Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly DC Comics Review – Part Two

Here’s the main point this week: skip the mega-crossover and just go pick up a good war comic.

Final Crisis 3

by Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones

I may end up being in a minority, because the grapevine says people are liking Final Crisis. I’m having a number of issues with it. My initial suspicions, that we are playing out a dream of Morrison’s going back several years is being borne out with every panel, as he introduces Frankenstein and Shilo Norman for a measly couple pages each. The discontinuities run rampant as Wally West’s daughter is still a young girl, not reflecting her current age in the Flash title, which is relatively minor overall.

The part that reads poorly is Jay Garrick’s description of what happened next. See, on one page, they race a bullet going backwards in time, but can’t catch up to it, costing Orion his life. The very next page, Jay explains that Death cannot travel faster than the speed of light, but Wally can. So if Wally can outrace Death, why couldn’t he save Orion? He’s certainly faster than a speeding bullet. I can just shrug it off and say that the bullet was too far along for them to catch up to in time, but the paradox presented is awkward, and the writer could have avoided the potential confusion and questions with just a tad more careful writing.

The rest of the issue jumps around too much, giving us shots of different players for only a page or two before skipping on to the next scene, with no editorial help to tie anything together, or to even identify certain people. Is Mohawk-kid from Infinity Inc.? I don’t collect that title, so how about at last letting the reader know his name? Apparently, that is too much for Morrison or any editor to be bothered. Turns out some internet research is necessary to reveal that he is Nix Uotan, a fallen Monitor. What does this mean for us? It means we get to deal with sub-par story elements from Countdown, which I would just as soon forget. Speaking of forget, Jimmy Olsen has already forgotten that Clark Kent is Superman. Looks like Morrison wanted to forget parts of Countdown too…

The cut-scene to the villains reads poorly, as Libra comes across as more of a runner for a drug lord than an all-powerful threat. The revelation comes that he is just a servant of Apokolips, which significantly decreases his stature. Then they drag up Article X to draft all super-heroes, which of course has never existed until Morrison wanted it. Gee, notice how all the super-heroes show up with no problem, avoiding the Civil War over registration issues? That certainly saved DC a lot of pages of story! Then we see a bunch of written letters (!?!?!), as well as a torn mail envelope at Supergirl’s feet to draft her. Does this mean it took three-to-five days to just get the message to everyone?!? Hey, at least they make sure to give us a shot of Black Canary in a lacy red bra, because we know that what all self-respecting super heroes wear under their fighting togs, right? It was quite possibly the most exciting panel in the entire comic.

There are actually a ton of continuity problems, and I have barely scratched the surface. There is at least one dead heroine in the group shot of draftees, for example. The piece that takes the cake, though, is the one time Morrison tries to give us an honest clue of what is happening. Oracle tells us that someone from Bludhaven has e-mailed everybody on Earth that has an e-mail address (funny, I didn’t get my copy…); why didn’t the super heroes use this to gather their team instead of the Post Office? No wonder they’re going to lose! But I digress…

Anyway, Oracle can somehow know that the e-mail went to everyone on the planet. How does she know? It’s technological magic, ladies and gentlemen! She says this isn’t possible, and they need to shut down the internet. She shouts out to pull the plugs. She reminds me of Senator Ted Stevens, claiming the internet is a series of tubes. What’s really impossible is how one woman sitting at her computer can possibly know that everyone else on the planet got the same e-mail as it is happening.

This is the sloppiest writing I have ever seen from Morrison, and there are only four more issues to go, if you don’t count the endless series of other limited series you are supposed to buy in order to understand one-tenth of what is going on here. The fact that I have been reading comics for decades and am into continuity more than your average bear, and I still have to go look things up, is your official hint that this is a mess. The art is fairly good, that’s the only positive thing I can say about it.


Hawkman Special 1

by Jim Starlin and Al Milgrom

It’s a Rann/Thanagar War tie-in, and Hawkman is kidnapped by Demiurge, a seemingly omnipotent being who has been hiding and attempting to appear inconsequential for a while, for reasons we can only hope to learn some day. The main thrust of the issue is to reveal that Hawkman has been tampered with, and unveil pre-Crisis history to him. This can be interesting, or it could be a big continuity mess, depending on how things develop. They have made a valiant attempt in the past few years to “clean up” the character of Hawkman, and this could rip everything wide open.

Demiurge points out some obvious problems with Hawkman’s knowledge of his own past, even though Demiurge admits that he doesn’t know everything himself, which puts the lie to his claims of being all-powerful. Will it be revealed, who the official entity was that grafted parts of Earth-1 Hawkman and Earth-2 Hawkman together? Wait and see. Hawkman is identified as one of the Aberrant Six, which could mean anything at this point. A story that has to be taken in context with how it ends, it is impossible at this point to say whether is it good or not.

The art was good, that’s a start. Trying to read it as a standalone, it looks like they are opening a Pandora’s box, involving pre-Crisis events. Whether it makes for a great story or makes everything in the DC Universe worse is anybody’s guess at this stage, but it has been enjoyable for me so far.


Trinity 10

by Kurt Busiek, Mark Bagley, Fabian Nicieza, Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens

If you go back to Trinity #8, there is a clue for the astute reader. Superman is shown battling a robotic menace, and it looked like a throwaway fight that meant nothing. They could have spent half an issue showing him duking it out with the threat, but there were only a few panels. Here’s the cool thing: the robot was a melded mass of differently-colored parts, eerily reminiscent of the different colors of the Metal Men. That was a clue. This issue, we find out they are the Metal Marauders, and it leads us to the source of some recent dimensional-crossing threats. This is what makes Busiek so cool: he doesn’t give us throwaway fights, he has a point for each thing he shows us, helping to build upon each other until we have a killer story.

Here’s where we test and see if Busiek is really bugging my column: Batman takes charge and starts barking out orders to the League, and everybody goes along. He has done this in the past, but Canary is the field team leader now. Will she confront him about this? Or has the strong-willed, independent Canary become a little birdie pushover? Either way, this story reads tons better than Final Crisis, although it is weird to see the whole modern team assembled here, while (almost) everywhere else, Batman is missing.

John Stewart makes a comment to Batman after trying to duck out of a mission, “We work with what we have, not with what we wish we did.” It is a peculiar phrase to use, because former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used something very close in a press conference in real life, regarding the supplying and training of troops going to Iraq. His point was that you try to prepare as best you can, but when a crisis hits, whatever you have ready is what you have to send. The very nature of a real-time crisis prevents you from taking additional months to train and equip your soldiers differently. At the time, Rumsfeld was chopped off at the head in the press for making such a statement, but it is fitting that Stewart, who has military experience, says the same thing. The statements are so similar, are political issues seeping into comics more than usual?

As good as Bagley’s art is, it is a little cartoony, so when Superman loses his temper, it does not have the impact that other artists could convey. Still, I like the fact that Superman saw innocents in danger and jumped to the rescue immediately. Too many people in Marvel and DC have been showing civilians getting killed rampantly, and heroes shrugging and just doing what they feel they can, sometimes trying to track the “bigger picture,” even as they let innocents die. This is a change form the way super heroes used to operate, and it’s good to see Superman remind the others of this. It is also arguably reminiscent of the idea that America should not be standing by and letting innocents suffer around the globe, and we should be doing something about it, not sitting on our hands claming that we are helpless to really change anything. Again, is this a political thing coming up, or just the resurrection of classic heroics and defense against injustice?

The last page is a little funny, Jimmy Olsen cries out, “It’s Jimmy!” Not, “It’s me, Jimmy!” Just “It’s Jimmy!” Hilarious. Thanks for letting us know who that was, but it would have been better if someone else could have recognized him for us.

The backup story is better than usual, has a little action, and great interaction between Nightwing and Robin, which is no accident by my guess, since Nicieza is doing the same thing over in the Robin title. The way Dick teases Tim is great. The plot develops nicely in the backup feature too, making me more interested in the second part of the issue than I have been before now.


Storming Paradise 2

by Chuck Dixon and Butch Guice

It’s time for a conventional invasion of Japan. Will it take years? Hours? Historians have debated this ever since the bomb went off in real life, but now we get a comic that plays out the history for us, complete with cool scenes of sea battles, and the tragedy of kamikaze pilots. On the shore, peasants are lined up and children given grenades to help combat the American invaders. This is not nearly as fictional as we might prefer to believe, as Japan did actually have some training and instructions for their women and children to resist a land invasion to the point of suicide.

By the time this series is done, people might better understand why using a nuclear weapon to end the war actually took fewer enemy Japanese lives than would have been lost in a conventional invasion, to say nothing of the American lives spared. I highly recommend this title.
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Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.

"Turns out some internet research is necessary to reveal that he is Nix Uotan, a fallen Monitor."

Why was internet research necessary to find out something that's established in the first two issues?

-- Posted by: Kelson at August 10, 2008 8:11 PM

Because it was a month ago, and I literally forgot. One of the hazards when you read forty titles a month. The writers used to be kind enough to give you a name to a person once in a magazine, rather than require you to have all the other issues by your side to go look things up. It's one of the niceties that everybody in the comic biz used to do, but is dying out.

I try to approach the comics form an outside view, and point out things that are inhospitable to bringing in new readership. This is definitely one title from which new people should stay away. The regular DC people who have been reading DC for ten years or more, come on in.

-TP

-- Posted by: tpull at August 10, 2008 10:44 PM

The funny thing is, I keep seeing posts by people who are relative newbies to DC who are following Final Crisis just fine. It's the people who have been following DC for a while who seem to be having the most trouble with it. I've come up with a theory that up to a point, increased knowledge of the DCU actually makes Final Crisis harder to understand:
http://speedforce.org/2008/08/final-crisis-theory/

-- Posted by: Kelson at August 11, 2008 1:19 PM

That's not a bad theory! I like the way of looking at the rest of the stuff as bonus, like the extra scenes on a DVD.

-TP

-- Posted by: tpull at August 11, 2008 9:18 PM

The continuity problems are squarely on the shoulders of DC editorial. You have to remember that Final Crisis was written before Countdown. Morrison did not have the benefit of the knowledge of where Countdown was going to leave the DC Universe. The scripts were finished so early partially to give JG Jones a head start on the art duties. This explains why Jimmy doesn't remember Clark is Superman and there was a dead heroine in the art.

Anyway, shouldn't you be forgetting about Countdown? That's what I'm trying to do.

-- Posted by: Simon MacDonald at August 13, 2008 10:52 PM