My favorite superhero is the Flash and I don’t have a favorite version. I like them all equally. Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, Wally West and Bart Allen, each of their stories have brought me joy. I collect Flash comics. I have the action figures. My wallet is even Flash-themed.
But as much as I love the Flash, I have very mixed feelings on how the character has been handled on screen. Specifically, when it comes to one storyline, Hollywood just can’t keep their hands off of “Flashpoint.”
For readers who are only vaguely familiar with “Flashpoint,” here’s a brief explanation. “Flashpoint,” written by Geoff Johns, was a 2011 DC Comics limited series that completely reset the universe and led into The New 52.
In the series Barry Allen, goes back in time to prevent his mother’s murder and soon wakes up in a world where she’s alive again. But other things are different too: Barry never became the Flas, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are at war with each other, Superman doesn’t exist (he was captured by the government when his ship crashed on Earth), Barry never meets or marries Iris West.
Bruce Wayne was killed the night his parents were supposed to die and as a result his father Thomas Wayne became Batman albeit a more violent version and Martha Wayne became the Joker. And the Flash’s arch-nemesis, Eobard Thawne (the Reverse Flash) is, of course, involved. This world overall is just not an ideal place to raise a family.
Also a little footnote Barry’s mom dying when he was a child is a fairly recent addition to the character’s origin story; it first appears in the 2009-2010 six-issue limited series “The Flash: Rebirth” by Geoff Johns. Now back to our regularly scheduled program.
The three main pieces of media that have adapted the storyline or parts of it is the animated movie “Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox” (2013), the third season of CW’s “The Flash” and the most recent addition “The Flash” feature film (2023).
As far as a storyline goes, I actually enjoy “Flashpoint.” I have reread the storyline a few times. Thomas Wayne is a really interesting character and is starting to appear more in the comics again. Exciting stuff is happening. It is an entertaining comic.
But every time the plot or aspects of the plot make its way on TV or film it always seems to miss the mark in some way.
For example “The Flash” took aspects of the comic for their third season and opened the show with the appropriately titled episode “Flashpoint.”
The basic elements of the comic are still there. Barry goes back and prevents his mom being murdered by Thawne which leads to Barry’s dad being falsely imprisoned for her murder. In this new world he creates his mother is alive and well.
But the world Barry accidentally creates really isn’t all that bad compared to the dystopian-esque hellscape that the comics portray. In this new timeline Wally West still becomes Kid Flash and Barry meets Iris eventually. No good guys turned evil.
But Barry sees the errors of his ways and misses being The Flash and the life he has created for himself. So he goes back in time again to fix the timeline.
At least when Barry goes back to the original timeline he has to deal with the repercussions of his actions. The timeline did not go totally back to normal and those changes would be kept until the end of the series.
“The Flash” movie, though, well they did some of my least favorite things when using “Flashpoint” as the source material. First, “Flashpoint” is not a great way to introduce Barry Allen to a wider audience who are only vaguely familiar with the character.
The movie had the same function as the comic did and softly rebooted the DC Universe for a new roster of movies. And because of that its use of “Flashpoint” became its biggest deficit.
I feel like we never really got to know this version of Barry before he was thrown into the consequences of his actions. Sure the Flash was featured in the “Justice League’’ (2017), but that was an ensemble movie where multiple characters had to be introduced.
“The Flash” film should have been for establishing Barry’s character and his corner of the DC Universe, not trying to softly start a new one. The Scarlet Speedster has an extensive Rogue Gallery that could have been included, but the people who made the movie decided to go with General Zod, a character that is heavily associated with Superman.
The bare minimum they could have done was at least try to have included Thawne, but they didn’t even do that.
What makes “Flashpoint” work is that it turns this world we are familiar with upside down. This can be seen with Aquaman and Wonder Woman being in conflict with each other.
This conflict affects all the characters’ lives and Barry sees that changing one single event has ripple effects. There’s more of a sense of urgency in the comics than there is in its two semi-adaptations.
The reader sees how dreary this alternate world is and wants the hero to save the day. You can feel the weight that is on Barry’s shoulder just by seeing the destruction that is all around him.
The animated movie “Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox” is an example of how to adapt the comic. And I think part of that is because it is a cartoon.
Sure, a few minor things have changed, but overall it is pretty faithful. I recommend watching the animated movie more than 2023’s “The Flash.”
If you really want to get to know the character just read the comics. The current main series has Wally West back in the red suit and just got a new writer.
I am excited to see where the series goes. Don’t let the movie be your only source for the character.