing us what such a concept would look like. After waxing philosophically over the potential for the oft-maligned big business to do good in the world, the story shifts quickly to becoming a traditional superhero slugfest.
The Flashpoint Oliver Queen is one of the eventís more clever variations on the norm, transforming the outspoken liberal into a poster child for the military-industrial complex. Even so, it requires more than simply a new take on the familiar to transform this tie-in into a truly novel invention. When a mysterious terrorist group steps into play to avenge the collateral damage Queenís weapons testing has had on innocent civilians, it becomes clear that Green Arrow Industries is simply a DC riff on the Iron Man mythos.
None of that hinders Ig Guara, however, whose impressive Pete Woods-like art here and on Grodd of War has me excited for his work in the post-relaunch DCU. Itís nice to see at least one up-and-coming creator avoid succumbing to the career-killing threat of Flashpoint poisoning.
Flashpoint: Hal Jordan #1 (of 3)
Writer: Adam Schlagman
Artists: Ben Oliver, Allen Passalaqua (c)
After reading Abin Sur: The Green Lantern, one of the least impressive of this overall unimpressive glut of Flashpoint tie-ins, I wasnít expecting much from Adam Schlagman on Hal Jordan. Much to my surprise, the book, featuring the would-be Green Lantern in a world where he never got the ring, has gotten off to a pretty solid start. A lot of that is due to the pencil and digital ink combination of Ben Oliver and Allen Passalaqua, who make sure that this airborne adventure really soars. Thanks to a judicious use of wide and angular panel layouts, the duo bring to life a fleetís worth of the bookís many fighter jets, sending them almost literally swooping across the page.
Schlagmanís other assist comes from the fact that Geoff Johns essentially wrote him a template for this issue several years back. Despite this story taking place several years later in the characterís personal timeline, the Hal of Flashpoint is essentially the same guy we met in the opening act of ďSecret Origin,Ē Johnsí modern retelling of the heroís beginnings. In fact, if it werenít for a few references to Aquaman and the Amazon-Atlantean War, this could easily be a redrawn version of that story. Give Schlagman the credit for not missing the easy layup opportunity heís been given, but donít confuse that with thinking that heís creating anything new.
Flashpoint: Project Superman #1 (of 3)
Writers: Scott Snyder, Lowell Francis
Artists: Gene Ha, Art Lyon (c)
"They experimented on him in a lab for years!" With a title like Project Superman and a cover image depicting a rocket ship crashing into the heart of downtown Metropolis, it seemed like a surefire bet that the aforementioned tagline referred to an alternate reality version of Kal-El. Not so, according to the first issue of this Scott Snyder and Lowell Francis collaboration, which features (to the best of my knowledge) a new character being recruited by the US government to become a bioengineered super solider.
That play upon your expectations, however, is likely to be the only surprise youíll find here. Snyder and Francis quickly slip into the predictable trappings of a number of stories about men granted otherworldly power and the loss of humanity that ensues. Though it is largely written well, especially in the way it gradually tracks the development and progression of its protagonist, it is too easy to spot each step coming a mile away. From Dr. Manhattan to the upcoming DCnU Captain Atom relaunch, readers have been here many times before.
For more comic book related masochism, check out the previous installments of our Flashpoint Marathon:
Flashpoint Marathon: Starting Line
Flashpoint Marathon:Week 1
Flashpoint Marathon: Week 2
Flashpoint Marathon: Week 3
Flashpoint Marathon: Week 4
Our Sunday Slugfest review of Flashpoint #1
Chris' review of Flashpoint #2
Raised on a steady diet of Super Powers action figures and Adam West Batman reruns, Chris Kiser now writes for Comics Bulletin.† He's currently in the midst of reading and reviewing every tie-in to a major DC Comics summer event and regretting every second of it.
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