The Neil 52 – Week 12

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Hello and welcome to this weeks edition of my year-long reading challenge in which I take a look at stories from comic books past and present. That’s 52 books in 52 weeks. The only criteria for the stories is that they were published between June 24th 1980 and the present day, thereby covering the 34 years I have been alive.

If anyone has any suggestions for stories that would like me to cover sound off in the comments.

DC Comics have never been one to shy away from a line wide status continuity shattering event. Crisis On Infinite Earths began the trend in 1985 in an attempt to simplify the DC Universe’s 50-year-old continuity. Three more events followed with the intention of fixing any lingering problems and loose ends in the continuity, Zero Hour: A Crisis In Time (1994), Infinite Crisis (2005) and Final Crisis (2008).

In 2011, DC decided that it was time to shake things up once again. Unlike the Crisis books, the fallout of this event would have cataclysmic ramifications for the DC Universe as a whole. The status quo would not just change but the past, the present and the future would never be the same again as DC ushered in The New 52. Not with a bang but with a…

Flashpoint
Words: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Andy Kubert
Inks: Sandra Hope, Jesse Delperdang
Colours: Alex Sinclair
Issues Covered: Flashpoint #1-5

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Barry Allen, The Flash, hero of Central City. A man whose life was changed irrevocably by two events in his life. The first was the murder of his mother and the second was the lab accident that gave him superhuman abilities. Both events would drive him forward to becoming the hero he was…but then he wakes up and it was all over.

Allen wakes up in his lab, in a world that has never heard of The Flash or The Rogues and Citizen Cold (Captain Cold) is Central City’s greatest hero. Allen comes face to face with the mother he thought was dead and learns that his father died of a heart attack in later life as opposed to dying in prison after being convicted of his wife’s murder.

He learns there is no Justice League and that Atlantis and the Amazons are engaged in a war that is crippling the world and devastated Western Europe. No Justice League, but there is a Batman, so Allen goes to Wayne Manor to seek help. The Batman he finds is not the one he remembers but is in fact Thomas Wayne, bitter and twisted after the murder of his son in Crime Alley all those years ago.

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Batman is understandably wary of the stranger claiming to be his dead sons friend but eventually agrees to help Allen recreate the accident that gave him his powers. Allen is sure that Eobard Thawne, Reverse-Flash, is to blame for the altered time line and the only way to stop him is to become The Flash again. The first attempt burns him to a crisp, but tenacity gets him to the dance for a second time and thankfully this time it is a success.

Meanwhile, the war between Atlantis and the Amazons escalates. We see Steve Trevor being interrogated by Wonder Woman in the Amazon territory of New Themyscira, formerly London. He had been sent in to extract Lois Lane who had been working undercover and was last seen with the resistance fighters (a ragtag bunch including Grifter and Etrigan The Demon).

Cyborg tries to rally together the meta-human community in order to try to bring it to an end. Batman, who previously refused to join, and The Flash enlist Cyborg’s help to find this realities Superman who has been kept secret by the US government since his rocket crash landed years before.

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Upon freedom, Superman does a bolt and leaves his liberators to fight the prison facility soldiers. They are only saved by the arrival of the eccentric Element Woman. They escape to the foster home of a group of kids that together form Captain Thunder, this realities version of Captain Marvel.

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The Flash experiences epileptic convulsions as his memory attempts to realign itself with the new reality. The heroes come together as time becomes their enemy. They have to stop the war and The Flash must find a way to stop this reality becoming the only reality he has ever known.

Without giving away too much of the end game, as I feel the book is worth a read, an epic battle ensues. There are casualties on both sides and betrayals from unexpected sources. In the end it is the choice…no, the fate of Barry Allen, to bring the time stream back to normal. But we know that it didn’t quite work out that way.

As events go Flashpoint is pretty decent. I have never been a regular reader of a Flash book, my Flash is Wally West from the Justice League animated series. Sure, I knew the Barry Allen back story but was a little concerned about getting lost in continuity due to it being a Flash-centric event. I was happy to find that a good working knowledge of continuity was not necessary.

Johns places a lot of focus on the interactions between Barry Allen and Thomas Wayne, making a lot of the exposition feel natural and not shoehorned in which can be an issue with a lot of events. I do feel however, and this is something I find with a lot of Johns written events, that we are only given what we need to get us from point A to B. Yes the main focus is Barry Allen and his interactions with Thomas Wayne, I just would have liked a tad more details of the background of the war between the Amazons and Atlantis.

I do realise that there are a handful of tie-in limited series that add depth to the story but I haven’t read them yet. A man can only buy so many comics and to be fair that is not that big a gripe.

What I do love about Johns’ writing is his ability to find a human core to the characters. Take Thomas Wayne, for example, we are repeatedly shown that he has no care for the world as it burns and that he is lost in his own misery. Yet Johns cuts through all that and finds a man who would do anything to give his son the chance of life that was snatched from him, even if it means an end to his own reality.

The main crux of the tale is the age-old ethical question of if you had the ability to alter time would you, or more to the point should you?

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As the panel above shows, Barry Allen is in fact to blame for the timeline he finds himself in. Even when his motives were good, the act of going back to save his mother sets events in motion that brings the world to the brink of disaster.

This is a powerful idea for a comic book. It allows Johns to give us a heart wrenching scene in which Allen has to go to his now alive mother and explain to her that he has to let her die. I won’t lie, I was sitting reading this on my break in work and I had to stop to get myself together before the heavy tears kicked in.

Bravo Johns, Bravo. Sure a lot of the more jaded readers will look at that as a contrivance in order to bring more gravitas to the a no doubt action packed finale…but it doesn’t, we have a couple of pages in which we see the mysterious Pandora inform us of a great evil that is coming and we see the merging of the three different timelines (DC, Vertigo and Wildstorm) but the grand finale is in the final few pages.

Before Allen attempts to fix the timeline, Thomas Wayne gives him a letter for his son. The final few pages take place in the Batcave where The Flash is explaining his adventure to Batman (both in their New 52 costumes). He gives Batman the letter from his father and from here we see that our narrator has in fact been Thomas Wayne and the letter has been the narration. It is a touching moment and one of the few times you will see Batman in tears.

Bravo.

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