Thursday, June 2, 2011

On Flashpoint Salvo One and the first peeks at the "DC Refresh"

Flashpoint was at first seen as just another summer event, a little different in that it didn't tie into any regular titles save for Booster Gold.  It was at its base a chance to do a mess of Elseworlds stories, and some very promising ones at that.  But the question everyone asked (at least the ones who didn't assume the answer was "not at all") was how much, if any, would this event affect the DCU moving forward.
Well, now we know, don't we?

Now that we know damn well the books will have a solid impact on the future of the DCU, it's likely worth giving them a more detailed look.

Flashpoint #2 it the central book of the event and is where the Flash / Barry Allen would be having his adventure to try and fix this mishegas.  At least up until the end of this issue, that is...

Seriously tho, I'm sure this is a classic Republic Serial cliffhanger, and first thing next issue he'll sit up gasping or screaming bloody murder.  Remember, if he isn't the Flash, the Speed Force never gets generated, and Thawne can't tap into it, and we're in a Grandfather paradox.

We get a look at a couple more of the new characters of this new world - the pirate Deathstroke will be getting his own mini starting in a week or two, and the war between Atlantis and Themyscira will be see in Aquaman and Wonder Woman's own minis.  Lois Lane isn't seen, just discussed, and of course, The (surprising) Batman, who still seems to remain at the center of things, no matter who he ends up being.  The idea that he'd go to all these lengths to let his son take his place is a sign as to how single-minded the Wayne men are.

My main issue with the book is more a worry than a problem.  There's SO much new stuff to introduce, so many new characters and ideas, that I'm afraid there won't be enough time for any of them to DO anything.  We're two issues down out of five, and the only characters whose stories have moved appreciably forward are barry and Batman.  The heroes (and tweens) of the world decided to do something...and that's it.  We see Slade and Steve Trevor get into trouble, and that's about it.  If they don't get to more action in the next issue, numbers 4 and 5 are gonna be crammed to confusion.

Abin Sur the Green Lantern - My favorite of the tie-in books so far, it hinges on the idea that Abin Sur didn't die on his trip to Earth many years ago, and is still the GL of the sector.  With Earth no longer the bastion of heroism it was, the war againt the Black Lanterns is going badly, and with no Hal Jordan to challenge him, Sinestro is still a Green Lantern, and Abin Sur's best friend.

Perhaps part of the reason I'm enjoying this book is that since there's less new concepts to introduce (just nods to the differences), they get right into the story.  It's interesting that even in a new timeline, the Guardians are conniving bastards who lie like little blue persian rugs.

Abin Sur and Sinestro have been redesigned to hew to their portrayal in the upcoming film, and that's fine. Sinestro is using any means necessary to find out what's going on, and they're both ignoring the Guardians, something that goes usually end well.

Batman: Knight of Vengeance is another book that has a direction in mind, and gets going fast.  Like the GL title, it's based on one change - Bruce Wayne died in Crime Alley with his mother, and Thomas lived.  The way he chose to enact his wrath on crime is markedly different than the way his son went, taking a wholesale tack rather than one man.  Note that in this world, Oswald Cobblepot is working with him (how happily, I imagine we'll learn soon).  He's not afraid to kill, and isn't nearly as "code-approved" as his son was.  Like the GL book, I see his Joker looks much more like the recent Ledgerian film version. 

It seems more unconnected to the main FP story, more interested in telling its own story about its own Batman.  We got one reference to the events of FP#2 where he asks Jim Gordon if he'd change the world for the better if he could.  Perhaps with Barry's help, he'll be able to.

World of Flashpoint is serving the purpose of explaining more of the bits of the new world that aren't covered in the main title.  We got a bit more of a backstory to the history of the world - the JSA existed, but had no Flash, so they didn't succeed in their fight against crime.  Check out those members of H.I.V.E. - the young chubby-cheeked Ras Ahl Ghul?  Looks like Damian's original purpose was achieved.

Traci 13 remembers the time before Thawne started dicking with things, and is a far more powerful magician than she was before.  That, combined with the countdown started at the end of the book gives me the impression that with a bunch of books they swear you don't HAVE to read to get the whole story of the event, this book may be the one of which that is the lest true.

Secret Seven was my least favorite of the titles, mainly because I never got into the previous Shade series, tho more from my own tastes at the time than any flaw in the book.  The George Perez art here is wonderful as always, and the story is perfectly good.  It seems to have the least to do with the main story so far.  It's the odd duck of the set so far. Here more to give Milligan a chance to write Shade again, which is not a bad thing.

DC is swearing blind that the wholesale renumbering of the DC Universe in September is NOT a "reboot".  They're not starting everything from scratch, but they are giving the JLA a new origin, giving a bunch of characters new costumes, and making them all "younger", which implies that some of their adventures may not have happened, or at least not yet.  So, we're really talking semantics.

Twitter person Grant Giandonato has come up with the perfect term - "The DC Refresh" - when Flashpoint ends, DC isn't rebooting, they're hitting the F5 key and clearing the cache.

The first ten new issues after Justice League hve been officially announced, as opposed to the ones that have been rumored and supposed. They're an interesting set of choices so far:

Wonder Woman went through a year-long alternate reality already and a rather talked about costume change, so it's no surprise at all that she gets a new outlook...but another new costume?  That's a surprise, considering all the stumping they did for the last one.  Brian Azzarello is a very good writer, and I think we'll see Diana take an more dramatic turn. Cliff Chiang popped onto the scene with that brilliantly beny Doctor Thirteen mini series, and his clean line art style quickly became a fave of mine.  Looks promising.

The Aquaman book is not a surprise at all, since it was announced several months back.  The new post-FP world opens a number of questions, however.  How much of his tragic past (and various incarnations) have happened? 

It's not a terrible surprise to see The Flash in his own book again - Johns went to great lengths to bring him back, I didn't expect it'd just be for 12 issues.  With Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato sharing the art and writing duties, it could be interesting indeed.  They've both got lots of experience with the character, and likely lots of story seeds from past collaborators.
We've seen a number of artists get writing gigs, only to fall behind quickly.  I'm hoping we don't have this problem in the post-FP DCU. 

The rumored and unconfirmed loss of Gail Simone on Birds of Prey has raised much speculational ire online, but the news that she'll be taking over Fury of Firestorm has calmed many seething hearts.  At the end of Brightest Day, the dangling thread was that Ronnie and Jason were stuck as Firestorm, and that they were going to detonate in ninety days DCU time.  That sounds a tad too thematically similar to the One Year Later plot twist for Firestorm where Jason was merged with Lorraine Reilly (Firehawk) and if they were separated by more than a mile, there were dangerous complications.  I'm hoping that part of the plotline is either ignored, or sorted out quickly.

The new look of the character, or should I say characters, is promising.  I'm a big fan of the Japanese TV shows like Ultraman, Kamen Rider and the Super Sentai shows that get turned into Power Rangers.  Last year's KR show was called Kamen Rider W, which brought a unique spin to the formula in that it was two people who merged to form the hero.  This had been done before in Ultraman Ace, but this also added the multiple forms concept that had become popular with the shows.  So Kamen Rider would look different and have different powers, depending which of the pair was the active member of the transformation. 

So imagine my surprise when I saw this art which seems to mirror that concept.  There seem to be Jason-Active and Ronnie-Active forms, and a more powerful "super-form" as well.  Could be interesting.

Considering that James Robinson was originally attached to the Hawkman title as of last year, I gotta tell you, Tony Daniel is a step down.  Philip Tan on art will be welcome, for sure.  The rundown of the character seems rather different than the current version - hard to tell if they've chosen to pull back on the history of the character, or just choosing to fill that in later.  I'll certainly give it a go.

I gotta tell you, I did not expect to see Green Arrow make the cut.  His current title has been a mad Goop Melange of ideas thrown at the proverbial wall - he got married, his son got attacked by a death cloud lost his memory and genetically merged with Plastic Man, he killed a villain, got forgiven, got divorced, and the last year has been naught but an extended tie-in book to Brightest Day.  JT Krul has done well with the cards he was dealt, don't get me wrong, so I'm perfectly willing to see what he'll do moving forward.  And art by Dan jurgens is always a delight.

But more then any character right now, Green Arrow needs a cleanup.  WAY to many thing tried in way too short a time - dump almost all of it, roll him back to the just after Longbow Hunters era, even back as far as the 70's JLA, and I don't think you'd get too many complaints at all.

The Justice League International title is just slopping over with potential for me.  The JLI:GL mini-series did a fabulous job of turning the team into serious players, or more correctly, reminding people that they were serious players all along.  People only remember them as a BWAH-HAH-HAH gang of loony losers, something that was even addressed in the series; that's even how other heroes remember them.  But now they're a team to be reckoned with, and with Dan Jurgens at the helm, I'm quite chuffed.

Booster's got a new costume, and is dead-center on the cover.   Might he be taking the leadership role?  I'll be curious to see if his solo title continues.  If you look at it from issue one, it seems rather clear that one of its purposes was to set up the time tampering plotline.  I'm expecting to find out that all the plans he foiled in the early days of the book were the work of the Reverse Flash all along.  Booster's a major player in Flashpoint; his title is the only regular book crossing into it.  There's a fair chance that once FP ends, so will his title, and this will be his primary home.

Dan's verified that the woman in the lower left is a new character, but when I pressed and asked "NEW new, or new-version-of-current-character new?", he hemmed and hawed a bit.  A lot of folks, myself included, thought it looked a lot like Donna Troy.

There's another very interesting change here.  Look at that lineup, and think back to the JLI:GL series.  Who's missing?  Where's Blue Beetle?  It possible he'll be appearing in Teen Titans, but considering the exposure he got on the Brave and the Bold TV series, not to mention recently on Smallville, I think one of the 52 new titles will be another try for Jaime Reyes.  Just getting it on record.

Mister Terrific is a stellar character, and could easily carry a solo book.Indeed, the lion's share of the stories from JSA Confidential were about him, so it's clear he's a character people have stories for.  He's got an interesting character quirk - he's an atheist in a world where God(s) clearly exist, and interact with Earth almost daily.  He's so dedicated to science he's patently unwilling to accept that there's some stuff right in front of him to which science just can't handle.  Lots of character potential there.

A lot of folks are worried that in this new, younger DCU, there may be no room for the JSA.  This may be a moot point since there's already been solid rumors about another JSA book, one decidedly not including the work of Marc Guggenheim.  And that's just FINE by me.  The whole Monument Point arc had great promise, as it was originally described, but it became this morose beatdown of the characters, leaving Alan Scott stuck in a costume resembling a Franklin Stove, and the aforementioned Mister Terrific rapidly losing his intelligence like Sherman Klump in The Nutty Professor II.  Obviously THAT'S going to get sorted (good - I can't stand People Getting Stupid stories, save the "Goof Gas" arc on Rocky and Bullwinkle and the story Flowers for Algernon) but all the promise of Monument point has yet to arrive.  I wouldn't mind if it was followed up on, as it sounded good.

I have been saying for a LONG time that Captain Atom could be a great character.  But...well...oh just go read this.Green Arrow needs rolling back a few years, but Captain Atom could easily be started over from scratch in the brave new DCU, with nary a whimper.  Even better, put him on Earth-4 along with the Charlton Action heroes, and let him be the strongest character on the planet.  There's no place for a second strongest person on the planet - Superman is it, period, or at least he should be.  But in his own little fiefdom, with only a small number of characters to share the field with, Atom could be a big winner.

The assorted Confidential titles were a good idea, but limited - you can only think up so many other Batman or Superman stories to tell. But there's so many OTHER heroes in the DCU you can tell a story about that never get a chance to shine.  DC Universe Presents is the book that will offer that forum.  Try characters out in a regular title, see how they do.  It's how oh so many heroes got their start back in the day.  I wouldn't mind seeing Showcase come back either - I still think a book with two or three short stories of various character could do well.  Stagger the stories so they don't all end at the same time, give the readers a reason to buy each issue.  As the story they're enjoying is ending, they've already had a couple chapters of another story to enjoy and get interested in, as opposed to starting fresh the next issue. 

As I was writing this, the next wave of new #1 issues were announced, from the Green Lantern corner of the DCU.  Not a lot has changed here creatively, and that's a good thing - Johns, Tomasi and Bedard have a book each.  Bedard's book, New Guardians is the one we know nothing about, but it puts Kyle Rayner in the star role, which was something missing recently.  Add to that the already-announced Red Lanterns title by Peter Milligan and you've got a nice and varied set of books. 

Of all the stuff at DC right now, the GL titles are the ones for which the most is going well, so odds are we'll not see too many big changes to the history.  Just about everything else is up for grabs.

All told, I see promise and potential in every title so far, and a couple hold great promise for me.  Save for the rumored change to BoP and the loss of James Robinson on Hawkman, I've not seen a serious misstep yet.  So, let's give them a chance and see if they can deliver something new and exciting, as opposed to just different.

1 comment:

  1. If nothing else, the "DC Refresh" will certainly keep everyone busy! Good luck to all the books and their authors -- and us readers! :-)