Siike Donnelly is a creator for Arcana, on Heaven's Echo. At San Diego, he shared with the DC panel how he believes Geoff Johns' work saved his life. He's just read the new Justice League and wants to share with us his thoughts…
Justice League #1 is the joining of one of the comic industry's most talented writers, Geoff Johns, with superstar artist, and personal favorite of mine, Jim Lee. Geoff has been working at DC since the release of his first book, Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. in 1999. Writing and reinventing characters like The Flash, Superman, The Justice Society, and most notably, The Green Lantern, Geoff has left a profound mark on the comic book world. Geoff's voice through each of the characters he writes not only brings some brave, bold, and fresh takes on these beloved icons, but also humanizes them in a way that truly makes you cheer for them when the chips are down. Fans have been screaming for him to do a Justice League book for years at conventions and I must say it was worth the wait.
Jim has been drawing comics for over twenty years, being one of the main reasons anyone my age picked up an X-Men or Punisher comic book in the late 80s/early 90s. He went on to start his own publishing company called Wildstorm, which in many ways led to him being Co-Publisher at DC Comics, his latest title, alongside Dan Didio. Eight years ago Jim helped bring sales back up on Batman titles with his amazing artwork on the storyline "Hush," written by Jeph Loeb. A year after, he did the same for Superman in a story called "For Tomorrow" that was written by Brian Azzarello. He has done covers for Geoff's Infinite Crisis mini-series and a run with one of his idols, Frank Miller, on All-Star Batman and Robin.
The story in Geoff and Jim's Justice League issue as introductory as one could get, building slowly with one character (Batman), then two (Batman & Green Lantern), then by the end introducing two more. The book starts with a narrator of sorts, unseen, and possibly not really existent, describing what the reader is about to witness takes place when it all began. "There was a time when the world didn't call them their Greatest Super-Heroes. There was a time when the world didn't know what a super-hero was." Those lines set up the tone, followed by "Five years ago."
As a literary technique, I found this most interesting. Usual attempts at JLA #1 in the past 20-30 years, minus something like "New Frontier" has always been the League already founded and cramming twelve characters in your face at once, assuming you would just like whatever one they gave you the most or least information about then you'd move on to the action. Don't get me wrong, I've loved Morrison's JLA and Meltzer's too, but this attempt is supposed to be a literal back to basics and it was. You start with Batman pursuing, from what I can tell and guess is a Parademon from the fourth world. Don't let that scare you, we as readers don't really know that yet. It's just a hunch. But as Batman chases this thing, he is attacked by helicopters full of law enforcement officers, judging by the helicopters, maybe even government.
Right off the bat (no pun intended) we see that Batman's job is not easy for him. He seems like he's been doing this for a while, able to juggle the pursuit of the cops as he tracks down his suspect, but he's still a bit rough at it. It's at this time he runs into Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern. Green Lantern comes across way cockier than his usual self, which in a lot of ways makes sense. He's able to battle the thing Batman's chasing without breaking a sweat. He has a ton of power compared to the Dark Knight, and doesn't mind pointing it out, my favorite by nonchalantly, and
effortlessly, putting out fires all over the city with his ring. Remember, this is a Hal most of us aren't used to as old fans. He's young, probably fresh off the pages of Secret Origin. He's humbled in some ways due to the event with finding out what really happened to Carol's father, but as a super-hero he is just getting started. He's confident in most of the wrong ways and Geoff does an amazing job at portraying that. Seeing the story through Batman's eyes, you are kind of annoyed by Hal, which just shows the genius of Geoff's writing. Barely any of himself comes out in the characters. It's all Hal and Bruce and it rocks.
Speaking of rocking; on the art side of Justice League is Jim Lee, a man that not only drew the first comic book I ever read, but also has a stellar reputation, putting him up there as one of the most sought after artists in the industry. Ask Shane Davis how easy it was to choreograph a football battle in comic book panels. He will tell you it was not easy. I wonder if Jim ran into similar circumstances when drawing out the Vic Stone football scenes near the end of the issue. I imagine so as the art looked great, like story boards for an episode of Friday Night Lights. What's particularly amazing about Jim's work is that it reminds you that you are in fact reading a comic book. It's fun, light when it needs to be and dark when the story demands it. It's not realistic in the sense of photo realism, but every tone is set properly and every bit of dialogue is enhanced by jaw-dropping visuals. Jim really is turning in the work of his career on this one.
From the police chase to Batman chasing the transforming, alien monster, to the meeting of Green Lantern and the scuffle that ensues after; Geoff and Jim capture intensity, drama, comedy, and the fun of classic comic book storytelling with each panel. I'm not kidding, my second time through the issue was just me staring at the artwork, skipping the words of my favorite writer. I was surprised by this greatly.
Keeping up with the art side, Jim's pencils are brought to perfection with the help of Scott Williams' inks and Alex Sinclair's coloring. Again, every mood was portrayed perfectly and as a fan of these characters, I personally couldn't have asked for a better team to bring this book to a new audience, while also giving us old timers and veterans something truly fresh and dynamic all at once. The hard part as an old fan is that you just want so much more. The cover has all seven League members on it, so you can't help but want to see more of them. It's a natural feeling but one that doesn't need to be seen as a negative as this is supposed to be a new beginning for not just new fans, but us oldies too.
I tried my best to avoid any major spoilers, but what's interesting about this issue is there isn't really anything major to spoil. The final image is great and one that I will let you view on your own, but other than that, it was an introduction to a world that reacts to the arrival of these super-heroes in a negative way. Most of them are on the run and that seems to be the cause that draws them all together. It isn't something silly like Batman fighting a foe that may be too powerful so he recruits everyone, and it's not something ridiculous like Superman bringing them all in and saying they need to start a super club either. It's organic. It's a world in fear reacting to the arrival of aliens, power rings, Amazons, and men in bat uniforms in a way that isn't too far of a stretch.
I urge anyone out there who has never read a comic before to literally go get this issue. And for you veterans, it's completely worth it on so many levels. Batman is a character everyone knows and loves and he is our gateway to this new world. He's us, without powers, and on a mission. If the only Batman knowledge you have is from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, this book will not push you away with its scary references to 75 year old material. It also won't spoon feed you in a disrespectful manner. It's fun, it's exciting, it's well written, and it truly is beautiful to look at. If DC keeps making comics like this, then any lingering fears about this new relaunch are alleviated for me instantly. The bar has been set, and the battle to keep these characters around for future generations has begun. I for one look forward to what comes next.
For those keeping up with me, I'll be taking time off writing the sixth and final novel in my Heaven's Echo series during the month of September to write a review on ALL 52 new #1s. Wish me luck and check back each week for 13 new reviews.
UPDATE: And Flashpoint #1-#5…
I happen to know for a fact that everything can change in a flash. Just a year ago, life was normal. I took things for granted, I had road rage in LA traffic, and I was drinking with friends on the weekend, trying to get better at beer pong. Then, the life altering flash of change paid me a visit, in the form of an aneurysm. My speech pattern was off, memories were missing, and I was being told by my doctors that the obstacles I'd now face would change my daily routines in ways I couldn't imagine. My life had changed in the blink of an eye.
Having experience this, I knew exactly how Barry Allen felt on page 6 of Flashpoint number 1. But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. First I have to mention the amazing team that brought this book to life. Geoff Johns is easily one of the most talented writers in comic books today. He's also a great guy to boot. I had the privilege and honor to tell him personally at San Diego Comic-Con this year that he wrote a book that changed my outlook on life, possibly saving me. To most, Brightest Day was a comic book that was getting mixed reviews. To me, it was a reminder that my life meant something. It reminded me that even my life was worth fighting for, and that if this was a second chance, I shouldn't waste it. Like he and his writing do to so many others, Geoff Johns inspired me.
Bringing Geoff's words to life in Flashpoint is Andy Kubert. No stranger to comic books, Andy and his brother Adam have drawn everyone in the industry, from Batman to Superman and even to the other side with the X-Men and Ghost Rider. Their father, Joe Kubert, was a comic artist superstar in his day too, drawing one of my favorite characters, Sgt. Rock. Andy's work in Flashpoint really shines, giving Geoff's words meaning and vibrant life on the page. Speaking of vibrant, his inker, Sandra Hope, and his colorist, Alex Sinclair, help Andy's images convey the right emotion that each scene demands, making this one of the strongest series I've read in quite some time- and trust me, I read a lot.
Now, on to Barry Allen. For those who don't know, Barry is The Flash. He runs fast; sometimes so fast that with the help of a cosmic treadmill, he can move through time. He's married to a beautiful woman, whom he refers to as his "lightning rod" to bring him home to his proper place in time when he's running too fast, named Iris West. When he was a boy, Barry's mother was killed and all the evidence pointed at his father being the culprit. Never believing this, Barry grew up to become a forensic scientist, doing whatever he could to make sure all the evidence possible was presented, so that people could get a fair trial. Barry believes the phrase, "innocent until proven guilty."
In Flashpoint, Geoff and Andy take us on a journey into a world where everything is different than what we know as fans. Aquaman, King of Atlantis, and Wonder Woman, Princess of the Amazon, are at war. Land and sea are fighting each other and millions of human lives are being lost in the fallout. Whole countries are sinking and the world's super-heroes refuse to work as a team to stop these two titans. There's no Superman, Hal Jordan never became Green Lantern, Batman still exists, but he kills all of his enemies by dropping them off roofs and watching them splatter in Crime Alley. The most renowned and trusted hero the world has is Vic Stone, aka Cyborg- an African-American half human/half machine young man with a heart of gold and a great moral compass. Yet, as inspiring and strong-willed as Cyborg is, he still can't manage to pull the super humans together to stop this war.
When the story begins, Barry Allen is working in the same office as he usually does, but he can tell things are off. Again, I know this feeling personally. Geoff and Andy did a great job here leaving me disoriented as a reader, more confused by each passing page, yet not so much that I'd want to stop reading. Barry, and us readers, not only learns that he's no longer married to Iris and that he doesn't have his super speed, but he also finds that his mother is alive and well. Thinking he has entered an alternate dimension of some kind, Barry seeks out the truth fairly quickly, but not before having a few tender moments to reconnect with his mother. I love that Geoff did that. Like Bruce Wayne, Barry's been unable to move on from his mother's death. He holds her tight in an image that Andy delivers so well. With limited page count per issue, I'm glad time was taken to show this moment. As someone who grew up with only a mother, I appreciated the fact that Barry and his mom finally got a chance to connect, albeit briefly.
With the reveal of all this world's problems, Barry borrows his mother's car and heads to Gotham City, in order to talk to Batman about what's going on. I love the moment Geoff and Andy did with Barry in the car, stuck in traffic, and how frustrating it must be for him as a guy who used to be able to run at the speed of light. From here on out, this book becomes a Batman and Flash story. It's not your typical buddy cop story as Barry arrives at Wayne Manor to discover this is a very different Batman he's dealing with. As much as I want to, I don't want to spoil the secret of Batman in this review. I urge those who haven't read it, and are big Batman fans, to go check this out right now!!
Cover to Issue 2
After Batman slaps Barry around a bit, something strikes inside Barry's mind. Memories of a life growing up with his mother, graduating college, and never meeting Iris all flood in, replacing his old memories. He screams out the things he sees, causing Batman to stop hitting him. Batman still thinks Flash is delusional, but there's something Barry says that triggers hope inside Batman, for the first time in a long time it seems. Barry comes to the revelation that this isn't an alternate timeline, its real. Somehow, his greatest enemy, Eobard Thawne, The Reverse-Flash, went back in time and changed events, leading to a recreated timeline where Flash and the Justice League don't exist. Barry believes he still remembers the old world because of his powers, but as each hour passes, his old memories are being
replaced with new ones, which will eventually make him forget the way things are supposed to be.
Batman, still skeptical, and ready to kill Barry at the slightest of wrong moves, helps him recreate the accident that gave him his Flash powers in the old universe. They strap Barry into an electric chair and surround him with various chemicals. Lightning strikes and instead of a red blur, we get Barry Allen: Crispy Critter. Given Batman's secret identity, which I won't spoil, he's able to nurse Barry a bit, yet Barry wants to try again. Batman calls him crazy, but Barry reminds him of his mission, once again tapping into that hope that Batman's unfamiliar with. They go back to the chair and lightning strikes once more, giving Barry his speed back.
With only five-issues, I was worried that this story would be overly condensed and necessary beats would be skipped, but I was wrong. The third issue is all about Flash and Batman convincing Cyborg to stick to his original mission and stop Wonder Woman and Aquaman. This time, Batman says that if they do it his way and recruit who he wants, then he's in. Cyborg then taps into government files to locate a boy that crash landed on Earth years ago. Together, they find and free Superman, who was being held in a government facility owned by General Lane, Lois Lane's father. Once free, Superman sets his eyes on the sun for the first time, flying towards it and leaving Batman, Cyborg, and Flash behind to battle military soldiers.
Cover to Issue 3
To their surprise, a super powered girl named Element Woman arrives to save them, turning into various gases and objects from the periodic table to take down the soldiers. Again, Flash's mind suffers some hemorrhaging as new memories replace old ones. In a panic, Batman and the group take Flash to a house in the suburbs. This house contains six teenagers that begin issue 4 with watching the President on TV. The President mentions Cyborg's failure at uniting the heroes, leaving the military to take action. As we all know how horrifying sitting around the television to watch something like war on the news can be, Geoff and Andy handle this scene with extreme care and a ton of emotion. And I like the conversation Billy Batson has with his friends, mentioning that though they aren't blood related, Friday Nights with pizza and a movie is the closest thing any of them have to feeling like family. Though the others are reluctant to help in the war, Billy tells his friends that if they don't, there will be no more movies, no more pizza, and no more nights together. Around this time, the news mentions a missile that has been constructed by Queen Industries that will destroy New Themyscara, home to the Amazons. The plane carrying the missile of course will be flown by Hal Jordan, non Green Lantern, Air Force pilot.
As the six teenagers watch over Flash and try to help him heal, another jolt of memories wakes him. He recognizes some of the kids from his old world, but before he can react in too much detail, his eyes drift to the television to see that the bomb from Queen Industries has been dropped, and Hal Jordan sacrificed his own life to do it. Yet the battle between Aquaman and Wonder Woman rages on. Fed up, Flash takes Batman into another room and
explains that alternate world or not, they needed to end this war and at least save this world. Clearly Barry is getting more attached to the people of this new world as his memories are now about 70% from there now. Still, Batman
stands firm and reminds Flash of his mission. "Either we change this world, Flash, or we let it burn in hell."
This Batman is hardcore, and he does NOT care about this world in the slightest. Not that he ever did before, but that feeling was only magnified by the fact that Flash tells him about his world. If there's even a small chance to set things right, then this Batman was willing to do whatever it took to see it done. This scene here was handled extremely well. Geoff knew what words Flash could say to twist Batman's arm into stopping the war and he went for it. Batman, pissed off and not happy about the situation, gathers the troops and they head to war. The teenagers tag along, constantly mentioning someone that wants revenge on Wonder Woman, someone named Captain Thunder. When Barry mentions it's too dangerous for kids, they tell him it's too dangerous whether they help or don't, so they might as well help.
As they head to war, they are joined by members of Lois Lane's resistance group, a woman named Enchantress, and they learn that the six teenagers actually all form into one Superman type guy called Captain
Thunder. They arrive and join the frey, Captain Thunder instantly going after Wonder Woman while Flash tries to talk some sense into Aquaman, his friend from the old world. In typical form, we see there is a traitor on the team and in an instant; Captain Thunder is turned back into six teenagers, one of which gets killed by an Amazon warrior. An explosion of electricity occurs as the boy falls by Flash's side. He can't believe a child died, and it was his fault. Then, in the blink of an eye, the Reverse-Flash arrives, looking down at Barry and asking, "What have you done this time?"
Those words resonated with me for 4 weeks until the final issue of Flashpoint came out. "Barry, what have you done this time?" I must have interpreted that a million different ways. Everything gets revealed in this final chapter. In typical "summer event comic" fashion, many characters get killed off. But with this being a world that shouldn't exist, we know it's not their final demise, and Barry knows this too, however deep down its buried. With Reverse-Flash revealing to Barry who the real culprit is, and why, Barry falls to his knees and gets a thorough butt-whooping as his greatest enemy stands triumphant and ready to kill him. We also learn, for those who didn't already know from reading the Flash monthly book, who actually killed Barry's mother and framed his father. Reverse-Flash mentions that he once needed Barry alive to generate the Speed Force, which gives them both their powers. But now
that Reverse-Flash exists out of time, thanks to a series of mistakes that Barry himself had made, Barry was no longer needed for Eobard Thawne to continue to exist. Just as Reverse-Flash is about to deliver the killing blow, Barry's saved by his partner in crime, Batman.
Cover to Issue 4
These moments and the reveals in the final issue were absolutely amazing, and handled beautifully by Andy's artwork. As Aquaman's armies use their machines to literally rip the world apart in desperation, Batman slowly dies in Flash's arms, but not before giving a message to send to the old world's Batman. Like in Blackest Night, Barry managed to inspire hope inside another person. Batman believes Flash can make the world right. And as the world rips itself apart and people die all around Barry, he realizes there's no other choice but to try. So he does what he does best; the Flash runs. Instead of Iris, he thinks about his mother, using her as his "lightning rod" to bring him to her as the world collapses elsewhere. He tells her that he plans to go back and change things again, saving the world he knew and her with it. This scene was very touching, and one that you can imagine any mother saying to their child. She asks him how many people died because he saved her life. When he answers, "millions," you can see the heartbreak on her face.
"Then you have to let me go, son." This moment nearly brought tears to my eyes. Andy's visuals and Geoff's words could not have been stronger than in this moment. "Letting go" was certainly the theme of this story. Some would say that it's a conversation that breaks the fourth wall and is speaking to the audience, telling us to "let go" of the old and embrace this new rewritten DC Universe that will follow this story. I would say it is partly that, but it's also a good message to apply in all facets of our lives. I lost an aunt last summer to preeclampsia, who I struggle with letting go to sometimes. I have a family that is tearing itself apart with greed and back handed love that I've had to let go of in order to function sanely as I go through multiple procedures, shots, IV drips, and more with my deteriorating health. And at some point in the future, as hard as it is to think about, when the pain and the obstacles get to be too much for me to handle and fight anymore, I'm gonna have to let go of what I love the most, which is being surrounded by friends, comics, my job, and my family, when they aren't being their usual breed of nutty.
So for me, like Barry, it's hard saying goodbye to a world that you want to just hold on for dear life. But there is a better world on the horizon. New, different, and possibly scary, sure, but better for a lot of reasons that outweigh the rest. Once Barry Allen prevents the rewritten world from occurring, he uses his speed powers to visit Bruce Wayne in his Batcave. From the costumes we can tell things are once again not the same, which makes sense from a time/space/continuum way of thinking. Even if Barry stopped the single event that changed it all, the event was already set in motion. Plus, during his time run trip, he was running so fast that he united three comic universes into one; Vertigo, DC, and Wildstorm, which may make this world the same on a lot of levels, but there are bound to be changes too. Barry and Bruce have a great moment where Flash mentions that even hours after leaving the rewritten world, he still remembers a whole lifetime with his mother. Batman tells him it's the universe giving him a gift, to make things easier and to help him let go. Again, partly talking to us, but I'm okay with that. Flash delivers the hand written note to Bruce from the other world Batman that killed. If you want to know what it says, or at least what some of it says, it's what narrates the beginning and end pages of Flashpoint issue 1. It's a message that Bruce too needed to hear, so that maybe it will send him on a slightly, less vengeful path than his old world counterpart.
In the end, obviously, I love this story very much. I found the characterizations, the pencils, the inks, the colors, and the words all spot on and true in every instance. I found a new respect for Barry Allen as a character and rediscovered my love for Batman. I got a chance to see Abin Sur, my favorite GL, operate as a Green Lantern instead of Hal Jordan. I saw a Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman that killed; and yes, they frightened me and made me wish for the return of the more boy/girl scout versions, respectively. I saw Vic Stone, Cyborg, take a place alongside the world's greatest heroes, which is a spot I always thought he deserved and earned. And, I got to say goodbye to friends (in the form of comic book characters) I've had for 25 years, closing an amazing chapter in my life.
As an aneurysm survivor, with my own struggles with memory, I look forward to getting to know those friends all over again in this brave new world. Like my life, I get to start fresh and new with what I love most- my comics. If you want to read a great sci-fi/action story, that just happens to be a comic book and happens to have superheroes in it, I highly recommend picking up Flashpoint and giving it a try. The hardcover with all 5 issues comes out in October and can be reserved on Amazon.com now. Or hit your local comic store and pick up the historical run in single issue form before they sell out.
Check out my review of Justice League #1 if you haven't already to see what happens after Flashpoint in this new DC Universe. Come back here every weekend in September to see my reviews of ALL 52 new #1 issues from DC. Leave comments, hate mail, or whatever you feel is necessary. Sorry this review was so long. Trust me when I say this is the edited version. Follow me on Twitter @ExplodingBullet or hit me up on Xbox Live: SiikeAndDestroy.
5 out of 5 for Flashpoint, by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert, the book that reminded me how quickly life can change and showing me that change can be a good thing.