Saturday, September 10, 2005

SPOILERS ABOUND: a weekly digest of reviews, notes, and rants

Vol. 1, No. 8
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In this issue:
reviews of JLA: Classified #11 and Astonishing X-Men #12 / notes on GØDLAND #2, Manhunter’s gleeful geekiness, the Marvel-CrossGen rivalry, Marz and Cheung’s Scion, Young Avengers #6, Amanda Conner’s Love, my essential X-Men, and would’ya believe...even more?! / rants about what the ^%$*# happened to Jim Roeg?

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JLA: Classified #11 (DC Comics)
Warren Ellis (Writer) / Butch Guice (Artist) / David Baron (Colorist) / Phil Balsman (Letterer)

How do you know that Warren Ellis and Butch Guice are good? Because nothing happens in JLA: Classified #11. And it’s still fantastic.

Yes, Ellis is clearly “writing for the trade.” In fact, given the meager degree of story advancement in this issue, it could literally have been a 6-page back-up. Be that as it may, this story exemplifies the affective power that “American-style” decompressed storytelling can wield in the hands of a talented creative team.

In a marvelous article comparing Big Two decompression to Manga storytelling techniques, using House of M and Battle Royale as examples, Mark Fossen argues that mainstream “American” comics often fail to excite because “creators from the Big Two have aped the form and structure of decompression without understanding the true content.” House of M, he continues, mistakes the mere extension of the time of narration for an intensification of the story’s emotional impact—an impact that Manga typically achieves through an intense focus on expressive character reactions. And yet, although Mark is critical of House of M in the article, he is careful to point out that American techniques (borrowed from film) are not inherently inferior:

Apart from a few notable exceptions like Kevin Maguire, American comic artists take much of their cues from the often emotionless faces found in Hollywood film. It’s a naturalist tradition that usually calls for underplaying the emotion while the director is using other tricks (editing, music, camera motion) to provide the emotional content. Mainstream American comics art emphasizes composition, dynamism, and storytelling but gives short shrift to any emotions outside the heat of combat. It’s not necessarily the poorer for it, anymore than Death Of A Salesman is poorer than Hamlet. It’s just coming from different traditions, and uses different techniques to get at an artistic truth.
This is a sharp observation, and I’d propose that JLA: Classified #11 is a particularly successful example of this “American” technique where emotional power does not reside in the characters’ reactions but in the vectors of movement their bodies create.

The emotions this issue elicits are elemental in their simplicity: they are akin to the joy or euphoria created by a roller coaster ride—and I mean this comparison very literally because the entire issue is organized around extremes of speed and movement, especially vertical movement: the lift-off, the plunge.

What would it feel like to be Superman? To be Wonder Woman? To be Flash? The entire point of this issue is to answer those questions through the metaphor of movement—extreme dynamic shifts that we can relate to, but which exceed our experience. The most incredible sequence in this regard is on pages 12-14.

On page 12, Superman buzzes the Mythos Exhibition of Curt Swan and Julie Schwartz’s work, seeming almost to emerge right out of it (nice touch), and lifts off, heading up, up, and away.

I love the smallness of Superman on this page, the way the buildings still dwarf him. Most Superman artists draw him in midrange shots or close-ups where he commands the whole panel. Guice’s long-shot conveys what is startling about the idea of a man who can fly: he is one of us, not larger than life, and this makes his flight more astounding, not less. The depth of the square in the middle ground (accentuated by the people in the foreground, surrogates for the viewer) contributes to the illusion, the ascending stairs perfectly balancing Superman’s upward arc, making him seem that much lighter. As he pulls away from the earth, the earth itself seems to bend in the opposite direction: two ends of a wishbone. This page is a précis of the issue’s aesthetic strategies in two ways. One: make Superman small, like us, small enough that we can hitch a ride on his coattails, almost imagine what it would be like to soar. Two: accentuate the vertical. Extremes of height and depth. These will be the language through which “superpowers” will be translated into experiences our bodies almost recognize.

These are not two strategies, but one, and it is repeated again and again: on pages 1-3 Themyscira is falling out of the sky and Diana is rising up to meet it; on page 5 Wally West becomes Flash in a series of vertical slashes; and on pages 13-14, Superman’s higher and higher flight straight up into space is suddenly reversed by Diana’s backward plunge in the ocean’s depths. This surprising, dizzying reversal literally made me catch my breath.

If an issue is going to have as little plot as this one, it had better be brimming with affect—and this one is. It’s pure adrenaline. And the pulse-quickening excitement doesn’t come simply from Guice’s fantastic use of space and movement, but from the repetitions themselves. The visual repetitions I’ve already mentioned, but also the repetitions inherent in Ellis’s script: both the fact that all the heroes discover the same black sheet covered with phosphorescent green characters and the terrific repetition of the ending, which is stagy, but thrilling all the same:

Superman: J’onn, can you hear me?

Diana: J’onn, this is Wonder Woman. I need a consultation.

Kyle: J’onn, this is Green Lantern. I could use some extra brains here.

J’onn: I hear you all. This is J’onn J’onzz on the Lunar Watchtower activating the Justice League telepathic link.

Barbara: This is Oracle in the Gotham Watchtower. Information mining system on. Justice Leage is go.

These repetitions are a perfect condensation of a thousand similar scenes in which the heroes get set to head out and do their thing. Sure we've seen this fetishization of beginnings before, and yes, it’s hokey as hell, but how often is it presented so stylishly? J’onn’s activating the Justice League telepathic link? Alright! Oracle just turned the Information mining system on? I don’t know what that is...but awesome! Justice League is go? You’d better believe it!! hrm.

If you like superheroes, buy this book.

Astonishing X-Men #12 (Marvel)
Joss Whedon (Writer) / John Cassaday (Artist) / Laura Martin (Colorist) / Chris Eliopoulos (Letterer)

I hate it when reformed villains revert to type.

The wonderful thing about villains and villainesses who reform is that the almost inevitable result is a complex and fascinating character. To begin bad but seek the good is perhaps not quite the universal human condition we might wish, but it certainly is a powerful metaphor for the ethical struggle that most human beings wage within themselves from a very early age between selfish desires and social responsibility. Grant Morrison knew this, which is why Emma Frost was the breakout character of his New X-Men. The subtle variation on this—the pure villain who, every so often, does some tiny nice thing, is possibly even more wonderful, and more true. (For some reason, this rule does not seem to apply to Magneto, who is always boring, except when played by Ian McKellan.)

The other permutations of this scenario are rarely as satisfying, though some come close. When a hero violates some ethical code of heroism but still remains basically good, the effect is again added depth, but the feeling it produces is the melancholy of realism (Zatanna) rather than the euphoric tension of epic, where heroism in the social sense is so often underpinned by selfishness and a yearning for glory (Beowulf).

The even simpler scenario, in which a would-be hero is suddenly revealed as a traitor is thrilling in a different way, and the feeling it produces is again different: something closer to the weird catharsis of certain kinds of tragedy where the so-called “tragic hero” doesn’t have something as dainty as a “fatal flaw” but is a pathetic villain whose sheer audacity commands our attention, if not our sympathy (Shakespeare’s Macbeth, or Wolfman and Perez’s Terra).

Taken alone, any of these scenarios is thrilling, and maybe I’m just an aesthetic fascist about some things (no maybe about it, actually), but I really don’t savor that moment when they’re thrown together in a pot and combined into a fourth story where the reformed villain slides back into the pit, or is revealed to have never “really” reformed at all. The reason I don’t like this kind of villain/hero/Judas story structure is purely selfish, even childish: it’s not a satisfying wish-fulfillment, but a depressing reality-check. I’m already well aware that real-life “heroism,” more often than not, has a Judas-face. So it is particularly irritating to have a story about the wobbly heroism of a morally complex, multilayered character suddenly reduced to the black and white simplicity of a traitor story. Pure traitors are fine, because our identification with such characters takes a different form than our identification with the villain-turned-edgy hero. The former are admirable only in the most abstract existential terms (we “admire” Macbeth because he never gives up, even though he knows that his own death is inevitable), whereas our involvement with nearly reformed villains like Catman and Emma Frost is far more immediate and visceral. (Which isn’t to say that we don’t “identify” with more conventional heroes as well, but that’s a different, very complicated issue for another day.)

So, did I hate the reveal in Astonishing X-Men #12?

I did not. But only because I trust Joss Whedon to be teasing us like crazy. Whedon knows soap opera and he understands the value of a good sucker punch. He knows that the best way to keep viewers interested is to figure out what they hold sacred and then to rip it away from them cruelly, with extreme prejudice—or, at least, to seem to...

I’m not worried about Emma and Scott. Things are about to get really good on that front. I also really liked the departure of the mega-Sentinel into space in this issue. Lovely. What I did not like was the preposterous retconing of Xavier into a moronic hypocrite. Let’s hope that Whedon and company have a few unplayed cards up their sleeves that will redeem this clunker of a plot point.


Splash-Page of the Week: GØDLAND #2

My back-ordered copy of GØDLAND #2 finally arrived last week—and it was worth the wait. Holy Moley. That’s the kind of punch I want from my funny-book pictures.

In the unlikely event that you haven’t been lured into checking out the complete first issue of this heady series, now online at Newsarama, here’s the link. And here’s an accompanying interview with the artist, Tom Scioli.

As for GØDLAND #2? I can do no better than to quote Matthew Sweet: 100% Fun.

Low Blow of the Week: Wha…HUH? #1

You can’t say that Mark Alessi didn’t ask for it, considering all the smack he talked about Marvel back in the day. And yet, there’s something not quite on about big-kid Marvel scoring points off a company that’s not only smaller, but DEFUNCT! Careful guys. You know what they say about school yard bullies...

Geek All-Stars: Manhunter’s Dylan

Who says that DC is pandering to the aging base of thirty-something fanboys that help keep this goofy medium afloat? Huh? Who says??

Random Young Avengers Thoughts: TV Comics Are Better Than Movie Comics, or Welcome to the Y.A., Bitch!

Young Avengers rocks. It’s the smartest, hippest, slickest, wittiest, funnest, most relevant comic Marvel is currently publishing. In fact, it is the only comic Marvel publishes that answers to this particular combination of epithets. I was going to write a lengthy review of Young Avengers #1-6, praising the series to high heaven in my usual tendentious and hyperbolic way. But I ran out of steam. And anyway, Mark Fossen and Michael Pullmann have already said it all and said it eloquently.

So here’s a half-baked, completely undeveloped idea instead: O.C. writer/producer Allan Heinberg’s Young Avengers demonstrates that comics based on TV-storytelling techniques are superior to comics based on movie-storytelling techniques. Or: more TV serial-style comics (which are denser and faster-moving, even if they do take six issues to tell a story) might save us from the plodding excesses of weak “decompression.” Take it, leave it, run with it; it’s yours.

Creative Team-Up of the Month: Amanda Conner and Power Girl

How do you make Power Girl a credible and interesting character? First, you put her in the JSA and get Geoff to wave his magic retcon wand, transforming the peek-a-boo hole in her costume into a meaningful bit of characterization. (The scene on page 19 of JSA: Classified #2 is a nifty bit of symbolic thinking because it discovers depth precisely where there seemed before to be only shallowness.)

To really make this girl (and this reimagining) fly, however, you bring in an artist whose style transcends cheesecake, transforming the protagonist into someone who feels like the real woman inhabiting this body. You find an artist who can do visually what Johns does narratively. You hire Amanda Conner.

What’s so special about Conner’s art? It’s more expressive than most mainstream superhero art. It conveys intense emotion through bursts of cartoony body language. She draws great energetic superhero action, but her style sometimes reminds me of Jaime Hernandez. Like Jaime’s, her subtle Archie comix faces are infused with tragedy and realism, and her Power Girl is specifically reminiscent of Jaime’s Maggie: beautiful, big, funny, vulnerable. She breaks your heart at least three times an issue. Is it just a coincidence that this story about Superman’s poor-relation (a would-be refugee from Krypton) could almost have been subtitled: Love and Rockets?

My Essential X-Men, Vol. 6

Marvel’s Essential X-Men series has finally caught up with my period of true X-devotion. Volumes 4 and 5 included many of the first Claremont X-Men stories I read: the Dave Cockrum/Paul Smith illustrated Brood Saga with Carol Danvers as Binary was the first (#162-66), followed by “Professor Xavier is a Jerk!” (one of the best X-Men stories ever—with one of the best cliffhangers too). The grimy battles with Callisto's crew in the Morlock tunnels and Barry Windsor Smith’s classic Life/Death issues were also early favorites. But Volume 6 begins almost exactly where I really got serious about this book. By issue #199, I was no longer a casual buyer, but a genuine fan who never missed an issue—despite the fact that I was never entirely sure what was going on.

In 1985, I was 13—old enough, certainly, to follow the plot when I tried. But keeping track of Claremont’s Byzantine subplots and innumerable supporting characters involved actual work, and as I’ve already established, I was (and still am) the laziest of readers. I remember hurting my brain trying to figure out how Rachel Summers could be Cyclops’s daughter, but that was a rare instance. Usually I just didn’t try that hard to understand. I liked the mystery. At that time, the pleasure of Uncanny X-Men was not the pleasure of narrative, but the fragmentary pleasure of reading in blocks that I’ve written about before, and that no doubt reminded me of those earlier experiences of childhood reading where one is nestled between confusion and understanding.

The really wonderful thing about Claremont’s X-Men was that those sections of the book that did hang together as narrative blocks really were jewels. These issues are simply packed with memorable scenes: Charles passing the torch to Magneto in the garden because he thinks he’s dying (#200), Storm vs. Cyclops for leadership of the X-Men (#201), Logan’s brutal issue-length scrap with Rachel (#207), Colossus killing Riptide and a hardcore Storm leaving the “remaining Marauders” to Wolverine as the Mutant Massacre kicks into overdrive (# 211). These scenes of operatic mayhem were truly special, and they stood out in part because they were offset by a background that was both hazy and dense.

There was always so much pedestrian “business” in X-Men—the trial of Magneto and the behind-the-scenes machinations of Mystique’s Freedom Force being particularly typical examples. I found these (often issue-long) background stories unreadable, and, in fact, I often skipped over them for the fight scenes. Nonetheless, the boring bits were integral to the experience of the X-Men in those days: they gave the emotionally overwrought battles I loved a feeling of weightiness and import. In short, they made the book feel sophisticated and adult precisely because they were over my head. Claremont’s wonderful obscurantism pushed back the feeling of readerly competence that would come with adulthood a few years at least.

These are classic stories, and reading them now is in many ways a different experience than reading them then because—surprise, surprise—they really are coherent narratives after all. And good ones at that. But even just flipping through this collection is a treat; it may only be black and white, but the art is excellent. This was a great period for John Romita Jr.—his lines are fluid and free, and there’s a compositional daring to his panel layouts that still really grabs me. (I did a comic book project for a junior high class around this time in which I basically plagiarized panels from a variety of Marvel comics, several of which were Romita Jr. ones included here, like the time-lapse image of Valerie Cooper plotting at the bottom of page 6 from issue #199.)

The collection also features art by such masters as Art Adams, Barry Windsor Smith, Walt Simonson, Jackson (soon-to-be “Butch”) Guice and Kyle Baker, and Alan Davis. The complete unpredictability of the art from issue-to-issue was also something I loved about this period of X-Men—which is strange, because I hated fill-in artists on any other book. Clearly, the quality of the fill-ins here was generally exceptional, but there was also something about the constantly shifting art team that made this period of Claremont’s X-Men feel “cosmopolitan.” It also distinguished it from my favorite book, the New Teen Titans, which was marked by the consistency of George Perez’s pencils. The opposite approaches to art on Marvel and DC’s rival bestsellers made them even more complementary than they might have been had X-Men had a stable art team. This complementarity ultimately balanced the scales, making these two books so fundamentally different that they were difficult to compare.

In terms of size, Essential X-Men, Vol. 6 is a massive phonebook of a collection, taking readers from the trial of Magneto right through the Mutant Massacre to the introduction of Psylocke. It also includes the X-Factor and New Mutants crossover books from the Mutant Massacre, as well as the other ones that I never bothered buying at the time: Thor and Power Pack. And it gives us the Asgardian adventure from New Mutants Special Edition #1 and X-Men Annual #9, both gorgeously illustrated by Art Adams (whose work still looks tremendous in black and white). Marvel’s spotty Visionaries trades could learn a thing or two from the generosity of Essentials compilations like this one.

Now, if only they would get cracking on Essential New Mutants.

Make Mine Mae Mai!

Jon Silpayamanant is not only running an outstanding blog of comics and cultural criticism called Mae Mai, where he brings an exceptional range of erudition to the analysis of comics and visual art, he’s also a hell of a generous thinker. (You’ve probably seen his name in the comments section of more than one blog, including this one.) Jon describes Mae Mai as “Comics, Orientalism, Culture and Imperialism, Comparative Neurolinguistics, and Performance Theory.” All I can say is, anyone who can bring Edward Said and W. J. T. Mitchell to bear on comics in such illuminating ways is someone everyone interested in comics criticism should be reading. Religiously.

My Ever-Shrinking Bank Account

Ian has a great piece at Brill Building that explains why I’m such a Johns junkie: it turns out he’s one of my favorite Marvel writers, Steve Englehart, in disguise! I know what I’m buying tomorrow. That, and the Essentials collection of Steve Gerber’s Howard the Duck, thanks to this fantastic set of posts at Nobody Laughs At Mister Fish. I won’t have time to read them, but that’s another story (see Rant, below).

The CrossGen Chronicles (Part 2): Scion #13-14

A medieval world with lightsabers and genetically engineered “Lesser Races.” Warring kingdoms: Raven and Heron. A murdered monarch. A treacherous son. A golden haired hero on a mission of vengeance. A beautiful, good-hearted princess from a corrupt kingdom. A mysterious “Underground” where the Lesser Races plot their freedom. And among them all walk godlike beings with agendas of their own…

Everything about Ron Marz and Jim Cheung’s Scion felt familiar. Star-crossed Heron prince Ethan and Raven princess Ashleigh were essentially riffs on Shakespeare’s famous teen lovers, played as Luke Skywalker and Dana Scully in buckled tunics and leather D&D-wear. And like many of CrossGen’s titles, it seems to have sprung directly from the genetically engineered brain of Joseph Campbell that Mark Alessi and head writer Barbara Kesel kept on ice in the basement of the company’s famed (now infamous) Tampa studio. The story was self-consciously archetypal and basically conservative. Reading it was like curling up in a warm blanket on a cold day. Neither particularly challenging nor profound, it was nonetheless a comforting and beautifully-illustrated fantasy.

Issues #13 and #14 were the first ones I read. I bought them together off the rack the week after discovering Crux. And though I found the medieval-SF concept vaguely appealing, the real reason I bought these issues was the art by Jim Cheung (pencils) and Don Hillsman II (inks), and especially the gorgeous coloring of Justin Ponsor. Cheung was still honing his craft in these issues, but they contain some truly exquisite sequences, and it’s really something to see how quickly his work develops from the earliest issues of Scion (which I read later in trade form) to these ones, and then to compare the drawings in these issues with his current work on Young Avengers.

Two scenes from this pair of issues really stood out as I thumbed through the comics in the store. Ashleigh’s nightmare about her brother’s regicide/patricide on pages 1-3 of issue #13 and Ashleigh and Ethan’s flight through the underground tunnels to the sanctuary at the end of issue #14. They are both chiaroscuro scenes lit only by lamplight or (seemingly) blood.

Unfortunately, the feeling these scenes convey visually is more disturbing and weighty than the series itself ultimately manages to be—clearly because it was consciously designed with a junior high school readership in mind (as part of CrossGen’s educational “Bridges” program). These scenes stand out because they convey a potential that was not realizable within the narrative constraints of the CrossGen universe (by which I do not mean their overarching continuity-driven mega-story, but the corporate calculations of things like the Bridges program which—at least as I understand it—effectively consigned certain titles within a single overarching story to never surpassing a certain “level” of reader sophistication. There was an annoying contradiction here that resulted from CrossGen trying to be all things to all readers, and having books like Scion pull double duty as both feeders for younger audiences and bricks within the larger story which had more sophisticated themes, story elements, and ambitions.

So, although I enjoyed this book, I often found myself wondering what might have been had Marz really cut loose and aimed higher, unencumbered by CrossGen’s corporate master plan. Scion was good, sometimes very good. With an art and writing team as extraordinary as this one, however, Scion could have been something far richer and deeper than it ultimately became. What Marz and Cheung’s archetype-driven Scion turned out to be, ironically, was the archetypal CrossGen book in the sense that it encapsulated both the strengths (incredibly talented and creative people) and the weaknesses (a built in set of narrative limits and restrictions) of CrossGen’s entire line—at least in its first two years.

For more on Scion, see Chris Fluit’s excellent review of the entire series at Captain Comics, which charts the high and low points of Ethan and Ashleigh’s adventures. James Meeley has also been thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of CrossGen lately in this excellent post where, like yours truly, he laments what might have been...


What the ^%$*# Happened to Jim Roeg?

I’ve been asking myself the same question. I’m over a week late with Spoilers Abound, I haven’t posted a new essay in weeks, and I’ve dropped the ball on several really interesting conversations taking place on other blogs. Heck, I haven’t even made it to the comic store yet this week!

Ah, September.

As anyone else out there who works in education knows, September is a vortex. No matter how prepared you think you are for the new school year, it always takes you by surprise, and it’s always more overwhelming than you remember.

In light of this, and as readers of Near Mint Heroes already know, I’m going to be taking a very brief sabbatical from Double Articulation for the next month or so to devote 100% of my energies to the work that actually keeps me in comics, sandwiches, and clean socks. You haven’t gotten rid of me for good though. I’ll be back with new essays, commentary, and all the usual self-indulgent nonsense that you’ve come to expect from this site in mid-October. I’ve got three more essays on love in comics mapped out, as well as other essays planned on the perfection of David Anthony Kraft’s Defenders, Biblical allusions in a beloved issue of the old (good) Marvel Team-Up, commodities and capitalism in The Spectre, and the seductions of fascism in the barely-remembered Super-Villain Team-Up. Probably something on my strange relationship with epic-fantasy as well, but only if I’m feeling punitive.

In the meantime, enjoy the archives, if you haven’t had a chance to check them out already and if you have a tolerance for ponderous, sentimental recollections. Before I sign off: a big thank you to Ian, Peter, Mark, and Jog for the nice attention and for sending a few more readers in this direction. Thanks a lot guys! Now that I’m slowing things down here for a bit, I’m hoping to finally catch up on your and everyone else’s blogs. (Did I say 100% of my energies will be going towards work? Make that 99.9%. You’d be amazed how much goofing off I can cram into 0.01%.)

Thanks everyone for reading and for your thoughtful comments and replies; it’s been an incredibly fun and educational summer for me. See you back here in October, and of course, around the blogverse in the meantime.


Friday, September 02, 2005

Thursday, September 01, 2005

SPOILERS ABOUND: a weekly digest of reviews, notes, and rants

Vol. 1, No. 7
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In this issue:
reviews of Green Lantern #1-4 / notes on my fantasy CrossGen Bullpen, my cyborg name, Jack Cross #1, Jonathan Lethem's comics nostalgia, the hypnoray review, horror blogs, and my swollen head / rants about Teen Titans #27 (but only incidentally about Rob Liefeld)

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Green Lantern #1-4 (DC Comics)
Geoff Johns (Writer) / Carlos Pacheco and Ethan Van Sciver (Pencilers) / Jesus Merino (Inker) / Moose Baumann (Colorist) / Rob Leigh (Letterer)

Compared to the old-school drama and excitement of Rebirth, Geoff Johns and Carlos Pacheco’s Green Lantern is an austere pleasure. Perhaps too austere.

Like all such pleasures (and leaving aside Van Sciver’s brief prologue in issue #1), it begins in the desert, where Abin Sur’s smashed alien ship writes the first mythic word of the Green Lantern saga on the blank page of the sand. The ship fades into history and then, with a BOOOMM, two modern jets literally “write” a new word onto the blank space of the sky above it.

Hal’s description of Edwards Air Force Base, set against the sepia-toned image of the open airfield, makes the significance of these opening panels explicit:

When we first moved here, thunder would crack the blue sky open every hour. You’d jump and look up—as the sound barrier shattered. A few weeks later, both of my brothers got used to it. They stopped looking up. I never could.
The extreme contrast between thunder and silence, presence and absence, figure and ground suggested by the jets’ sudden shattering of the sound barrier replicates and reinforces the visual images of the planes in the sky and the starship on the sand. The thunderclap, the planes, and the ship all evoke some prime instance of creation and are thus not unlike the slash of meaning produced by the logos, say, or by Japanese brushwork. Hal’s refusal to let this astonishing thunderclap of meaning fade into the quotidian and become part of the background from which it attempts to leap signals the degree to which fundamental things—like truth and the good—depend on the willingness of the beholder to perceive them. It also establishes Hal as being up for the challenge of this task of seeing.

Both of these points prepare us for the iconic, archetypal splash page of issue #1, which shows Green Lantern soaring from one clean space (the desert) to another (the sky)—just like the jets of Pacheco’s first page. In this image, Green Lantern himself becomes that slash of meaning, that thunderclap of sound.

Why does the story begin this way?

The immediate point of this entire sequence is clearly to establish a sort of parity between Hal Jordan’s “civilian” identity as pilot and his superhero identity as Green Lantern. The parallels between Hal’s two identities are central to Johns’s interpretation of the character, and they extend not only to the suggestive motif of flight (airplane-, ring- and will-powered) that is everywhere in these issues, but also to the quasi-militaristic “cosmic police force” conceit of the Corps itself. Very generally, Johns’s Green Lantern appears to be an examination of freedom and responsibility within the constraints of an authoritarian structure. In this sense, the twin motifs of flight (plane and ring) and uniforms (Air Force and Corps) define the two poles of the series’ central thematic tension between individual freedom and institutional authority.

The more subtle point of this opening sequence, however, is to suggest—through the use of space, setting, and symbol—what, for lack of better terms, I’d call the “austere tone” and “mythic language” that characterize Johns’s treatment of this theme. I think that there are two reasons for the austere tone and language of this series, and I’ll try to flesh them out briefly here.

The first has to do with the concept of Green Lantern as a character. The second has to do with the other major issue that Johns sets out to explore in this series: the relationship between fear and courage in the face of unthinkable, “apocalyptic” events.

Green Lantern: The Austerity of Precision

Spiderman is the hero we are most likely to identify with the phrase “with great power comes great responsibility.” But it has a special significance for Green Lantern, a hero whose power is limited only by will and imagination—an “artist’s” power (as was made explicit in the character of Kyle Rayner) but also a God’s power (as has been made explicit in Hal’s case in countless ways). As a repentant (but basically blameless) sinner who’s done terrible things and still wields unimaginable power, the new Hal Jordan faces the necessary and serious task of mastering (or better, “overcoming”) his own will and his own ego.

The visual and even narrative austerity of this arc—which emphasizes Hal Jordan the man as much as his emerald alter ego—reflects the austerity and restraint that Hal must exercise in relation to the dangerous magnitude of his potentially infinite powers. The “civilian” analogy for this restraint is obviously the scene in issue #3 where Hal swallows his infamous pride in his curt apology to General Stone. But it is also suggested by the very strategic and sparing use of his ring throughout the story, where Johns goes to considerable lengths to keep Jordan out of his Green lantern uniform and to keep the fancy ring-work to a minimum.

As Johns made very clear in the climactic battle scene in Rebirth #6 where he gives us a catalogue of the distinctive ways in which each Green Lantern manifests their power (pp. 6-7), Jordan’s exercise of power is defined by his capacity for restraint and control:

For me it’s about precision. Doing exactly what I need to do to get the job done. Concentrated power. Focused ambition.
“Precision” becomes, in this context, another word for minimalism, and the aesthetic equivalent of this minimalism is realized in the visual language through which the story is told. The precision suggested by the elegant, deliberate marks made by bodies and machines on the sky and the desert in the opening scenes of issue 1 are subliminal evocations of this theme of restrained power that do not just set the atmosphere, but actually symbolize the substance of the story.

Coast City: The Austerity of Apocalypse

To the austerity of the desert, sky, and even Edwards Air Force Base itself, we must also add the more terrible apocalyptic blankness of Coast City—the other symbolic desert of this story. The bombed out or empty city is perhaps the supreme trope of apocalyptic postmodernism in the sense that is seems to represent the ultimate nullification of traditional human values, community, and agency. Since 9/11, however, it has become not just a symbol but a disturbingly literal experience not only for many American citizens, but for countless numbers of people who are similarly (and even more desperately) afflicted by the current state of global war in which we find ourselves.

I don’t know if Johns has alluded to this point in interviews about the series, but the subtext of 9/11 is palpable in these three issues. It is there, most obviously, in Coast City itself—a city that was destroyed by the intergalactic mass murderer Mongul and is currently being rebuilt. A city in which a handful of traumatized citizens bravely face the business of picking up the pieces and getting on with life. It is also there, very overtly, in the climactic action sequence in the sky over Coast City in issue #3 where Hal’s plane is “hijacked” by the new Manhunter and bursts into flames and where Hal must prevent the old Manhunter from triggering its self-destruct sequence in the heart of city, where it’s detonation would, as Hal says, be “like a nuke going off.” Such evocations of urban destruction and ground zero very plainly invoke the specter of terrorism, and this too is signified by the desert, which is as much the omega of apocalyptic wasteland as the alpha of a blank page. Of course, because this is a heroic fantasy, Jordan succeeds in saving the newly re-emergent Coast City, but only at the most literal level. At a symbolic level, the story suggests the darkness of real history, for the Manhunters hurtle towards a city that has already been destroyed and the effect this produces is an uncanny compression of past present and future into a single moment: the crashes, the devastation, the aftermath, and the rebuilding all seem to unfold simultaneously.

This, I think, is the subtext of Coast City. But it is only a subtext, and Johns doesn’t seem all that interested in telling a political story about terrorism and its complex historical antecedents in the manner that Warren Ellis seems to be attempting in Jack Cross. Nevertheless, it is relevant to the story, because this subtext provides an important context for Johns’s exploration of fear, and thus invites us to approach this arc as, in part, an examination of the human, and especially the civilian, story of terrorism from the point of view of its immediate victims “on the ground.” Hence the prominence of Hal’s younger brother Jim and his family and their struggle to decide whether to relocate to Coast City or to remain in Sacramento. There’s a lovely understated scene in issue #2 where Jim thinks he’s driving out of the frightening, apocalyptic space of Coast City to safety, but is literally driving straight into a desert wasteland.

As this scene makes clear, the real wasteland for Johns is not the “empty” city behind him (which is actually beginning to show signs of life), but the fear that propels him into this literal and metaphorical desert. This point is neatly underlined by the multiple ironies that frame Jim’s “get-away”: the voice of the Manhunter that intones “No…M-m-man…escapes…,” the radio broadcast reporting Congress’s move to halt the reconstruction of Coast City because of “the very low number of people that have actually taken advantage of the new metropolis,” and the road signs that urge visitors to Coast City to “Come back soon!” but also warn, “Better Safe Than Sorry: Keep Your Distance.”

What all of this suggests, I think, is that although Johns’s examination of fear in Green Lantern exudes a kind of pop universality, it emerges from a very specific time and place. It is an examination of the culture of fear in which we live and of this culture’s contemporary bogeys as well as its genuine terrors. It is an examination of the way fear controls and masters us if we let it, but also the way in which we can rise above and overcome it. The austerity of the desert imagery thus does not simply suggest a “wasteland” but also provides, as I initially argued, the ground upon which an exemplary heroic figure can emerge like a mark on a blank page, like an epiphany, like thunder.

This moment comes near the end of issue #3.

Hal is brooding on a rooftop in darkness on the question of whether or not fear is “the strongest emotion in the universe,” whether it is “what controls everyone and everything.” Suddenly, as if in answer to this question, the headlamps of his brother’s car appear, cutting the blackness of the night as he and his family emerge from around a dark corner, clearly having reversed their decision to remain in Sacramento. The ordinary courage represented by these headlights is the real meaning of Abin Sur’s crumpled ship on the desert sand, of the airborne jets that streak across the sky in issue #1, and of the luminous emerald mark that is Green Lantern himself.

The Lantern and the Face of Fear

Johns is a master of making a virtue of necessity, of wringing pop profundity from comic book iconography, and of making the paraphernalia of superhero narrative resonate symbolically. In this story, Johns’s manipulation of symbolism is particularly skillful and important because it centers on what is most iconic and mythic about Green Lantern—namely, the power battery that gives the hero his name. Like the headlights on Jim’s car, Hal Jordan’s lantern is a beacon of optimism in the struggle against fear. And like the headlights it feels true not because it’s powerful, but because it’s fragile and small.

The best symbols are those that synthesize multiple dimensions of a complex phenomenon, and in this storyline, Johns presents such a symbol in the image of Hal Jordan recharging his ring from the power battery located inside the Manhunter’s skull while both are in freefall over Coast City.

This is a cool, kick-ass scene, to say the least. But it is also the comic’s starkest, most optimistic 9/11 allegory and a potent parable about the nature of courage, about the necessity of confronting the fear from which “no one escapes,” and about how looking that fear in the face can turn out to be the very source of the courage one seeks. True, this allegory risks being simply reactionary because the robotic nature of the enemy appears to foreclose on a more complex historical diagnosis of terrorism and its causes. But Johns deserves credit for at least humanizing the older version of the Manhunter who finally feels the universal emotion of fear before detonating in space. (Even if the story does not seem especially interested in examining the nature of the “enemy,” making this scene feel less weighty than it might.)

If the image of the power battery in the Manhunter’s skull does have a political dimension, it does not lie in a diagnosis of the “enemy” so much as in a revision of the self’s own attitudes and moral certainties. In other words: the lantern in the enemy’s skull is a conflation of fear and power that re-writes the implicit authoritarianism of the Green Lantern Corps and its goofy but also sinister oath. Johns’s insistence that Hal is not a Green Lantern who feels no fear but one who “feels the fear and does it anyway” means that Hal must always confront the uncertainty of the unknown to find his courage, which is a very significant qualification of the bombastic and naïvely confident text of the oath itself. We are living in age where one routinely hears proclamations whose disturbing confidence in their own moral judgment sounds very much like the Green Lantern oath:

In brightest day
In blackest night
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evil’s might
Beware my power…
In the real world, this is type of confidence and “clear” moral vision that should genuinely frighten everyone. And in its traditional form, the Green Lantern Corps comes close to celebrating the kind of authoritarian structure that often accompanies such dubious moral certainties. This is why Johns’s envisioning of Hal as a perennial challenger of authority is so important: it makes possible a much more complicated understanding of the oath’s evocation of “good” and “evil” than the conservative Corps itself can be expected to represent. And of course, Hal’s challenging of authority from within is merely another version of the ethical preference for uncertainty over certainty represented by the lantern in the skull with which we began.

By making Hal not simply a master of self-restraint, but also a sort of renegade cop or skeptic, Johns makes it possible for him to occupy a genuinely ethical position—to be, in short, a true hero and not just a hollow emblem of might-makes-right heroism. (Even if he is inclined to pop someone in the jaw every now and then.) Restraint and skepticism, precision and anti-authoritarianism. Hal may not be as easy to love as Wally West—not initially—but there’s more to this character than meets the eye.

The fourth issue of the series—out yesterday—launches a creepy, rip-snorter of a tale and suggests that after three issues of subdued myth-making, Johns is ready to roll up his sleeves and deliver the type of big-screen action fans (myself included) have been waiting for. And what big-screen action we get: X-Files, Silence of the Lambs, and Jaws—all in a single issue! (I knew that shark fin on page 21 of the first issue meant something!)

Now that the series has kicked into high gear, it might be easier to get a little distance on the opening arc and to see what it is that Johns is up to here. The opening story of Johns and Pacheco’s Green Lantern is more like a narrative poem or short story than a novel. It’s “decompressed” but not baggy because every element of the narrative is freighted with symbolic significance and quiet power. Speaking only for myself, there’s something relentless but gratifying about the precision, stillness, and austerity of its vision. It is the opposite of Johns’s brilliant, kinetic Flash, and for this reason, it is an awkward way to launch a series and doesn’t work that well as a monthly. Certainly it doesn’t generate the kind of suspense and excitement that Rebirth led us to expect and which most of us (myself included) look forward to in a monthly comic.

But I think that in the end, Geoff and Carlos have given us something more lasting, resonant, and profound: they’ve told an archetypal Green Lantern story that rewrites the origin story indirectly and ultimately tells us something new about the core of this wondrous but frustrating character. Look at page 14 of issue #3:

Everything seems to be moving, but that’s just an illusion. Look again. This is the defining image of Johns’s new Green Lantern—an origin story told in a single panel where what looks like freefall is actually a moment of perfect zen-like stillness. This is what precision looks like.


Tom Spurgeon’s Five For Friday #44: Dream Bullpen

As always, Shane knows where to find the fun. His own post over at Near Mint Heroes directed me to Tom Spurgeon’s site and got me puzzling over this great challenge:

Name Five Cartoonists, Any Era, Around Whom You Would Build a Comics Company

My company would try to be what CrossGen could have been, nearly was, but ultimately wasn’t: a publisher of high quality genre comics that brought a subtly subversive modern sensibility to classic forms and styles. Each of the following cartoonists would helm one or more original series in a distinct genre.

1. Herge – (Post)Colonial Adventure & Spy Thriller
2. Doug Wildey – Western, Horror, & Fantasy/Adventure
3. Darwyn Cooke – Crime/Mystery & Pulp Heroes
4. Jaime Hernandez – Romance & Soft SF/Space Opera
5. Jack Kirby – Hard SF/Cyberpunk

I wish I could mention the contributions that George Perez, Colleen Doran, and Wendy Pini would make to expanding the Crime/Mystery and Fantasy lines—but alas, that would be cheating…

J.I.M.R.O.E.G.’s Cyborg Name & a Near Mint Love-Letter to Comics

This also courtesy of Shane’s link list:

Just try to resist the siren call of the Cyborg Name Generator. I dare you. And while you’re at it, be sure to check out Shane’s wonderful love-letter to comic books. You won’t find a better or more heart-felt reminder of what we’re all doing here.

Jack Cross #1: Hmm…

The debut issue of Ellis’s new espionage saga packs a promising punch and has an interesting enigma for a protagonist, but I agree with Kurt’s evaluation of the logical problem with the torture scene and with others who sense a bit of dodging of the really difficult questions global terrorism raises in the issue’s narrow focus on CIA factions. Still, this is only 22 pages of comic and I think it’s necessary to give Ellis some time to develop the players and the stakes. With a topic this thorny—“Now terror has something to fear!”—the results could be terrible or they could be fantastic. My own feelings about the book will likely turn on how fully it dissects “terrorism”—surely the most loaded, complex, and ambiguous word of our time. I’m cautiously optimistic.

Some interesting thoughts from other discerning reviewers:
  • Paul O’Brien at The X-Axis
  • Don MacPherson at The Fourth Rail
  • Dexter K. Flowers at Broken Frontier

    Jonathan Lethem: You Are My Master Now

    I’ve been having a great correspondence with new pal and all-around nice guy Richard Baez lately, and he kindly brought these superb autobiographical essays on comic book nostalgia by novelist Jonathan Lethem to my attention. My Marvel Years is a heartbreaking essay about coming of age reading Marvel Comics in the 1970s. The Amazing… is a meditation on the first Spiderman film, race, and belatedness. There is some overlap between the essays, but both are brilliant. If you haven’t read them yet, you’re in for treat. And even if you have, they repay the reread—with interest. They brought a tear to my eye—but then, I’m a big baby. Richard also recommends Lethem’s newish collection of essays, The Disappointment Artist. He hasn’t been wrong yet!

    The Hypnoray Review : Gene Roddenberry’s Lost Universe #7 (Tekno Comix)

    Over on his great new blog, hypnoray, Jon Cormier has made a precipitous bid for your participation in the form of a contest:

    Starting next Monday I’ll start posting little questions that the first comment I get will receive a free $1.00 comic. I’m thinking of questions along the lines of, if there is one original graphic novel that you can recommend me to buy, what would it be and why? Or, what revamped property is worth checking out? I’m coming up with the list and these two questions won’t be on it. I think this will be a fun little social experiment. And I encourage everyone who reads this to come and make recommendations.
    As one of the first recipients of Jon’s generous experiment, I will now proceed to bite the hand that feeds me by offering snarky impressions of the incredible dollar-bin treasure that Jon has sent my way:

    Gene Roddenberry’s Lost Universe #7

    This is the quintessential dollar-bin comic. It’s from 1995. It’s published by a company I’ve never heard of (Tekno-Comix). It has a stunning bad cover by a big name artist (Bill Sienkiewicz!). It features mediocre art on absurdly glossy paper. It’s a genre comic (science fiction--they get no respect). Most importantly, it’s the final issue of the series before it transformed itself into the much more interesting-looking Xander in Lost Universe with covers by Jae Lee and interior art by Ron Randall.

    And yet, it isn’t completely unredeemable. Like most dollar bin comics (or free comics, in this case!), it’s possible to overlook and even be charmed by its numerous flaws. This is made easier in this case by Ron Fortier’s occasionally amusing script which, despite clunkers like “The Planet Malay. Twice the size of Earth, she is a cosmic rock filled with majestic beauty…and deadly secrets” also boasts a scene in which a horny female engineer attempts to persuade her computer’s interface image into scratching her itch—having programmed it to appear as the avatar of D’Artagnan from the Three Muskateers! “There’s nothing in the protocols that says a girl can’t have some fun now and then,” the engineer croons. “Define fun,” a ghostly-looking “D’Artagnan” replies. Um…winning this awesome comic?! Thanks Jon!

    See the current $1 comic contest question here.

    Worth a Click: 1960s and 70s Horror Blogs

    I’ve been having some fun surfing Horror Blog Updates this week. Here are two can’t-miss gems:

    Keith Milford’s Old Haunts

    The author’s own description—which feels like it could be a sign propped in the window of an old junkshop in a Daniel Clowes strip—perfectly captures the look and feel of the site: “Old photographs of Halloweens long past. Faded, out-of-focus snapshots. Far away memories of the chilly autumns of our childhoods. Turn of the century to the ’60s & ’70s.”

    This growing collection of vintage photographs, advertisements, cards and postcards is so attractively and cleanly presented that I could as easily meditate on it as use it for the basis of a cultural studies thesis on Halloween. The simplicity of the design and the quality of the images showcases the spooky fun and melancholy of my favorite holiday to a T. Or an A+.

    Curt’s The Groovy Age of Horror

    Like the site description says, Curt blogs 1960s and 70s horror in paperbacks, fumetti, comics, and movies, and his site is a fascinating collection of reviews and scans of this remarkably weird (and remarkably sleazy!) period of cultural history. There’s a ton of pulpy goodness to sift through on this site but two relatively recent notables are his reviews of John F. Rossmann (a.k.a. Ian Ross)’s psychic/adventure fantasy series, The Mind Masters (Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, Book 4) and his copyright-flouting presentation of Michael O’Donoghue and Frank Springer’s sadistic soft core controversy-magnet, The Adventures of Phoebe Zeit-Geist (1968), in its entirety. I’m way too uptight not to be scandalized by the misogyny of Phoebe’s “adventures,” but I’ve learned a lot about 60s and 70s pulp subculture from Curt’s astute, informative posts. Oh yeah, and September is werewolf month!

    Swollen Head Alert

    It’s been a surreal week here at Double Articulation. My post late last week on interpretation and meaning in superhero comics garnered generous, hyperbolic responses from people whose opinions I respect and whose own writing I admire. Sincere thanks again to one and all for being so gosh-darn swell! And to top it all off, Gail Simone visits my site and responds to my review of Villains United #1-4! (The sick irony of Gail Simone thanking me for “a great read” is not lost on me!) Gail: you sure know how to make a fanboy’s day--thank you for reading! I tells ya, I’m gonna be impossible to live with if you folks don’t quit it.

    And now, after all that love, a bit of good old-fashioned animus…


    "COME KNOW you want it!"

    So blares the cover of Teen Titans #27. But does DC really believe its own cover hype? Can my favorite comic publishers actually imagine that I really do want it? And what exactly is the “it” they so coyly decline to name in their diagnosis of my most secret desire? An “ironic” but still poorly drawn Gail Simone story? A reminder of the bad old days of the 1990s when comic book storytelling was imploding? A discouraging warning that DC’s seemingly sure-footed revamp is not as clear-sighted as it needs to be? That Geoff Johns’s judgment isn’t infallible? That Dan Didio can’t tell the difference between clever nostalgia and enervating déja vu?

    I get that Rob Liefeld drew the pictures for the fondly remembered Hawk and Dove mini back in 1988 and that someone thought it would twang a heartstring of nostalgia to put him on a fill-in reintroducing the characters in 2005. I understand that I’m supposed to enjoy Liefeld’s art as a sort of guilty pleasure. I can almost even make out the vague contours of an argument that says: there’s something clever about having pugnacious fallen-star Liefeld illustrate a story about bratty love-starved super-villains. The problem is that in order to appreciate such rarified pleasures, I still have to be able to read the book. And I’m not over-dramatizing when I say that I nearly wasn’t able to. I picked it up, started it, and put it down half a dozen times before finally forcing myself through it. And let me add: I hold the writer in very high esteem and actually wanted to get into it!

    A few weeks ago, while it was all still abstract, I was feeling philosophical about Liefeld’s assignment to this arc, and I was happy to read the following diagnosis of the pitchfork-wielding mob of Liefeld-haters at Disintegrating Clone’s Nobody Laughs at Mister Fish:

    Conventional wisdom says that the early 1990s boom was caused by seventeen over-optimistic investors who bought X-Men #1 in all sixty-eight thousand different covers. Could this be wrong? Might it have been that we all went out and bought sub-standard mutant books by the skip-load, and are now a wee bit embarrassed about it? That Liefeld, the great symbol of an era (in the way Don Johnson, with his rolled up Miami Vice sleeves, had been a few years earlier), makes us uncomfortable because he reminds us of the failure of our own critical faculties?
    Whatever you think of Liefeld’s work, Disintegrating Clone talks sense. And the thoughtfulness of this evaluation is matched by Brian Cronin who bends over backwards to be fair, objective, and civil in his nearly Rashomon-style review of this issue over at Comics Should Be Good. With the issue actually in front of me, however, I don’t feel so magnanimous anymore. I just feel irked. And sort of stupid. After all, I’ve just repeated a 15 year old mistake—a mistake that I know, shamefully, I am going to repeat again some 30-odd days from now.

    It’s not fair of me to get too bent out of shape about what is, after all, a fill-in issue. The thing is, though, this issue got me thinking. And that’s not always a good thing.

    Teen Titans #27 is a revealing index of the current atmosphere at an ascendant DC Comics. A book like this is the product of a company that, after a couple of years of extremely careful creative and marketing decisions has had a taste of real success and is feeling confident, even cocky. It shows that they are sure of the stability of this series, of the bet-hedging salability of their guest-writer (rightly so), and of the good will of Teen Titans readers generally. And who could blame them? Sales are good, and DC is currently generating the kind of line-wide momentum that no doubt has nervous Marvel executives gnashing their teeth. But while DC is celebrating its current success and anticipating the excitement of the coming year, it may want to remember a few small things.

    The first is that comics are expensive and that there is, for the first time in what feels like a long time, a surplus of quality comics available to choose from right now. Most fans aren’t as “fickle” as some people like to claim, but no one likes to be taken for a ride. Moreover, much of the current excitement one sees among comic fans today stems precisely, I suspect, from their memory of how low things had fallen fifteen years ago. As Disintegrating Clone already pointed out, this is a touchy subject, and sometimes the past is best left undisturbed.

    The second is that nostalgia takes many forms, both good and bad, and that there’s a significant difference between building on the past to create new stories and blindly repeating it for the sake of a cheap thrill. The former can create a pleasurable illusion of historical depth; the latter generally follows the law of diminishing returns.

    The third is that—though it sincerely pains me to admit this (to myself most of all)—Geoff Johns’s Teen Titans is not as solid a series as at it might seem—not creatively anyway. To put it bluntly, the book has yet to live up to its considerable promise. And I say this as one of Geoff’s most starry-eyed fans. Despite the seemingly perfect fit between writer and series, Johns’s Titans relaunch has so far been only a very competent repair job that contains all the nice little touches we’ve grown to expect from Johns, but can legitimately boast only a couple of genuinely standout stories (the “Titans of Tomorrow” arc is one). Yes, Geoff stepped in and made a depressingly mismanaged property readable and fun. And yes, I’m excited about the prospect of a post-Crisis Titans East. But the current series still feels like its idling—and we’re almost 30 issues in. Geoff is a crackerjack plotter with a gift for emotionally resonant storytelling and I truly believe that there are big payoffs in store for Titans fans. But for Pete's sake, if Bendis were writing this book I’d have grilled it six ways to Sunday already!

    Geoff is understandably preoccupied with the larger canvas of the DCU these days—with Infinite Crisis and the challenges beyond—but it might not be a bad time to note that over twenty years ago, during another Crisis, a little Titans writer named Marv Wolfman also got sucked into the vortex of continuity-management in the DCU and seemed suddenly to lose his touch on the series that made him a legend. Fortunately for us, history in the real world isn’t circular—at least not necessarily. But it does have a funny way of repeating itself when no one’s paying attention.

    If Geoff says he isn’t overextended, then good. I'm happy to hear it. But I respectfully submit that now isn’t the time for silly stunts or for trading on the good faith of the book’s already patient readers, even if you are throwing us a bone in the form of an entertaining Gail Simone script.

    I understand that my warnings all ring hollow because everyone knows I’m going to buy whatever Titans book DC chooses to dangle in front of me. Like Pavlov’s pooch, I automatically salivate when exposed to certain stimuli. It’s sad, but I can’t help myself. Such is the nature of my disease. But remember, DC, my case is unusual, and not everyone is as helpless to resist the lure of a half-baked idea as I am.