Friday, May 14, 2010


Geoff Johns utterly confounds me.

Unlike pretty much all my follow commenters on the Internet (e.g. the ones people actually read) who find Geoff Johns to be the most toxic sort of backward-looking nostalgia-mongering since that brief flash of madness where people really cared about what Alex Ross thought of the current state of superhero comics, full stop I actually find Johns ideas rather intriguing.

At least the ones he seems to stumble onto by accident on the way to something that really pisses me off, anyhow.

You see, I like the idea of the "rainbow Lantern" corps--I can totally get behind an "arms race" of power rings, as the idea that people just fall in line and accept the authority of the Green Lantern Corps seems to be rather flimsy and in need of explanation. The Time Trapper being a constantly-shifting sentient timeline? Liked that. Hawkman's stop-and-start rat's nest of continuity being explained as imperfect perpetual reincarnations? Very clever, I thought, even if it steamrolled over John Ostrander's Hawkworld/Hawkman stuff, which I quite enjoyed.

I was even able to find stuff to like in Blackest Night that helped the stuff I didn't (the zombies, the gore, the fact that you can pretty much skip to the last 3 issues because NOTHING HAPPENS UNTIL THEN EXCEPT GODDAMN ZOMBIES) I liked the idea of deputizing heroes and villains to serve as substitute Lanterns; I liked the idea that Earth was the actual cradle of life in the universe and the Guardians had hid that fact to protect Earth and justify their authority; I liked that Sinestro, of all people, got the White Lantern power.

But of course, all these bits get pissed away, on the way to Blackest Night's ultimate denouement, wherein a great lot of heroes and villains come back to life (funnily enough, most of them died in the gore-fests of the 2000s, now that I think of it) and Martian Manhunter gets some bloody pants, Firestorm's a white guy again (not that I often agree with Chris Sims, but his article on this tendency hit the nail on the head as to why this was a terribly worrying trend, and that was before they snuffed the Ryan Choi version of the Atom), Deadman is "aliveman," and here's goddamned Aquaman back and . . .well, things just kind of sputter to a stopping point because things don't really end in the Big Two's superhero comics, one just bounces on to the next thing like a ping-pong ball in a clothes dryer.

It's a really awful ending, as you're kind of geared up for this big-ass showdown that . . .never comes. The Deputy Lanterns are gonna take down Nekron and the Black Lanterns, only they don't. Then Sinestro (who looks like Hitler and is powered by White Power--why no Geoff, that doesn't look bad at all) and he doesn't. Then Hal Jordan gives his abominable "We came back to life because we didn't feel like being dead, so there!"speech and they can't beat them and then the cavalry finally rides in and . . .fucking Aquaman? Really? Really?

And even that doesn't really solve things to any satisfactory conclusion. Nekron just kind of explodes because it seems like a good idea at the time, Black Hand gets dragged off and things just kind of fizzle out, because by God, we've gotta have Brightest Day here next week.

One would imagine that Brightest Day, by it's very name, and because it deals with the aftermath of the DCU's darkest hour and ended with resurrection, that it would have a slightly cheerier remit. Surely, the heroes who'd been dead for some time would take some time, at least, to be grateful for their second chance at life, maybe grapple with the fact that time moved on slightly, maybe . . .

. . .yeah, right. This is DC we're talking about here. Brightest Day is about as glum and joyless a comic as it is possible to make with human hands, and bear in mind two things: One--it spins out of a limited series featuring zombies ripping people's hearts out.

Two--I've read every issue of the original Faust, and it's like bloody Planet Terry next to this. It's an utterly joyless grind wherein everyone who's resurrected slogs grimly through things when they're not actively whining about being alive, and of the three black people who get any face time in the story, one is a child-molesting pirate, one whines that Ronnie Raymond is a shit Firestorm (and he is) and the last one kills a whole fish market full of white people when he hears Aquaman's back because White Power Geoff doesn't care about black people and oh yeah, he's actually Black Manta.

Now, the idea that resurrecting Aquaman should drive anyone to anything but yawns and a deep sense of apathy is frankly silly enough, but the idea that Black Manta (whose superpower, as Seanbaby one remarked, is that "he owns a boat") was just marking time in a fish market because without Aquaman to pester, life had really lost its luster is just . . .fucking dumb.

And not really in keeping with Black Manta's characterisation. He's a black guy (and because he was a black guy, he had to have "Black" in his name because we might have gotten confused) who has plans to build a homeland for black people under water. So, uh, why the fish market job? Has the recession hit supervillainy as well? How is that gonna get you any closer to Underwakanda? You have a helmet that shoot fucking lasers, man. There's options.

What else is going on on this issue? Oh, the White Power has left a White Power Battery in the middle of the street which no one can lift except whoever's worthy, Deadman's whining about being alive, and Aquaman can only summon dead sea creatures who go 'round killing everyone, which, when you think about it, makes Aquaman about 75% more useful than he is the rest of the time.

You know before, when I said that Geoff Johns tends to create stuff that I find interesting by accident on the way to annoying me about something else? Yeah, well, there was absolutely nothing of that to distract me from how goddamned annoying this comic is, and when you consider that this week had an utterly gratuitous Titans issue wherein they killed off the other Atom (because Titans wasn't enough of a gore-fest to begin with--I swear; if Wolfman and Perez had it to do over again, with the benefit of hindsight, they'd never have done the Judas Contract if they knew what dire bilge would result from the generation that thought it was the kewlest thing evar) and Paul Jenkins wrote Stupid Fucking Paul Jenkins Comic #2314, Featuring The Sentry fighting very hard to collapse everything stupid and awful about superhero comics in the new millennium into a black hole of suck, this was the rancid cherry on top of the proverbial shit sundae.

Seriously--if you were in a comic shop, this was the collectively stupidest Wednesday on record. Everyone should have walked out of the comics store hanging their heads in shame.

Going back to the Sims article for a second (lest my froth lead to more parenthetical asides--oops, too late) I don't actually believe that Geoff Johns wants to whitewash all DC characters (but White Power Geoff is too good a name not to use, and I hope someone'll get the Arrested Development reference) but shit like this doesn't help. Three black people in the issue, and they're all awfully unpleasant.

I don't want to read stuff like this. I don't want to read comics wherein a bunch of dead heroes whine about not being dead anymore. I want to read stuff like Power Girl (well, until that gets bent into shape and she starts whining and shit) --I want to see superheroes doing superheroic shit and enjoying themselves while they do it. I want to see them have fun doing it, and I want to feel like I've had a nice break from the cares and difficulties of my own life when I'm done.

And most of all, I want to know why in the FUCK these people who want the Silver Age back SO DAMN BAD seem to want everything BUT the essential optimism that characterized the fucking Silver Age brought back. I can't be the only person who's noticed this, can I?

In short, I would not recommend this book. I didn't think it was very good.


Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

In theory, the idea of a "Rainbow Corps" is certainly interesting, in that it opens up all sorts of possibilities relating to the Green Lanterns... my problem had more to do with the fact that they turned the color spectrum into a Care Bears variety show: red is Rage, blue is Hope, purple is Love (seriously? The Power of Love?)... and those alternate Oaths sound like something a first-grader cobbled together:

"With blood and rage of crimson red, ripped from a corpse so freshly dead, together with our hellish hate, we'll burn you all--That is your fate!"

Oy. :)

But I think you've touched upon the issue with this whole retro trend: namely, that the writers involved are completely missing the point of the Silver Age. They're bringing back the iconography of the '60s and '70s but implanting them into a sex-and-violence sensibility that's distinctly mid-'90s. It's an ill fit, to say the least...

And it sort of makes sense, because I figure writers like Bendis and Johns didn't really get into comics forty years ago - it's far more likely they started with Deathblood the Rapemancer and worked backwards into the Silver Age, which explains why they're getting it so very wrong...

Kazekage said...

Of the various Corps, it's funny that the only really breakout one (besides Sinestro's, of course) is Larfleeze, partly because you have one character rather than a horde of indistinct aliens, partly because making someone driven nuts by endless greed is instant comedy. And yeah, the whole Care Bear-ization of the Lanterns is a bit foolish on the face of it and a bit more subtlety would be nice, but the basic concept is sound.

I think so--either that or they read Watchmen at the wrong time and decided that if they could just cross-pollinate the Silver Age with that comics would be "grown up." Needless to say, they totally missed the point.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Sure, if you accept that "willpower" is an emotion. Still, on my Grande List of DC Quibbles that didn't even make the top 50. :)

Hold on a sec... my God, I think you've just figured it out. They've read "Watchmen". And they've come to the conclusion that the story would've been even better had Moore been allowed to use the Charlton characters after all. And presto, we have an impotent Roy Harper swinging dead cats in an alley while being haunted by the decaying spectre of his dead 5-year-old daughter. ART! :)

Kazekage said...

. . .and now, thanks to Johns, you have to accept that the first living thing to feel willpower was a whale. :) You tell me what that's about.

You know . . .wayyyy back in the day, everyone laughed at Spider-Man:Reign because it had stupid shit like Peter killing Mary Jane with . . .uhm, "Peter" and page after page of angst that even Claremont would say "Nahh, that's way too much." Thankfully (Or not, depending on how you feel about it) Rise of Arsenal is here to show us that comics can always, always disappear up their own backsides even more.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Well, if we're going on the theory that Johns is basically channeling warped memories of his own childhood into the DCU... I'm guessing he saw "Free Willy" one too many times?

Oh my God I'd forgotten about "Spider-Man: Reign" and the radioactive mariners. Wow. Juxtaposing that with "Rise of Arsenal" is like trying to put out a forest fire with kerosene. :) Also, I honestly can't decide which one's worse: "Reign", for trying to do a "Dark Knight Returns" with bloody Spider-Man, or "Rise of Arsenal" for cat-fu and post-dead-child-coitus.

Kazekage said...

That movie has always attracted the wrong element, I think. ;)

It's one of those stories that's so spectacularly tasteless that one can scarcely imagine it sounding like a good idea to anyone, but yet . . .it fits exactly into the paradigm that the current regime thinks all Spider-Man stories should follow--"let's torture the sumbitch any way we can think of, because conflict equals drama and by having all drama and no hope of eventual victory, well . . .we'll have the most dramatic comic ever. Oh, and Mary Jane totally married Hunter Rose in the past."

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

And how. I think the whale's the only living being that wasn't driven bonkers by the movie.

The odd bit is, reaction to BND Spidey stories are typically divided, in that his superhero adventures are still being received well but every aspect of his personal life has come under fire: the thing with his crazy Latina roommate, Carlie Cooper, all of that... the whole point of Divorce by Satan was to "rejuvenate" the character (and my skin's crawling at the very gross and backwards mentality that sort of thing requires), and now he's a 30-year-old loser living with his aunt. That's not backfire, that's backinferno.

Shh! Don't tell Stacy Palumbo. She won't be pleased. :)

Kazekage said...

When Michael Jackson's song is the most normal thing about the movie . . .

Well, it was never going to work in the first place--with 20+ years of married Spider-Man that was a long enough time for there to be as many fans of married Spider-Man as not, and those that didn't want to read about the marriage had plenty of options left to them and undoing it (and worse yet, not leaving it alone) only causes all those problems to bubble to the surface.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

See, I think that's exactly where Quesada miscalculated: he's absolutely right (and how often does anyone say that?) when he points out that at the end of the day, Spider-Man is a formula; his mistake was thinking Mary Jane wasn't a part of that formula, because by now she's replaced Gwen Stacy as the default love interest for Peter Parker. She's been included in every adaptation, whether it's film, TV or video games. So getting rid of her didn't "fix" anything at all.

Kazekage said...

Yeah, I mean, they were talking about peter and MJ possibly getting hitched in the films as early as the second movie, I think. If we're going by how things play out in ancillary media, they always end up together, and you can't play that out indefinitely without marrying them off.

But naturally, a deal with the devil is infinitely preferable to marriage. That makes sense.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Not only that, but every adaptation I can think of - the films, the FOX cartoon, even that bloody awful Amiga game - sets up MJ as Peter's only love interest. If Gwen Stacy or some other woman is introduced, they're always relegated to romantic foils. So I'm utterly stumped as to just who Quesada thinks will be interested in this particular configuration of the character.

And, you know, this is one of those rare instances where I see DC more favorably than Marvel - for all the talk of undoing Superman's marriage to Lois, they've never actually done it (as far as I know). Even "Smallville", which is about as far as you can get from conventional Superman without crossing into Bizarro World, maintains that relationship.

Kazekage said...

I'm not sure. Of course, when you look at the fact that the whole Bland New Day BS is winding down due to soft sales, that pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

Yeah, and that was one of the things that I balked at with the whole Superman 2000 proposal, despite the pedigree of the writers involved. To try to run the clock back to when Lois Lane, ace reporter was constantly getting her brain messed with by Superman would have been bloody toxic.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Well, K-Box certainly supports that theory... but in an industry where everything is in decline, even those few books that are genuinely good, I honestly don't know if sales are a strong enough indication of failure. It's certainly never been acceptable to see high sales as a mark of creative success...

To be fair, they were pulling that particular trick as late as Margot Kidder getting her brains drawn out through her mouth in Superman 2. Not quite sure what that says about the dynamics of their relationship.

Kazekage said...

Well, it's splitting hairs, isn't it? I was reading an article about the decline and fall of Valiant comics (I have insomnia as of late) and they were posting numbers near the end that would have made them top sellers nowadays. It's just that we've decided fighting over scraps is all we can do.

I think it says everything about comic creators unwillingness or inability to write married people, really--from Spider-Man to Superman to the Dibnys, it's a troubling pattern, innit?

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

That's what's so frustrating about bringing sales into the discussion: there's no way to conclusively prove that satanic annulment has had an adverse effect on Spider-Man sales, because Marvel defenders could just as easily point out that almost every title loses sales at a monthly pace. By the same token, you can't really prove that quality stories result in more sales, because X-Men #1 circa 1991 sold 8.3 million copies while Vaughan's run on Runaways probably never hit 50,000.

Quite. They seem to be assuming that their readers aren't married, and never will be. Even though I'm sure Mrs. Quesada had some choice words for her husband after he told Newsarama that marriage aged Peter Parker horribly. :)

Kazekage said...

True, and never mind that the whole exercise is pointless, because when sales are good, that's Marvel's metric to justify themselves. When sales are bad, failure gets redefined as limited success.

I think Lady Quesada, like all right-thinking people these days, can't be bothered to read comics anymore. :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

And that's the real danger: from their respective EiCs' point of view, their companies are on the right track (all evidence to the contrary), so there's no need for genuine quality control. It does lead me to wonder exactly how bad things need to get before everyone just wakes up and realizes that Batman peeing himself does no one any favors.

That, or she's broken too many rolling pins over his head to think one more would make any difference. :)

Kazekage said...

Yeah, there's no will or incentive to really try to aim for an optimal balance of creative and financial success, the thing to do now seems to be to redefine success as "whatever I'm doing is working," however ultimately poisonous she is.

That's his least vulnerable spot. She should aim lower. ;)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

That's really the only justification I have for the continuing existence of "Twilight" - it makes lots of money, so no one looks too closely at the actual content. Rubber stamps all the way.

I normally side with Austin Powers - you don't hit a man in the pills, it's just not right - but when it comes to Quesada I'd be more than happy to mark him down as a deserving exception to the rule. :)

Kazekage said...

Yeah, and that fact is exactly why we as a nation should listen to the late great Bill Hicks and "Stop putting a goddamned dollar sign on everything."

That's probably the only time anyone's actually had constructive advice from Powers, I would imagine, but yeah . . .some people just ask for a swift one to the junk. One should never underestimate the corrective powers of laying a mighty ass-whupping on someone who desperately needs it. :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Seeing as how I wouldn't give Meyer's books away for free - as I'm reasonably sure they're the evil force behind "Pet Sematary" - I'm not sure that would help. :)

And aside from most politicians and a few Hollywood prats, I can't think of anyone more deserving of testicular homicide than Joe Quesada - the manchild who forced his midlife crisis on a hundred thousand readers.

Kazekage said...

Homeland Security would totally bust you for that--given their druthers people would rather take their chance with the morning mail fulla anthrax rather than read Edward and Bella, Volume 2 of ohgodpleasekillme. :)

Verily Diana, he is the Giant Sized Man-Child. :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

I must paraphrase the great Dorothy Parker regarding the matter of Stephenie Meyer: Her books are not to be tossed aside lightly, they should be thrown with great force.

Ha! Brilliant! :)

Kazekage said...

Words cannot express how much I love that quote. :)