Review: Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint Featuring Superman trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The stories collected in World of Flashpoint Featuring Superman are all well done enough, if only hampered by their role as a tie-in and not the main event. In DC's last most recent crossover, Blackest Night, the tie-in miniseries felt more complete, usually with the hero defeating a Black Lantern villain; here, so much care is taken not to interfere with the main story that these miniseries feel impeded.

[Contains spoilers]

Flashpoint: Superman contains the Project Superman and World of Flashpoint miniseries, the Booster Gold tie-in issues #44-47, and the Canterbury Cricket one-shot. Of these, World and Booster Gold are neck-and-neck for the best (each succeeds, but fails in similar ways), though Project Superman and Canterbury Cricket are no slouches themselves with art by Gene Ha and Rags Morales respectively.

To read Flashpoint on its own is to get the impression that this universe's Superman turns tail and runs away as soon as he's rescued from captivity by Flash Barry Allen, and only flies in to save the day when he has a change of heart sometime later. Project Superman demonstrates it to be more complicated than that; Kal is deeply moral, and doesn't abandon Barry but rather flies off to, what else, save Lois Lane. His departure and return make perfect sense in the context of the miniseries's events, as presented by Scott Snyder and Lowell Francis with Ha.

This is exactly what I want from Flashpoint tie-ins -- stories that fit right between the pages of the main Flashpoint book and offer a more nuanced understanding of the events. Project Superman's moment-by-moment story is not much to speak of, a predictable mash-up of Captain America and Doomsday's origins (as with Batman: Gates of Gotham, one senses more of Snyder's co-writer than Snyder himself in the dialogue), but the overall effect is one that contributes greatly to Flashpoint itself.

The World of Flashpoint miniseries by Rex Ogle follows magician Traci 13 in a tour of the Flashpoint universe. Ogle suggests early on that Traci 13 is in fact the DC Universe's Traci 13, a little tidbit that makes this "Elseworlds" story more relevant. Indeed, Ogle's character cameos are the best of the book, from Natasha Irons to Jason Todd to Guy Gardner and Beast Boy. Much of the fun of Flashpoint is the same as it was for Elseworlds, just seeing familiar heroes in new settings and catching the little details -- if you don't like that kind of thing, this won't be for you, but Ogle does it well.

In addition, Eduardo Francisco's art is great throughout this part, often resembling Joe Bennett's.

I was most looking forward to the Booster Gold story, both because I love when Dan Jurgens writes and draws Booster, and also because this is the last Booster story of the old DC Universe. Jurgens sends Booster off well, with a story in the recent "classic" vein of Booster arriving in an alternate reality and having to fight his way home, picking up a love interest along the way. It's an added bonus that Jurgens draws Doomsday here, too, and pits Booster against him. Jurgens is right when he reminds us that Booster named Doomsday and the characters have their own vendetta outside the death of Superman; Booster versus Doomsday is the perfect way to end the old DCU adventures of Booster Gold.

The main drawback to these stories is how they're limited to the confines of the Flashpoint story. The Traci 13 story, for instance, ends very far away from Flashpoint's main action, and gives no sense of what happens next to the characters. The Booster Gold story's end is very sudden, with a "cosmic reset button" pressed, and no indication even, like in the main Flashpoint book, whether the final pages take place in the old or new DC Universes. How swiftly each story concludes suggests to me the writers are trying not to step on any toes -- whatever comes next is really writer Geoff Johns's show, not theirs. It takes something away from these tie-in stories, though; at the end of each one I thought, "Is that all there is?"

(The Booster Gold conclusion, however, is just as frustrating as it is rife with possibility. Does Rip Hunter still exist in the DC New 52, and was Booster changed with everyone else or is he still the "old" Booster? Did Alexandra Gianopoulos write all of Rip's chalkboards, or just the Flashpoint one? And will Alexandra exist in the DC New 52, or was Jurgens's inclusion of her part of plans for the first iteration of Flashpoint before the introduction of the DC New 52, no longer to be? Certainly I don't mind some mystery in the end of Jurgens's Booster story; I just hope answers will be forthcoming.)

DC editor Mike Carlin's Canterbury Cricket one-shot at the end of this book is an oddball story, a sometimes-violent, sometimes-absurd take on Canterbury Tales spotlighting Flashpoint's British setting (unusual to see Carlin writing this instead of Paul Cornell, for instance). It's also a monster mash-up, combining a bunch of hideous creatures under Rags Morales's pen, and that's where it got me -- Canterbury Cricket is a kind of not-quite horror story in the vein of Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein that's fun for its hideousness if not for its plot. Chronic Insomnia says it well:

"Canterbury Cricket ... is charmingly awful. As a story it rarely makes sense. ... By the sophisticated standards of modern comic book storytelling, this is not a good comic. Really, really, not a good comic. And yet."

And yet, indeed.

World of Flashpoint Featuring Superman is not perfect (Project Superman conflicts with Booster Gold, Booster conflicts with Flashpoint), but it was entirely more enjoyable than I expected for what are "Elseworld" tales that, depending on your point of view, "don't matter." Were the Flashpoint Traci 13 or Alexandra Gianopoulos to show up in the DC New 52 -- that is, were any of this to be followed-up upon -- I wouldn't mind a bit.

[Includes original covers, Flashpoint text page]

Don't miss our earlier review in this series, World of Flashpoint: Wonder Woman. We're continuing our lead-in to the Collected Editions review of the first DC New 52 collection -- Justice League: Origin -- with another Flashpoint review, coming up next!
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11 comments:

  1. Is it me or do these Flashpoint collections seem pretty random? Why isn't the Cricket in the same collection as his own team (Lois Lane and the Resistance) for example?

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  2. Yeah, to me it would have made more sense to collect Lois Lane and the Resistance in this volume instead of the Wonder Woman one, even though it was written by the DnA duo and the Amazons figure heavily in it. I'd switch it with the World of Flashpoint mini.

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  3. My interp was that Booster jumps back to the last pages of "Time Masters" right before he and Rip find the board Alex wrote. Agreed, though, that a lot of these minis end up signifying nothing, or at least very little.

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  4. Booster jumps back to Vanishing Point in a tattered costume and no one's around, and then we see a pre-Time Masters scene from Alex's perspective -- but I read it as two unrelated scenes, one in the "present" and one a flashback to an earlier scene.

    Either way, if you like time paradoxes, it makes for interesting thinking -- does Booster escape the Flashpoint universe and return to the old DC Universe, whereas Barry Allen is thrust forward from Flashpoint to the DC New 52? Supposedly the old DC Universe no longer exists (replaced by Flashpoint and then by the DC New 52), but if indeed Booster went back to "our" universe, that would contradict the "replacement theory." It might've been fun to see the new Batman or Flash in Booster Gold, just to know for sure.

    As for contents, Deathstroke and Secret Seven are unusual inclusions in the Batman book, too. I think Cricket probably ended up in the Superman book just because the Booster story was five issues; Batman and Wonder Woman each have four sets of three-issue miniseries (12 issues); whatever book has Booster needs a one-shot to balance it out.

    Putting Lois Lane in the Superman book is a good suggestion, though so far these books have started with the story of their title character -- so, the Superman book would have been Project Superman and then Lois Lane -- and that's the wrong way to read those stories; Lois should be read before Project Superman. So in a way having Lois in the Wonder Woman book is better, because then you can just read the whole Wonder Woman book before the whole Superman book.

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  5. Looks like another pass for me. On the positive side the low quality of these series makes it easier on the wallet.

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  6. I think the issue is more that most of these "don't matter" than that they're low quality; I've yet to read one that I thought was embarrassingly bad, at least.

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  7. @collected editions - I'm not worried so much that the stories "matter", although that does play into it a little. There are many great comics that "don't matter" in the grand scheme of things. The stories don't even have to be embarrassingly bad for me to take a pass. By low quality I just mean average. It seems these collections are just average at best. Add that to the fact that they now don't have much impact on the overall continuity of the DCU and they become pretty skipable.

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  8. SUPERMAN was one of the better miniseries, succeeding in being "the least like you'd expect while still making complete sense". Gene Ha's art is great.

    I didn't care much for the rest.

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  9. I think I also gotta say the Project Superman mini was really good, or at least I liked it. I loved the art, and I feel like it had the only version of Sam Lane I have ever seen that didn't give me a headache. Also interesting seeing a Scott Snyder take on Superman after he's gotten so famous for doing the Batman/horror thing, though I wonder how it'd have been if his style had shown more in the actual dialogue.

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  10. I also enjoyed the Superman mini. It's also one of those stories that, as CE says, gives a better explanation for the character's actions in the main Flashpoint series.

    I was kind of hoping for more with the Booster Gold issues, featuring Booster as the "only other person" who remembered the old DCU in the Flashpoint universe, but it was certainly consistent with the earlier issues in Booster's series, where he re-visited numerous DCU events (like Zero Hour and One Million) but wasn't directly involved in the outcomes of those.

    Did Alexandra ever show up in the New 52? I know that Godiva ends up in the JLI, but she certainly doesn't match the dark haired girl on the original cover image.

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  11. Not that I know of yet. The only real indication I've seen of Flashpoint "happening," aside from Flash and Batman's conversation at the end and Pandora's general presence, is a little bit in Justice League Vol. 2: Villain's Journey.

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