This is the comic I definitely wasn’t going to buy. The Flashpoint event of a decade or so ago wasn’t my favourite, being an extended imaginary story with shades of Nineties EXTREEEEEME! The idea of Thomas Wayne – the Bat-Dad who survived the event only to be killed in the recent Justice League Incarnate series – starring in a do-over didn’t hold immediate appeal.
Then I saw a preview, and it wasn’t so much writer Geoff Johns’ Flashpoint as Geoff Johns’ Doomsday Clock, a series I liked a lot. And here’s Batman – Bruce Wayne Batman – with husband and wife crooks Mime and Marionette from the world of Watchmen, having broken into the HQ of Rip Hunter and his Time Masters.
Why Batman wants the snow globe we don’t learn, but likely it’s something to do with the situation in which Thomas Wayne finds himself. Yeah, he’s not dead.
The Flashpoint reality is back. But that means Thomas’s son, Bruce, was once again killed in an alley as a child by one Joe Chill. Changing into his Batman duds, Thomas searches out the man who helped him undo the universe previously, Barry Allen. Failing to convince Barry with his talk of alternate realities and super-speed, Thomas decides to ‘help’ Barry become the man he should be. The Flash.
So how does that go? I recommend reading the comic which, while mostly a Flashpoint remix so far, has the Doomsday Clock aspects to add spice. Where are the Time Masters while Batman is rifling through their souvenir cabinets? Does Mime and Marionette’s new daughter Anita take after her adorable parents? And why does Batman want that snow globe?
One of the Time Masters, Jeff Smith, is in the Flashpoint reality. Or at least, he was – a newspaper tells us he’s been murdered by ‘The Clockwork Killer’, along with a couple of other familiar DCU names, Matthew Ryder and David Clinton. Learning the identity of the killer will no doubt be key to Thomas’ quest to reset reality once more.
Johns structures this double-sized opener well, reintroducing characters and concepts and finding room for sharp character work. There’s an especially nice look at Flashpoint Barry Allen, courtesy of his almost girlfriend Fiona Webb.
Fiona was one of the Bronze Age characters most ill-served by her creators. Her role was to be Not Iris, someone for Barry to date while missing his recently murdered wife – the poor woman never had a chance. It’s great, therefore, to see her dispensing wisdom in an unexpected, weighty cameo.
Less welcome are a couple of gruesome scenes – you never know with Johns whether you’re going to get shining heroes or sheer brutality. The horror here makes sense in the dark world of Flashpoint, but I could live without it.
The moments are brilliantly visualised, though, by Eduardo Risso, a singular talent, working with the always excellent colour artist Trish Mulvihill. Thomas Wayne looks superb, a real tough guy, in contrast to Barry Allen, who looks like Steve Rogers pre-Vita Rays. The shadows are brilliantly placed, the anatomy spot on, the angles imaginative. This truly is a comic I could recommend on the basis of the visuals alone. Look at the weight of the figures here, the movement, the way Mulvihill lights this scene; it’s masterful work.
The lettering is terrific too; you only have to look at the superb title treatment to see the hand of Rob Leigh.
The only thing I don’t like about the art is Risso’s occasional insistence on signing pages. It’s ruddy distracting.
The cover by illustrator Dexter Soy and colourist Alex Sinclair cleverly combines the Flashpoint and Doomsday Clock themes, with the Thomas Wayne Batman looming over the Flashpoint versions of Penguin, Barry Allen, Aquaman and Wonder Woman. Actually, that ‘Barry’ looks just like John Constantine, so don’t bet against it being him – but that’s how Barry is dressed inside the comic, so for now, it’s Barry.
This zero issue is an absorbing, great-looking opening to a surprise sequel and I rather enjoyed it. How about you?