Tales From The Dark Multiverse: Flashpoint #1
In a world where the Flashpoint reality was never undone, where Thomas Wayne still haunts Gotham City as the Batman, and the Amazonian and Atlantean armies still prepare for war, will the Reverse-Flash embrace this darker, deadlier world and finally eclipse Barry Allen's legacy?
There’s something about the death of Superman. In out-of-continuity stories especially, killing the Kryptonian seems to be the action that drives home the tragedy of the narrative.
And it’s that tragedy that seems to illustrate the questions that Tales from the Dark Multiverse asks through its speculative template: what does it mean for hope to die? Who kills it? What does it take to break a world, and who gets broken in the process?
Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Flashpoint is the newest installment in this series, and while the writing (from Bryan Hitch) might not be up to par with previous issues, its art (penciled by Bryan Hitch) more than makes up for it. Along the way, Flashpoint digs into the thesis questions of the series so far, about what a “better world” means, who’s responsible for making it, and the consequences of that success or failure. It works hard to find a unifying thread coursing through the disparate events, and it works.
Point of divergence: Barry Allen is killed in the climactic moment of his powers being restored, leaving only the Reverse Flash. From that point, things predictably spin way out of control until a true climax is reached, sealing this world’s fate—and here, it is Reverse Flash ensuring no one dies that night in Crime Alley, leaving him free to rule without the one man who could possibly stop him. Bryan Hitch illustrates the whole thing beautifully. His dynamic page layouts, eye for action, and his sheer sense of scale push what could be an average issue well into the territory of excellent. No one draws speedster combat or figure heavy splash pages like Hitch, and he gets to indulge in both throughout the issue. Combining it with DC’s best colorist in Alex Sinclair is icing on the cake.
The plotting and pacing are both fine, though that isn’t meant as a dig: this issue moves fairly quickly, dispensing a lot of information very quickly and cleanly. There’s nothing confusing, and it never loses sight of what it aims to do, which is find the logical endpoint of this particular divergence. It’s an action comic tinged with horror elements, and it conducts itself as such very well. Hitch has a good ear for dramatic dialog, and mashing it against his art puts the issue at a high baseline, because each aspect covers for the other.
But the really meaty part of the issue, as it is with each other issue in this series, is in the core questions: What dooms a world? Who causes that to happen? What makes them do such a thing? They’re important narrative questions that underpin the entire Dark Multiverse project, including Scott Snyder’s Death Metal event. The crises have to happen to keep the world going, but in Snyder’s case, the good guys have to win. It doesn’t undercut his point, but instead shows how much farther our heroes have to go to make that happen.
TFTDM has no such constraint.
In Flashpoint, we see how people’s obsessions—Thomas Wayne’s desire to be with his wife and child—can get twisted into something that can doom the world. He puts his own hope for a better world above the rest of existence, blind to the ripple effects his desire produces across time. Reverse Flash is able to use this to maneuver everything to his liking, ultimately culminating in the death of Superman, which seemingly seals the fate of the universe (though this is complicated by the coming of Barda and her army of New Gods and Parademons). But through it all, Batman’s selfish need to make the world right for him trumps any responsibility he has to the world beyond him, something Cyborg and Superman attempt to convey. Wayne’s willful blindness to it is what damns the world.
Every issue has turned on this particular flaw, this knowing better, the selfish rejection of the greater good to instead impose a personal vision of existence on the world. It is always a refusal to accept help that dooms each world. Hitch’s plot may not be the most lively, but he understands what these stories are supposed to be about, and identifies each character’s key motivation and needles them until they pop.
And the death of Superman, the symbol of hope and a world defined by connection and love, executed by Thomas Wayne, drives that point home. This narrative device has been used in several prior issues, and each one represents the closing of a narrative casket, a grim final reminder of what hopelessness looks like.
Here, it’s no different. The world is remade in the Reverse Flash’s image, under his control. He could see what it would take the break the world, and, in this issue and across TFTDM, we see as well. The end of the world may not be very happy, but it is for sure fun to watch.
Tales From The Dark Multiverse: Flashpoint #1 continues to surprise and impress, with a superbly illustrated issue that digs deeper into the themes of the series.
Tales From the Dark Multiverse: Flashpoint: How To Break A World
Writing - 8/10
Storyline - 9/10
Art - 9.5/10
Color - 9.5/10
Cover Art - 9/10
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