Random Blogness: Flashpoint: My Kind of Crossover

Thomas Wayne as Batman.

One of the things I dislike most about Marvel and DC is their tendency to keep things stuck in a perpetual crossover. In the Marvel Universe, for example, one year featured a superhero Civil War. No sooner had that finished up than we got World War Hulk. No sooner had we seen the fallout of that than we got Secret Invasion. Then came Dark Reign. Then Chaos War. Now Fear Itself. DC hasn’t been any better, with Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis, and Crisis Crisis Crisis Oh My God This Is a Crisis! These events always bill a big change for their respective universe, but the changes tend to be minor – a character dies, but he’ll be back in two years or less. A new status quo is established, but it will be wiped out by the time the next crossover starts.

The biggest problem with all these crossovers is that they tend to be the same old thing again and again. There’s some big huge threat, that mega-villain will kill a hero or two (usually a second-stringer unless the company wants to cash in on a funeral issue), and then the heroes will ultimately win in the last issue and fix what got broken. Marvel’s crossover this year, Fear Itself, seems to be following that to a T – they’ve got a bunch of uber-villains (mostly mind-controlled heroes and villains), they’ve killed Bucky Barnes so Steve Rogers can be Captain America again in time for the movie this summer, and the next issue features a big brawl between Thor and a mind-controlled Hulk and Thing. There are a lot of splash pages and moments that are supposed to seem awesome, but overall it’s the same old same old. It’s just boring.

So I’m yet another fan on the Internet bitching about comics, right? Yeah, kind of. But I do have something positive to add. From what I’ve read of it, I’m really like DC’s event, Flashpoint, so far. Why? Because it offers something different, even if those new things are impermanent.

Flashpoint in a nutshell: Professor Zoom, a Flash villain, has gone back in time and screwed up the past. Only Barry Allen, the Flash, knows how things are supposed to be, and he’s trying to fix things. I took notice of the event through the hilarious and suicidal way that Barry got his powers back. The story itself, as of issue #3, still has the feel of this “the stakes are high and things will change” bullshit that mars many crossovers. However, we haven’t seen more than glimpses of Zoom as of yet, and most of the tale has been focused on how screwed up the timeline is. In the Flashpoint world, Bruce Wayne died in that fateful mugging, causing Thomas Wayne to become Batman. Thomas is a more lethal Batman, killing all of his enemies except for the Joker (and with good reason on that last bit). He also runs a casino by day, drawing crime to him so he can deal with it. Superman’s rocket crashed into Metropolis instead of the midwest, and he has spent his life in a government facility being experimented upon and never having actually seen the sun. Wonder Woman and Aquaman, for some reason, have engaged in a war that has destroyed most of Europe. While the event has the typical “problem that all the heroes have to unite to defeat” vibe, the details are interesting. Essentially, Flashpoint is a massive Elseworlds tale, using the iconic nature of DC’s superheroes and twisting those icons to show what happens when the origins go wrong.

In addition to providing something interesting beyond splash pages and fight scenes, Flashpoint has a couple other things going for it. First, it doesn’t require the reader to know much about comics. If you know the origin stories of the heroes involved, that’s enough. Batman watched his parents get killed in front of him, except in Flashpoint it was Thomas Wayne who saw his son die and became a vengeful force against crime. Superman is the last son of Krypton, but in Flashpoint he became a government experiment rather than a public force of good. Hal Jordan was given his Green Lantern ring by a dying alien, but in Flashpoint that alien didn’t die, leaving Hal as just a test pilot. The rest of the details are filled in by the event itself. Additionally, thanks to the news spilling out about the DC Universe getting a mega-reboot this fall, the idea of, “this changes everything!” actually holds a little weight for a change. Sure, the most popular DC books like Batman and Green Lantern aren’t changing, but it’s easy to imagine that the fix to the Flashpoint universe will leave some loose ends, resulting in the changes that appear in the new DC Universe come September.

The downside to Flashpoint is the same one that all these crossovers have – you can’t ignore it if you don’t like it. That’s really the big issue with crossovers in general – I wouldn’t mind Fear Itself if it wasn’t encroaching upon a book that I actually enjoy, Herc. But as far as events go, Flashpoint is a pretty good one so far, mainly because unlike so many of its predecessors it actually involves some imagination in its telling instead of endless splash panels that look cool out of context but ultimately boil down to something we’ve all seen before.

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