THE NEW 52, Week 1:
Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1
It all changes in a flash. Well, a flash and a lot of publicity on all the networks and the newspapers and the hopes that people will be intrigued enough to walk into a comics shop (or go online) and buy a comic book. But when the smoke clears, will it be any good?
Flashpoint #5 probably won't draw in new readers, opening as it does on confusing wholesale slaughter. It's grittily drawn by Andy Kubert with inks by Sandra Hope and Jesse Delperdang (surprisingly light on the lines), but for most readers, new and old, it won't make sense.
You can recognize The Flash and Reverse-Flash at the center of it all, as mastermind writer Geoff Johns reveals how this horrible alternate reality happened. It flips the usual tweaks that Johns makes to characters, and creates a satisfying juxtaposition with the Flashpoint version of Batman.
But all that battles against this litany of characters that are unrecognizable. Either they've been altered significantly in this timeline, or they only exist because of this timeline. And a few are paraded just to say "some version of these will be appearing in the New 52, starting… well, next week."
Though Flashpoint #5 has the things the slavering fanboys (myself among them) respond to, the Emperor (not Aquaman) has no clothes. The explanation for what's going on doesn't make nearly as much sense as it should, though it allows for emotionally satisfying moments.
Do you need to read this, though, in order to understand the relaunch? Not at all, though despite DC's promise that there isn't a big crossover coming, it's obvious there's a big crossover coming. In fact, Geoff Johns may have a psychological disorder much like the Riddler's – he can't NOT plant the seed for a big crossover. The man is continuity crazy.
But back to those emotionally satisfying moments: instead of giving us "this is the world that's coming," Johns and Kubert do make this about a small but powerful human moment. The view of the new world is thrown away pages earlier, and if anything, old readers may find comfort in the way Johns writes this.
The day to day in the new DC Universe may play out much the same as before. If this is the new reality, at least the connections we see here don't appear to be that much different, just now designed by Jim Lee.
Which leads us to Justice League #1, and if you're caught up in the hype and drawn into a store for the first time in ages, yes, it's a pretty satisfying (and just pretty) book. If you've been a long-time reader, you've seen most of it before – that's not necessarily a bad thing but it can be a boring thing.
Set five years prior to most of the other books in the new continuity, this first issue starts explaining how the band got together. A world-shaking menace heretofore unknown to even the Guardians of Oa has begun an invasion of Earth. Yes, that seems in line with every reiteration of the Justice League's origin, even the animated series one.
Johns and Lee start with Batman and Green Lantern, by all rumors the two characters who have had their back story tinkered with the least. Their interaction stays consistent to how Johns has always written it – the uber-serious and dark Batman has never seemed to much like Hal Jordan, and at least by practically starting over, Johns can create logical reasons why that don't depend on "oh, yeah, he got possessed by an alien entity and committed genocide" – which I'll grant you is a good reason to keep your distance from someone, even if you buy the alien possession thing.
There again, Johns tends to have a problem keeping his logic straight. Green Lantern readily calls himself a space cop, deputized by an alien race and presumably knowing representatives of let's say at least a hundred different species. (He can't have met that many yet.) But because the story needs it, he has an automatic distrust of Superman because he's rumored to be alien.
Eh. We're supposed to have a big fight because look, that's what people like. I get it. Meet the new universe, same as the old universe.
Except for those redesigns. Sure, Superman no longer has the red trunks, but look closely. Jim Lee still draws him wearing trunks the exact same color as the rest of his outfit. The lines are there.
Johns has also apparently shifted – it's too early to tell yet for sure – Cyborg's origin. Now, Victor Stone skips the Teen Titans entirely, going right to Justice League status. If the hackles are raising, let me raise them further. It makes sense to shift that origin; it even makes sense to do the redesign because…
It's not for us.
We've been reading comics for ten, twenty, thirty or forty years. We've seen it all. Some of us have even remembered it. DC wants to walk the line between satisfying us long-time readers and truly drawing in the next generation. If they have to choose between us, to stay alive they have to choose the next.
So Justice League #1 is a book I'm not going to too terribly mind if my 7 year old picks it up. (Flashpoint #5 – yeah, I mind. Sorry, Geoff, but my son does not like seeing a bunch of superheroes get killed. Period.)
People know Batman, Green Lantern and Superman, and in this issue, those are the heroes that show up. Then there's this high school football player, Vic Stone, who's obviously going to be important.
It's not too challenging for the new reader. And it's probably not too boring, especially with these mysterious evil aliens that blow themselves up and leave behind mysterious cubes (NOT cosmic cubes, nope, they're more …boxy). If I were a kid discovering this, I'd eat it up.
So I'm willing to follow this arc for a few more issues and see where it develops, partially because that's MY psychological disorder. Maybe it won't have anything new to offer me – but to offer the kid who hasn't read a Justice League story aimed at that so-called YA market?
I think it's going to do the trick.