Thursday, April 30, 2009

Because There Isn't Enough Bitching About The BSG Finale --STILL--

This was too good not to share.

If ever I get to be in any way shape or form someone of consequence, I totally never want to be on these guys' bad side. While nominally fans of Doctor Who, listening to their podcasts, one gets the idea it's about as healthy a relationship as Dennis Hopper and Isabella Rossellini's in the movie Blue Velvet.

It is, on the whole, a lot funnier, and therefore more OK thank Blue Velvet.

What does this have to do with anything? In their latest podcast, in addition to coming up with the perfect definition for Twitter ("it's a way that famous people can ignore you while simultaneously showing off in front of you") they also take the following shot at Battlestar Galactica, the beginning of which I am moved enough to transcribe for you (it st arts about 3:30 in):

"Are you the creator of a cult television programme with a complicated story arc? Have you written yourself into a corner? Are you endlessly grappling with pigeon symbolism? Well stop worrying, because help is just a phonecall away! Call . . .GOD!

"The Lord God Almighty can dig a lazy writer out of any stubborn plot hole. Got a dead character you want to bring back to life? Call . . .GOD!

"Can't figure out how to logically explain that really cool off the cuff plot contrivance that seemed like a pretty good idea at the time? Then pick up the phone and ask God for a free, no-obligation quote. And for heaven's sake, don't waste your time writing a satisfying and coherent denouement for your story. No! Simply drop in some airy-fairy religious nonsense and turn four years of metaphysical debate into a Sunday school sermon for idiots! Then sit back and hope for the fucking best!

The only thing you have to lose is your audience's respect. So don't delay--Give God a call today!"

It gets even funnier from there. Also, transcribing that was a pain in the ass and so you should totally go download the whole thing to salve my wounded feelings. Also, very quickly after they answer the question on everyone's lips (which is "Should Doctor Who fans really be criticising anyone else's plotting?"--yes. Russell T. Davies has taught us to bitterly fear and hate the deus ex machina, possibly because he's used it eight million times a series) They also take some shots at Dollhouse, as if they knew the illustrious Diana Kingston-Gabai would be somewhat more interested in that case.

Things get a bit more inside baseball from there, but the first 13 minutes are actually comprehensible to people other than obsessive Doctor Who fans and other highly evolved neurotics and can be enjoyed by all.

You know, I just thought of this--maybe the Prattle needs a Doctor Who week? How many of the three readers would survive after six days of that, I wonder?

Saturday, April 25, 2009


As promised yesterday, for the final day of Anti-Hero week, instead of digging up another famous anti-hero (a shame, too--I had a lot of good things to say about Enemy Ace) I thought I'd look at what growing up with and absorbing the lessons of all this anti-hero jazz had wrought on my writing.

As I hate talking about myself in any way that might intimate that what I do is important, I apologise for it right at the top here and promise we'll be right back to familiar territory next time.

Right, so, I've talked about GUNMETAL BLACK before--in terms of plot structure, at any rate--back when I talked about Myth Arcs a while back, but it's worth getting into the nitty gritty of it a little morseo. I'd just spent four years working on the first draft of the other big story and something about coming off that at the same time I was going through some stuff, and was more than a little angry.

I wanted to do something different, and something with more of an edge. Paradoxically, I didn't want to go too far--if comics have taught me anything, the "more is more" approach to sex and violence aspires to demonstrate how "grown up" the author is the exactly the kind of thing I never need to see again in my short life on this planet. Being a fan of film nor (actual film noir, not whatever goes on in Frank Miller's jerkoff fantasies) I knew you could achieve a certain tone without needing a whole bunch of allegedly shocking stuff.

Think of it like the tone of your voice--how something is said informs on something as much as the text and can add colour to things.

So, I had a tone, now all I needed was a character. In the embryonic stages, GUNMETAL BLACK'S lead character, Kienan Ademetria, owed a lot to the first three characters I mentioned at the beginning of the week--at first he was a hyper-competent assassin in the mold of Hunter Rose and Diabolik, but that soon fell away, because it seemed to me, a hyper-competent master assassin/thief has little more than one story to tell, and that's That One Time He Fails (Being that both are long-lived characters, clearly this is a failure of vision on my part) Once those fell off, I was left with something more in the vein of Golgo 13.

Which is fine, of course--How Does (Or Doesn't) He Pull It Off is a rich storytelling engine and one you can pretty much fire off at will--heist films use it all the time, right? But as I was planning a big Myth Arc, I would need a little more than the episodic to keep it going. There needed to be a more personal edge to it.

To be somewhat contrary, I portrayed my lead character as completely non-communicative, and yet, we dwell a lot in his personal life. It seemed like a worthwhile challenge to try and write something where a lot f character beats were left unspoken (OK, not that hard--some TV shows do it all the time, but here I'm talking in the sense of "leaving them unspoken by the characters, yet fully comprehensible and deeply felt.")

So I had the idea for a extraordinarily gifted assassin who, in between spectacular capers, leads a very stark and lonely life, and over the course of the Myth Arc he might be able to come back to himself and, if not reform, be able to break through as isolation so heavy as to be lethal.

That's how I saw it.

Authors who have paid homage to it or done straight fanfic, not so much. The surface allure of being an anti-hero, of being able to thumb your nose at The Man and be rewarded for it is a romantic idea and a hella powerful one. Not just in my story--in all stories, in all media. Whether its the Corleones or whatever street tug cut a rap album and made good this week--it's so ingrained in the collective unconscious it's sub-meme at this point.

In short, people like it, and that's fine. Unless it's just the surface element of what you're doing, and then, it will slowly drive you insane.

But never mind all that---hopefully in this long and rambling diatribe I've walked you through how the anti-heroes who caught my interest in my youth informed on my creation of an anti-hero of my own later on.

If not, then I probably need to make these things more planned out and less rambling.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Back in the mid-80's, when the big companies wanted to get rid of the scrub villains and failed heroes that inevitably clutter up long-running comic publishing concerns, the Big Two started up two distinct schemes.

Marvel's was the Scourge of the Underworld, or as one wag put it "Marvel's Immune System." Basically, the Scourge was an empty suit, almost literally--whenever there were a load of useless one-off villains around (if a villain had appeared in Marvel Team-Up or Marvel Two-In-One, they were pretty much dead meat) here came the Scourge to kill the hell out of them. He wasn't a particularly interesting character, but then, he wasn't meant to be. He was a walking plot function, and when he'd finished the job (we'll always remember you, Turner D. Century) he was promptly snuffed out.

It was one way to do it, for sure, but it wasn't particularly interesting apart from providing the usually fairly staid Mark Gruenwald run of Captain America a body could almost at Miracleman levels.

Over at DC, what deadwood hadn't been tossed in the bin after Crisis on Infinite Earths presented another problem--even if every DC book every month ran with the idea of killing an ineffectual bad guy, the amount of crummy Firestorm villains alone would have kept them doing it until the turn of the century. Surely there was another way to deal with this junk in an interesting way. Even better, it might rehabilitate some of these guys and show some heretofore unrealized potential in them.

Most of all, the hope was that it might get people to read the otherwise dreadful Legends crossover, a crossover now remembered (if at all) for launching the Giffen-era Justice League and our subject for today: The Suicide Squad.

Suicide Squad, like Blake's 7, used the tried-and-true Dirty Dozen model for its storytelling engine. Unlike the ragtag band of revolutionaries comprising the Seven, the Squad had a much more pragmatic remit--criminals (and fallen heroes, occasionally) received a commuted sentence if they survived the mission they were selected for. Try to escape or double-cross the people in charge, and you got your arm blown off (if you were lucky)

As storytelling engines go, it's pretty durable. Using supervillains means you can tell stories in a meaner milieu with a group of ruthless characters. Moreover, as the characters are disposable at will pretty much, it can foster a sense that anything can happen. Put all this together and you have a book full of characters that can die at any time, and aren't the most pleasant people besides, and well, you have a book that's rather dark indeed.

But if that was all it was, I would probably roll my eyes and label it as a blueprint for the sorry state DC comics is in currently--naturally adding some bonus points for disposing of as many Firestorm villains as they did.

But Suicide Squad achieved far more. For one thing, despite being a book where the unspoken expectation was that everyone would die, they managed to create a core of intriguing characters, one of whom was Amanda Waller. She's been bent in several plot-convenient directions since then but in her element in the title, her complicated relationship with the Squad (occasionally a tool of power and often, in some ways, a lifeline) In addition to creating an enduring character, the book also rehabilitated two characters who'd been drifting around the d-list for awhile.

Bronze Tiger was a little known character--famous for little more than killing the original Batwoman and being one of the few black characters created in the 70's who didn't have "Black" somewhere in their codename. Constantly riding the line between "hero" and "villain," Bronze Tiger personified the line between the heroes, the nominal heroes, and the villains within the Squad.

If Bronze Tiger personified the borderline between hero and villain, Captain Boomerang stakes out the "villain" side of the equation. Completely venal and always out for himself, yet competent in his own way, Boomerang was the straw that stirred the drink, and incidentally always kept the team on this side of self-destructing.

Somewhere in the middle, staking it out his own bizarre stretch of territory, was Deadshot. While Deadshot's done the best out of all the Suicide Squad alumni in terms of visibility (still appearing in the vastly overrated Secret Six to this day) and continuous popularity despite being dragged into some really dodgy storylines over the years. Deadshot's character an be summed up thus: having nothing left to live for, he wants to die, preferably as audaciously as possible. Of the characters I mentioned, it's particularly telling that Deadshot was the one that got his own mini-series back in the day.

Unusually for its time, Suicide Squad had a fairly good run for a determinedly mid-list book, left to its own devices for the most part until it was finally dragged down by yet another lame DC crossover (War of the Gods, a storyline so terrible I'm not even going to look up a Wiki link for you) but, like the other anti-heroes I've cited this week, it made an impression at the time, and certainly informed my own approach when the time came for me to develop my own anti-hero.

Next Time: Kazekage talks about himself and his writing and is apologising in advance for it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


To this dismay of many, and to further whittle away any credibility (HA!) I have as a critic of entertainment of any stripe, in my formative years, I watched a lot of Doctor Who. I remember distinctly that it used to come every afternoon on PBS, right after Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and even to my young, unsophisticated five-year-old mind, managed the heretofore thought impossible task of making Mister Rogers world (in which his man-cave/babe lair is a gateway to another world full of puppets and a light rail system) seem so much less gonzo than what was going on in Doctor Who.

I won't get into that here--Doctor Who, not being an anti-hero, is not going to be covered this week. I bring him up, because just about the time I was getting my head around Doctor Who, another show came over from Britain, and it functioned as night-and-day from the bizarre, but ultimately light-hearted Doctor.

Enter Blake's 7. Blake's 7 shares a lot in common with Who--they were both BBC shows, and both frequently at times looked as if the budget had been assembled in much the same way as you and your friends throw in money to cover a dinner bill when you all go out to eat. But, just as Who transcended its cheap and cheerful milieu with its own quirky charm, Blake's 7 transcended it's low-budget by being . . .well, dark.

Our lead character is a former revolutionary who got his memory erased, then got captured again and railroaded to life in prison, his entire crew is comprised of fellow criminals who barely get along at he best of times, they're hopelessly outnumbered by Federation, and the Federation are actually pretty competent, all things being equal . Their one advantage--the Liberator--is barely under their control at times, and when it gets destroyed they have to settle for a far inferior ship.

. . .and oh yeah [SPOILER] Everyone dies at the end.

Despite the fact that like Doctor Who it was done on the cheap and there's something about British actors in "futuristic" attire that makes a "camp it up to ridiculous levels" switch flip to "on" in their brains, but for my impressionable enough mind, it was one of my first experiences with the concept of the anti-hero, and even more importantly, a facet of it wherein the characters were just as much "hero" as they were "anti." I was too young to appreciate the deeper conflicts in the show, such as the one between Blake's freedom fighters and the totalitarian Federation, or the give and take between Blake's idealism and Avon's cynicism and how both of them drifted in the others direction from time to time.

None of that much mattered to my impressionable Star Wars-picked brain--I just wanted to see spaceships and ray-guns and stuff like that. My appreciation of the deeper stuff came later, and formed the backbone of my appreciation for the anti-hero later in life, and as such, was a worthy addition to Anti-Hero Week and not something I pulled out of my ass at the last minute or anything.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


It's funny how these entries have built on one another. Monday we took a look at Golgo 13, who is about as basic badass as you can get--everything he does is awesome if not superhuman and he has absolutely no character . . .and that's all purely intentional. Yesterday it was Diabolik's turn, and he's got much the same sort of storytelling engine as Golgo 13.

Today we look at a character who's explicitly referencing Diabolik: Grendel.

The first one, specifically. Hunter Rose.

Like Diabolik and Golgo 13, Hunter is an assassin, and a great one. Like Diabolik, he's also superhumanly brilliant, physically gifted, and cunning, although in Hunter's case it has more to do with that old standby of pseudo-science "increased brain capacity" and all that. But it's certainly an evolution of the concept, as we'll hopefully see.

On the surface, Hunter screams "Mary Sue" from every mountaintop. Mind, he also screams "This was a character the author made when he was nineteen." Let's see--gifted but shunned by society, rises to brilliance, unbeatable yet not superhuman, can get away with a mullet as an adult, banged an older woman . . .yeah, you wouldn't think this would work necessarily.

But at the beginning, it's style as substance--the story gains its power and the reader's interest through how it's presented. Ignoring the first four black and white issues and looking at Devil By The Deed, it handles an essentially problematic character by inserting a distancing mechanism in the storytelling--Matt Wagner doesn't have to worry about Hunter being interesting or relatable, because he's built a self-contained storyline, told as a recounting of his infamous life. In addition to making the storytelling engine function smoothly, it also lays the track for the longevity of the concept: "anyone can be Grendel."

But that's a topic for later. Hunter is the odd man out when it comes to the Grendel lineage, as he's so rooted to conventions of the past (whatever else you may say about it, when Grendel returned as a new series, it never long returned to the somewhat more conventional tone of the early Hunter stuff) which don't really carry forward with the later Grendels. Meanwhile, here Hunter is, straddling the middle ground between noirish crime story and Batman villain (indeed, in Batman/Grendel he rather explicitly walks a line between master manipulator and costumed menace. And not badly either, I should say.) Hunter stays on the shelf for the most part as Grendel develops as a title and a concept. Where's the need for him to be there--the conception has changed into something quite different.

When Wagner returns to Hunter later on, his conception of the character's changed. The last of the superhero-esque trappings and all are gone. They're more noirish crime stories, by and large, and they have a far more brutal edge than before. Our distancing mechanism is still in place, of course, but the purpose for it has changed, mostly because the author's attitude towards Hunter has changed.

Hunter is less the extraordinary golden boy, motivated by extraordinary gifts and boredom to a life of crime into something inhuman, evil, and merciless--a bit Hannibal Lector-ish, actually. Held up to his previous portrayal, it's as if Wagner had much more misgivings about what he was doing 25 years later--so often what we think is cool when we're 19 is a bit puerile and adolescent later on. So Hunter is a horrible person that we are expected to have no sympathy with at all--Wagner's actually said as much in interviews.

Unfortunately, this new approach doesn't make for terribly compelling reading. For two reasons.

One, we know how the story ends, if we've read Devil by the Deed. This means nothing substantial is going to happen without being negated by the end of the story or revealed as filigree for the larger plot, and therefore meaningless--if we'd needed to know it, we would have heard about it by now.

Being that these new stories are obvious filigree, they're also pretty repetitive--Grendel ruins someone's life, or kills someone, or Stacy fumes and gets a little bit crazier, setting up the important stuff we've read elsewhere.

There's a lesson here in going to the well once too often I'd imagine. It's probably the nature of the beast--Grendel works best as an ever-evolving concept that continually moves forward at a fever pitch--revisiting any chapter of it carries the risk of bogging the momentum down, which fundamentally damages the storytelling engine.

Next Time: I . . .have no idea. I'll think of something.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Anyone who's ever read a copy of Heavy Metal probably doesn't need to hear me say that European comics are might strange to us colonial types. It's not just the extreme violence and sexual content (although if you're fourteen and just bought a copy of Heavy Metal, that's probably all you care about. It's a grand tradition, I'm sure.) a close reading of them tends to lead you to a pronounced anti-authoritarian streak--not only in the characters chosen, but European comics creators seemed to take great delight in flicking the finger at any established order, be it formal (ever notice some Euro comics have a certain loose, dreamlike quality, like they don't give a rat's ass about traditional plot structure?) or concrete--Euro comics love their rebels.

I've heard a couple reasons for this tendency--most involve the mood of the people in most of the countries in past WWII Europe. Most of them had come of age in the wake of impossibly corrupt wartime regimes who wielded their powers like a cudgel. Add that to the fact the Europe was that the crucible for the Cold War and most of the populace doubtlessly didn't fully trust anyone with a badge.

It also doesn't hurt that Europe has a tradition of pulp anti-heroes--characters like Fantomas, Arsene Lupin and Dr. Mabuse, despite being the main characters of their respective stories, are either thieves, murderers, or megalomaniacs (and in Mabuse's case, all three) Pulp heroes in America used to straddle the line between good and evil in this same way (witness The Shadow) but that greyness fell away as comics overtook the pulps.

Into this fertile ground comes heroes a new generation of post-war anti-hero, best symbolized by Diabolik.

Diabolik is an institution in Italy--for 40+ years his adventures have been in regular publication. He shares a common ancestry with the aforementioned classic Euro heroes--like Lupin, he's a master thief, like Fantomas (uses a knife as his primary weapon, is a master of disguise) and early on he was a murderous megalomaniac, like Mabuse (though he lacked the hypnosis angle)

Like Golgo 13, Diabolik is curious in how little he's actually evolved over the years. He's mellowed a bit (More Robin Hood than Mabuse, nowadays--that there was a kids cartoon in Europe a few years back wherein Diabolik was a hero boggles my mind) but the basic storytelling engine is this:

Diabolik steals things, and intermittently kills people. His only companion is his partner in crime, Eva Kant, and they have a wonderfully healthy relationship based on their mutual interest in stealing things and killing people. So committed are they to their lifestyle, they bought matching cars.

(Note: For you fans of Grant Morrison's X-Men run, this will doubtless seem terribly familiar)

Diabolik and Eva are usually pursued (unsuccessfully) by Inspector Ginko, who is portrayed as a tough and competent adversary despite the fact that he's been unsuccessfully chasing the same guy for decades, now.

That's the basic conceit. Now, I should mention here I haven't actually read any Diabolik comics. My primary exposure comes from the tremendous, trippy and utterly wonderful filmic record of his adventures: Danger: Diabolik.

The thumbnail description of the movie would be: It's a James Bond movies from the point of view of a Bond Villain who is also James Bond, directed by someone from the old Batman TV show blasted out of his gourd on LSD.

It begins with Diabolik stealing $10 million out from under the police's nose and Diabolik and Eva taking their ill-gotten gains back to his swank Batcave-esque layer (complete with rotating bed--welcome to the Swinging Sixties) where they decide to chuck all the cash on the bed and get it on in ways that Scrooge McDuck probably never even considered in all his trips to his Money Bin.

This movie is pretty much one set-piece like that after another. Daibolik doesn't steal for personal gain as you might imagine--he really does what he foes for Eva and against Ginko and the government he represents. In between spectacular heists, Diabolik makes a mockery of a tough-on-crime press conference and, when the government turns up the heat in their pursuit of him, bankrupts the entire country by blowing up the tax offices.

There's a definite element of escalation that runs through the film. Ginko responds to this with an inspired plan or two--leaning on the criminal element to flush out Diabolik and when that fails, melts the entire gold reserve of his country into one gigantic, impossible to steal ingot, which Diabolik promptly steals and melts down again. Unfortunately, Ginko uses the gold to track Diabolik back to his lair and we're given a definite impression that This May Be It For Our, Uh, Hero.

But then, Diabolik's spent most of the movie beating the odds in the face of all reality, so really, why should this be any different?

This is very much a movie of it's time--the style is early-to-middle 60's Bond (on a budget) with a little camp, a lot of trippiness, and a distinctly late-60s anti-establishment theme that not only fit well with the times, but fit well with the character (there was a time when a few wags on the Internet described this as the closest comic-to-film translation ever) and whatever else you may think of it, it never once drags or flags from its frenetic pace. Teleport City wisely calls it "style as substance" in their review, and that's as good a description as any, both for the movie and for the character.

Like Golgo 13, the peculiar tone and mood of the stories is the star of the show, even more than the nominal character. And, needless to say, it's pretty awesome.

Next time: GRENDEL

Monday, April 20, 2009


[Yeah, I do theme weeks here. This week (or as many days as I remember to or until I get bored) we look at those guys who aren't quite villains, but damn sure aren't heroes. Yes, this week is all about the good bad guys, or as we call them, the anti-heroes]

OK, I'm going to get this out of the way first. Jog, another member in good standing of The Savage Critics has covered Golgo 13's history and major themes in far more detail and far better than I ever will here, here, and here. In consequence, the following article will be more in the spirit of my personal reading on the character. But I totally urge you to read those two articles.

Golgo 13 is one of the least best-known Japanese properties out there.

Let me explain that.

My first exposure to Golgo 13 was Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode on the NES, which was a real "cult" game, even around the time it came out. Slightly mangled in translation, it was a fairly standard plot involving uber-assassin Golgo 13 sniping, kicking, punching, and generally being awesome as he fights his way through assassins, frogmen, annoying 3D mazes and brains in jars who are also Nazis, pretty much.

It was a demon bastard of a game to finish, let me tell you. But a lot of people who played it have really fond memories of it. Partly because it was a very different style of game than we were used to in those halcyon days of the NES. It's commonplace today, but trust me, restoring your health via packs of cigarettes and casual 8-but sex in between times when you graphically blow someone's brains out . . .yes, all this got left in the game. But they edited out the Nazis. You tell me what it all means.

It had a different tone, if that makes any sense--the plot was complex (convoluted) and the general mood of the game was harsh and brutal. It didn't take long to fail and there was nothing to really blunt the sting of failure. It was juvenile and grown-up in a way that appeals to the pre-teen mind--convinced he's older than he actually is. See also: comics nowadays.

Anyways, that faded into the background and a few years later, just as the whole anime thing was starting to get off the ground in America and I got a hold of The Professional: Golgo 13, which, even for the "anime is like cartoons but EXTREEM" bent of the time . . .again, was a little different.

For one thing, us Americans got an unexpurgated look at Golgo 13 in action and this too, was a revelation. For one thing--it's probably one of the most amoral (if not immoral--man, this movie is downright nasty in ways I didn't know it was possible to be) movies I've seen, and for another, the hero is almost defiantly aloof.

Golgo 13, for the uninitiated, is a character wholly without character. There are certain tics the character has (being near-superhuman in many many ways, chiefly in terms of marksmanship), but read a couple chapters of his manga and you'll notice he's barely there, really. He hardly speaks, we never get a sense of his interior monologue, and in some stories he doesn't show up at all. None of the expected mechanisms by which a writer makes a connection with the character are present.

That absence of character makes him a hard character to know or identify with, and, in fact, I'm not sure that you're supposed to. Most of the Golgo 13 stories I've read focus more on the motives of the people who hire him and the mechanics of the job (Golgo 13 is almost unheard of in that it is both gun porn and physics nut porn at times--few comics will ever explain what's involved in shooting something in the vacuum of space, but this one will) than anything Golgo 13 thinks about it.

I'm fascinated by this storytelling engine--it's at once complex and utterly simplistic. Somehow, a continuing series about a character who is utterly static has lasted 30+ years and doesn't really feel stale Admittedly, reading all 13 volumes released in the past few years in one sitting could be a bit numbing, but then you aren't supposed to--Golgo 13 prides itself on each story being a self-contained unit, there's little continuity between stories.

On the surface, this should be the kind of thing I hate--after all, a character's been around for 30 years with absolutely no change? But the concept succeeds--for me, anyway--with how it plays against my expectations. In how it works around Western expectations of this kind of story (it's worth mentioning here that Golgo 13 began life as something very close to the 60's-era James Bond, but has become something very different) and develops such a unique voice that the voice and the style of the stories are so unique that it's what I, as a reader, respond to.

It shouldn't work, and yet it does.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Time was, Earth-2 (that parallel Earth where the Justice Society was still fighting crime well into its emeritus years) was one of those things you only really saw during big-time Justice League stories and occasionally when they needed to fill some pages in Adventure Comics. Later on, it was Roy Thomas' personal sandbox, until Crisis happened, and then it became his albatross.

It was a funny fictional conceit when you think about it, because of how many rules that it was able to break, being the alternative to the regular DC continuity. Characters were allowed to age and die and retire, new characters took over from the old . . .it was intriguing stuff, especially when DC really ran with the "legacy hero" stuff in earnest years later.

(As an aside, with Barry Allen and Hal Jordan now walking around for reasons no more or less than writer fiat, I think we can now declare the "Legacy hero" stuff over and done with, yeah?)

Anyways, then Crisis happened. This made a lot of people terribly upset and has been widely regarded as a bad move. Most of said people started writing comics, and, once ensconced in positions of power, began to undermine the new status quo.

But they undermined it piecemeal, and as a result, DC comics, which demands that the reader absolutely, positively comprehend without fail a huge amount of continuity simply to get their heads around what the hell is going on in just one book, has devolved into a hopelessly confusing mess where the creative minds in charge can't even keep things straight on one fictional Earth, never mind 52 of them.

But surely the incredible story potential of this new status quo will justify the haphazard way we got here, right? Surely now that these fans-as-creators have forcibly turned the clock back to where they wanted it (never mind what the people who pay to read this might have wanted) the welter of great stories that will result will justify everything. Won't they?

Won't they hell.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA ANNUAL #1 perfectly distills everything wrong with DC's approach in on $4 package. We begin with the Alex Ross cover. Now that Ross' painting has adopted the "shinier the better" approach, everything is far too bright and the focus of the composition (Power Girl, so happy that she's back home she's moved to tears, which, thanks to Ross' inability to convey subtle emotion, looks twisted and freakish is pretty much lost in the the glare.) How the hell do you make a cover this shiny without a glossy finish?

The actual story begins on rather bad footing--Jerry Ordway, in a sense returning to the start of his career, makes a game effort in rendering this stuff adequately, but he's let down by Geoff Johns' script, which is full of people being mopey and generally sulky about being a superhero.

The story begin and continues as a throughline how sulky the Huntress is (for those of you who came in late--the Earth-2 Huntress is Batman and Catwoman's daughter. This will become important later) because the Joker, in an effort to recreate Two-Face, has thrown acid onto her boyfriend in an effort to make him the new Two-Face in one of those obnoxiously obvious moments DC is notorious for--namely, the Villains showing us They're Not Screwing Around Anymore. 2 pages in, and I'm already rolling my eyes.

While she's moping around, she discovers Power Girl's back, having been thrown there by . . .whatever the hell was going on in JSA proper--it's not important. Upon returning to Earth-2, Power Girl meets the Justice Society Infinity (a gestalt of Infinity Inc. and the Justice Society, who are very helpfully presented as plotese speaking functionaries without personalities or anything that would make you at all interested in learning more about them if you didn't know who they were already.) Hemming and hawing results and generally gets us nowhere interesting and PG and Huntress end up going after the Joker, who's dying and the Huntress wants to kill him because of what he did to her boyfriend and then Power Girl ends up stopping her from killing him and the Joker dies anyway and it all ends up for naught . . .

. . .because in yet another character-speaking-as-infodump moment, has a think for Dick Grayson which is rather squicky (because they're sort of related, kinda) and even that is subordinate to our Big Reveal--there's another Power Girl who's native to Earth-2 and she's back as well and she's really pissed off and she and Power Girl fight, Power Girl runs off and the JSI chases after her.

To be continued in other comics I will not bother to read, presumably.

You know, reading this, I can't imagine why Crisis seemed necessary at the time to clean up a baffling knot of continuity. I just can't see how it would be necessary at all to put all this gobbledygook on the shelf and start fresh so maybe someone without a degree in Advanced Comics would be enticed to read, and maybe even pay for them. Lord, what a mistake it was to throw all of this into the bin.

Look . . .Al Kennedy said it first and best Sunday: "This is comics about other comics." No more, no less. It's a Murray Ward Index with more pictures and seasoned with a pinch of ridiculous ideas straight out of slashfic. We just about let Watchmen get away with this, if only because it was a self-contained metatextual statement that only required you be cognizant of the typical forms of the superhero comic rather than the specifics. If we are this determined that this fanboy notion that Everything Must Fit Together And Not Forgotten (this is distinct from Everything Must Be Consistent), then superhero comics are not only dead, I'll happily dig their graves.

In short--I really did not like this comic very much and would rather I had not bought it or read it.