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15-04-23 | Just a few months from now The Flash finally hits screens all over the world. Which means it’s time to revisit Flashpoint, the comic book that inspired the movie! Having recently read Flashpoint for the very first time, it’s clear to me why this comic is considered to be a modern classic. Barry Allen’s adventure into an alternate timeline is filled with dramatic twists and turns, but transpires to be so much more than a continuity fest. So let’s not waste any time and get straight into the ‘flashinating’ world of Flashpoint!

Superhero team ups and parallel universes are a staple of superhero comics. And the Flash has played a key role in popularizing the concept. Way back in 1961, in The Flash #123, Barry Allen was reunited with Jay Garrick, the original incarnation of the Flash from 1940. The seminal story Flash of Two Worlds popularized the concept of the multiverse, which continues to enthral comic book readers and movie goers. Flashpoint, released in 2011 in five monthly chapters, has turned out to be one of the more successful of these multiverse stories, spawning dozens of spin-offs and now a mayor feature film featuring Ezra Miller as the Flash and Michael Keaton’s return to the role of Batman.

Flashpoint opens with a confused Barry Allen waking up in a world in which nothing is as it should be. Staggering through the hallways of Central City Police Department he stumbles upon Nora Allen, his murdered mother, alive and well. On top of that, Barry’s powers have vanished and nobody seems to have ever heard of his alter ego, the Flash. Soon he learns of the war raging across the ocean, where Aquaman and Wonder Woman battle to the death for dominion over Europe.

Barry travels to Gotham City, to beg Bruce Wayne for his help in solving the mystery of the altered timeline. In a dramatic turn of events it is revealed that the Batman of this universe is not Bruce, but his father Thomas Wayne. The embittered, vengeful Batman rejects the notion of Barry knowing his son. Young Bruce Wayne was murdered in Crime Alley when he was just a child…

Flashpoint is the brainchild of writer Geoff Johns. Unusually, Johns’ career started in Hollywood. Working for Superman director Richard Donner led to an opportunity to write for DC Comics in the late 1990s. In addition to writing for The Flash he helped relaunch the Justice League when DC Comics rebooted it’s brand in 2011. His Hollywood credentials made him the perfect bridge between the DC publishers and LA production houses. As such he wrote and produced a substantial part of the DC Cinematic Universe. It’s interesting to note that the arguable low point of his film career, Green Lantern, coincided with the highlight of his comics career: Flashpoint.

Flashpoint is an impressive tale, which could have easily been just another convoluted superhero team up. Speaking to, Johns commented that he felt that ‘… sometimes in these crossover events, it gets unwieldy because there are so many characters. I really wanted to take this opportunity to really focus on a handful of key characters.’ At this he certainly succeeded. Barry Allen’s living mother and Thomas Wayne’s murdered son are the emotional core of this speculative ‘what if’ story.

Batman’s alternate history in particular makes for a thrilling read, so much so that it overshadows the Flash. The overblown war between Aquaman and Wonder Woman, by contrast, felt impersonal and almost like an afterthought. Thomas Wayne’s Batman is without a doubt the main attraction, supported by a strong and dramatic backstory. He is a fascinating broken man, whose pain contrasts beautifully with Barry Allen’s euphoria after reconnection with his mother.

Had Flashpoint focussed solely on the Flash and Batman, it wouldn’t have lost any of it’s narrative power. Upon release the comic book was an immediate hit, ensuring that such focussed stories did eventually see the light of day. The World of Flashpoint expanded the alternate universe with titles specifically devoted to Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Flash himself. I’m keen to explore the Batman title in particular. The ongoing appeal of the Flashpoint universe eventually culminated in the upcoming Flash feature film. Or does it … ?

Geoff Johns’ take on Batman is a deliberate departure from established tradition. His Batman is unforgiving and does not shy away from murder. An aspect which is unlikely to be represented in the upcoming feature film. Michael Keaton explicitly plays the same incarnation of Batman as he did thirty years ago, robbing the premise of it’s emotional impact. On the other hand, the filmmakers chose to depict Keaton’s world as one devoid of superpowered heroes. To my personal taste Flashpoint was overpopulated, and I welcome the opportunity to flesh out Barry Allen’s relationship with his family.

And we haven’t even mentioned Superman yet! In Flashpoint the Kent family does not raise Superman as their own. Instead he’s stowed away in a ‘Roswellian’ government facility. The first Justice League comic I ever read, The Nail by Alan Davis, took a similar approach. Like Flashpoint, The Nail depicts a world without Superman. His apparent absence effects every corner of the DC Universe, which makes for a fascinating read. And unlike Flashpoint it never feels overpopulated or farfetched.

As smoothly as The Nail incorporates DC’s stable of superheroes into the narrative, it cannot hold a candle to the emotional weight of Flashpoint. It’s the Flash and Batman at their most vulnerable, in a classic tale which I highly recommend. Reflecting upon his magnum opus, Geoff Johns revealed he hopes ‘… that people who have maybe never read a Flash comic book, or given Flash a chance, check out Flashpoint. I think it’ll really surprise them in a good way. And if not, read it because Batman’s in it!