By-The-Numbers Presents: A Review of The Flashpoint Paradox

1. Okay. I saw this DC Animated movie, and I ended up liking it.

2. Wait, WHAT???

3. Well, I did get bummed afterwards, for comics in general. I’ll explain.

4. My first point makes no sense if you’re anyone who’s read or contributed to the blog since we first started. I got a lot of milleage from trashing this series by the time it ended. A whole lot. Too much, one might argue. Not that the rest of us weren’t eager to jump on the hate parade. It was fun while it lasted.

5. I’m sure I violated some rule of overlinking with the above post, and I apologize.

6. So why did I find the movie adaptation enjoyable, or at least interesting? Well it isn’t a great story, and it isn’t representative of DC Animated’s better works. The bulkier designed characters were not indicative of the artwork of Andy Kubert, the artist of the Flashpoint mini-series (if that’s what they were even going for). The voice acting is merely standard except for Justin Chambers as Barry Allen/The Flash, Thomas Howel as Professor Zoom (who has a voice like a raspier Chambers, which works when you’re playing an evil counterpart) and a brief appearance by Kevin “DC is so lucky to have me for even ten minutes” Conroy. I think I was fascinated that unlike the Flashpoint event series the movie is based on, The Flashpoint Paradox actually has a story to it that the average viewer can get invested in, even if it still creates head-scratching moments. One wonders, for instance, why Flashpoint Batman is billed as such a master strategist when the only strategy he offers is “Let’s take my plane” (thanks from saving us from Delta, Sun Tzu) without even letting the fastest man alive scout ahead into enemy territory. And why the hell would Captain Marvel/Thunder/Shazam reveal his identity to whoever he’s fighting? If Professor Zoom takes from the speed force and makes The Flash slower, how was The Flash able to break the time barrier in the first place to undo his mother’s murder. Oh, and the reveal that the parallel world is the Flash’s fault an three-fourths of the way in the movie is still a pretty annoying one, though less so than the one comic readers got in the final issue of the original five issue series. More on that in a bit.

7. Oh, there are spoilers in this article.

8. Yes, I’ve done that late warning joke before.

9. Here’s the thing: The original Flashpoint was a comic company “event” lazily written by Geoff Johns with the barest trappings of a plot. The Flashpoint Paradox cartoon is a story with only the trappings of the original event (Barry’s New 52 costume at the end, likely a minor head-scratching moment for anyone who ignores the comics and just watches the cartoons.

10. So why did they add “Paradox” to the end of the title of this adaptation? What is the paradox? I guess it’s the fact that characters are acting so differently. In the alternate timeline, they are much more violent. It works for the movie, Ironically, however That’s pretty much how the New 52 DC comic versions of many of the iconic characters are acting. The real paradox here is that Flashpoint Paradox now has a “don’t try to force change” message attached to it, and it was based on a book that was all about a company heralding forced changes to its lineup.

11. And when I think of the recent changes, I think of this…

Killing Dr. Light

12. I know that is from a post Flashpoint event. I know it’s come out that Superman wasn’t responsible for this murder, but I still believe that the above and the Flashpoint Superman with blood on his hands by story’s end is all part of a company wide effort to make such actions excusable and the norm. They’ve done it since with Injustice: Gods Among Us, another parallel dimension story, and of course with Man of Steel, which more than one reviewer described as an Elsewords story or some new Superman different from the comics. But mark my words, this is someday going to be the norm in the comics, this bland thug of a Superman, along with everywhere else in the media. I’m sure there will be other signs in future DC efforts.

13. Why are they going this route? Well, it’s not so much that they want a Superman that kills as much as a Superman that’s easier to write. Based on the character’s current history, the number of good Superman stories in the past decade you can count on one hand with enough fingers left to hold a pen. It’s no surprise then that DC and Warner find stories like this…

supermankillsjoker

are easier to write than stories like this…

You'reMuchStronger

14. I’m not against so-called realistic superhero stories (Read Alan Moore’s often imitated Marvelman/Miracleman, and Mark Waid’s flawed but fascinating Irredeemable just to start with). I just wonder from time to time why the big companies just don’t create a new hero in a “real world” setting if that’s what they want so badly. Then I realize that Superman’s insignia is just a disguised dollar sign, not only a trademark but a license for Warner to print money for as long as they can. They want to do it efficiently, and they have finally figured out a way to do it.

15. Back to Flashpoint Paradox, and I’ll try to wrap up (I could do this all week, no lie). You probably don’t know the writer who adapted the comics for this film, James Krieg. He has a lot of experience with writing for animation. It seems like this is his first “mature audience” feature, and he must have held his nose a lot. Most adaptations contain small disappointments as things are cut due to time constraints and other issues. In this case, as much stupid as possible was cut from the original adaptation in order to have everything make slightly more sense in the animated version. The ridiculous Tawny Tiger as Battle Cat is gone. So is Enchantress as walking macguffin and Element Woman with her absolute purposelessness. And no “Ape-Controlled” Africa. Not to mention that the Flashpoint Batman actually looks and feels like a different Batman. Johns didn’t accomplish that with what he wrote, and he made Flashpoint Batman a completely different character besides Bruce Wayne. Krieg did an easy fix in giving this alternate timeline Batman guns, but at least it was an actual step.

FPB

Damn, Andy, did you just take an old Batman pinup and dab his eyes red?


Ahhhh. Actual signs of effort.

16. There are even a couple of funny lines added to a humorless story, but my favorite moment is unintentional, as Flash and Zoom fight and Zoom explains that Flash screwed up everything just by stopping his mother’s murder. And Flash rightfully calls bullshit on the script, as it makes no sense that his altered life would effect the origins of Superman or Batman or most of everyone else.

“Time booms” makes little to no sense as far as Zoom’s rebuttal goes, but in the context of this movie, it works and we can go on with the important question. Why did all the excised dumbness have to go to DC Animated before it was removed? Why didn’t the worst elements get edited out of the original comic before it ever went to print?

17. There’s a great interview with the late Steve Gerber archived online here. In it, he describes how he brought in comic writers for the 80’s GI Joe animated series to help improve the sad state of animation writing at the time. I am starting to think that we’ve come full circle some twenty years later where the best mainstream comic stories are being done now in animation, not at the mainstream comic book companies, and most are being written by former comic writers whose efforts went unappreciated. And when the best animation writers come back to do comics, they seem regulated to the DC animated ghetto line of comics. If they’re lucky. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.

18. We know that the money for the big companies is in the movies and the cartoons. Is that why there’s less concern for the comics other than making them as interconnected as possible, forcing fans to buy multiple copies of everything? It explains the writing quality being so poor, with multiple stories and event books being published for the sake of stirring up a specific fanbase +of easily riled but loyal people that dwindles year after year. The stories matter less and less, because it’s less about sharing a story than and more about satisfying a fetish. Over in the current world of animation, it seem like the typical stories from comics would never get approved without some major edits. By major edits, I don’t mean excising so-called contraversial elements so much as improving really bad writing. The kind you find in fan fiction and creative writing workshops thoughout American colleges. In comics, it’s first draft city, with the unspoken motto of “no one who matters is reading any way.”

19. Speaking of horribly written work, I think the time is coming where I finally rip apart Identity Crisis, the most infamous bestselling first draft of anything ever.

20. In closing, thanks for trying Krieg. You didn’t have much to work with, but you did your best and even impressed me a couple of times. I hope you weren’t as depressed after writing this film as I was after watching it.

About Chad Parenteau

I'm a poet. I run the Stone Soup Poetry series in Cambridge that runs every Monday night. I review comics in my spare time.
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