Is It Just Us?

Just for a moment there, a few pages from the end of the finale to Flashpoint, there’s something that just draws you in. It’s not the story of the momentary world of broken history, but a moment of interaction between Barry Allen’s The Flash and Bruce Wayne’s Batman. The moment comes right at the very end of the story, when Barry “wakes up” of the nightmare version of the DC Universe that was the Flashpoint. And it’s the single moment that rescues Flashpoint from what your grade school teacher always told you; never negate the premise of your story by waking up to discover it was just a dream.

Barry zooms into the Batcave while Bruce is tinkering with something. Unsure that it is Bruce, Barry checks to verify and Bruce confirms. But Bruce is confused. Why wouldn’t he be Bruce Wayne? Barry tells him about the world of the Flashpoint. He hands Bruce a letter from the Thomas Wayne who had become Batman in that twisted world. Bruce reads it and cries.

I’m not certain if this is the first time Bruce Wayne’s Batman has wept in the pages of a DC book. I suspect it might be. The beauty of Geoff Johns’ coda to Flashpoint though doesn’t rely solely on Bruce Wayne’s tears. The Flash has reasserted a more recognizable DC history sure, but this interaction is crucial clue to how very different this DCU might prove to be. Why would Barry run to Bruce? Is that firm friendship between Barry’s The Flash and Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern no longer in place? Is Hal Jordan even Green Lantern any more (we know from “leaked” information that the upcoming Green Lantern will feature Sinestro as protagonist)? And of course there’s Bruce Wayne.

Bruce seems more sensitive, more caring and more emotionally open. More like leadership material, more like the kind of central character to build a comicbook universe around. When he suggests that Barry accept his own memories of the false timeline “as a gift”, Bruce Wayne reads unlike any Batman you’ve ever seen before. This is the Batman carved out by Christopher Nolan. The summer blockbuster Batman that people “just get”, the same one talked about on trains and busses unashamedly on the way to work. And just for a moment that idea of a New 52 actually seems like it might work.

If Justice League is equal to a qualitative shift in storytelling, it’s not to be seen from this single issue. The story plays out five years “ago”, and shows Bruce Wayne’s Batman and Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern team up for the first time. Superman appears in the final pages of the book, in full costume. And notes in Jim Lee’s sketchbook seem to indicate that this new costume will be explained in Grant Morrison’s Action Comics #1, released next week. Meaning, Action Comics #1 will also play out five years “ago”. Will the entire reboot play out in this timeframe?

“Part One” the opening episode of the rebooted Justice League and the opening episode of the entire New DCU feels thin. There’s been entirely too little time dedicated to Vic Stone’s pre-Cyborg character. The roll call for the new Justice League is everything you’d expect with the exception that the Martian Manhunter is replaced by Vic Stone’s Cyborg. Again, notes from the sketchbook indicate that Vic Stone’s transformation into Cyborg will be core to the new League. The Vic Stone we do see, plays football “like a tank”.

Vic’s up for an amazing scholarship with whatever school he’ll sign with, but cannot sign without a parent. Vic’s dad remains unavailable while scouts offer Vic the world. The moment where this All-American football star and kid with a better tomorrow tantalizingly out of reach sees his first superhero is a moment of true pathos in the book. And this one moment injects a quality of storytelling that makes you want to be more involved in the story. I want more of the story for Vic, and so do you.

But the rest of the book?

Batman, Superman and GL duking it out? We know this place, we’ve been here a thousand times. This is just how superheroes make friends. For a clear picture of Justice League as a follow-on to Flashpoint, imagine this ending to Back to the Future.

Marty McFly shows up back in 1985 and everything’s right with the world. He’s father’s experiences during his own teenage years have pushed him to take greater risks. This small behavioral change that Marty effected has paid dividends over the years. Marty’s siblings are happy. The family has greater material wealth, but also greater happiness. Both their material and emotional well-being is a by-product of their more steadfast character.

Marty dashes outside, unable to believe he actually has his own truck. Unable to believe that the town bully is actually transformed into the obsequious car detailer. Jennifer shows up and Marty hugs her. Everything is going to be right in the world. But Doc Brown never shows up. There’s no crazy garbage-fueled, flying car-ride into the future. Instead, Back to the Future Part II is simply Marty and Jennifer living out their lives quietly in Boringtown, MA (or Nowheresville, IL, I forget where Back to the Future was set).

This past Wednesday morning, on the morning of release for both the Flashpoint finale and Justice League premiere, Marvel Senior Veep Tom Brevoort tweeted several times about how Warren Ellis’ taking of the reigns on Avengers would make Avengers the book to get this week. In a week where DC made a powerful statement by cutting their distribution schedule down to just two books, Brevoort’s social media-ing seemed like just so much bravado. But now…

RATING 5 / 10