Last Week’s Winners

Flashpoint #1. This new series from DC Comics is more than just the initial 5 issue mini-series that retains the name. There are 20 tie-in mini-series and one-shots. Phew. DC know that this is an important tale to tell though, and have enlisted writer Geoff Johns and artist Andy Kubert. It’s so important in fact, that on August 31, only a few days after the 4th issue of Flashpoint, the 5th and final Flashpoint ish will be published, and it will be the only DC comic released that week. Wow. I don’t think that’s ever been done before.

This is the kind of superhero comic that makes me happy to be  a reader of superhero comics. However, as is often the case in this genre, it’s also complex and will mean nothing to DC Comics newbies. Geoff Johns has guided the DC Universe for the last few years, specifically in Green Lantern’s books, and occasionally on the just finished Smallville, and his love of Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash is as evident as his love of Hal Jordan. I grew up reading Wally West, so he’s my scarlet speedster. Barry, to me, is an uninteresting lab technician with an outdated costume, who didn’t need to be resurrected. Really, even though his name may appear in the title, this series relies on more than him, thankfully. Basically, Barry wakes up at his office and discovers he’s now in a new world. His mother is alive, Cyborg is a prominet player, the powers of Captain Marvel have been divvied up between a bunch of kids, and as the last page reveals, Thomas Wayne is a more low-tech Batman, as it was his wife, and son Bruce who were murdered that fateful night in Crime Alley. With a war brewing between two angry royals – Wonder Woman and Aquaman, this is a good issue that reveals all the pieces of this intriguing alternate universe.

It’s great to finally see Andy Kubert on art, after he and his brother Adam came to DC ages ago and haven’t done heaps since. With Sandra Hope on inks, it has a realistic sheen, much like the quality she bought to Rags Morales’ pencils on the classic Identity Crisis. I’m a sucker for these kinds of  “what if” tales and although Marvel has been churning them out lately, DC hasn’t. This is a welcome return to such stories, with some cool new characters and reinventions of old ones.

Hellboy: Being Human. Written by Mike Mignola with moody art by Richard Corben, this one-shot is set in the year 2000 and focuses on mostly silent, but philosophical, Roger the Homunculus. I’ve never read Hellboy regularly, but enjoyed both films. Largely set in a rundown house in Carolina, Hellboy takes Roger out on his first assignment in the field. After believing it to be an easy case, the pair soon encounter some black magic, a freaky family of skeletons sitting at the dinner table and a vengeful woman. After some fisticuffs, involving a powerful fiery hand that causes Hellboy to be immovable, Roger must become the hero and discover his humanity. It’s all written with great subtlety rather than deep musings and the subdued colour palette and Corben’s attractively fluid line work make for an enjoyable done-in-one adventure.

Oh, and the Baltimore tale in the Free Comic Book Day offering, also from Mignola, with Christopher Golden and Ben Steinbeck, is awesome too. It follows Lord Henry Baltimore in WW1 vampire infested Europe. Baltimore: The Plague Ships is out in June and collects last year’s 5 issue mini-series.

Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors from Image Comics. Bad timing means this may be missed by those fed up with the villain as lead character tales, following films Megamind and Despicable Me. This has grander ambitions, and thankfully never resorts to cuteness though. With a well crafted intro revealing the origins of the school, an adored teacher who reads from William Blake, lots of simple (but with nods to classic characters) costume designs and some good dialogue, this series premiere by Mark Andrew Smith and Armand Villavert was a nice surprise, especially the ending which reveals that these kids are actually training for fake battles with heroes. It’s a great twist, as the final few pages show two “enemies” discussing where and how to fight (“You know – my equipment malfunctions or whatever.”) like wrestlers rehearsing for the big show. The students seem to be unaware of this, as they react with puzzlement to a former baddie/ current school groundskeeper who mentions that he didn’t die, but his character was retired.

It has a simple, yet very colourful visual style and even some funny moments, with the mishmash of costumed villainy and typical school cliques, bullies, daydreams and crushes.