Saturday, September 3, 2011

Comic Book Reviews: Flashpoint and (new) Justice League #1

This week, DC had some pretty big shoes to fill on two opposite ends of the spectrum. One one hand, they put out the final issue of their big event series, Flashpoint. On the other, they released the first in their new line of 52 #1 issues, Justice League #1. Out with the old and in with the new seems to be DC's business strategy at the moment; a strategy that could either help them significantly, or result in pure turmoil. Only time will tell what may become of this.

But let's start this review by talking about Flashpoint. As a farewell to the current DC universe itself, this title had quite a bit of hype about it, as do most big events such as the many Crisis titles and the like. The basic story (without going into too many details and spoilers) showcases Barry Allen (the Flash) living his relatively normal life (or as normal as a life for the Flash can be at least) up until the point that everything around him literally start to change: the people he knows, the way he knows them, etc. The only thing we are told is that Barry feels Reverse Flash must have something to do with this time changing. Following this, a whole new world has been revealed. Everything you know and love about the DCU is different. Bruce died instead of his parents as a child, and his father became a Batman instead, Kal-El was captured and taken into holding immediately after crash-landing on Earth, Aquaman and the Atlaneans are at a terrible war with Wonder Woman and the Amazonians, etc. It’s all crazy, and it’s all really cool.

This is where I am going to get a bit tongue-tied. Flashpoint had me hooked from beginning to end, but it’s hard to explain my feelings on the payoff and if there was even much of one. It’s hard to understand how one is to really look at this story since you’re going to have some who have pointed out that this is technically the DCU’s big sendoff before their new 52 event begins, and others who just wanted to look at it as a nice Flash story, making the whole thing become a garbled mess to define.

I think my biggest problem with this series however, stems from the fact that: A) The tie-ins for Flashpoint seemed to be the real meat of the story, not so much the main story itself, and B) many are going to argue that the payoff in the final issue was not worth the wait, and that the first four issues may even be construed as filler, due to the way the fifth issue concluded. It’s a good story in my opinion (albeit a little jumbled up), but as a sendoff to the current DCU itself, it’s a bit disappointing. Because of this, I find it very hard to score this series. On one hand, I came out thoroughly satisfied with the story itself, but on another, I didn’t feel like this was a good way to say goodbye to everything. I’m going to take a stab and say that this was never meant to be DC’s big send off story when the idea was conceived. I honestly think it just happened to turn out that way.

I haven’t really mentioned all the things I feel are good about this story, so I’ll do so now. The world crafted in this series was fascinating to read about. Each character had a very interesting background that I wanted to read more about once I was done with each main issue. I actually wish Flashpoint went on for longer than five issues, simply for the purpose of being able to take in the world around them more. Even with all of the tie-ins to fill in the gaps, I couldn’t help but feel like it went away all too quickly for my taste.

The artwork was very well done from beginning to end (though judging from the slight drop in quality with the last issue, you could definitely tell they had to rush a bit in order to get the last issue out within their scheduled time frame). There were some very emotional and impactful moments (mainly in the last issue in fact) that were executed perfectly and couldn’t have been done without someone like Andy Kubert at the helm. Even with the slightly rushed feel of the last issue, Kubert made sure the impactful moments were in fact going to leave a large impact on the reader.

As a whole, there’s two ways you can look at this story. I saw it as a nice Flash story, with a few confusing moments, but overall very satisfying and intriguing with the little gap left open involving what could happen next. Others will look at this as a very disappointing way to send off the current DCU to give way to the new one, and I don’t blame them for it, as I’d see it that way too in their shoes.

7 flash tokens out of 10

With Flashpoint concluded, there’s no looking back; DC Comics New 52 has begun. In a very interesting move, DC decided to put out the first issue of Justice League before any of their other new titles, which will be released the following week. That’s certainly one way to grab people’s attention (especially those who were collecting at least 10 or more DC books a month). It’s very clear that DC wanted everyone to read this story first in order to get a taste of what we’re really in for, and it definitely makes a great place to start from what I gathered. So how is this issue with such a big hype-wagon following it? Surprisingly, maybe to some at least…, it’s not half bad.

I admit that I have been one of the biggest skeptics about this reboot from the start. I personally feel that DC’s decision to restart 52 of their main titles was completely risky, and also came off as a way for them to try to make more money in general. That said, I also felt the objective itself (at least from what we’re being told the reboot is for) is a sound one. Getting more people into comic books is always a wonderful thing, and the idea of drawing people in that may have otherwise felt “overwhelmed” or “intimidated” by DC’s large and expansive history is another plus in itself. How well this concept actually works is up to the fans and the money it makes.

The issue itself is a fun, albeit quick read all around. We get to see some very entertaining interactions between Batman and the Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), and a quick glimpse of Superman by the end. Jim Lee and Geoff Johns really do complement each other’s writing and art styles perfectly. This was another great choice of team for a book as important as this one. Nothing major happened in this issue. It was simply the type of book that anyone could catch on to at this point in time, and in that sense, I feel DC is already succeeding in a way. Getting your fanbase expanded by introducing new events in old settings like the one they’ve crafted now certainly does make for an interesting read. When Spider-Man’s “Brand New Day” event started, I was beyond reluctant with all the status quo changes afoot. That said, things about it ended up growing on me quite a bit, like the new characters, setting, and story-telling methods. I see this going in the same direction for me as long as I keep an open mind.

In another small twist, I decided to ask my girlfriend (who’s only just started to truly tap into the world of comic books) to read this issue as well and give her thoughts. She agreed that it was a fun read all around and that she looked forward to seeing more of it. That said, she also agreed with me that it was a bit crazy to pretty much put all other stories not involving these new #1’s on hold until further notice.

Overall, my girlfriend and I agree that it is a fun issue, and we both look forward to the next. That said, this first issue is not in any ways important or life-changing. It’s just a fun little way to kill 20 – 30 minutes and get a glimpse into the new world being crafted once more. This is definitely worth looking into.

8 Batman/deep voice puns out of 10

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