Tag Archives: Brian Azzarello

Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint Featuring Batman

Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint Featuring Batman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This volume contains four mini-series tie-ins to the Flashpoint event wherein Wonder Woman and Aquaman wage genocidal warfare across Europe in a skewed alternate universe.

The first sequence, Batman: Knight of Vengeance, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, is one of the best Batman stories I’ve read, deserving 5 stars. In this alternate universe, Joe Chill killed young Bruce Wayne, leaving his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne, grieving parents. Thomas turned his anger into becoming the Batman. By day, Thomas Wayne runs casinos with the help of his business partner Oswald Cobblepot (in the normal universe, AKA Penguin). By night he rids Gotham City of vile menaces like Hush, Scarecrow, Ivy, and Killer Croc with extreme prejudice. When Judge Harvey Dent’s children are kidnapped by the Joker, Batman must face his greatest nemesis in a way we’ve never seen. This Joker has an origin that is utterly terrifying and completely consistent with this alternate reality. The artwork by Risso beautifully captures the dark insanity of Thomas Wayne’s world.

The second sequence, Deadman and the Flying Graysons, by J. T. Krul and a battery of artists, depicts a circus traveling through war-ravaged Europe, trying to evade the insane conflict all around them. Trapeze artists Boston Brand (AKA Deadman) and the Flying Graysons, featuring young daredevil Dick Grayson (known as Robin in the normal universe), become involved with the Resistance in a deadly way. A mystical artifact must be protected from Wonder Woman’s Amazonian army, which ultimately leads to transformations by Brand and Grayson. Unfortunately, the story ends before we see the full ramifications of these transformations. I give this 3 stars.

The third sequence, Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager, by Jimmy Palmiotti and a slew of artists, tells the story of the pirate Deathstroke who takes advantage of the chaos of war to plunder the high seas for his own gain. When rival pirate Warlord kidnaps his daughter, Deathstroke must face insurmountable odds to try to rescue her. Along the way they cross paths with Aquaman and his ally Ocean Master with disastrous results. This is a fast-paced adventure that really doesn’t have much to do with the main Flashpoint storyline, but is interesting for its depictions of familiar DC characters in unusual circumstances. This deserves about 3-1/2 stars.

The fourth sequence, Secret Seven, by Peter Milligan and a variety of artists, delves into the magical world of Shade the Changing Man and his one-time allies Black Orchid, Amethyst, Abra Kadabra, Raven, Zatanna, and Mindwarp as Shade tries to bring them together to help Cyborg end the metahuman war while trying to evade Sagan Maximus’s attempts to neutralize him and Enchantress’s attempts to kill him. In the end, though, the story is mostly a confusing mess that has no real conclusion. This is the weakest sequence in this compilation, earning no more than 2 stars.

The problem with most of these sequences is that they were only three-issue mini-series. I get the impression that they were originally intended to be much longer, perhaps six issues each, because in almost every case the story ends abruptly and often with the protagonists experiencing turning points that cry out for resolution. Overall, this anthology is well worth checking out for the Batman story, but the remainder is very inconsistent in quality.

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Before Watchmen

Yesterday’s announcement from DC that they are going to reboot the Watchmen franchise with a series of prequels was met with the predictable outcries from fans. Alan Moore is understandably upset because as far as he is concerned, Watchmen was a self-contained story with a definite beginning and a definite end. What possible minutiae could any writer bring to this world that would expand our enjoyment or understanding of the characters and message Moore created?

As has been pointed out, this new project will span 35 individual issues in seven different series (eight, if you count the Crimson Corsair backup feature that will eventually be collected separately), which is almost three times longer than the original Watchmen maxi-series in 1986. Is there really that much more to tell about these characters? I guess the same thing could be asked about any comic book character–how many times can Batman fight the Joker, after all, and remain fresh and interesting? Probably my biggest concern about the scope of Before Watchmen is whether I will have to buy all the issues to understand what’s going on. At today’s cover prices, it will cost almost $150 for the entire collection. Even if I wait for the trade collection(s), I’m sure it will cost a tidy sum.

I’m not worried that Before Watchmen will confuse readers. The original Watchmen will always be there and anything else can be cheerfully ignored, if so desired.

Original artist Dave Gibbons has given a fairly tepid endorsement of the new project, and has declined to participate. Len Wein, the editor on Watchmen, is eagerly participating, and original colorist John Higgins is also participating.

Alan Moore’s reaction is somewhat puzzling. I understand his disdain for other people using what he considers his work, but the fact is he does not own the Watchmen characters. In fact, the Watchmen characters are themselves thinly disguised versions of Charlton characters that DC had recently acquired in the 1980s. Moore had begun work on Watchmen with those characters, and only when DC found out how he was going to use some of them did they balk and make him revamp them. DC simply wanted the option to use the Charlton characters in other stories. Moreover, Moore has made quite a career out of mangling established public domain characters (and thinly disguised copyrighted characters) in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Lost Girls. Oh, I’m sure J.M. Barrie, L. Frank Baum, and Lewis Carroll  would just love the way their characters are treated in Lost Girls!

One of the gripes Moore and others have made is that these are 25-year-old characters and well, couldn’t top-tier talent be used to create new characters for our times? Of course, Superman and Batman are 75 years old and that doesn’t stop anyone from updating them for today’s audiences. Part of the appeal of iconic characters is that  different creators can use them in a variety of ways and yet still be recognizable and relevant. In fact, Alan Moore has done this himself: taking Len Wein and Berni Wrightson’s Swamp Thing to a whole new level of significance.

I think the most powerful argument in favor of Before Watchmen was made by writer J. Michael Straczynski. You can read his interview about his plans for Dr. Manhattan and Nite Owl here.

In the comic book world, no character ever stays dead and no story ever ends. I’ll take a wait and see approach to the final product. But given the A-List talent associated with Before Watchmen, I expect we will see some truly worthwhile stories, even if they don’t match up to the undisputed greatness of Watchmen.