What follows is the natural counterpart of the previously posted Audio Editorial.
In this corner, Heavy Weight #1, Marvel's Fear Itself! And in this corner, Heavy Weight #2, DC's Flashpoint! Two publishing giants going up against each other with their big event comics of the summer! Which one will win the heart (heart?) of Nina Stone? Which one will win...her flesh?
So, I read issue one of Fear Itself and wasn't such a fan. Nevertheless, I'd taken the assignment, which was to read the two of these and then "compare & contrast", and I don't screw around when I'm on assignment. It's called discipline, and while I won't say that being a Jewish tigress gives you the backbone of a stonemason, I will say that I'm one tough cookie.
You know what? As weird as the premise is, Fear Itself is somewhat compelling. It isn't necessarily the actual plot (i use the term loosely) of this issue that got to me--for one, I had to read and re-read, and re-view the whole sequence of events surrounding Juggernaut about four times to try and figure out what had just happened. There's an explosion? But no one died? Juggernaut is wearing what looks like a cement suit - and the security guards aren't? But they ALL survive the blast? And then, he touches something all glow-y? Loses his ability to speak? (I do love the blank word balloons) and turns into God-only-knows what...but basically just himself, with laser lines and extra gear? I just couldn't get it. I think it's one of those things you get after reading the whole issue, or one of those things where you just read lots of comics and automatically fill-in gaps and apologize/ignore stuff.
Anyway, all these heroes turn into evil fighters who speak some weird language of Rune symbols. And that's messed up? I guess? But that's not the compelling part to me. (Side note: I totally LOVE the chick who is a Hulk. LOVE HER. More please!)
What really got me, was the level of the Serpent's hatred. How evil evil evil he is! I mean he's saying things like "Punish and terrify every living thing that you can;" and "Fill them with doubt and panic and FEAR;" and "All targets are valid. Women -- children -- property -- ALL of it -- Kill them all. Everything."
That's pretty intense. He reminds me of Gary Oldman in the Professional. And it was there at the end, after enough of that sort of thing was said, that my mind started doing the "what if" game. What if there really was someone or something like this happening in the world. What if there was a villain who had no remorse of feelings of vulnerability or anything. And it's with that line of thinking that I can see that one might capture (ha! no pun intended!) and audience. A person might return to this comic over and over again to live through this possible reality to see what happens.
(I guess the big cliff hanger was supposed to be that The Avengers were missing in action. But...it just wasn't so much for me. My personal cliff hanger is - Whoa! I wonder just how unrelenting and uncompromising in his evilness this Serpent dude will be?!?!)
The answer is that he blew up some buildings!
So with that, I move on to Flashpoint. I had a weird experience with this one. I know nothing of this guy. Flash, you say? Barry whatsit, is that it? Nothing. I've got more extensive relationships with toaster waffles, and I haven't eaten one of those things in at least ten years. So I'm on that first page, and it feels like backstory to me. Here's what I got from the first page:
The young boy is Flashpoint as a child. His mom gets abducted/hurt/killed one night when she was trying to fix her broken down car on the side of the highway. The case of her disappearance remains...unsolved.
OR - that guy in the lab is our guy, the Flashpoint, at the moment of some weird, flukey accident that turned him into the Flashpoint. I think that's the right version. But I had to come back to this after reading the whole comic book and re-form my idea. Also, I had to be told that his name is the Flash and not Flashpoint, which makes more sense. However, I thought i'd write it like that both because that's what I thought when I was reading it, and also because I don't understand why this comic is called Flashpoint. Why is it called that, please?
Anyway, he's moved on from the past, right? He fell in love, has a whole electric family. (C'mon - look at them! There's static electricity running through them all. It looks painful as hell. But hey, birds of a feather......dress dumb. No, I'm sorry, that's not fair. The red suit people look great. But why is that man wearing that bowl?) Also, and this is really a subject for a later time, but why are super-heroes always so ridiculously angry? Except for the little girl, everybody in this drawing below looks like they hate life in the worst way. Is this a thing?
Anyway, after all this stuff, then he's waking up suddenly. He fell asleep at work. But apparently it's Opposite Day, or something, because nothing is as it should. I mean, it sort of made me think of Freaky Friday or any of those switch-a-roo movies where suddenly a person wakes up in an other person's body. But that's not entirely the case here. I couldn't ever, though, figure out what the deal was. I mean, he runs into his mom. And I'm thinking, "wait...his mom's dead, right?" Therefore, they did a great job of letting even the newest reader understand that something is off. When the mom showed up, I knew that something was weird. But...that was kind of it.
And so, regardless of the fact that I really couldn't understand what was going on, I'll admit, I was sort of hooked. I was. And then the comic decided to take a detour into weirdo land.
Suddenly, there's Batman. I figure he must tie in somehow, right? Wrong. All together wrong. No, Batman is actually being approached by Cyborg. And apparently Wonder Woman and Aquaman are going crazy and are ravaging the earth. (Really? Aquaman???) So Cyborg wants to stop them, and he tries to convince Batman, and in doing so, calls on this random sampling of characters who are willing to join the fight if Batman is. Essentially, we go through this whole weird role call thing with people stating why they won't fight, or will fight, or in some cases now will fight because The Dark Knight is there and they want to hang out with him or be led by him or just...I don't know, they all came to ask him out on a big date. And after that whole drawn out (stupid) thing, Batman says: No. Not interested. And so, everyone else says, "Wait. He's NOT joining us? Well forget it. I'm out too." And then, we're back to our regularly scheduled story.
That's not even a subplot! It's just a huge non-sequitur. And by the way, what's with that weird line/rectangle across the left hand side of the centerfold? Is that just a coloring mistake? Or was that supposed to ....no. No! I just looked at it again. It's just a mistake. I mean, how can you let that go to print? You are comic book publishers. Editors. Etc. This is what you do. You write stories and illustrate them. If there's something wrong with the illustration, you fix it before it goes to print. How hard can that be? This thing doesn't even have that many pages!
Anyhow. After all that nonsense, we are back with our friend, Barry Allen. And he's off to see the Batman. Now once again, it's all wackadoo. The Wayne mansion looks abandoned and in complete disarray. The Batcave is sparse. And suddenly Batman is there, fighting with Barry Allen. And the big cliff hanger? Barry looks at Batman and says, "You're Thomas Wayne."
Let me just say - I understood none of this. It had to be explained to me that this was an alternate universe. Duh! Of COURSE! Of COURSE it's an alternate universe! Why didn't I think of that?!!
Oh, I know why - because WHY WOULD I? It's such an insiders thing to have happen, to assume that people have regular relationships with things like "Whether or not the Flash's mom is alive" and "Who Cyborg is" and "What's Bruce Wayne's dad's name" and "Can Aquaman do things".
Anyways. I don't know what else to say about any of that, so I guess I'm at my conclusion. The more gripping tale of the two stories, and winner of this round, which I'm kind of hoping is the final round, is Fear Itself. That doesn't mean I'm looking forward to the next issue of Fear Itself though. It just means that I'm never going to read enough super-hero comics for something like Flashpoint to mean anything to me but "that comic I had to ask a lot of questions about just so that I could understand it."
That doesn't make for much of a contest.
-Nina Stone, 2011