Four Color Television / From the Long Box Crossover Special: FLASHPOINT
The Four Color Ark
THE FOUR COLOR TV/FROM THE LONGBOX CROSSOVER EVENT
Barry Allen is Terrible at Time Travel
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Flashpoint
At this point DC comics has become known as the company that throws out their old continuity and reboots every few decades, but in reality that has only happened twice. The first complete company reboot/relaunch was the 1985/1986 12 Issue Event Series: Crisis on Infinite Earths, which told the story of what happens when many alternate worlds collide. The second, and most recent, line wide reboot was what became known as ‘The New 52,” a complete do over that spawned off the Geoff Johns’ Flash parable about time travel gone wrong:
As we’ve spent our summer recapping The Flash TV Series and comparing both Barry Allen and Eobard Thawne from the show to their comic book counterparts we have definitely taken an orbit or two around the events of Flashpoint, but it is time to dive right in and look at Flashpoint in all its complexity.
At the end of Blackest Night, Barry Allen was back in the land of the living and the DC Universe was home to not one Flash but two. Geoff Johns spent time introducing us to the all-new all modern Barry Allen as he settled back into his life in Central City after “several years” of time in continuity, but over 20 years publishing time. Johns didn’t just bring Barry back form the dead, he also restored Barry’s greatest nemesis: Eobard Thawne a.k.a. Professor Zoom, a.k.a. The Reverse Flash – the speedster from the future who was obsessed with destroying and replacing Barry Allen. Prior to this point, Barry was the squarest of Superheroes – he had a wife and kids, a job, and parents who loved him. Johns decided to change that last part dramatically by having Thawne go back in time and kill Barry’s mother Nora and frame his father Henry for the crime. With all of that backstory in place we dive into Flashpoint proper wherein:
Barry Allen wakes up one morning without his superspeed – furthermore his mother is once again alive, his father is dead of a heart attack, Leonard Snart is the hero of Central City, there never was a Justice League, Superman has never existed, Batman is a murderous vigilante that strikes fear in the heart of everyone, and Atlantis and Themyscira are at war with each other causing devastation throughout the world.
Believing himself to be trapped in another dimension, Barry begins looking for someone who can help him and keeps coming up short. Hal Jordan is not accessible to him, the rest of the Justice League are either listed as wanted terrorist or serve as the despotic leaders of nations that want to destroy the world – the only person he can think to go to is Batman. Barry packs up his crap and heads over to Gotham City and Wayne Manor where he confronts a much older and more dangerous Batman than the one he remembers. In this dimension, when the Wayne family was attacked in Crime Alley it wasn’t Thomas and Martha who died and left behind their orphan child Bruce, it was Thomas who now survived his wife and child – claiming the mantle of Batman to make sure no one suffered their fates.
Suffice to say the war between the Atlanteans, following their King Arthur Curry, and the Amazonians under the control of Queen Diana is not going well. Cyborg, Victor Stone, is working directly for the President attempting to put together a team that can defend America from the onslaught that will surely come soon. Back in the Batcave, Thomas Wayne has no reason to trust Barry Allen but is moderately swayed by Barry’s fervent and passionate belief that he knows Thomas’ son Bruce. Barry has a moment where he is attempting to recall a meeting with Bruce to relay to Thomas, but as he is describing it – his memory of that world is rewritten by memories of his life in a Central City where he is not The Flash. This is the moment where Barry realizes that this is not some alternate dimension, this “Flashpoint” is an alteration to his own timeline – and the changes are starting to fix themselves around Barry like concrete. The elder Wayne agrees to help Barry attempt to recreate the accident that gave him his powers, and the result is disastrous. Badly burned and still without his powers, Barry Allen recuperates in Wayne Manor while attempting to convince Batman to let him try again to jumpstart his own powers using items in the Batcave.
Steve Trevor is captured and interrogated by Wonder Woman, revealing thanks to the Lasso of Truth that the US is spying on the Amazons, war is on its way to the US. Back at Wayne Manor, Barry is strapped into an Electric Chair – already badly charred and possibly close to death, this is the last ditch attempt to restore Barry’s powers, and this time it works. Given back his speed, Barry heals rapidly and ejects his costume from his Flash ring (seriously it’s a ring that keeps a miniaturized version of his costume) only to find the costume inside isn’t his costume: but the yellow costume of the Reverse Flash. Convinced now that this massive change to the timeline is all because of Reverse Flash, Barry agrees to help Batman and Cyborg fight the Amazonians and Atlanteans if they’ll help him fight Thawne and restore the timeline.
First stop for the trio of heroes is to break an incredibly powerful alien entity out of the laboratory he’s been captive in for over 30 years since his ship crashed on Earth in rural Kansas. Familiar in origin only, this Kal-El is far from the Clark Kent that Barry remembers, small and frail but with massive powers derived from the Sun – the trio is unsure if Subject O of Project Superman will actually be on their side in the coming battle. Seemingly afraid, the Flashpoint Superman flees into the sky – and Barry begins to forget Clark Kent as his memories change again.
The trio head for the front line of the battle, where Batman believes that Captain Marvel can use his lightning to prevent Flash’s memories from changing any further – but they are too late because the battle begins in earnest. Flash, Batman, Cyborg, and the Marvel Family now merged together as Captain Thunder race to the front where Wonder Woman and Aquaman are finally at war. The conflict is messy and disturbing, and in the middle of it Eobard Thawne returns to destroy Barry Allen once and for all.
Thawne reveals that it wasn’t his actions that ripped the timeline apart, it was Barry himself who ran back in time and pulled the entirety of the Speed Force into himself to stop Thawne from killing his mother that resulted in this nightmare timeline, this time Barry Allen was the villain. Additionally the destruction of the timeline had made Eobard Thawne a living paradox, which meant he no longer needed to keep Barry alive to preserve his own timeline. Stronger and ready to be rid of Barry, Eobard closes in for the kill when suddenly a wounded and dying Batman runs Thawne through with an Amazonian sword.
Superman arrives to help the heroes, but this catastrophic war has claimed so many lives, millions are dead. Thomas Wayne pleads with Barry to reset the timeline to its original state and restore all those lives – restore the timeline where his son lived and he did not. Barry knows that the only way to save those millions is to go back in time and allow Thawne to kill his mother. Barry agrees, and is given a letter written by Thomas Wayne to deliver to Bruce Wayne once the timeline is restored. Barry races to his mother’s home to say goodbye, he explains to her what he must do and she urges him to do what needs be done to save reality – but it is still such a hard choice for Barry to make. Tearfully he runs back in time and merges with his younger self before he can summon the energy of the Speed Force to stop Thawne. Thawne succeeds in killing Nora Allen and Barry returns to his own timeline and delivers a letter from one Batman to another.
The timeline that Barry returns to is slightly different than the one he left from, but for the moment everything is fully restored.
Why is Flashpoint so important that I’m willing to merge two columns to discuss it? After Crisis on Infinite Earths almost every major hero had their origin retold, except for Barry Allen – he was dead and gone – so the only origin that Barry Allen had was his silver age origin which was rather milquetoast prior to the lightning bolt that made him the chummiest of chummy heroes. Flashpoint gave Barry a new origin, one that the CW TV Flash series followed to the letter almost. Barry now becomes a CSI because he is obsessed with solving the murder of his mother Nora who died in a mysterious attack by a man in a yellow suit when he was a child. His father Henry was wrongly convicted for the crime, and a single minded Barry spent his formative years attempting to exonerate his father and honor his mother. This description is both the Flashpoint/New 52 Flash origin as well as the Grant Gustin/CW origin, and from what we know so far about the Ezra Miller version of The Flash in the DC Movie Universe – this appears to be his origin as well.
Flashpoint has been rather faithfully adapted so far in the DC Animated Feature: The Flashpoint Paradox, Season 2 of the CW Series ended with Barry preventing the death of his mother and rebooting the timeline, and it has been announced that the troubled Flash DC live action movie starring Ezra Miller has been renamed Flashpoint and will adapt the events of this comic.
Is this too much Flashpoint? Perhaps. With an animated movie and a loose adaptation at the head of Season 3 of the CW Series – Flashpoint has been fairly well covered. Certainly Gustin’s Barry didn’t run around with a grizzled Thomas Wayne or get involved in a big war between Atlantis and Themyscira - his Flashpoint being a more grounded and personal one – but the theme that Barry Allen is so desperate to restore his mother to life that he fundamentally rips time apart is very evident even on the CW. A cinematic Flashpoint does afford the opportunity to tweak the timeline a bit, and the DCEU may be looking to use that to deal with some of the complaints about the “tone” of their films being too dark.
Ultimately, the Flashpoint origin makes Barry Allen the middle ground between Superman and Batman. Clark Kent lost his birth parents and has found a way to move forward in hope, embracing his life with the Kents in Smallville and becoming a beacon of hope for all of Earth. Batman, the opposite side of that coin, has found a way to move forward in anger – embracing a life of vengeance that will keep any other from suffering as he had. Barry Allen is the middle ground, the one who moves forward in grief and when given a chance to change the past – to deliver wish fulfillment to the little boy buried deep inside him – he will unfailingly go back and try to save his mother’s life. Again and again. Superman may be the most idealized of the three, Batman the most realistic, but Barry is the most human and the most relatable.
Next Week: There is only one rule you need to know as we pull into our next destination. It’s “No tights, no flights” as the Four Color train pulls into Smallville to take a look at the DC TV Series that presaged our current CW franchise.
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