Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
Written by James Krieg
Based on Flashpoint by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert
Directed by Jay Oliva
Flashpoint became the even that subsequently rebooted the DC universe into The New 52!, as the covers say. Basically, everything got rebooted, and was done so with less of a notice than you would like to wrap up storylines in dozens of comic books. This resulted in some things being a bit more rebooted than others, but all that continuity you knew and loved was once again thrown out the window by the latest DC reboot. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox doesn’t get into the continuity situation (except a brief costume change at the end), but deals with the storyline that causes it, leaving the actual fallout for the eventual sequels like Justice League: War. It lacks the excitement and fun of some of the animated DC flicks, though does have a few bright points to offer.
Flash is a character that, like Batman, is overshadowed by his villains. I say this not because I don’t really care for Flash, but because I find the dynamics of his villains far more interesting. Captain Cold and the Rogues are a cool team dynamic, working together for profit while avoiding excess casualties, even if they occasionally get sucked into more bloody affairs simply because they walk in the criminal underworld. Flash is potentially one of the most powerful heroes on the planet, and they regularly do battle with him. They even fight against other super-villain teams that try to control them. However, Professor Zoom/Reverse Flash/Eobard Thawne is simply an Evil Flash from the future who is a jerk. Sadly, the tale here turns the Rogues into petty thugs easily tricked by Professor Zoom, who then orchestrates manipulating Flash into altering history and continues to taunt Flash even as the future Professor Zoom comes from ceases to exist. C. Thomas Howell puts in a good performance letting the creepy sociopath shine through, but he’s stuck with what is there in the script to deliver, and Professor Zoom never becomes a classic villain.
The biggest problem with Flashpoint is that it was never really that good to begin with. The series wasn’t terrible, but it never really turned into a classic story that will survived through the ages. The only real continual allure is the alternate reality itself, and even some of that is a bit corny. We already had alternate versions of the Justice League members not that long ago with Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, and despite the limited screen times, many of those characters felt more developed than the inhabitants of the Flashpoint world.
The fact the event was used to justify the rebooting of all of DC continuity makes it a lightning point of controversy, as some of the rebooting caused arguments of their own (Superman’s marriage went kaput, many dead characters sprung back to life, a few established female characters suddenly became giant slores) in addition to the general idea of everything getting reset yet again in DC. One theory was the resetting was a ploy to gain new readers, though if that was true, it didn’t seem to pan out too well, but much digital ink was spilt as various factions argued throughout the internet.
Barry Allen awakens in a world where no one knows who the Flash is, and he doesn’t have Flash powers. Even more shocking, his dead mom is alive and well. The only person who remembers the way things should be in Barry, and this world has a lot of problems. Wonder Woman has led the Amazons into an invasion of Great Britain, while Aquaman led Atlantis into an attack on Europe to destroy Wonder Woman, which resulted in the rest of Europe being devastated. The two sides move closer to armageddon as the rest of the world stands helpless against their might and advanced technology. Major super heroes such as Superman, Green Lantern, or the Flash, don’t seem to exist. The most powerful hero is Cyborg, and a grizzled older and different Batman still prowls Gotham City.
What makes this cartoon even work is Kevin McKidd going all Joe Mantegna as the grizzled and violent Thomas Wayne Batman, who is perfectly willing to drop a criminal to their death or just plain shoot them. But he rises above being someone’s corny Batman killing spree fanfic because he’s obviously haunted, both by the loss of his son and by his wife turning crazed upon Bruce’s death and turning into that world’s version of the Joker. While just hinted at in the film, there is a whole Flashpoint tie-in arc that deals with the story of their relationship, the vengeful alcoholic shell Thomas Wayne has become. He obviously loves his dead son, and Barry uses that to get Batman on his side. Batman goes along with the whole ridiculous scenario because there is a chance he can save his son if history is reset.
One good result from Flashpoint is a further push of Cyborg into becoming a major character. When I was a kid, there was a Justice League cartoon series that featured Cyborg along with all the other main heroes, and I just assumed he was a major DC character. I usually only read Marvel comics, so years later when I found that Cyborg was more of a B-list guy it was an interesting revelation. But he’s been bursting back into the limelight lately, and that’s a good thing, as I always liked Cyborg. Here, he’s set up as the most powerful super hero on the planet, which isn’t that hard when all the other ones are either villains or never existed.
Without giving too much away, the central change in time was only one thing. But it was changed in such a way that it sent shockwaves through history in both directions that changed many other things, even if only slightly, but those changes were enough to have far-reaching effects. Superman’s craft lands not in a field in Kansas, but in the middle of Metropolis and kills thousands. The wrong Wayne family member is shot. No human is chosen to wield a power ring. These changes built to the doomsday scenario, and despite the desperate attempts of the heroes, the world is doomed. Batman knows the only chance is to get Flash what he needs to set history right. It’s an interesting sideways morality, sacrificing his own world to protect the one his son lives on. Flashpoint was created by tragedy and parental issues, and lives enough to have the same factors contribute to its demise.
Rated 6/10 (logo, a totally different neon cowboy, Watchmen cameo, Presidential cameo, the wrong Joker, minotaur fights the mer-men!)
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