FIVE QUESTIONS ABOUT TIME TRAVEL AND THE CREATION OF DC’S NEW 52

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A couple of years ago, the publishers at DC Comics had a bold vision of restructuring their entire multiverse in an effort to attract new readers. The new and improved multiverse would include more sex, more violence, superfluous armor on the men and significantly less fabric on the women. Characters from Vertigo and Wildstorm publications would also be incorporated into this brave new multiverse.

The one thing standing in the way was a stifling sense of continuity accumulated over the years. The solution was simple: undo it all with a story involving time travel. Thus Flashpoint was penned to usher the Nu52 into existence.

As DC fans know, the new timeline isn’t perfect. For example, we were forced to accept that Bruce Wayne was able to father a ten-year-old boy while only having been Batman for roughly five years. But lazy editorial decisions aside, I still have some questions concerning time travel and the creation of the Nu52.

For those of you already familiar with the events of Flashpoint, feel free to jump ahead to the questions. Otherwise, I have included a brief summary:

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Barry Allen, upon finding out that his nemesis Eobard Thawne (aka the Reverse Flash) was responsible for the murder of his mother, realized that he, too, could change history and save his mother’s life. Lacking the finesse of Eobard Thawne, he sent ripples through the fabric of the space-time continuum, creating a new reality at the brink of destruction.

After wandering this new timeline with his new friend Thomas Wayne, who has become the Batman of this reality, he meets up with Eobard. By this point, Barry has forgotten that he altered history to create this new reality, but Eobard helps jog his memory by resetting his internal vibrations. Eobard also boasts that he was traveling through the timestream while history was being altered, which transformed him into a living paradox, no longer dependent on any pre-ordained history in order to exist. While prior to the events of Flashpoint, Eobard needed Barry to live a long life and generate a strong speed force he could access in the future, he was now free to kill his rival and still exist as the Reverse Flash. Alas, his freedom is short-lived as Batman stabs him in the back with an Amazonian sword.

Barry then corrects history by stopping himself from altering it. Upon running back into the timestream, he sees three separate time lines. A mysterious hooded lady recruits him to help merge the time lines together to stand strong against an impending threat.

And thus the entire DC multiverse was rebooted into what is now known as the Nu52.

Onto the questions:

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1. What was Eobard Thawne’s Fate?

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We know that the events of Flashpoint created a paradoxical version of the Reverse Flash, free to run amok through history altering it to his will without undoing his own existence. Luckily for Barry Allen, the paradoxical Eobard was killed.

DC has introduced an entirely new Reverse Flash this year, who was recently revealed to be Iris West’s brother, Daniel. This means we probably won’t be seeing Eobard appear in the Nu52 anytime soon. Actually, it is quite possible that Eobard doesn’t exist in the Nu52’s future. If so, I have a follow up question:

1.1 Who killed Nora Allen?

Barry Allen’s mother has still been murdered in the Nu52, but her killer is still at large. Is that a hint that Eobard still exists, or is the culprit someone else entirely? Maybe Eobard was mostly erased from history but his ultimate act of revenge on Barry still exists as a permanent stain on the fabric of the space-time continuum.

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2. What’s happening to Booster Gold?

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This question is not directly related to the events of Flashpoint, but it does suggest that the new timeline created by Pandora and Barry Allen is not a stable one.

In Justice League International Annual #1, DC’s most famous time traveler, Booster Gold, was visited by an older version of himself who warned him that he had to prevent Superman from hooking up with Wonder Woman or he would no longer exist. Shortly after they discovered it was too late, both younger and older Booster Golds seemingly faded into nothingness.

It was recently revealed in Justice League of America #5 that Amanda Waller sent A.R.G.U.S. Temporal agent, Chronos, on a mission to locate Booster Gold, but to no success. The good news is that in most stories involving time travel, when character A remembers character B, it means character B still exists in some form.

All Star Western #19-21 depicts Booster Gold reappearing in the nineteenth century with a slight case of amnesia. Shortly after becoming sheriff of a little town called Red River Junction, his new friend Jonah and he fall into a crack in the space-time continuum. Jonah ends up in modern day Gotham City and Booster ends up in a space and time yet to be determined.

Is Booster Gold’s disappearing and reappearing act a result of his own reckless time travel, Barry Allen’s, or someone else’s entirely? Either way, let’s hope he can Marty McFly his way back into a more stable existence.

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3. Will we ever see Wally West again?

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While we are all patiently waiting for the appearance of characters like Donna Troy or Stephanie Brown within the Nu52, it seems like Wally West has been written out entirely.

In pre-Nu52 existence, Wally West was the son of Iris West’s brother, Rudolph West. At first he bore the mantle of the Kid Flash but in time he grew up to replace Barry Allen, who died during the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths and stayed dead for 23 years – which is a long time for a superhero.

In the Nu52, however, Iris’s only sibling is Daniel West, the new Reverse Flash. It seems doubtful that this guy could end up fathering Wally. If Wally does end up finding his way into the Nu52, it would have to be through some crazy space-time shattering event.

Perhaps Wally exists in another universe within the Nu52 and will find his way onto Earth-1. Or maybe, like Eobard Thawne, Wally was traveling through the time stream during the course of Flashpoint. In which case, he’s going to be really pissed when he finds out Barry erased his family from existence.

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4. How powerful is/was Pandora?

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When we first met Pandora back in the last issue of Flashpoint, she demonstrated the ability to merge three separate timelines with the Flash’s help. This character went on to have a small cameo in each first issue of every Nu52 comic released in September 2011, as if keeping tabs on this new reality she created. We could clearly infer that she was indeed a powerful character.

She then reemerged in the back-up story to Justice League #6, in which the Phantom Stranger confronts her for her action in Flashpoint:

Phantom Stranger: You rewrote reality.

Pandora: I realigned it. I strengthened it.

Phantom Stranger: You think you did. You’re dangerous.

Talk about a juicy tease of things to come! I naively thought DC was going to explain what exactly happened in Flashpoint. Instead, they decided to put all that on the back burner and focus on the box Pandora opened to release evil into the world. It turns out that the box was a portal to Earth-3, which is now the origin of all evil. Those who have read the Trinity War know that only individuals from Earth-3 are supposed to be able to open the box, so perhaps this is another subtle hint that Pandora has a set of crazy extra-dimensional powers that have yet to be explored.

Ray Fawkes, the writer of Trinity of Sin: Pandora, was very coy about her involvement in the events of Flashpoint in an interview with Cosmic Book News:

Why not let Pandora tell her side of the story before we make any decisions about what she did or didn’t do and how powerful, exactly, she is? I’ll say this: make no assumptions. The truth is stranger than it looks, and Pandora has been made into ‘the face’ of more than one universe-shattering event. The girl’s got a reputation, and readers will get the chance to decide whether or not she deserves it.”

Is the Pandora we’re reading about today the same Pandora who created the Nu52 two years ago? If so, has she retained her powers or have they diminished in this new time line? Hopefully Ray Fawkes will provide us with some answers.

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5. Whose impending arrival? 

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Barry Allen: “I… I need to run back into the timestream, but… I see three timelines. Why–?”

Pandora: “Because the history of heroes was shattered into three long ago. Splintered to weaken your world for their impending arrival. You must all stand together. The timelines must become one again.” Flashpoint #5

Pandora mentions that there was once one timeline, but an unnamed force splintered them into the three known as the DC, Vertigo, and Wildstorm universes. She enlists Barry Allen’s help in order to combine them into one strong universe to stand against “their impending arrival?”

Who the heck is she talking about? Have we seen them yet? A year ago I was hoping they’d show up at some point during the Trinity War, but the main villain in that event turned out to be the Crime Syndicate from Earth Three. As cool as they are, I doubt they’re capable of breaking up universes.

I don’t know whether DC ever had a coherent plan for this impending threat, but the beautiful thing about fiction is that they could always come up with a new band of villains that fits the necessary profile. My guess is that they never will.

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About Author

Paul de Vries

Paul de Vries was raised by a pack of wild Dutch immigrants in pastoral Western Massachusetts. Having trouble connecting with the other kids in his neighborhood, he sought refuge in Greek Mythology. As he matured, superheroes started replacing gods and now he observes each new comic book day religiously. He currently lives in New York City where he performs stand up comedy.