Sunday, June 22, 2008

DCU: State of the Nation

Well, the bloom is off the rose, and the backlash is in full swing.

Like the rumors about Joe Quesada’s probable axing following Civil War and One More Day, the recent rumblings about Didio’s post-Countdown firing are no doubt so much hot air.

Still, there are plenty of reasons to hate on DC these days. Countdown was, without a doubt, the most self-destructive example of corporate greed and editorial incompetence that comicbookland has seen in quite some time. It tore down—week-by-week, with striking symmetry and efficiency—all the good will and fuzzy feelings that 52 had built up. So, post-Countdown, DC was in effect starting from scratch—at least as far as its weekly series was concerned.

The good news is that Trinity rocks. Hard. It’s exactly what I want from a weekly series. Busiek is on his game: the plot is intriguing and clearly going somewhere. The characterization and dialogue are tops. And Mark Bagley’s art is fantastic. I think that this might actually the be the best work I’ve ever seen him do—so energized and polished. The “back-up” stories (though this is the wrong word for what these stories actually are) are effectively interwoven with the main story and yet still feel like a bonus—what a great way of sharing the creative burden of the weekly book without making the art in the main story seem like a jigsaw puzzle for readers. I really like this. Simply put: Trinity is great comics.

Final Crisis. Well, huh. Looks like Morrison’s series got royally screwed over by DC editorial. Is anyone steering this ship? I say we follow Morrison’s advice and just treat Final Crisis as an extension of Seven Soldiers and 52 and forget that Countdown and Death of the New Gods ever happened. What a pathetic spectacle; if this were the real world and not the comics industry, someone would actually be fired for this mess.

Something else I’d like to forget ever happened is the utterly incompetent relaunch of the Wolfman-Perez Titans by Winick, Churchill, and Benitez. I won’t beat this dead, rancid, decomposing horse’s carcass any more than I already have except to say that DC should cancel this shit RIGHT NOW and give all of us 35-year-old fanboys a chance to get the awful stink out of our noses before trying, once again, to rekindle the old magic at some far off point in the future—hopefully with a creative team that has some idea what they’re doing. Dropped.

The other notable ongoing screw-up at DC is the handling of its flagship superhero team. Justice League of America is a truly awful comic from start to finish. Just everything about it is wrong—starting with the fact that nothing happens (where are the adventures?) and what little does happen always feels underdeveloped or stupid or is just plain confusing. I’ve tried to give this book the benefit of the doubt and have stuck with it for twenty-two issues—much longer than it deserves. As I’ve mentioned before, Dwayne McDuffie (who is good on other things) is at his worst here—though certainly DC’s use of this series to pimp its various other projects has not made McDuffie’ job easy. Thankfully, I don’t need to review the current issue to back up my case because Comic Book Resources’ Timothy Callaghan has already provided the definitive diagnosis of this terminally bad series. Dropped.

On a smaller scale, but equally aggravating is the fact that awesome former-Batman and the Outsiders scribe Chuck Dixon “is no longer employed by DC in any capacity.” I don’t know anything about Dixon as a personality, so who’s to know quite how to take his (totally delicious) innuendo-laden internet posts about “Jim Shooter.” Talk about a sour-candy treat for fans who are already disgruntled by TPTB at DC. Whether or not Dan Didio is an editorial ogre, it’s the readers who really lost out on this one. Dixon’s departure from BATO has me in the dumps, because, as you know, I was loving his take on the relaunch. Drat. I’ll stick with the series for now and hope for the best.

Of course, all is not terrible. DC continues to publish some fantastic books, though god help them if Geoff Johns decides to jump ship. Action Comics, Green Lantern, Booster Gold, and Justice Society of America are some of my favorite DC books at the moment—all penned or supervised by the boy wonder. Wonder Woman is also excellent again, finally. All-Star Superman is in a class by itself. The much-missed Manhunter is back. And Nightwing is still being given a satisfying star treatment by Tomasi, Rags, and Kramer. I’m enjoying Shooter’s Legion of Superheroes too.

Morrison’s Batman still has me a bit puzzled, but I’m enjoying it more now that R.I.P. has finally begun. Green Lantern Corps is pretty good as a military adventure book. Tony Bedard’s Birds of Prey is also okay, but that title is still having trouble soaring beyond the heights it achieved under Simone’s tenure. Speaking of thankless jobs, Bruce Jones’s Checkmate is…nothing at all like Rucka’s. It’s passably entertaining so far, I guess, but I certainly wouldn’t be buying it if I wasn’t still being carried forward by the momentum of Rucka’s superb run. Jones had better dazzle soon, or this series is toast. People seem to be accepting Mike Norton’s replacement of Cliff Chiang on Green Arrow/Black Canary, but for me, the change in artists just highlights how little-invested I am in Ollie and Dinah’s quest to find Connor. I’m think I’m done with this one. I’m also done with the awful Rann-Thanagar Holy War. Just, ugh.

Fortunately, there are at least a few things on the horizon to look forward to. I’m psyched about Simone’s new Secret Six series, obviously. Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds looks amazing. I’m optimistic about Reign in Hell, primarily because of the creative team, not the concept, which doesn’t do much for me. Perhaps, most importantly, there’s Ambush Bug. After the last year, this series will no doubt be profoundly cathartic.


Kevin Agot said...

Heya Jim,

I accidentally came across your blog by seeing a link to it referencing your Herge article. I must say that a quick perusal of your previous topics looks encouraging. I agree with many of your points brought in your latest entry. I have much to say but I'll keep it short since I need to count some sheep and cut some zzzzz's. 52 had it's moments. Slow start, pretty good build up and ended fairly strong. My main disappointment with 52 was that it didn't set out what it claimed to do at the start of the series. I won't go into that here since there are tons of articles out there from the creative teams stating their intentions and direction for the series from the outset.

Countdown burned me bad. I tried three weeks worth of drivel and drab and felt insulted. I dropped it like fresh poo in a wet bag. Not worth my time or money. In fact, it burned me so bad that I pretty much lost faith in crossovers and blockbusters that promise life-changing and senses-shattering events. I've had enough over-exaggerated hyperbole for a lifetime. The big two shovel this stuff pretty good. And, if keep responding positively to the dreg they'll keep the production line going. I've had it with crossovers/intercompany threads!

Thankfully, there are dudes out there who march to their own beat. I'm digging DMZ and Ex Machina and X-Factor and Invincible and Thor, to name a chunk. Got to hit the hay. Just wanted to say "hey" and that I'll be checking out your part of the world via the blog more often.

Anonymous said...

Glad you're back, Jim!

I'm so glad Morrison revealed the machinations behind Countdown and Death of the New Gods instead of trying to cover up for DC functionally disregarding the first issue of Final Crisis. Lots of commenters were saying he should have revised the first issue to jibe with Countdown and DOTNG but I'm glad Morrison insisted "I was here first" and refused to change his story for the sake of the parasitical exploitation series.

I think his revelation sheds new light on a curious exchange that happened April 20 at the NYCC. I sensed a hint of passive-agressive subtext when I first read it so I made a mental note to watch this space, and sure enough I think Morrison's latest comments are the necessary gloss for this awkward moment:

When a reader expressed concern over Final Crisis having too many tie-ins, Berganza reminded that it’s not tying into any ongoing comics. Morrison spoke frankly about event comics, saying, “there’s always something essential, you don’t have to buy all these books, because some of them are crap. Buy what you like by the guys you like.”

Berganza quickly stepped in to clarify that Morrison wasn’t calling the Final Crisis tie-ins crap.

“Oh, no those guys are great,” said Morrison of Final Crisis tie-in writers like (his 52 co-writers) Geoff Johns and Greg Rucka. “I was talking about other crossovers.”

Though the reporter might not have captured his exact quote, it sounded to me like Morrison was choosing his words carefully. Berganza tried to deflect Morrison's comments from Final Crisis if not DC altogether, but Morrison's clarification seemed to exclude only two writers by name, not every Final Crisis-related spin-off.

In hindsight, presumably Starlin's Death of the New Gods if not the entire run of Countdown were on Morrison's mind as he could already see they were screwing up the lead-in to Final Crisis, whose very existence these disrespecting spin-offs were contingent upon.

Jim Roeg said...

Welcome, Kevin! Thanks for dropping by and leaving a note. I'll be saying a little something about my favorite Marvel books when time permits. I've been waiting for the trade on Thor--which looks fantastic.

Hey, Nobody--I remember seeing that little jab of Morrison's too, though I'd forgotten about it since. I'm sure you're right. What a circus. And I'm in total agreement: hat's off to Morrison for sticking to his guns.

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