Marvel and DC always want their big event comics to be reader-friendly in order to draw in new buyers. But how accessible are they, really? Can an average Joe really pick up an issue of Fear Itself or Blackest Night, and hit the ground running? To find out, we at Primary Ignition found Vera, a woman who has NEVER read a superhero comic book, and gave her the first issue of DC’s new event comic Flashpoint. Below is her report on the issue, with editor’s note to fill in the gaps in her knowledge of the DC Universe. Obviously, the following contains SPOILERS for Flashpoint #1.
The experiment begins now…
By Vera Abaimova
Contributor, Born Without A Last Name
As introduction and preliminary explanation I must state that I don’t usually read comic books. I have been known to read a web comic here and there, but that’s different. What I’m talking about here is the comic books filled with spandex wearing superheroes that belong to either DC or Marvel. And yes, I have a hard time keeping track of which franchise and character belongs to which company.
Quite honestly, getting into comics is daunting. There are multiple continuities, dimensions, and several different people that serve as the one superhero (i.e. Hal Jordan is Green Lantern, but so are Kyle Rayner, John Stewart and Guy Gardner). Not to mention the fact that characters die right and left only to be resurrected a short time later. The worst part of it is that these comic books have been around so long that they have seen all sorts of civil rights movements and all kinds of major wars. So there is a lot of stuff to catch up on. Not only that, but where do you start? I have yet to find a comprehensive guide or map of some sort to establish where the stories of all the different characters start.
And the costumes….
My understanding is that Flashpoint is an “event” comic series that somehow redefines the world that the DC superheroes know. In this particular event, Barry Allen a.k.a. The Flash, becomes the main focus. The comic opens with several flashback scenes with an unknown narrator that takes you through a brief version of the character’s back story.
So far, so good. I now know that Barry Allen was close with his mother to whom something may have happened, he has a kind heart, some chemicals exploded, making him a superhero, he is married to Iris West, and that he has become a productive member of the superhero community, rubbing elbows with the big names.
One day, Barry wakes up, and it it turns out he has to solve the murder of some woman he has never heard of. This is where I started getting confused. Wasn’t he a scientist that had an experiment explode in his face? This is one of those details that is probably explained in some other comic series that stars The Flash. (Editor’s Note: Barry Allen is a forensic scientist at the Central City Police Department. This is implied, but never actually stated in the issue.)
As the story continues, there is a report of two superheroes and/or villains battling it out in the city, so Barry runs off, but oh no! He notices he isn’t wearing his wedding ring (Editor’s Note: It’s actually the ring he keeps his Flash costume in, which is also never explained in the issue) and so he trips and takes an unfortunate tumble down the stairs. This is where Barry seems to realize that something is off with the world. The missing ring is clue number one, but then there’s his mother, who appears claiming that Barry promised to take her to dinner for her birthday. I’m not alone in my confusion here as Barry asks her if she is really there.
Happy to see his mother, though, Barry seems to accept that the world is all dandy until he discovers that his mother has never heard of the Justice League. Superman, who? But Batman seems to still be around, so Barry heads to the ol’ Wayne mansion to see what’s up.
This alternate reality that Barry has entered serves as a nice entrance into the plot. Barry doesn’t seem to get what is going on, and neither do I. So together we shall go and discover. The only problem is, this has limited benefit for me, seeing as I don’t know what things were like for the character before, so I have little to compare the current goings on to.
I do know, however, that something is off with Batman’s eyes because they are red and glowy and evil looking. The henchman killing is also a tip off that something is not quite right.
The oddities continue as a larger conflict looms in the background with some of the heroes launching wars in Europe.
The concept is interesting and because Barry doesn’t know what is going on either, the story will have to be unraveled for the new reader (myself, that is), who doesn’t know how things are usually done in the DC universe.
There was a large part of this first issue where a lot of heroes stand around discussing things about how they dislike each other for such and such reason, which was difficult to get into because I didn’t know who any of them were. And then there were their costumes, some of which have clearly not been redesigned since their conception in the early 70′s (Editor’s Note: Most of the costumes, or even the characters themselves, were tweaked for the Flashpoint storyline).
It would seem that comic reading is a culture within itself, one that is difficult to unravel. Flashpoint does a decent job of introducing new readers to the world, but it is not exactly a comprehensive guide to who all these brightly colored people are and what their day jobs are. I am however, intrigued, and am looking forward to discovering what cool powers these people have and what tragic events in their pasts have shaped their crime-fighting philosophies.
Front page image from gothamknightsonline.com. Pages from Flashpoint #1 fom insidepulse.com and weeklycrisis.com.
For more Flashpoint, check out First Impressions: Flashpoint #1 and First Impressions: Batman: Knight of Vengeance #1.