It’s the end … and the beginning. DC’s summer event closes the door on one chapter of the DC Universe and begins a new one, as the Flash, Barry Allen, changes the timeline.
A lot of this issue is fighting of the kind we’ve gotten used to over the past few months. Amazons attack, Atlanteans assault, people perish … For several pages we have dramatic exits and entrances, none more so than the belated arrival of Superman.
There is a twist, though, and it’s a big one. While holding Barry in a neck-lock reminiscent of the one Barry once used to kill him (ah, comics), the Reverse Flash, Professor Zoom, forces the Flash to remember. Remember that it wasn’t the villain who changed the regular DC Universe, but the hero. The Flashpoint event was presaged by a lightning bolt as Barry stood by his mother’s grave; I had assumed that was the moment Zoom changed things with his Negative Speed Force. Turns out it was Barry’s doing – in a proverbial split second he had returned to the day Zoom murdered Nora, Barry’s mother, and caused an explosion of Speed Force that shattered reality.
‘You changed time like an amateur,’ taunts Zoom, and it’s difficult to disagree.
The shift meant Thomas and Martha Wayne lived as Bruce died. It denied Kal-El a happy upbringing with the Kents. It led to the war between Atlantis and Themiscyra.
The reset wasn’t all bad news, as it gave lesser-known heroes such as Cyborg, Godiva and Grifter a chance to step up, and brought in such new characters as Mrs Hyde, Element Woman, the Outsider and Britannia (I’m trying to forget the Canterbury Cricket).
But the big picture was that all-out warfare between two warrior peoples led to the deaths of millions, and that has to be fixed.
Which is what Barry tries to do here after a heart-to-heart with his mother, who proves that she too has the soul of a hero by accepting that if her son succeeds, she’ll blink out of reality. Thomas Wayne, too, is happy to go so that his child might live, though his death is a violent one (no surprise in a storyline whose grisly death count has long since passed self-parodic levels). Still, he does get to kill the very annoying Zoom.
Barry runs back through the Speed Force, to the moment he changed things, and has an unexpected encounter. A cosmic figure – reminiscent of Kismet from the Nineties Superman books – appears before him and explains, if I’m reading this correctly, that there was one true reality that was sundered into three timelines, ‘splintered to weaken your world for their impending arrival’. Which means that the new DCU timeline isn’t, as expected, changed due to Barry’s fuzzy memories, but because he’s restoring the world that was meant to be.
It’s another twist, and one whose implications will likely become apparent as soon as DC needs another big event, explaining who ‘they’ are whom the heroes must stand against.
Before that, we have the new world order, with ‘on-screen’ changes so far limited to the Flash’s fussy new boots, with their silly lightning noodles. Barry wakes up at Central City Police Department, as he did in Flashpoint #1, but rather than rush headlong into a mad world, he visits the Batman and delivers a message bringing Bruce Wayne a rare moment of happiness. And Barry, likewise, is surprised and delighted as he finds that he has kept his alternate reality memories of his mother – but come his new book, will he realise that he’s lost his marriage to Iris West? Doubtful in the extreme.
All in all, it’s a pretty decent script from Geoff Johns. There’s loads happening in this extra-sized issue, but few moments feel undersold. It sets the stage for DC’s New 52 initiative and leaves a mystery to be mined later.
I said ‘few moments’ back there. I am irked that after all the time devoted to the Wonder Woman/Aquaman war in the Flashpoint event, we don’t have a final scene between them as the world winds to an end.
The art by Andy Kubert, Sandra Hope and Jesse Delperdang serves the story well. The figures are spiky, energetic, full of all the sound and fury you could ask for in a crossover conclusion. My favourite scene, though, is the quiet moment between Barry and Nora, as mother and son hug for the last time.
The key spread, unfortunately, is a bit of a mess – awkward groupings of heroes surround Barry as he whizzes through the timestream; the bottom left image of the pre-Flashpoint DCU Justice League is particularly poor. My guess would be that the issue was a tad rushed, but if an artistic team is going to have to hand in pages quicker than they’d like, the money shot isn’t the one to skimp on.