"Flashpoint" is in its final month (the conclusion goes on sale August 31), which means it's time for everything to start wrapping up. And with one issue to go? It's becoming increasingly clear that the altered world of "Flashpoint" is little more than window dressing.
Swap out the new and different characters that Barry Allen is finding himself alongside with any other Elseworlds comics characters, and I think you'll find that (barring an extreme choice of character) nothing in "Flashpoint" would change that much. You can boil the first four issues down to, "Barry finds himself in an altered timeline because the Reverse Flash has changed history. Allying himself with [two altered heroes], Barry finds himself at the battleground between [two other characters normally heroes] trying to return his world to normal."
That's not to say that the overall plot is a bad one—we'll get to that shortly—but rather that there's nothing up until this point that made the changes in timeline particularly important to the story. Almost all of these mini-series, with new inventions such as the Secret Seven, or Hal Jordan as a bomber pilot? They mean, as we suspected all along, absolutely nothing. Even Aquaman and Wonder Woman's war really has no significance aside from it being two former heroes fighting one another when the Flash and company show up. These new and altered characters feel like they've been thought up in a vacuum, because their connection to the core of "Flashpoint" itself simply doesn't exist; we could have just as easily had this story where each issue was set in a different old Elseworlds project.
So with all of that in mind, how is the story itself? It's perfectly acceptable, if nothing out of the ordinary. I like Johns' new Element Woman; it's a small and slightly one-dimensional character, but she's brand new and not even a major character, so that's actually all you need from her. And I'm enjoying the relationship (such as it is) between Thomas Wayne and Barry Allen. The two work well together, and it gets Barry to where he needs to be at the end of the issue, all set up for the final battle in four weeks. It's an utterly standard story, but accepting it as such makes it a good enough read, if perhaps not quite worthy of multiple tie-in mini-series and one-shots.
Andy Kubert and Jesse Delperdang provide, likewise, perfectly acceptable art. Once again, Element Girl shines (can we have her in the new Justice League, please?), and the glimpses of how the world should be are drawn nicely. Some of the smaller character portraits also work well; the image on the television of Hal Jordan, for example, makes him actually look more dashing and handsome than we normally get, and the Reverse Flash looks particularly menacing considering it's just a guy with a big yellow suit. The one part that doesn't work quite so well is when it's time for motion. The big fight splash between the Atlanteans and the Amazons looks horribly stiff and staged. In particular, Aquaman and Wonder Woman look like they're posed or perhaps frozen, not struggling to gain the upper hand.
"Flashpoint" will ultimately be remembered for serving as the prelude to the big relaunch next month. Because when the dust settles, this is a perfectly standard story that perhaps didn't need its own mini-series (save for what it's leading into). It's not bad, but it's nothing more than average.