Reading the first issue of “Flashpoint: Deadman and the Flying Graysons,” it brings to mind a meeting where the muckity-mucks at DC were kicking around ideas for “Flashpoint” mini-series and someone said, “Hey, how about Deadman, who never died, is in the same circus troupe as Dick Grayson and his parents, who also lived?” Sounds good, especially when you throw in some other characters like Ragdoll, Killer Shark, and Dr. Fate, except for one thing: no one really came up with a story. As far as comics that are nothing more than ideas go, this one is some lovely art and the odd bit of character work that succeeds.
J.T. Krul has a good handle on these versions of Deadman and Dick Grayson and shows that off here, firstly, through Deadman’s narration. He’s an arrogant blowhard who sees his solo acrobatic act as the best thing about the circus troupe he performs in. This is contrasted with the Graysons, who work together as a family. Can you see the contrast,? If you can’t, it’s pointed out ten or thirty times for you. Krul’s character work has no problems except for his need to hit the reader over the head with the most identifiable trait of a character, except for the characters that don’t really matter who get barely a line in. The focus is clearly on Boston Brand and Dick with every other character filling the background or a role that reflects the other two in some way.
The plot is virtually nonexistent. The troupe is trapped in Europe, trying to stay one step ahead of the Amazons and Atlanteans and… there’s nothing else. Maybe for an ongoing, such an empty set-up debut issue would be passable, but, this is the first third of the story and nothing happens beyond establishing a premise that doesn’t take 22 pages to establish.
The art team of Mikel Janin and Ulises Arreola deliver some stunning pages. Arreola’s coloring looks like a mixture of computer coloring, paints, and pencil crayons depending on where you look. It’s a very adaptable approach that alters to suit the picture (or part of a picture) it’s coloring. Janin’s line work is expressive and clear with a wonderful texture to it. His shading adds depth without killing the clarity of his figures under the weight of a billion unnecessary lines.
One spot where the art falters is in the second half with a couple of scenes that look like generic superhero comic art, buried under garish neon colors with flat, workmanlike line work. When the comic returns to the big top, the art improves again, thankfully.
It’s hard not to view “Flashpoint: Deadman and the Flying Graysons” #1 as a textbook example of an event tie-in book that exists because this event needs some tie-in books. The plot is nonexistent and only two characters get any real sense of characterization. The comic does end with a cliffhanger and an indication that a plot will commence next issue, but that’s not good enough. It’s insulting that this is a comic that’s nothing more than ‘Boston Brand is self-centered and Dick Grayson loves his family while the troupe is stuck in Europe.’ Well worth the $2.99 cover price.