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Everything Changes in a Flash

When it was first announced, Flashpoint sounded like a fun diversion: The Flash travels to an alternate reality where Batman runs a casino, Wonder Woman rules Europe with an iron tiara, Aquaman scowls, and Superman is missing or nonexistent. After the status quo-upsetting Blackest Night and Brightest Day events, a What If?-esque event might have been a welcome palate cleanser before things returned to normal again. But then DC announced it was pressing a company-wide reset button and relaunching every series with issue #1, complete with new origins and a wiping away of the messier (and non-new-reader-friendly) continuities. You might say it caused a stir. What, then, did this mean for Flashpoint?

As it turns out, DC snuck Flashpoint's purpose under the radar, a well-planned distraction of an event, bright and flash-y, but full of subterfuge for the superhero stories it contained. Flashpoint actually ushers the old world into what DC has christened The New 52. Of course it’s written by Geoff Johns, a guru when it comes to expanding mythos and breathing new life into exhausted characters. He tries his best here to invigorate B-lister Cyborg, and his success rate depends on the reader’s patience for a hero whose costume has all the design of a refrigerator and the subtlety of a jet turbine. What really works is the main Batman plot, where The Flash enlists a very different Dark Knight to help him solve the grand mystery of this topsy-turvy world. Batman’s Flashpoint identity is a legitimate shock, and it leads to an even more surprising emotional moment for the hero in the conclusion (a spot often reserved for Superman).

Artist Andy Kubert channels Jim Lee, all speed lines and hash marks, and classic Neal Adams. Characters are long in the torso and small in the head, and Kubert tackles armies of redesigned classics with ease. He’s helped by Alex Sinclair’s intricate colors--underneath the dust jacket is a lightning bolt of an image.

Brevity is the key to Flashpoint, and it’s as expedient as its titular hero. Enticing details about minor characters and dark subplots buzz in and out of panels, teasing at a greater world outside of the intended goal, which is to get from Here to There. It's not full of exposition until it has to explain an ending that finishes with the same level of clarity as most events, complete with a backdoor somewhere in there in case it all needs to return to what once was.

Flashpoint is a necessary read, one that will have to be devoured and studied by anyone who wants to be in-the-know about anything that follows. Thankfully, it provides the same escape as the stories it pushes forward, and it pays last respects to those that it must bid adieu.

--Alex

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