Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Outside The Complete History Of Eobard Thawne, The Flash: The Road To Flashpoint Is A Bust!

The Good: Backstory on Zoom, Much of the artwork
The Bad: Ridiculously simple plot, Awkward character directions
The Basics: The Flash: The Road To Flashpoint does what it promises in that it sets up the next big DC Universe crossover event, though it hardly makes it one to get excited about.

As my Flash Year races towards its end, it makes perfect sense that I would finally get around to the Flashpoint Saga. Following on the heels of Blackest Night and Brightest Day, Flashpoint was a Flash-focused event that radically altered the entire fabric of the DC Universe in arguably the least convincing way possible (more on that in the reviews of the Flashpoint books!). Leading up to Flashpoint were the monthly Flash books. In fact, since the resurrection of Barry Allen as the Flash in The Flash: Rebirth, the comic books from The Flash have been moving entirely in the direction of Flashpoint. So, with the seeds of it firmly planted from The Flash: The Dastardly Deaths Of The Rogues where the original Mirror Master’s plan to thwart the Flash begins, Flashpoint is given a direct prequel with The Flash: The Road To Flashpoint.

And it’s one of the most blah books Geoff Johns has ever written.

First, The Flash: The Road To Flashpoint sets up the entire red herring of Flashpoint in an unfortunately obvious way. Opening with a complete history of Eobard Thawne, The Flash: The Road To Flashpoint insinuates that all that is coming is the fault of Professor Zoom. Over the course of the past year, as I have studied the Flash, authors like Geoff Johns and Mark Waid have presented stories that have developed Professor Zoom in such a way that he has become one of my very favorite villains in the DC Universe. He is smart, has a compelling motivation, and is executed with remarkable consistency, regardless of the author of the Flash work. I like Zoom and opening The Flash: The Road To Flashpoint with a one-shot that provides a complete, including all the temporal revisions, life history of Eobard Thawne is a real gift to readers. Geoff Johns paints a clear picture of the man who is arguably the most compelling Flash adversary.

From there, The Flash: The Road To Flashpoint has four chapters that lead directly into Flashpoint and the story is both exceptionally basic and hardly compelling. It does, however, put the main characters for the massive crossover event into play and that makes it more or less essential for readers of Flashpoint. I, however, would argue that this volume ought to have simply been included in the main Flashpoint book or in the prior Flash volume, The Dastardly Death Of The Rogues; make a bigger book and save readers money.

One night in Central City, there is an explosion of energy and a man on a super-fast Speed Force-driven motorcycle appears. He is called Hot Pursuit and he claims to be a law enforcement officer. Almost simultaneously, the Elongated Kid is found dead, killed by being aged decades almost instantly. As Barry Allen investigates the death of the Elongated Kid and another body that is mysteriously aged, his work as the Flash has him confront Hot Pursuit. Hot Pursuit steals Barry Allen’s energy from the Speed Force and after that, the law enforcement officer reveals his mundane identity.

Hot Pursuit is Barry Allen from another one of the universes in the DC Multiverse. Fearing a crisis on Earth-1 that will destabilize the multiverse, including his own world, this Barry Allen has broken the dimensional barriers to find the temporal anomaly that is coming that is rumored to destroy everything. Even as Barry rules out Hot Pursuit as a murder suspect, he is harassed by his family for being distant since his return from the Speed Force and he calls upon forensic scientist Patty Spivot to aid him is solving the bizarre crimes in Central City. As Hot Pursuit hunts Bart Allen, Patty finds a witness to the latest murder who is anything but what he appears to be!

The Flash: The Road To Flashpoint is not bad, but it is entirely a set-up story and elements of it do not work as well as others. Having actually found myself emotionally invested in the brief history of Bart Allen as the Flash, I have been disappointed and underwhelmed to see the character was resurrected (and younger than he last was!). No one seems to stay dead in the DC Universe and while the return of Wally West in The Lightning Saga (reviewed here!) was presented in a compelling way, whatever missing chapter resurrected Bart Allen only seems contrived to me (but, hey, I thought the return of Barry Allen was both contrived and utterly unnecessary!).

So, the set-up and the initiating incident of Flashpoint happen in The Road To Flashpoint and, as a self-contained book, it is a long way to go for a very low payout.

On the artwork front, I wish I had nothing to complain about. Iris Allen continues to de-age and that makes no sense whatsoever to me. Far, far, worse is how young Patty Spivot appears. At least Barry Allen and Iris Allen have the excuse of being time travelers who have had their physical appearance altered at various points. But Patty Spivot is a normal human being and even if she was a rising star in the forensics lab when Barry Allen disappeared in the early 1980s, she would be at least (AT LEAST!) 50 by now, but she looks twenty-five at most in the pages of The Road To Flashpoint.

Hot Pursuit is well-rendered, the colors are vivid and the sense of movement in this book is pretty great. Even so, there are a number of panels where the characters are rendered with much more simplistic lines, as if the book suddenly went from being a live-action book to an animated series version of the same story. For the first time ever, I’d make the following recommendation: the quality of the first story in this book pushes The Road To Flashpoint up into average territory. But, until DC releases a sensible omnibus version of The Flash that compiles the entire lead-up to Flashpoint in one volume, go buy a comic book. Buy The Flash #8, the story of Eobard Thawne, and enjoy it. Then, skip to Flashpoint. This immediate prequel is utterly unnecessary to getting the point of that massive crossover, altered-universe story!

For other Flash graphic novels, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
The Flash Vs. The Rogues
The Trial Of The Flash
Born To Run
The Return Of Barry Allen
Terminal Velocity
Dead Heat
Race Against Time
Emergency Stop
The Human Race
Blood Will Run
The Secret Of Barry Allen
Full Throttle
Lightning In A Bottle
Flash: Rebirth
The Dastardly Death Of The Rogues
The Life Story Of The Flash


For other graphic novel reviews, be sure to visit my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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