Step right up to Flashpoint Marathon, Comics Bulletin's attempt to force a single reviewer to slog through every tie-in to a major DC Comics summer event! Laugh as he sacrifices time and money to a mountain of mediocrity! Cringe as he sometimes seems to actually… enjoy it?
The first round of DC's Flashpoint minis wrap up this week, giving this pained reviewer a precious glimpse at the light at the end of the tunnel and allowing the books themselves one final bid for relevancy. While Azzarello and Risso's Batman efforts have previously and expectantly been deemed a success, it comes as a minor surprise that two of the remaining three series in this batch also go out on a relative high note. It may be mere coincidence, but it just so happens that those are the same books that manage to establish a meaningful link, at least in some small part, to the Flashpoint whole.
In fact, it would be fair to say that this week was the moment when Flashpoint finally started to feel like a genuine crossover, rather than a scattered collection of shared universe stories that might occasionally say hello to each other. Flashpoint #4, released simultaneously with the tie-ins below and also reviewed by Comics Bulletin here, made more direct references to its array of sister series than any other issue to date. Even the notoriously isolationist Knight of Vengeance and Secret Seven, the last places you might expect to find a discussion of Amazons, Atlanteans, or time travel, have joined the party.
Though the dreaded C-word may be dirty to some, it is an effective, time-tested method of enlarging the perceived scope of a story across several books. And when the story in question is Flashpoint, which revolves around the remaking of an entire universe, a sense of scale is paramount. While unchecked cross-referencing may alienate those who are only reading a subset of the whole, it can seem like quite the bonus for junkies like me who cripple their pull lists in a slavish desire to obtain the complete set.
It may be a selfish sense of satisfaction on my part, but that's the kind of heartless bastard that Flashpoint has turned me into.
Flashpoint: Batman – Knight of Vengeance #3 (of 3)
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artists: Eduardo Risso, Trish Mulvihill (c)
It was pretty much a given that Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso wouldn't be able to match the shock value of the previous issue's revelatory ending, but what they do achieve in Batman – Knight of Vengeance #3 is craft a powerful follow-up that fleshes out the character in question. In Flashpoint continuity, Martha Wayne survives Joe Chill's mugging to descend into madness as the main foe to her husband Thomas's Batman, both parents acting out of grief for their slain son, Bruce. The creative team mostly leaves it up to the reader to surmise how the character transformed from mother to maniac, but they do include a number of moving flashback scenes that serve to highlight the most dramatic moments of her suffering.
I began to wince when Azzarello's script began making reference to the time travel aspects of Flashpoint's main storyline, as they seemed out of place in a Batman book, but the writer ends up using them to great effect. The inclusion of this detail facilitates the raising of an issue that drives this comic like a stake through the heart. At first, it seems like a no brainer that Bruce Wayne's parents would be willing to sacrifice their own lives in order to save their child's. However, the question becomes much murkier for them (and us) to answer, when it becomes evident that doing so merely dooms him to a life of suffering as the joyless Dark Knight.
Flashpoint: Secret Seven #3 (of 3)
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artists: Fernando Blanco (layouts), Scott Koblish (finishes), Brian Buccellato (c)
Ten weeks into the Marathon, I'm ready to anoint Shade the Changing Man as the official avatar of my Flashpoint experience. By the conclusion of this tie-in series that I have repeatedly bashed both inside and outside this column, Shade finds himself adrift in the "Area of Madness," an otherworldly realm filled with physical representations of his encroaching psychosis. Nearly devoid of hope, his only comfort comes from the soothing voice of his M-Vest, the artifact that sources both his power and the instability that plagues his fragile mind. Comfort, that is, until Shade begins to wonder whether the voice truly belongs to the vest or is simply a product of his own delusions.
Having thoroughly enjoyed the final issue of Secret Seven, I'm compelled to ask myself a similar question. Has Peter Milligan managed to redeem this once impenetrable enigma of a series, or have the ravages of a seemingly endless crossover finally broken down my capacity for rational thought?
To my benefit, the evidence seems to suggest the former. While Milligan deserves his fair share of criticism for keeping the purpose of the story under wraps for so long, the book's finale does a fine job of encapsulating and resolving the conflicts between its characters. It also establishes this series quite firmly into the context of the larger Flashpoint event, something that seemed impossible just two issues ago. For readers perplexed over that strange Enchantress scene in Flashpoint #4, your explanation is right here.
Flashpoint: Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager #3 (of 3)
Writer: Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Tony Shasteen, Alex Massacci, The Hories (c)
Take everything I just said about Secret Seven, and envision its complete opposite. That's essentially the best description I can think to give of Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager. Over the course of three issues, it has taken a straightforward, can't-miss comic book concept (superhero pirates) and transformed it into a dull, fragmented mess. The third and final issue purports to put a cap on Flashpoint Deathstroke's personal story, but it proves to be a nigh impossible task considering how vaguely defined that story has been.
Has this book been about Deathstroke's search for his kidnapped daughter? Possibly, but it's a journey that has taken several detours along the way. At times, the series focused on Deathstroke's defeat at the hands of Emperor Aquaman, and at others it has centered on his rivalry with other pirate groups. This conclusion throws a budding romance and a crew mutiny into the mix, further piling onto this heap of things that happened once on the Flashpoint seas.
Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint #3 (of 3)
Writers: Rex Ogle
Artists: Eduardo Franciso, Stefani Renee (c)
After last issue's somewhat aimless tour around the titular Flashpoint world, Traci 13's story arc returns to its original focus, and this tie-in is all the better for it. The title certainly suggests that this miniseries' original purpose was to shine the spotlight on Flashpoint versions of DC characters who weren't starring in the other books, but the finished product actually exceeds that mission statement. Rex Ogle has been pleasantly surprising in serving up a framework that facilitates DC's goal while comprising a decent, character-driven story in its own right.
The conclusion of Traci's tale brings the sorceress teen to blows with her own father, who seeks to put an end to the Flashpoint world war by means of a weapon that will kill millions. Ogle presents the ensuing battle as a referendum on the inherent worth of humanity, arguing ultimately for optimism in the face of tragedy and suffering. In that regard, this book exists on the polar opposite of the worldview spectrum as Azzarello's Knight of Vengeance, but it interestingly finds its likeness in this week's edition of the Flashpoint main title. I doubt the parallels between Traci and Barry Allen are intentional, but it's a nice treat from a book whose primary reason for existing was to show us what Flashpoint Jason Todd is up to.
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
Flashpoint Marathon: Week 5
Flashpoint Marathon: Week 6
Flashpoint Marathon: Week 7
Flashpoint Marathon: Week 8
Flashpoint Marathon: Week 9
Our Sunday Slugfest review of Flashpoint #1
Chris' review of Flashpoint #2
Chris' review of Flashpoint #3
Chris' review of Flashpoint #4
Raised on a steady diet of Super Powers action figures and Adam West Batman reruns, Chris Kiser now writes for Comics Bulletin and can be found on Twitter as @Chris_Kiser. 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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