Thursday, September 27, 2007

OML Comments for August, Part 5

I finished reading these just under the wire as the monthly DCBS shipment arrived on the last Thursday of September. Now if I could only write faster. And read faster. (And have more time for both. And have time for uninterrupted video game playing.) I've had the comics for a week and I've only read one of them, and I've not even looked yet at Previews.

Category C (cont.)
Batman #667
See below.

Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four #4
As sad as it is that Mike Wieringo died so young and without any warning, at least his last published work, that I know of, was this comic book, which played more to his strengths than any other in-continuity Marvel Universe comic right now. From everything I heard about the man since his death, it sounds like he enjoyed light-hearted stories and that was this four-part mini-series. In a perfect world, Wieringo would still be alive and working on Tellos. Then, in his free time, he and Dan Slott, the writer of this series, would team to create numerous such comics for both of the Big 2, a more appealing, to me at least, version of Loeb/Sales, presenting stories of the characters in a way the reminds readers that mainstream super-hero comic books used to champion a sense of wonder.

Batman #668
Batman is an important character to me. In January 1966, I was four-and-a-half years old and on a cold, I assume, Wednesday night Batman premiered on ABC. Though I had owned comic books by that age, Batman solidified my eternal love of the genre and produced in me a love for the Batman character that can only be produced when one is introduced to something at four and a half. One of the most bothersome aspects of the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DCU is that a combination of Denny O'Neil, Tim Burton-man, and The Dark Knight Returns, created a vision of the character that could be described as "jerk," but for which "dick" worked much, much better. I couldn't stand Batman for decades and stopped buying most Bat-titles after "A Death in the Family," not for the story in and of itself, but because DC gave fans a voice in deciding if a character lives or dies. I tried a random title hear and there, I was suckered for an issue or two after "Bruce Wayne--Murderer," foolishly believing that Batman after that story would be less of a dick. Hearing that Grant Morrison would write Batman after Infinite Crisis didn't exactly make be feel good; his characterization of Batman in JLA was but one of many flaws in his handling of the team, in my opinion, of course, as he perpetuated the Bat-dick persona (as well as introducing that silly "HH" sound had Batman make, I guess he felt using "hurm" was too obvious) and built the base for the OMACs with Batman's take-down protocols of other heroes. Plus, I never know which Morrison is going to show up until after I've bought a comic, the one who knows how to write based on cultural expectations of the western world or the one that throws out crazy ideas with neither rhyme nor reason and only a loose connection to the concept of a beginning, a middle, and an end. So far, the former Morrison has been showing up and may I say that his handling of the character has been terrific; because of his writing on Batman, and Paul Dini's on Detective Comics, I can buy mainstream Bat-titles again, confident that the Batman presented in each is a hero, not a jerk, and really not "the God-damn Batman".

Morrison's story in this and the previous issue of Batman is a perfect example of everything that is good with Batman now, and with the post-Infinite Crisis DCU. One of the many things that disappointed me with DC's post-Crisis on Infinite Earths output was the random erasure of stories from a character's history because the then-current writer and/or editor didn't like them, deciding that the stories didn't fit into their view of the character. People can bash Dan Didio all they want, but for all of his supposed sins, why does no one ever bring up his statement that DC was wrong to ignore/remove stories from continuity?

It is with that attitude guiding him that, post-Infinite Crisis, Grant Morrison is actually able to respectfully re-introduce the Club of Heroes with a straight face. (I can't imagine such being possible under Denny "urban legend" O'Neil's term as Bat-title editor; better to break Batman's back.) Morrison allows the original story to stand, a photograph of Batman, smiling, standing in the middle of the Heroes is even show, but he also allows time to have passed and the Heroes are older and have evolved. Once they were that team in the photograph, but now each is in a different place. Honestly, that's all I ask: If you envision yourself as a post-modern writer of comic books, don't change past stories to fit your vision. A good writer works with what he is given; a poor writer changes the source material to better suit him. Yes, I am still referring to Justice League: Year One. Enjoyed these first two parts and I am looking forward to the last part.

Justice Society of America #8
Somehow, Geoff Johns is starting to show me in his writing on this comic what everyone else has seen since JSA #1. I still think he draws stories out too long; it would do him good to knock off at least one issue of every story he plots out. Still, the team and the book feels refreshed even if Johns is writing it and I am enjoying the book, not just thinking I should be enjoying it because if features characters named after Golden Age heroes. What Johns has created might all fall apart come the end of Final Crisis and whatever rearrangements are made to the DCU, but, hopefully, Johns won't be treated like Roy Thomas and All-Star Squadron, and he'll get to continue as he started.

The Spirit #9
I have decided that I don't enjoy this comic book as much as I should. I mean, I did, but now the luster of its newness has dulled and I can see it for what it really is: Poor work by Darwyn Cooke trying to be something he is not while being forced to conform to modern expectations of storytelling in comics. Mind you, the art is still wonderful to look at; other mainstream comic books should have the courage to admit that the ugly, jaggedly inked scratchings too many editors try to pass off as art is awful and reach out to more artists like Cooke, Mike Norton, Tom Grummett, etc. However, Cooke's writing is defeating the purpose of hiring a writer/artist, especially a writer/artist who is following in the footsteps of one of the best writer/artist, Will Eisner.

If you have this issue, take it out and really look at it. Look at how Cooke overwrites in the style of the modern comic-book writer. The page where we follow Ebony on his own. There are far, far too many thought captions (and why are those in anyway better than thought balloons). Cooke is telling us, rather than showing us. I am pretty sure Eisner could have presented the same images cinematically. Maybe it is just Cooke's discontent showing through and he didn't want to do the work necessary to present wordless sequences, but, in retrospect, he really has diminished the Spirit, turning the character from classic icon to run-of-the-mill-noirish P.I., by shoving the character into the constraints of modern story telling. The Spirit goes from classic icon,

The Brave and the Bold #6
Booster Gold #1
In my opinion, mainstream comic books fell upon hard creative times because the companies tried to force basically fantastic characters and millieus into realistic straightjackets. Case in point, was DC's determination to remove the ability for characters to easily travel through time and/or space. This led to such things as the decree that any method of time travel can only be used once by anyone. At that time, I thought such things were foolish additions that hamstrung writers every bit as much as if the producers of a Star Trek series or Stargate decided to impose rules that made the intergalactic travel impossible. In retrospect, I must have been right because time travel and intergalactic travel are both back, and both appear relatively easy. I'm not saying they are accessible to every character, but they sure seem easier than they did post-Crisis on Infinite Earths.

I write all that as introduction to my comments on these two series. I love them. They are everything I want in a DC comic: Fine, high-adventure writing with the illusion of character development thrown in, presented with clear, dramatic art by artists unafraid to use their art in service of the story, rather than in service of their ego. The Brave and the Bold was a roller coaster of a story, mixing and matching characters in a joyful way, taking them across space and across time. It does my heart good to see Batman teaming with the Legion of Super-Heroes, and credit must be given to Waid for teaming Batman and Green Lantern in the first issue, recalling . For the first time since Empire, Mark Waid just told a story and didn't feel the need to tweak a character concept by inserting the little "Waidisms" that eventually turn me off of his writing. By not doing that, I finally appreciated what he is capable of doing with company-owned characters. As for George Perez's art, others have praised it better than I am capable. Suffice to say, it is perfect for this book, and superhero comic books in general; would that more editors would look to his work as inspiration when assigning book to artists rather than to the current generation of Image-influenced scratchers.

As for Booster Gold, I just want to say that anyone who whines out the sentence "Time travel makes my head hurt," is an idiot and should not be suffered to live. Booster serving as an unknown hero is a very cool, and yet sad, concept. He is now the Sam Beckett of the DCU, as he tries to make right what went wrong. If he could actually save Blue Beetle, that would be an enormous correction. Great writing, clear attractive art by Dan Jurgens. Here's hoping this book has a long life, exploring the many possible permutations of the DCU, as Booster serves as a living retcon device.

Countdown ##37-34
Let me say this once, calmly serene knowing I am correct: This is a good series. I will admit that I am not crazy about the artists that have been rotated through, but the stories themselves aren't bad. At least Countdown is following through with its promise of acting as "the backbone of the DC Universe." I read this after I have read everything else and I do not feel that I am missing out on anything, and I think it is filling in blanks for me quite nicely. People still become orgamsic discussing 52, but, to be honest, 52 did not fulfill its promise of filling in what happened during the missing year without Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and that the series, as good as it might have been, ran out of editorial control with its focus on just Doc Magnus, Steel, etc. I think the only reason DC released the World War III specials was less to dig into the sales of "World War Hulk" and more of a place to try to fill in all the caps that Johns, Rucka, et al. were not filling in 52.

Regarding Countdown, may I suggest that those who think that DC is forcing them to buy other titles is transferring their completest mindset to DC editorial. No one is making you buy the related titles, you anal fanboy you, and I think the story does not suffer for not reading them. Unclench and don't worry about the story than might be taking place over there if you have no desire to read that comic, or that the story in The Flash isn't perfectly in line with the current issue of Countdown. Read Countdown with a more open mind and make it the last book you read every week. I think you will find it is serving as a supportive structure to the DCU.