Rating: 2.5/5 – Gotham is glorious, the rest is forgettable.
As a longtime DC reader, I have a special relationship with “continuity”. And by special, I mean I obsess over how characters and events impact each other under the umbrella of a shared universe like a crazy person. I’ve spent many a long hour weeping into my loose leaf ‘Who’s Who in the DCU’, while reconciling why the tree of continuity has to be refreshed from time to time when the multiverse becomes either too contradictory or cumbersome to market.
Flashpoint, the event that spawned the miniseries’ collected in this TPB, is one of those continuity streamlining events. It was the precursor to the New 52 and I feel it should have been evaluated solely on the merits of its execution rather than the continuity it clumsily created in its wake.
For those who have not read the core Flashpoint mini, there is some backstory that is going to be critical to understanding the book I review below. The premise goes a little something like this: Barry Allen wakes to discover his world has changed, his family is alive, his powers are gone and the world is on the brink of a cataclysmic war between the Atlanteans and the Amazons. As a stand-alone, I liked the event a lot. The core book and concepts – especially the bits specifically about the relationships that drive Batman and Flash – are stunning and powerful.
But the true test of any comic book event is not in the strength of the core event book, but in its peripherals. The World of Flashpoint Featuring Batman is exactly that; peripheral.
First we have Knight of Vengeance from Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, these guys knock it out of the park. I think it gives unexpected dimension to the Wayne line. When we think of Bruce’s origin, we see Thomas’s courage. We imagine him in this perfect moment of heroism that ends in a tragedy of un-spun pearls and chalk outlines. Flashpoint erases that story and Azzarello replaces it with two helpless parents mourning the loss of a dead child. The result is a family torn apart by grief and madness in a world already at war. Risso gives us a Thomas; made ruthless by flashpoint’s twisting of the events. Drawn in the pull no punches style that made his ‘100 bullets’ work so powerful, this new red and grey Batman is a beast. Yet, in spite of being cast in such brutal light, the whole story has immense heart. Thomas is a man who regrets not trading his life to save his son’s. This colors everything that happens, from the surprise reveal of the identity of the Joker to the note he passes across the time stream. The latter makes for amazing closure to Bruce’s original war on crime in a really touching way. By far the best story of the bunch!
Following that impressive opening we have another tale of one of Gotham’s familiar faces with Deadman and the Flying Graysons. This was an interesting if all too short exploration of the Haley’s circus of this world and the life Dick and company leave behind when war finds them. I thought the art by Jani was surprisingly fitting. It had this very circus poster-y style that really suited the story, but once the obvious deaths happened, I think J.T. Krul runs out of steam with the story, giving us an enjoyable premise that failed to deliver on an ending with any real closure or meaning.
Pulling into third position, we have Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager. This book had a lot of promise in the same way the previous story did. Palmiotti and Bennett were definite draws for me, but this was another occasion where the premise was attractive, but the execution left something to be desired. Now it could be that the story simply didn’t have enough time to find its voice given the shortness of the arc, but whatever the reason the story just fell flat. Slade is a pirate, which is super cool. He has a mercenary crew – also cool – who will obviously betray him first chance they get. Slade is on a quest to find his daughter, and he is a heartless bastard who will prevail with unexpected brutality against any foe who gets in the way of that goal. Starting to feel familiar, like an issue of ‘Jonah Hex’ that got reworked and found a home here. This mini should have worked. It didn’t.
Last, but not least, Secret Seven. I loved this mini, went out and bought the ‘Ditko Shade Omnibus’, ‘cause the concept seems so out there and foreign to me that I am eager to know the history so I can really acknowledge what changed and what didn’t for the Flashpoint event. Miligan’s story was tight and full of twists and turns, and while I wasn’t feeling the Perez art at first, by midway through the second issue he had me. Very cool all around, I want to know more about what may, or may not be a sentient madness vest!
This collection was all over the place. At times it stood with greatness (Knight of Vengeance) at others it fell flat (Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager). In the end I think you’re better off going and hunting down the issues for the Batman story than investing in this collection.
Guest Reviewer: Asher L. Turnaround – firstname.lastname@example.org
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