Saturday, March 16, 2013

Utterly Worthless And Entirely Indespensible Flashpoint Stories Mix In The World Of Flashpoint Featuring The Flash!

The Good: Citizen Cold, Heatwave, and Kid Flash stories, Most of the artwork.
The Bad: The Grodd story is worthless, The Reverse Flash story adds nothing new.
The Basics: The final volume I had to track down for the Flashpoint Saga, The World Of Flashpoint Featuring The Flash turns out to be a real mixed bag!

Somewhat ironically, considering my Flash Year just recently ended, I find myself finally in possession of the last Flashpoint book that I had to hunt down. The World Of Flashpoint Featuring The Flash would seem to be the essential Flashpoint supplement as Flashpoint (reviewed here!) is a crossover alternate universe event that focuses on the Flash. Therefore, The World Of Flashpoint Featuring The Flash acts as a supplement that most fans of The Flash would want to hunt down. Unfortunately, The World Of Flashpoint Featuring The Flash is remarkably inconsistent and it illustrates well how massive crossover events usually seek to exploit the fan base that might buy the comics.

Like most of the World Of Flashpoint books, The World Of Flashpoint Featuring The Flash is a collection of vignettes set in the Flashpoint alternate universe. The World Of Flashpoint Featuring The Flash is a collection of five stories – two of which were presented as simple one-shots, the other three were three issue-arcs in their original presentation – anthologized to add extra layers and dimensions to the Flashpoint Saga . . . or present vital information for the main story that is not contained in the core book.

Unfortunately, The World Of Flashpoint Featuring The Flash largely fails to do that. The World Of Flashpoint Featuring The Flash is something of a novelty book that gives fans of The Flash an idea of how the Rogues fit into the horribly twisted alternate universe that is Flashpoint. As well, the final chapter – the book that focuses on Kid Flash – actually provides vital information for Flashpoint as well as lays hints as to how the main problem with many of the other books (most notably the Superman crossover) might have actually been reasonably explained. Such an explanation – that Kid Flash killing Max Mercury in the past before the initiating incident of Flashpoint led to other changes in the DC timeline that should have been unaffected by Barry Allen’s mother not being killed – is exceptionally weak (it does not, for example, explain why Superman’s ship would crash in Metropolis instead of Smallville . . .), but it is the only semi-logical answer for such a huge problem with this crossover event.

The World Of Flashpoint Featuring The Flash is both vital and worthless, depending on the chapter one considers and the net result is an anthology that is closer to average than at all extraordinary. Sadly, only the seasoned Flash reader is likely to realize just how exploitative the book (and, especially its original form as comic books) is. Fortunately, the book is frontloaded with some of the worst exploitative aspects right up front!

Opening with the story of the Reverse Flash, The World Of Flashpoint Featuring The Flash gives readers a primer on Eobard Thawne. Thawne, who became the time-travelling villain Zoom (also known as the Reverse Flash), is given a chapter to explain how he has worked tirelessly to ruin the life of Barry Allen. However, anyone who has been a fan or reader of Thawne’s arc in The Flash will quickly realize that his chapter in The World Of Flashpoint Featuring The Flash is merely repetition. The Reverse Flash’s story is not the story of Thawne in the Flashpoint Universe. Instead, his story is the evolution of Zoom in the traditional DC Universe. The repetition is exploitative; trading on casual readers who simply do not know better and pick the volume up needing a primer on Zoom. The artwork in the Reverse Flash section is fair, but a little closer to sketches than I like. And, as a fan of Zoom, this chapter seems especially exploitative given that in the Road To Flashpoint prequel, a chapter was devoted toward giving readers information on Zoom (part of building him up as the obvious red herring of the Saga).

Fans of the Rogues are likely to be thrilled by the second chapter in The World Of Flashpoint Featuring The Flash: the chapter that focuses on Citizen Cold. After killing Mister Freeze, Leonard Snart in his secret identity as Citizen Cold, is pursued by the Rogues: Weather Wizard, Tarpit, Fallout, and the Trickster, as well as a disembodied version of the Mirror Master. Realizing that Iris West, intrepid reporter he crushes on, is onto his mundane identity, thanks in part to the Pied Piper and Wally West (whom Citizen Cold kills), Leonard Snart makes plans to leave Central City once and for all. But, with the Rogues relentlessly pursuing him, he will be lucky to survive at all.

The least impressive artwork in The World Of Flashpoint Featuring The Flash is featured in the Citizen Cold chapter. This chapter serves to inform readers how Iris West’s life would have been different without the Flash and it makes Wally West’s life sensible lacking the influence of the Flash. What it does not explain well is why the Pied Piper is still fighting for the side of good when he was originally a villain. That said, fans of the Rogues are likely to enjoy the Citizen Cold chapter, though it is very much a tangent to the main story with no real consequences to the larger Flashpoint Saga.

One good Rogue story deserves another and the Legion Of Doom chapter is a dressed up way to sell a whole chapter on Heatwave. The Heatwave chapter finds Mick Rory thwarted by Cyborg after having killed half of Firestorm. Awaiting execution, Rory decides that he will get his revenge on Cyborg for incarcerating him and, in the process, take out several abusive supervillains as well. Utilizing Eel (Plastic Man) to take over the flying gulag designed by Arrow Industries, Heatwave lays waste to Detroit – Cyborg’s home city – and redefines himself as one of the most grotesque and powerful villains in the DC pantheon, even if only in the alternate universe.

The artwork in the Heatwave section is quite good, which make the horrific events – multiple people are burned, Plasticman emerges from within people, Animal Man has his nose bit off before he is disemboweled, and the Atom has his skull crushed – all the more graphic and nauseating on the page. This might be the least necessary story – save to add a further heroic aspect to Cyborg – in the larger Flashpoint Saga, but it is one of the most engaging. Heatwave is recharacterized with compelling motivations and a level of willpower that makes him downright formidable. Hell, with writing like this, it almost makes it inconceivable that he is not tapped to be a Green Lantern for his level of willpower! If DC ever wants to write Red Lantern Heatwave, they should tap Adam Glass (who wrote this chapter) or me (because with Glass’s example, it makes so much sense . . .!).

The actual least worthwhile portion of The World Of Flashpoint Featuring The Flash is the chapter on Grodd. Having nothing at all to do with the main story of Flashpoint, the Grodd chapter just makes explicit what fans of the Flash should already know; without the Flash to stop him, Grodd would overrun Africa. We get it and his chapter just makes that explicit. It includes a reference to a man-turned-ape who was only in one other book I read and his inclusion is incredibly unmemorable and equally pointless. The Sean Ryan-written chapter is a great example of how it doesn’t matter how good the artwork is in a trade paperback anthology; if the story and characters stink, the book (or chapter) is not worth reading. The Grodd chapter is exactly that.

The World Of Flashpoint Featuring The Flash concludes with the chapter on Kid Flash. Bart Allen finds himself in the 31st century, but it is very different from the one he remembers. In fact, it is very much like The Matrix (reviewed here!) and the world is run by Brainiac. Brainiac is struggling to understand the Speed Force and time-travel in order to definitively rule the cosmos. After breaking himself out of Brainiac’s mind-control center, he is reunited with Hot Pursuit, who is actually Patty Spivot (who was in the Road To Flashpoint). Together they work to find the Speed Force drive for her cosmic motorcycle and return to the present. But, when Bart begins to run back in time, he discovers that he is remade as a Black Flash, sent to wipe out all the Speedsters, usually before they achieve their predestined greatness!

The Kid Flash chapter most directly intersects with the main Flash story, if not the Flashpoint Saga. The story is interesting, though fans of Bart Allen will see this as yet another way to write the character out of the DC Universe (an inconsequential matter considering that the Flashpoint Saga led right into the “New 52” reboot where, frankly, the publishers and writers were given license to do whatever the hell they wanted with the main titles!). Patty Spivot’s story arc ends well and Bart Allen gets a decent heroic ending that is not simply one based on pointless (and temporary) sacrifice.

Ultimately, though, The World Of Flashpoint Featuring The Flash is really only for Flash fans and it is a mixed bag, even for them.

For other Flashpoint-related books, be sure to check out my reviews of:
The Flash: The Dastardly Death Of The Rogues
The Road To Flashpoint
The World Of Flashpoint Featuring Green Lantern
The World Of Flashpoint Featuring Superman
The World Of Flashpoint Featuring Batman
The World Of Flashpoint Featuring Wonder Woman


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

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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