Not too long ago, I saw the hardcover of Flashpoint on the library shelf. I didn’t pick up Flashpoint when it came out, given how overused the alternate reality theme was at the time, so I figured I should give it a look and see if the concept had improved with age and reacquaint myself with the Crossover Event promised in the closing pages.As to the Crossover, just before the end of the last issue, there’s two page spread with a mysterious hooded figure, now known as “Pandora,” post-New 52. It isn’t clear if this two page spread was added in at the last minute or if it was always part of the plan. (If it wasn’t always part of the plan, I’d be shocked it someone admitted it.)
There are a number of people who question whether or not that two page spread was setting up a story that was fully plotted out. Given all the stories about DC’s editorial constantly second-guessing themselves and the fact DC has had a fair amount of trouble even deciding who was actually going to be writing and drawing their comics from month-to-month, you can count me among those expressing doubts about whether this 2-page spread and alleged preview represents a plan that’s being adhered to.
Pandora, or at least her ghostly head, utters the following, replying to the Flash’s comment about seeing three timelines:
Because the history of the heroes was shattered into three long ago. Splintered to weaken your world for their impending arrival. You must all stand together. The timelines must become one again. You can help me fix that Barry Allen, but at a cost.
On the left side of the spread are three images. The post-Crisis superheroes along the bottom. Wildstorm’s heroes are on the top right. On the top left is what I think is supposed to be the Vertigo heroes line. You see Animal Man, John Constatine and Swamp Thing, along with what I’m guessing are supposed to be Shade the Changing Man and Madame Xanadu.
Now, if this is three timelines converging, I’m curious when Swamp Thing, Animal Man and company switched over to a separate timeline. While the concept of Vertigo’s hero titles being more firmly integrated into the DCU, should that be what the page is representing, is consistent with how the New 52 has played out it leaves me with a question: did no one explain to Dan DiDio that Swamp Thing wasn’t in his own universe?
At any rate, the “trinity” in this teaser page is the three timelines coming together. Even if what’s shown coming together was really only two timelines. Perhaps the third timeline coming together just wasn’t shown (or perhaps I just got a No Prize for typing that). Perhaps this teaser is just abandoned.
This suggests that the timelines are being weakened for an invasion of some sort, given the “impending arrival.”
Meanwhile, the Trinity War teasers have been suggesting a trinity of the Phantom Stranger, Pandora and… well, I really hope that isn’t supposed to be The Question re-imagined as a mystical entity, but it probably is.
That doesn’t much sound like the teaser in Flashpoint. An imminent invasion where two of the three characters were reconfigured as a result of the timeline merger? That would be pretty silly.
As to merits of Flashpoint, it really didn’t do much for me. When you’re using a well-established plot device, you really have to put your own touches on it so the reader isn’t too reminded of the other stories in a similar vein. Flashpoint was an utter failure for this, at least as far as I was concerned. Marvel had a steady stream of these alternate timelines and this really felt like DC’s attempt to cash in on those. Age of Apocolypse. Neil Gaiman’s 1602. Most especially, House of M. Slightly remixed heroes clashing with each other and one of them trying to remember how things used to be. Another non-comics influence hit me rather hard, as well. The Flash finding his mother alive and struggling as his memories started to shift from his timeline to the new one reminded me very strongly of Fringe, when Agent Dunham was in the alternate world and trying to escape while her brainwashing was starting to take hold that would have been relatively recent when this was being plotted out. As for Superman being hidden away and returning at the last minute… you can’t not think of the Alan Davis and The Nail when you read that. Flashpoint mostly reminded me of recycling what had come before. It likely wasn’t the intent, but that’s it read.
The only thing that was really new spin in Flashpoint was the high levels of blood and gore, which wasn’t typical for the heroes involved (but did foreshadow the much darker and more graphic New 52 universe). We also get an example of what’s become a calling card of Geoff Johns: a major character stabbed from behind with the blade sticking through his chest. In this case, Batman running Professor Zoom through with a big sword.
It ends with a scene that would be good if it made any sense whatsoever: Flash delivering Batman a letter from his father (who lived to become the Batman of the other timeline). When the timeline resets, Flash wakes up in his civilian clothes, not his costume. We have, according to the two-page spread, arrived in a third timeline. A timeline that was a merger of the three (well, two) previous ones. How does a note from the timeline that ceased to exist pop up and how does anyone know what it was. The glib answer is that the Flash’s memories haven’t faded yet, but that’s just so cheap. Nice scene, but you have to really turn off your brain to accept it having happened in the consolidated timeline.
If this had been a 5 or 6 issue arc in Flash, I might have thought it derivative, but average. As an event, particularly one what’s setting up a new continuity, it’s underwhelming. Better than Fear Itself, but not too far above it on the list of recent Events. I have no doubt this was planned as an event. I’m not sure it was supposed to set up the new continuity before at least a couple issues had been written, though. It may not be appropriate to judge it as the agent of change, but that’s what it ended up being and in that frame of reference, it’s a disappointment.
We’ll have to wait and see if that two-page spread ends up having relevance in the New 52 continuity or if they really have gone off in a different direction.