Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013)

Artists conception of Your Humble Narrator's reaction to news they were making a Flashpoint movie.
Artist’s conception of Your Humble Narrator’s reaction to news they were making a Flashpoint movie.

As I said in the Superman Unbound review, DC Comics uber-writer Geoff Johns got his job thanks to his love of those first two live-action Superman films (and The Goonies). Because of this, he talked himself into a  job playing step-n-fetch-it for director Richard Donner. Because of this, young Geoff found time to make some friends at DC Comics while he and Donner were in New York, working on that Mel Gibson-led X-Files rip-off no one remembers anymore, Conspiracy Theory.

Within a few months, former Superman writer (now DC Group Editor) Eddie Berganza secured Johns a job penning Justice Society of America. “Written” at the time (though some of us suspected it was “written in name only”) by Notable Hollywood Screenwriter David S. Goyer, JSA evolved, under Johns tenure, into an occasionally-quite-nice microcosm of its home universe. While the modern Justice League is usually composed of characters with true cultural clout, instantly recognizable to even the least-literate among us, JSA thrived by combining characters from comic’s Golden Age with impetuous youngsters either inspired by their example or straight-up continuing some poor dead person’s legacy.

That’s the thing I’ve always liked about the DC Universe: a meta-textual awareness of its own history. Unlike Marvel Comics, where all roads lead back to Captain America and everything else gets shunted a decade or so down the time stream by Editorial Fiat whenever continuity headaches become epidemic, DC’s heroes come in distinct, generational blocks. The Old Guard started putting on masks and punching bad guys at some point in the mid-1920s. They did it for their own reasons, came together for World War II, and then drifted apart again for other reasons no writer seems interested in addressing, save obliquely, through peeks at Wacky Alternate Dimensions (like the Watchmen universe, which outlawed masked heroics in the 70s with its Keene Act). The New Guard of the “perma-modern” world, usually beginning with Superman, chose to go the “thong-and-blanket” route partially because of that preexisting heroic tradition. This adds historical depth to DC’s fictional world while eliminating the need for any one character to bare the full weight of being “the world’s first super-hero” (though Superman’s usually handed that title by sympathetic friends in the media).

Hey, Diana? Can you throw that thing around the character designer, ask him what the hell's up with everyone's necks? Thanks.
Hey, Diana? Can you throw that thing around the character designer, ask him what the hell’s up with everyone’s necks? Thanks.

This is also why (almost) no one in the DC Universe questions anyone’s decision to Fight the Good Fight. If you have superpowers (or a ton of money, or an undersea kingdom, or a magic staff an old family friend gave you because he wants to get out of The Hero Game and spend more time with his family, having just watched his father die saving the world for the billionth time) and no overwhelming desire to do Evil, doing Good while dressed in an American flag is just A Thing People Do, as unquestioningly accepted as becoming a lawyer, Indian chief, cop, emergency service worker, or Peace Corp volunteer. A far cry from the Marvel Universe’s knee-jerk hostility towards pretty much anything and everything with superpowers…an attitude most of the superpowered population reciprocates, leading to constant mutual antagonism that all-but ensures genuinely heroic things will only get done once the fight scenes have concluded.

In DC comics, several long-running Heroic Legacies bolster an implicit sense of trust between superpeople and the communities they exist to serve, no matter how misplaced that trust might be. Batman’s been working on his own legacy since the first Robin blundered into his Cave, and he’s so damn good at it there have been no less than five Robins by the time of this writing. Three have been Killed in Action and one of those was brought Back From Beyond the Grave due to wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey, as discussed in Under the Red Hood. Don’t even get me started counting Batwomen, Batgirls, Catwomen, Huntresses, and Azraels. Let’s just say what the hoods at The Stacked Deck say and leave it at that: “Gotham’s lousy with capes.” No shit, brother. Testify.

Other cities aren’t much better. Superman’s cousin Kara spent years flying around in the background, mostly all by her lonesome…until 1993, when a biologically-teenaged clone and the cosplay fan to end all cosplay fans swelled the ranks of the Super-family. Aquaman’s a king, so not only does he have to worry about the Line of Succession, he’s got a whole civilization’s worth of Fun Young People chomping at the bit to be their King’s good left hand (which Aquaman really needed there, for awhile – buh-dum-tish). At the time of this writing, six human males (and one of their daughters) have gone by the name Green Lantern. Green Arrow’s tried to follow Batman’s get-em-while-they’re-young example with horrific results for nearly everyone involved, and their children. Especially their children. (Yeah, that’s right – Fuck you, Cry for Justice. And fuck all your shitty sequels, too.)

It's all this comic book's fault.
It’s all this comic book’s fault.

And then there was (and is) The Flash…

As a comic book reader who stuck fairly close to the Gotham-Metropolis Corridor (it’s like the I-95 Corridor in our world, except New Jersey’s even more of a foetid, zombie-spawning swamp where only Dr. Alec Holland dares to tread) I’ve always been bemused by the fact no character is more directly responsible for the state of modern superhero comics than The Flash. It all started in Flash vol. 1. #123 (September, 1961), when the Flash of the 1960s (a police forensics tech named Barry Allen, who gained superspeed due to being struck by lightning while standing next to a shelf full of chemicals) met the Flash of the 1940s (a Science Major named Jay Garrick who inhaled too many “heavy water vapors” after he fell asleep at his desk) by accidentally traversing the Walls Between Realities while performing magic tricks for a kid’s charity show.

What? It was 1961 – that kind of thing happened all the time – especially in Flash comics. In an era when Sci-Fi Tropes were so much The Rage even Batman and Robin regularly fought alien invasions…IN SPACE…Flash was as Sci-Fi as you could get without checking out Green Lantern and going Full Space Opera. Sure, his villains were mostly jumped-up jewel thieves with gimmicks. Sure, his kid-sidekick, nephew, and future successor Wally “Kid Flash” West spent years as the usual, grating teenager-as-crafted-by-adults-who-don’t-like-real-teenagers (until decent writers started giving him decent dialogue, round about the early 80s). And sure, Flash’s love interest (a reporter – naturally) suffered from the same prosopagnosia comic book Lois Lane suffered from, unable to recognize Her Man without a clear line of sight on his cheekbones and the bridge of his nose…But for all that, Flash’s stories had a chaotic unpredictability it’s tough to find nowadays, even in superhero books. He’d be fighting Abracadabra, or Weather Wizard one month and the next would find him traveling back to When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth or into the Far Future of the 30th Century, where things got even crazier…

But the general public holds Flash in even greater contempt than it holds most of DC’s heroes. Unless they watched cartoons, the following clip from Saturday Night Live’s spoof of Superman’s Funeral is probably the last Flash-related thing they remember. Starting at Timestamp 00:59 we get the General Consensus view of Flash in a handful of sentences, straight from the horse’s mouth. (With the horse, in this case, being a young Adam Sandler, of all fucking people – there’s your cognitive nut-shot for the evening – you’re welcome):

“Ya know, Superman could do anything. He could fly. X-ray vision. Super-strength. All I can do is run fast….No, no, no – it’s true! All I do is run fast. He could run as fast as me, but he never mentioned that in all these years. Super was a real man. I like that.”

Me, too, Sandler-Flash. I also like how good a grasp this bit’s writer had on Superman’s character. But even on first viewing, ten-year-old me caught a strong whiff of reductio ad absurdum wafting through the TV set. It’s the equivalent of saying “All Superman does is catch people who fall off shit.” Or “All Batman does is burn money.” No comic book character could possibly survive as long as The Flash has without his creative team getting…well, creative. So while the Scarlet Speedster relies on Running Fast for simple, day-to-day gettin’ around, he’s long-since gained the power to (for example) manipulate his own molecules individually, walk through walls, throw great big balls of static at his enemies, and travel through time…as well as Relative Dimensions in Space.

"Hi! How ya doing?"
“Hi! How ya doing?”

It’s time that concerns us here because, with all the above out of the way, we can finally talk about the WB’s latest straight-to-home-video animated superhero feature, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. The fact that I felt the need to go on like this in order to give you, the reader, proper context for what I’m about to review should point out the first major flaw in Flashpoint Paradox – if you don’t know/give a shit about the DC Universe, this movie is meaningless to you. Now, if you despise the DC Universe, or superheros in general, or just like to see a bunch of cartoons murder each other…well, then, welcome. I look forward to receiving your hatred via the comment section below.

Originally sold to us as The Big Flash Event of 2011, by the time of its publication Flashpoint morphed into – as Comic Book Resources reviewer Doug Zawisza put it – “an empty-calorie merchandising sandwich,” spawning over sixty tie-in miniseries, most of which ran at least three issues at a cost of $3.99 each, in addition to its own, five-issue run. Meaning your archetypal fan, wanting the full and complete perspective on this Earth-Shattering, DC Universe Crossover Event of Summer, 2011, needed to shell out at least $250, America. Or they could’ve waited three years for the movie to come out and saved themselves months of headache as well as all that lovely money. Damnit. Can you hear me, Me of Summer, 2011? Save our money! It’s not worth it! Jor-El was right! They’re a pack of fools! Every last one of them!

Ahem…sorry…had to yell at one of my past selves… Judged all by its lonesome, Flashpoint sucks. Industrial partisans would undoubtedly counter, “Well, that’s just your opinion, nerf-hearder. It consistently topped the sales charts during its four months of release, only cheated out of the #1 spot by the so-called ‘death’ of Spider-Man, the re-numbering of Captain America’s book, and the re-numbering of the entire DC line in September, starting with Justice League #1…by DC Universe Superstar Author Geoff Johns.” To which I say, “Excuses, excuses.” Flashpoint still sucks because it was never designed to stand on its own legs. Johns intended it to cap off his tenure writing Flash’s main title, which he’d been doing (off and on) since the Year 2000. Or, think of it this way: the story’s legs were almost a decade long. Significantly more than that, if you count the rest of Flash continuity.

Insert "Sticky Situation" Joke Here.
Insert “Sticky Situation” Joke Here.

The early 21st century has not been especially kind to the Central-Keystone area’s favorite son. His popularity’s declined at pace with the popularity of reading comics, and the popularity of reading itself, helped not at all by the fact Flash fans are a bifurcated bunch. You know those asinine “Kirk vs. Picard,” “Joel Hodgson vs. Mike Nelson” or “Xth Doctor vs. Xth Doctor” debates your other nerdy friends engage in to no good purpose? Well, there be no shelter here. The front line is everywhere and Flash fans draw their line between Barry Allen – Flash from the mid-50s to the mid-80s – and his successor, Wally West (a.k.a. Sir Not Appearing in This Film).

As mentioned before, Geoff Johns got into comics by discovering a box of issues from the Barry Allen Years in his grandma’s attic. I can only imagine what he made of Flash comics when he got back into them at the Turn of the Millennium, a decade and a half into the Wally West Era. It’d be the equivalent of me finally getting my dream job writing Batman books…only to discover Bruce Wayne is long-dead and Dick Grayson’s taken over The Cowl. An exposition dump about how Bruce died For a Good and Noble Cause, coupled with the protagonist’s constant (and inevitable) angsting over his mentor’s heroic sacrifice, would not make me feel any better, or make the so-called achievement of a so-called life goal feel any less hollow.

So I understand why Johns spent most of 2006-2010 bringing Barry Allen Back from Beyond the Grave, usurping Wally West’s positions as protagonist of the Flash book and go-to Speedster of his home universe. If this sounds familiar, it’s exactly the kind of tear-down job Johns pulled on Green Lantern – unleashing, as we all know by now, nothing but misery and horror upon the universe. Unfortunately, trained by movie-makers as he was, misery and horror are the only worthwhile tools in Geoff Johns storytelling box. Misery, horror, and full-page splashes with as few words as possible. Wouldn’t want to bore anyone with…whaddayacallit…? Story? Shee-it, who needs one of those getting in the way? 

Why else would anyone want to become a cop/superhero?
Because why else would anyone want to become a cop/superhero?

The Flashpoint Paradox, then, is the story of how one man’s selfish fucking around with the space-time continuum almost destroys the universe. That person just happens to be The Flash. After a brief…erm…flashback…to Barry’s childhood, so we can meet his mom, we…ahem…flashforward…to a little later in Barry’s childhood, so we can see the day he came home from school to find his mom dead on the floor. If this is the first you’ve ever heard of Flash’s dead mom, congratulations! Welcome to the mindset of a Flash fan, circa 2010, when this little bit of retroactive continuity first surfaced. (And what does it say that my first thought, then and here, was, “Well – at least her clothes are still on, kid – you lucked out there…and at least she’s not in the refrigerator…”)

See, Geoff Johns may not like Wally West, Kyle Raynor or Dick Grayson, but he obviously loves Batman. It’s the one thing we can agree one. Because everyone loves Batman, right? He’s so serious and real, with all his money and the way he’s a prick to everyone. The kind of hero you can identify with. Because we all saw our parents violently gunned down in front of us by random stick-up artists when we were eight, right…?

Obviously not. But Batman’s Defining Element of Tragedy is also his entire motivation – one so blindingly obvious you can reduce it to a single, high-contrast image and then reproduce that image whenever it’s dramatically convenient. There are no confusing ethical questions about the proper usage of Power, or just how much Service particularly talented members owe to their Societies. No one gets on Batman’s case for failing to “save everyone,” we just give him points for trying because he’s so goddamn “normal,” ya know? Not like Flash…the non-billionaire with a day job and the relatively-functional social life.

"So...your mom's dead now...that's tough..."
“So…your mom’s dead now…yeah, that’s tough…”

Batman sidesteps all of that with an appeal to Obvious Trauma. Despite his gadgetry and gruffness, Batman’s easy to explain: dead parents + enormous wealth + ninja training = Dark Knight. And aren’t dead parents a much cleaner, simpler motivation for heroism than  “boring” ethical gobbledegook? “Fuck all that,” says Geoff Johns, and every writer who follows him. “Dead parents for ev’rybody!” So easy…so simple…and like shipwrecked men turning to sea water from uncontrollable thirst, comic book creators keep killing off parents because Batman is standing right over there! “Living” proof such emotional shorthand works! Everybody has parents, right? And no one wants to see them die! (Please note: if you currently wish death upon your parental units, just go with the argument – there’s a point). So after rubbing Green Lantern’s face in his dead dad for nearly half a decade, Geoff Johns returned to Flash comics and killed Flash’s mom, catalyzing at least a year’s worth angst-ridden stories as Flash moped about it and went on a massive hunt to Find the True Killer…

Needless to say, those stories are not referenced in Flashpoint: The Motion Picture. It assumes you know about them already. Flash’s entire pre-Flashpoint life is represented here by a ten minute, pre-title mini-adventure that sees Flash (Justice Chambers) visit his mom’s grave, leave her the Requisite Birthday Flower, and face down his own Sinister Sixpack of villains in the Flash Museum, with the aid of the Justice League. All goes well until 25th-century psychopath Reverse Flash (a.k.a. Professor Zoom a.k.a. Eobard Thawne, a.k.a. C. Thomas Howell) makes a veiled crack about Flash’s mom. This sends the Scarlet Speedster into a such a funk even Batman (the irreplaceable Kevin Conroy) feels the need to comment on it(!) “Nothing I can’t run off,” Flash says as he literally runs off into the title sequence, and his own doom. As well as ours.

Smash cut to Barry waking up at his work desk (in civies, thank the gods) in a Wacky Parallel Dimension where his mom’s suddenly alive (again), he never gained super-speed, Superman’s rocket took out a chunk of Metropolis instead of some uninhabited farmer’s field, eight-year-old Bruce Wayne caught the bullet on That Fateful Night in Crime Alley, driving his father, Dr. Thomas Wayne (Kevin McKidd), to became Batman and his mother, Martha, to become The Joker…oh, and Atlantis is at war with the Amazons…who’ve totally conquered the British Isles, renaming them New Themyscira. Realizing this is all kinds of fucked-up, Barry breaks into the Batcave and (eventually) talks Dr. Batman into not murdering him outright. Will Flash regain his superspeed and piece together the mystery of what changed the world? And how he can change it back? Will he pull this off before Wonder Woman and Aquaman’s Love Triangle-inspired war decimates the human race?

"Ah, yes. I was wondering what would break first..."
“Ah, yes. I was wondering what would break first…”

Duh. It’s like It’s a Wonderful Life… except starring the Flash. With Dr. Batman as a perpetually half-drunk, unwilling Anti-Clarence. And pointless.

Or, if you don’t like that analogy, it’s like that Star Trek: The Next Generation episode I really love and emotionally stunted nihilists everywhere really hate, “Parallels.” Except it’s more like that Buffy: The Vampire Slayer episode, “The Wish.” Which I also really love, because it introduced the world to Evil Vampire Willow, who’s just precious:

Now *that's* how you break a dude's fingers!
Now *that’s* how you break a dude’s fingers. With hotness.

In fact, my fellow Buffy fans? I’ll level with ya: it’s exactly like “The Wish,” except Flash is his own Anyanka. There. I just told you everything you need to know.

For the rest of you, here are some positives before we transition to more bitching: the animation is gorgeous, with no sign of the cheapness I saw creeping around the edges of Superman Unbound. The cast is an embarrassing monument to talent squandered on crap material, with the extra special stand-outs being Chronicle‘s Michael B. Jordan as Flashpoint-verse Cyborg and Justin Chambers as Barry, who carries the film on his back. Director Jay Oliva maintains his usual level of competency. Screenwriter James Krieg does a decent job condensing a bloated, over-blown story into the WB-mandated seventy-five minute runtime. But unlike his colleague Bob Goodman, Krieg is far too faithful to his source material. And that source – as I hope all this verbiage indicates – is a half-baked, featherweight piece of complete flotsam, held together by little more than literally pointless fight scenes.

“Pointless” because they take place in a Wacky Parallel Dimension you know will get set back to something approaching “normal” by the end of the damn story. This isn’t a Crisis on Two Earths or Injustice: Gods Among Us situation, where Evil Versions of Our Heroes are poised to conquer the Earth we’ve been reading about for twenty-plus years. The world we and Barry know has been wiped away. Obvious “how?” “why?” and “when?” mysteries abide. But why focus on any of those when we can watch Hal Jordan (voiced, in both realities, by Nathan Fillion, natch) train for a suicide mission into Atlantis-controlled airspace? Or Cyborg’s alternate plan get shot down by President Obama? Or Wonder Woman (Vanessa “I played a different hero on the Young Justice TV show, making things temporarily confusing for Your Humble Narrator” Marshall) and Aquaman (Carry Elwes, from the Saw franchise) decimate London. Isn’t that what you paid to see?

Keep digging. Dionysus has to be in there somewhere.
Keep digging. Dionysus has to be in there somewhere.

Granted, that’s not all we see. Eventually, the titular “paradox” of this “Flashpoint” shows up. That title really should be plural, because there are two paradoxes in this story. Barry’s one: physically altered by the reality shift, he nevertheless retains full knowledge of the original timeline, only gaining knowledge of the altered one through a dream-sequence montage. The other paradox is the Reverse Flash, whose very existence is predicated upon Flash’s. Dude gave himself super powers and traveled back in time specifically to fuck up the life of one Barry Allen and/or claim that life for his own by right of being an entitled dick/jilted fanboy stalker. In order to even come close to achieving that goal, Reverse Flash risks wiping himself out of the time stream. He’s in the same bind Skynet finds itself every time it tries to kill John Connor – his every action a self-defeating reinforcement of his own horrible predicament. It’s unfortunate Reverse Flash never notices this in the film, or that his one-shot tie-in wasn’t included in this adaption. The Big Bad should have a bigger focus in this narrative, even if his presence turns out to be a big red-and-gold herring.

None of which excuses the death and misery he’s caused (including the death of Flash’s first wife and forcing Flash to break his neck before he could kill Barry’s rebound fiance…who wound up in a nuthouse anyway…not that you’d know anything about this from the film…and so it goes…). In fact, the blind hubris at the heart of Reverse Flash’s character makes him a better villain and a perfect Arch Enemy. But of all the stories you could’ve told about him, Warner Premier and DC chose to tell one where he barely appears until the final act. A story where the hero has no reason to suspect his involvement, or even his continued existence, until he finds a big honking clue in his costume ring: a calling card of sorts: a Reverse Flash costume.

I love Dr. Batman’s response to this, too: “Not what you were expecting?” Bull. Shit. If I suddenly woke up in an Alternate Present and knew of a person who intended me harm and possessed the capability to time travel under his own power…well, two and two make four. But Flashpoint insists it must make five. The extra digit is for grotesques.

Because that's what Wonder Woman was missing all these years - decapitations!
Because that’s what Wonder Woman was missing all these years – decapitations! (Not really…but Diana used to decapitate ancient, mythological monsters…instead of…ya know…Aquaman’s wife…

So, in between scenes of Flash fumbling around his Brave New World, we cut away to something ugly and mean, because that’s all the PG-13’s good for, apparently. See! Wonder Woman strangle Steve Trevor with the Lasso of Truth (bet Gaea just loved that – probably as much as I did). See! What would happen if Superman spent his life as the malnourished guinea pig of a Shadowy Government Conspiracy. See! Aquaman stab Lex Luthor to death. See! Hal Jordan go kamikaze on those water-breathing bastards! See! Wonder Woman stab a ten-year-old child to death with a xiphos. See! Almost all the characters you know and love die horrible, meaningless deaths. It’s okay – none of this matters. It’s all a dream! Go back to sleep.

Me, I spent Summer, 2011, watching the comic book critics that are as close to “mainstream” as such things get (as a Green Lantern I love once said, “Everything’s relative”) go ape-shit for all this blood and guts, despite a full awareness on their part that none of this would matter. At all. Flashpoint‘s insubstantial nature seemed to be quite the selling point for some. And now it is again, for a whole new audience who are already declaring this their favorite direct-to-video DC Animated Movie because…well, they’re bored, and they wouldn’t know a good story if it ran them through with a short sword. I didn’t like Under the Red Hood but at least its events occurred in the mainline DC Universe. At least that film had the good sense to end with the promise its events would have some lasting repercussions for the characters involved. Flashpoint, like most lazy time travel stories, had no effect on anyone save Barry because everything’s back in place by the end. What else can you do when your protagonist is a walking, talking Cosmic Reset Button?

Well, plenty. But why do any of that when we can see Flash suffer third-degree chemical burns when his first attempt to regain his speed fails miserably? Why does it fail? And why does it succeed ten minutes later? That’s the naive faith in its source material showing through. Flashpoint Issue #2 ended with a full-page splash of Dr. Batman cradling Barry’s smoldering remains. Damn! I thought at the time. Now that’s what I call “having narrative balls.” Takes a lot to kill your protagonist a third of the way through your story. The Buffy episode I mentioned above pulled that trick and it worked wonders….

Smokin'.
Smokin’.

But Geoff Johns loves Barry Allen too much to let him die again, and he loves padding out stories even more. So Barry’s second attempt to re-power himself succeeds because…well, Barry and Dr. Batman have this exchange:

Dr. Batman: They say lightning never strikes twice in the same place.

Barry: “They” say a lot of things.

And so, just to prove “them” wrong, the lightning in this story strikes twice. In the same place. Do ya get it? It’s irony. Not that snarky, faux-cynicism everyone calls “irony” these days, no. That’s Dramatic Irony all up in here, bitches! Because “they” say “lightning never strikes twice” and then it does in this story…hello? Is this thing on…? Jesus, tough crowd.

Not that I’m sad to see the hilariously overcomplicated backstory of Flash’s powers, and his power-source, reduced to a handy, one-sentence explanation:

Barry: The Speed Force allows both [Flash and Reverse Flash (and every other speedster besides)] to bend the laws of physics using super-speed.

For me, that right there was the funniest line in this whole damn show, since I’m aware of how Johns wasted the half-decade before Flashpoint exploring just what the Speed Force was, how it formed, how it remains in existence, how Barry used it to escape Death (twice), how he could re-use it if he ever dies again, and how – thanks to time-travel – he’s the secret source of his own superpowers. “Because Barry’s just that damn awesome, you guys!” I’m sure you think so, Geoff, but if the only way you can prove it is by piling on retroactive continuity, you’re never going to convince anyone else. Except, of course, for your legions of fans on both sides of the creative divide.

But remember, people: Superman doesn't kill. (Except in parallel dimensions, "imaginary" stories, animated or live action films, and whatever else escapes the tunnel vision of the person who tells you this.)
But remember, people: Superman doesn’t kill. (Except in parallel dimensions, “imaginary” stories, most of his films, and whatever else escapes the tunnel vision of the person who tells you this.)

I reserve my highest praise for the things Flashpoint Paradox does not do, because this is one of those rare occasions where adaption decay and the seventy-five minute limit that saddles all these films turned out to be net positives. The film, gratefully, does not waste our time (or money) checking in with all of DC’s magic-based characters as they double over, clutch their temples, and moan about some disturbance in the (Speed) Force. (Seriously, half the tie-in comics focused on little more than this.) Nor do we check in with Booster Gold, who’s usually the first hero on-call when someone starts fucking with Spacetime. We never visit Gorilla Grodd’s African Empire and Murder Playground. Or Queen Industry’s super-villain supermax prison, Queensrow. Or Thomas Wayne’s awesomely-named casino, Wayne’s World. Nor do we see Project: Superman Subject 001 (better known, in the mainline universe, as Clark Kent of Smallville, Kansas) kill a supervillain by landing on her so hard he reduces her to paste…though he does vaporize a whole squad of soldiers with his heat vision, so there’s that. Enjoy it, if you want.

A part of me will always enjoy a bit o’ the old Ultraviolence. But because they omitted as much of the tie-in material as possible, streamlining this story to the bare minimum, its core weaknesses stand naked on the highest hilltops around: a skeleton of Ultraviolence with no connective tissue. An excuse to have the heroes of the DC Universe get together and kill each other in particularly flashy (har-har) ways. Hundreds of pages turned to seventy-five minutes of “hey – I know that guy from other comic books where he does heroic stuff!” Even Dr. Batman – the one new character who gets a decent amount of screen time – is little more than a tenth-generation Punisher knock-off. I can’t bring myself to care about any citizen of the Flashpoint universe because no matter what they do, there’s always a thought in the back of my head, spoken in the voice of that creepy holographic little girl from the Resident Evil movies: “You’re all going to die down here. And then get wiped out of existence.”

Without proper context, ye olde Ultraviolence looses any real reason to exist. Does the sight of some Recognizable Character done up in a Vaguely New and Different Way temporarily shock me? Yes. For a second. But by the forty-five minute mark that’s long since worn off and I’m left numb. One random death scene leaves as much impact as another. They all run (har har) together in my head, becoming a blurry mush of color and light not at all dissimilar to what Flash sees when he runs through time.

In that, Flashpoint Paradox has accurately recreated the experience of reading a Geoff Johns comic book. I hope it’s happy with itself.

GHalf-G

After that, I need a drink. And a shower. Then more drinks.
“After that, I need a drink. And a shower. Then more drinks.”
"Thanks, Barry. You're awesome."
“Thanks, Barry. You’re awesome. It’s your writers I have a problem with.”
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