4
Aug
2011
Chris' Comics Corner
Flashpoint, Ultimate Fallout
Chris
Flashpoint #4
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Andy Kubert

DC's big summer event reaches its penultimate issue under the increased spotlight of knowledge that this miniseries is the mechanism by which DC continuity will be drastically and (so editorial says) irrevocably altered come September. The series follows the Flash as he awakens in a dystopian alternate timeline where a war between Aquaman and Wonder Woman threatens to end life as we know it, and he is the only one who remembers that the world is not as it should be. This issue sees the Flash rally a ragtag grouping of this worlds heroes into an ad hoc make shift Justice League in an effort to end the bloodshed of the Atlantis/Amazon war, because as the Flash puts it, due to the butterfly effect nature of altering the past, there is no guarantee he can put things back exactly as they were and this might be the world he's stuck with (foreshadow, foreshadow, foreshadow).

This series has been both very entertaining and very frustrating, and this issue is no exception. On the one hand these pages are peppered with the cool moments and great character interactions that Johns does so well. The relationship between Flash and the Batman of this world is really the emotional core that drives this narrative forward and it is the scenes that focus on that dynamic that play the strongest, both in this issue and this series as a whole. Where he falters is in the pacing of the story. I know it might seem ridiculous to complain about whirlwind pacing in a series detailing the adventures of the fastest man alive, but many of the characters and big emotional turning points are not given the space to develop and resonate with the readers. I think Johns could have greatly benefitted from a sixth issue here, as this issue plows through an enormous amount of story developments with few of them feeling truly satisfying.

On the art side of things, Andy Kubert handles the big heroic splashes and reveals with the skill and grandeur that is synonymous with the Kubert name. However problems again arise from having to cram too much content into too few pages. The panel layouts are a bit too formulaic, and the panels themselves are very small, with a lot of characters appearing in each. The resulting effect is a busy, claustrophobic feeling that undercuts what is otherwise some really beautiful art. The scene where Captain Thunder confront Wonder Woman also suffers from some poor choreography and questionable choice of angles.

Overall I'm enjoying this series, but I'd be enjoying it a'lot more if the overarching pacing problems were addressed. The cliffhanger was a nice touch, and I'm eagerly awaiting the next issue's reveal of just how the world of Flashpoint came to be.

Grade: B

Notes:

-"Anyone want a juice box? I brought extra." I'm already a huge Element Woman fan and can't wait to see her on the new Justice League.

-Even without a power ring, Hal Jordan is still a badass.

-I'm not crazy about the Captain Planet and the Planeteers-esque remaining of Captain Marvel, hoping this doesn't carry over into the new universe.

-"Bruce would've come."

-The exchange between Aquaman and Wonder Woman in a deadlock in the middle of the heat of battle was"¦awkward. Really, really awkward.



Ultimate Fallout #4
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writers: Brian Michael Bendis, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer
Artists: Sara Pichelli, Salvador Larroca, Clayton Crain

Let's get something out of the way first and foremost. This issue features the much discussed debut of the new Ultimate Spider-Man, a black, latino 13 year old named Miles Morales. This announcement, along with Donald Glover's campaign to get a Spider-Man audition awhile back caused quite a furor in the comics community, and quite frankly a large number of responses that were shameful and downright racist. But let's put that ugliness aside for the time being and look at the debut of this new character, an event some have called monumental. Like the previous issues, this book is divided into three parts, with the first part devoted to the inaugural outing of the new Spider-Man? How is his debut? Pretty standard and par for the Ultimate Spidey course. It's a few pages devoted to a confrontation between the new Spidey and a Z list villain called the Kangaroo. Ultimate Spider-Man has had many action sequences of this nature throughout it's history, usually as the introduction to a new story arc, or a distraction from Peter's inner monologue. What sets this one apart? Sadly nothing. At the end we see the new Spider-Man take off his mask, but since he is a new character and his ethnicity was already leaked by USA Today, it's not really much of a big reveal. I'm not saying this was a bad story, it's just something we've already seen. Many times before.

The Jonathan Hickman penned section focusing on Reed Richards doesn't fare much better either, although there are a few fun nods to the stark contrasts between the crazy villainous ultimate Reed's newest machinations, and the current path of the also Hickman penned regular marvel universe Reed Richards. It looks like Hickman is setting Ultimate Reed up to be a villain in his soon to launch new volume of The Ultimates, and the Ultimate U version of the Avengers vs. a malevolent Reed Richards, is a dance I will most definitely be buying tickets to watch.

The highlight of the issue is Nick Spencer's section focusing on a meeting between Valerie Cooper, the president's chief advisor on Mutant affairs, and a reporter. The dialogue is crisp, smart, and natural. And given that Spencer can make a sequence of two people sitting down eating Pistachio ice cream tense and engaging, I am very excited to see what he can do with the upcoming relaunch of Ultimate X-Men in his very capable hands. The fact that a major dirty secret of the U.S. government goes public in the last few pages is the real game changer of this issue, and further reason for me to be very excited about the new Ultimate X-Men.

Grade: B

Notes:

-There seems to be something different about Miles' power set. Should be interesting to see what's up with that in the coming months.

-It was kinda funny that people kept telling new Spidey his costume was in bad taste all the while he was saving them.

-I really wish Clayton Crain was on a book that had nothing to do with Carnage. His pages were great.
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