Last night at the San Diego Comic Con, DC Animated premiered its latest direct-to-video feature, the last three of which have been truly excellent. Supervising producer James Tucker had talked about featuring characters other than just Batman and Superman all the time. While this is called a Justice League movie, The Flashpoint Paradox is primarily a Flash story.
Before you groan, understand that there is heavy support from Batman, or, at least, a Batman. There is also a big part for Cyborg, who seems to be getting a push since he was added to the Justice League in the New 52 comics continuity. The story is based on the “Flashpoint” event in the comics by Geoff Johns (for the second DCA movie in a row) and Andy Kubert. The world is not as was or supposed to be. The only one that notices is Barry Allen. He wakes with the dichotomy of memories of the world he knows and the one he currently resides in. Trying to get to the bottom of it starts of with a higher degree of difficulty than usual as Barry no longer has a connection to the Speed Force. The Flash is stalled.
Barry goes to the one man he assumes can help him, Batman. He goes to Wayne Manor to find that the mansion and Batcave are also not as he remembers. He encounters a more feral and even angrier Batman than he knew. He isn’t the Batman he knew at all as Bruce Wayne was killed as a child in Crime Alley. Under the cowl is Dr. Thomas Wayne, who avenges his son’s death and wife’s subsequent decent into madness.
Meanwhile, the world hangs in the balance in a war between Wonder Woman’s Amazons and Aquaman’s Atlanteans. Diana and Arthur had had an affair. Mera, queen of Atlantis, did not take it well and attempted to assassinate Wonder Woman. Diana more than defended herself as Atlantis ended up down a monarch. Arthur is in possession of a doomsday weapon that he plans to detonate if he deems the war lost.
Barry determines that the man responsible for all of this is Professor Zoom, Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash after finding his uniform in his Flash ring. He knows the only way to put things right is to get his powers back and force Thawne to undo the damage. The ensuing story is a wonderful portrait of the inner determination of Barry Allen that offers plenty of surprises (especially for those who hadn’t read the comics) in a universe without the regular rules and constraints. Anyone can die.
The character design is a little 80’s anime and can sometimes look a bit clunky. The Flash and Superman, in particular have strangely shaped faces. The action, however, is extremely fluid and there is plenty of it. Director Jay Oliva has staged some even more epic battles in this than he did in The Dark Knight Returns adaptation. Writer Jim Krieg did a great job of meshing in enough elements from the “World of Flashpoint” books to give a comprehensive idea of this alternate world. The main cast is pretty good with Justin Chambers offering a more serious Flash than fans will be used to. Kevin McKidd (Trainspotting) gives an appropriately gravelly Thomas Wayne. Michael B. Jordan (The Wire) is spot on as Cyborg. There are some cool character cameos with familiar voices as well from Deathstroke (voiced by Ron Perlman), Hal Jordan (Nathan Fillion), Lois Lane (Dana Delany) and Bruce Wayne/Batman (the inimitable Kevin Conroy).
This story is what led to the sea change in the DC Comics Universe and it appears it will be ushering in a new era in the animated world as well, as the next DCA project is Justice League: War, based on the New 52 “Origin” book from Johns (hat trick!) and Jim Lee. These movies usually exist in no real continuity but since “Flashpoint” leads right into the New 52, is it possible that Tucker’s real plan was to give the movies their own continuity? A lofty proposition, for sure. If this is the end of the the DCAU as we know it, what an exciting way to close the chapter.