A reader Rob said it best about DC in reaction to my column about the Batman family; the new DCU has left him feeling alienated and apathetic. It is a perfect expression about what the new DCU has done to me also. When I was a manager working for Citicorp/Citibank back in the 80’s I was a rather brash and some would say arrogant person. Some people liked me and some people hated me. My feeling was at least I left an impression. I never wanted to go through my life as a cypher. Apathy is more dangerous then being upset over changes, at least being upset you still care. Achieving apathy means you just no longer care.
I want to review/talk about three books from DC this week, that show that I still care just a little, but it is more about the reasons why they have pushed me further and further into the realm of apathy.
Justice League #9 is an atrocious book and a horrible book to be the flagship of the DCU. In it we have Geoff Johns CCO as writer and Jim Lee Co-Publisher as pencil artist and the book is making a zero impact on me. Geoff Johns’ characterization of the main characters has no resonance and in fact he makes each of them some sort of sad saps that we are suppose to feel sorry for, I guess. When you go and read Grant Morrison’s revival of the JLA back in the nineties and compare it to this, this book ranks below the JLA Detroit years. It opens with someone being killed and then we focus on Steve Trevor and this entire implied history about him and Wonder Woman. The Wonder Woman in these pages has no relationship to the Wonder Woman in her book. Then we focus on Batman and get a flashback of poor Bruce repainting his room after his parents died moping over not having a favorite color anymore. Next Superman is crying in a flashback about not being picked first for guys forming up teams when he was a child. Finally we get Cyborg moping over his Daddy issues. Fortunately we are treated to Steve Trevor being tortured to round out the book. These characters are not even reflective of their own books, except Cyborg who has no book and is now an integral member of the league and really has no background at all. The new Shazam origin by Geoff Johns is being used as a back up in the book. It has its moments, but it is Gary Frank’s wonderfully realized art that is taking this slow to develop story and making it in to more then it is at this point. Also Captain Marvel will never work with the costume that he has had traditionally, good luck trying to make him a character that can fit inside the DCU. Since I know they will be collecting this into its own book I realize that paying four dollars for a back up story makes no sense. I can no longer buy this comic and I have assigned this book to the cancellation side of the coin.
Let’s talk about a DC book that I’m enjoying and that is Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello and Tony Akins (usually Cliff Chiang). Issue #9 is just the next chapter in this wonderful and new take on the character. Gone are any hints of her being anything but Wonder Woman and gone is any impact of her living the traditional super hero life. Instead the book is stepped in the mythological aspects of the character. Right now Diana is about to marry Hades, as she made a deal with him to save Zola. The book has its flaws and if you poke too hard some of the logic can fall apart, but the suspension of disbelief that we accept coming into a comic is never dispelled. I loved seeing Diana dressed to be a bride and poor Hades worried about whether he is really loved or not. The cliff hanger where Wonder Woman has to pass the test of her own lasso of truth to prove she truly love Hades is going to end poorly. I miss Cliff’s work, but accept Tony Akins as a good second artist on the book to keep it coming out monthly. This has to be my favorite run on Wonder Woman ever, even surpassing the great 70’s experiment by DC of turning Wonder Woman into a powerless “modern” and groovy kung fu crime fighter. It was bizarre but great fun to read and this take is fun and yet elevates Wonder Woman into a true hero.
Nightwing #9 by Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows and Andres Guinaldo was a book that further redefines my apathy for most of the DCU. On one hand it was a cool story (no pun intended) of Dick overcoming great odds and putting down his great grand father who professes to be the greatest Talon of all time. On the other hand this new convoluted back story about the history of the Graysons is adding levels of complexity to a character that was never needed. Bruce lost his parents and was dark; Bruce adopted Dick after losing his parents and allowed Dick to be a lighter and brighter version of the hero Batman had become. That and being flawed is enough for any character. Again there is another part of me that likes the addition and changing characters back stories is de rigueur in comics. No matter what I continue to view this as a backward progression of the character since the new DCU. Also the promised private lives of the characters have never been developed at all. Finally the artwork is typical of what drives so many hero books. It goes for the big scenes and we have page designs that are convoluted for no reason. The seven panel page shown here of Nightwing and Talon’s fight is slanted and then broken into growing panel sizes. I get the last three are for the dramatic and cinematic effect. I won’t even get into how the car in the background was smashed totally in the prior page and is now almost okay. The dramatic effect to me is muted by slanting the panels for no reason. Nothing is gained in story telling by slanting those panels. Also switching to Dick’s point of view at that point did not add to the story either. The other page I scanned here is a scene of Dick’s great grandfather going to the Court of Owls. It is not hard to follow, but again why slant all of the panels. It only detracts from the story telling. Way too many artists choose wonky page designs for no reason. JH Williams III does some wonderful page designs and you can see he is thinking over and over how to make it a story telling choice as well as do something only a comic book can do. Williams choices work and sometimes fails, but you can see a thought process. This is just odd page design for odd page design. It is okay to have a standard grid format on pages. That way when you choose to do something different it is to enhance the story. Growing the panels for dramatic effect is okay, tilting every panel just because is not. All in all I will continue with Nightwing, but will also drop it pretty readily if the next arc is no good.
Now to wrap up the column I mentioned Adams in the title. I meant Neal Adams and I want to publicly ask that Neal stop doing comic book work. Neal Adams was one of the most influential artists in the business. Neal’s page designs and move to a more realistic style of artwork was one of the most innovative and most influential choices ever made. Neal broke the mold in many many ways and his heir apparent(s) are many, I may give Bryan Hitch the nod at this point with Ivan Reis. His work on Batman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, X-Men, Deadman and other books changed the face of comics. He, like Jack Kirby, has to be considered the absolute top two biggest influences for the silver age to the modern age of comics. His work on Batman Odyssey, Avengers and his Dark Horse Presents stuff is unreadable when written by him and over rendered from the art side. I wonder how much he does versus his studio, but regardless he is damaging his legacy. I think Kirby stayed way too long at the prom also and his work of the last few years was so clunky and blocky as to be an insult to the creator he was when he was younger. Age is not always a barrier, but often people have high points in their careers. Neal’s work is past that prime and it is hard for me to try and convince newer readers that you have to check out his work from the past when they see this stuff. Neal, I love your work and you will always be one of the kings of comics, but please rest on your laurels and devote your skills to other endeavors.
I have blathered on far too long again, I always think I have nothing to say until I start to type and then I can’t shut up. Next week’s list is way too big, Chew, Rebel Blood, Mind Mgmt (new series from Dark Horse and Matt Kindt, should be great), Ragemoor, Cobra, Smoke and Mirrors, Comic Book Comics GN, Lord of the Jungle, Warlord of Mars Dejah Thoris, Captain America, Fantastic Four, Hulk , Secret Avengers, Absolute Dark Victory, All Star Western, Aquaman, Batman Inc., Batman Dark Knight, Fables, GL New Guardians, I Vampire, Justice League Dark, Mad Archives Vol 3, Superman, Unwritten, Voodoo.
Come on back next Monday and let’s chat again.