Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Flashpointless?

Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it

Second Printing presents: a quick recap of the legacy Flashpoint carries forth.

'Cause I'm old, I remember Armageddon: 2001, DC's 1991 annual event, the first to take place entirely across their Annuals rather than interrupting their monthly titles. Genius that, I say, the idea of running an event through Annuals, not necessarily the Armageddon series. Armageddon: 2001 had two bookend issues between which all the other annuals appeared, and each annual was, by and large, a stand-alone excuse to tell an out-of-continuity story set 10 years in the future about the characters and teams holding their own titles. The Plot? A character named Waverider was checking every superhero to see who would possibly become the world-conquering Monarch, and in a famous pre-internet spoiler foil, DC changed the big reveal from Captain Atom to Hawk (of "& Dove"), something which kind of pissed off a lot of people (especially after Hawk had already been ruled out in the H&D annual). Superman had three or four different futures, which just went to show that you couldn't really trust or believe anything you read in the other issues.

The Annual-based event format was great, in essence making the event its own thing, and leaving the ongoing series to do their own thing uninterrupted, keeping writers and readers happy. They repeated the annual event at DC twice more with Eclipso: The Darkness Within and Bloodlines, and in 2004 had a thematic "event" whereby each Annual presented an Elseworld story (or two) of the title characters. The Elseworlds stories, like those in Armageddon: 2001 were stand-alone, which meant readers could pick and choose or go all-in with equal enjoyment (although, re-reading them, most of the stories in both series were either uninspired or hastily executed, or both).

The mid-1990's, at the apex (or perhaps just past the turning point) of the comics boom, spewed forth the Amalgam Universe, where DC and Marvel heroes smashed together in puntastic ways for two series of one-shots. Then in the late-1990s DC had the "skip-week" events. To explain, every month consists of four weeks, but every three months there's kind of an "extra" week on the schedule which DC used at the time to have self-contained mini-series or mini-events. One skip week brought forth the "Tangent Universe", a new bundle of heroes in a shared universe with familiar names and not at all else. Both the Amalgam and Tangent Universes had solid creative teams, but investment in the characters was low (since they were essentially one-off creations) and thus so was enjoyment (even though the Tangent universe has reared its head a couple times since).

It would appear that with Flashpoint what is old is new again and we, the DC readership/fanbase are getting treated to new alternate timeline versions of the DCU, with our heroes being recognizable but definitely not the same.

Would it be rude of me to yawn?

I've seen this before, multiple times, and the potential for fun is there as it always is in alternate past/future stories. But at the same time the sprawl of Flashpoint, with over 15 titles per month (Booster Gold, I might add, is the only current ongoing series tying in) means it's not going to be a cohesive story, and knowing what's the meat and what's just fat is hard to tell from the outside. Even at a "drawing the line" price of $2.99, that's still around $50 monthly to buy into the event in total, so as a fan, if you're curious, what do you do?

Do you pick and choose what you want to read? Those Cliff Chiang covers on Deadman and the Flying Graysons makes that series somewhat enticing or the appearance of Morrison's Seven Soldiers Frankenstein in Frankenstein and the Challengers of the Unknown certainly lifts an eyebrow or the sheer bizarreness of the June-solicited one-shot The Canterbury Cricket threatens to draw me in. But if you do pick and choose, will they be all that interesting on their own, or even as a part of the whole?

Flashpoint is a rather sizable gamble on DC's part, though I did notice they're leaving the bulk of their titles alone, so it's an event that's not a mandatory event. I can keep picking up Detective Comics or Secret Six without having to worry about picking up additional cross-over issues, or, quite frankly even care what's happening in Flashpoint.

But then the question is raised, if Flashpoint isn't affecting the DC Universe titles in any significant way, then what is the point of doling out 15-20 additional books per month, and building such a massive alternate reality for a short-term event? Is Flashpoint the birth of an "Ultimates" style universe, or is it a flash-in-the-pan? (PUN!)

I should also mention that I've been avoiding the Flash since the return of Barry Allen so I've had zero build-up to this event, and I have to wonder if this event is catering to anyone outside of the Flash readership. Obviously it is trying to considering the diversity of characters and titles involved, but will any reader who hasn't been keeping up with the Flash have a vested interest in the series especially if they can keep reading their regular monthlies without interruption?

As you may be able to tell, I'm a little undecided about how I feel about Flashpoint. I'm grateful for it staying out of books like Legion of Super-Heroes and Teen Titans in the same way that the old Annuals events used to, but also puzzled by why I should otherwise care. Curiosity is seeping in a little, mostly on the strength of a few cover images and that old nostalgic feeling I have for Elseworlds tales, but I suspect I'm going to pass on the event in total.

4 comments:

Siskoid said...

If there's a "build-up" in The Flash, it has yet to kick in.

Graig Kent said...

@Siskoid, that's quite surprising given how the current storyline is labeled "Road to Flashpoint". Sounds uninspiring.

Siskoid said...

The 2nd issue of that has just come in, and you know what? I'd forgotten about the first when I commented. I mean, all it is, is a guy showing up to warn the Flash about Flashpoint, and the first issue was just building up to the second where the warning is given.

Garnet said...

Yeah, it's the same old same old. Disrupt the world! Show kewl alternate world. Then put everything back as it was. Zzzzz.