By: Geoff Johns (writer), Andy Kubert (penciller), Jesse Delperdang (inker), Alex Sinclair (colorist)

The Story: Remember kids: never accept juice boxes from strangers.

The Review: It’s pretty clear that whatever point Johns originally conceived Flashpoint with, the series serves little more purpose now than as a convenient vehicle to carry the upcoming DCU into fruition.  After three issues of steadily declining interest, it seems almost all the engaging material has dried up, leaving the storyline struggling to fill itself between plot beats.

This issue repeats a pattern Johns has put to use for a while now: not-Batman systematically disparaging everyone and everything, Barry clutching his head against further memory revisions and moaning about how he has to act before it’s too late, the two of them squabbling over priorities, and everyone else standing around awkwardly, waiting for orders.  It’s such a familiar formula you can easily skip the pages altogether and miss nothing, as I’ve personally discovered.

You’d expect a five-issue mini, especially with an Event of this scope, would be overflowing with story, yet it feels as airy and insubstantial as Wonder Bread.  Maybe Johns subsidized too much of his plot to the dozen or so tie-ins out there, but if you restricted your Flashpoint dosage strictly to this series, it’s almost a crime how Johns has neglected this elaborate altered reality he’s pushed onto us.  Certainly we don’t experience enough of it to grow too invested in its fate.

And yet Johns expects us to do just that.  How else can you explain the turnaround in the Flash’s goals from restoring the universe to its former self and then suddenly claiming, “We have to save this world”?  Not only does this gear shift come too fast and grossly undersold (even after reading all the tie-ins, my attachment to this world is such that I share not-Batman’s opinion, “…we let it burn in HELL.”), it basically means Barry’s been going nowhere for two issues.

Johns also has a problematic habit of introducing these incidental characters and expecting us to instantly develop a connection with them.  Element Woman not only gets a splash page all to herself, she also receives far too many panels of prominence when she only provides some weak laughs at best.  Johns must have drastically overestimated her likability, as I can’t fathom how he could possible believe an obsession with juice boxes can be in any way appealing.

While it’s customary for DC’s crises to require a sacrificial lamb in the form of some young hero or heroine to jumpstart their resolutions, the use of Billy Batson in this case feels forced, even a bit despicably exploitive, as it offers only a shock-value impact.  We can hardly expect to feel his loss in any meaningful way, considering he gets only two over-compressed scenes solely in this issue.  It’s a sloppily constructed moment, a means to an end, and thus weak as a result.

Kubert flourishes best when his lines have the space to flow freely and show the dramatic depth of their details (as in the big two-page clash between Aquaman and Wonder Woman—love the close-up of his trident blades centimeters away from her eye).  In the cramped, wordy panels that fill this issue, his work looks pleasing, but hardly has the grandeur or intensity this title wants to go for, lacking the sense of doom the script tries constantly to convince you is all around.

Conclusion: Though we have one last issue to see how things will turn out, I think it’s safe to start your mourning for what could’ve been a far more epic storyline had more time and care been taken with its execution.

Grade: C

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Kudos to Cyborg for perfectly representing America’s recent conception of leadership: waiting hopefully for someone else’s lead.