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.


C. Elam said...

Well, I realize we disagree on certain finer points of the whole CRISIS deal, but possibly not as much as it would seem at first blush. But that's neither here nor there right now, but rather a blog post for another day. I just want to say how happy I am you did THIS post, because you encapsulated for me many of the reasons I also found this book terrible.

I have probably more fondness for this silliness than you do, or Geoff frickin' Johns does for that matter. That doesn't excuse the blatantly phony characterizations that litter this comic. The way they turn on Power Girl on a dime at the end just because the other one shows up? That rang as false to me as anything in a typical amateur script attempt. Considering that the better part of the book is them convincing HER she belongs there, it made me wish the Psycho Pirate was lurking around the corner to explain the hokey ending. Alas, I expect it is not to be.

I liked the art, and it was nice to see the characters vaguely as I remembered them from my misspent youth. But when I first read about this book, all I could think was "You can't go home again". Turns out I was right. It makes you wonder what people who haven't known these characters for 20+ years would make of the comic. Assuming any of them would bother to buy it (or download it), of course.

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

Same here. Oh, and double for the last line of the entry.

Kazekage said...

Well, naturally--even my best friends disagree with me with on the finer points of. . .everything. :) You gotta admit though--stories like this really do make the case for something like Crisis, or seriously bolster it.

Oh I liked that Earth-2 was allowed to break some rules, actually--it was kind of cool that characters evolved and changed liked they did (Bruce Wayne as Gotham's police commissioner was an inspired twist) and I liked that it was an alternative to the usual DCU. Geoff Johns, naturally, revisits Earth-2, makes it as glum and nasty as DCU-Earth and generally misses the damn point. Yeah, I didn't get the sudden switch with the JSI turning on Power Girl either, especially given all the time they'd spent trying to sell us on the notion that she was the Sole Survivor of Earth-2 (that was one of the big things they tried to sell PG as, yeah?) I don't think adding Power Girl Classic into the mix does anything but muddy . . .or muddle . . .the waters.

I thought Jerry Ordway did as best he could with what he had, but given the story was a whole lot of people standing around sulking on rooftops, it looked like his heart wasn't in drawing it any more than I was interested in reading it.

C. Elam said...

With the benefit of hindsight, I can see where they wanted to go with CRISIS, but the results were too compromised to do anyone any good. It either needed to have been less extreme or MORE extreme for it to have worked. It ended up being both revisionist *and* wishy-washy, thereby taking the good that came from it and balancing it with plenty of bad. It was also still confusing, which is why plenty of folks wanted us where we are now. I'm not happy about that either. We'd all be better off trying to build the future instead of dwelling on the past.

And YES, after three or four years of teasing us with "Power Girl is from Earth-2", the bait and switch of that ending was ridiculous. I'm sure Geoff Johns is a nice enough guy, and maybe even a decent writer when the mood strikes him, but MAN.

Kazekage said...

Well, as I understand it, one of the initial plans was to re-start everything with a #1 issue and make a definite "new start" of it, but as DC didn't exactly have someone at the top with enough stroke to make that happen, everything was a bit befuddled and wishy-washy.

Mind you, that the solution is to bring the parallel earths and Barry Allen back is something I just can't get behind. It'd be better, I think, as you suggested, to make the best of what's there rather than jam the clock hard backwards, because at this point I expect Superman to do a deal with Satan any day now.

Yeah--you can't even complain that it was a case of too many cooks because it was the SAME WRITER at work on both stories. I used to like Geoff Johns back in the day, and every now and again (very rarely now) he comes up with cool stuff, but this kind of thing is just . . .gah.