Monday, February 14, 2005

Comics: Year of the Bummer

(looking forward to the flames on the next two. Please, constructive remarkes in the comments, hate mail to the e-mail. Thanks)

I noticed, as the year crept on, an unsettling depression creeping over me on Wednesday afternoons. Now, this was remarkable, as Wednesday is the day I lie to everyone and say I’m writing on my laptop at the coffee shop, instead go to Meltdown Comics on Sunset, pick up the week’s books, and then run to the food court and read comics and eat pizza and weep and purge and weep and purge …

I share too much. The point being, this should be a happy day. Why the hell was I so bummed?

I think it’s because, for some reason, nothing much I read this year was, well, fun. It was the Year of the Bummer. Some of them were well-written bummers. Some of them were the best plot choice. But some of them were just lazy, and dreck.

The return of Books of Magic is unceasingly dour and cryptic. This is actually a different impending rant, so let’s leave it at that.

I’m probably just having a problem with Hellblazer because it’s coming off such an amazing run, and now is sliding back into pariah-Constantine. Rake at the Gates of Hell, people, just stay on that, and the book’ll be fine.

The Flash had a secret identity and then, didn’t, again. (In screenwriting we call that an “up and back”, and what is considered a flaw in movies and television is apparently Comic Writing 101)

The big Bat-crossover, War Games, besides being yet another blow to Gotham’s property values -- seriously, can you even get home insurance in that city? – not only brutally beat to death a young female character I kind of dug, but also relied on the plot device of somebody stealing one of Batman’s contingency plans. Mark Waid did it first and best in the Tower of Babel arc in JLA. Okay, after the first time somebody uses Bats’ own unmatched tactical genius against him, I’m thinking he’s gonna get some better encryption. Maybe a firewall. Because, you know … he’s an unmatched tactical genius. Fool me once, etc. etc.

Speedy has AIDS. ‘nuff said.

I’m a big fan of the Bats/Superman crossover book, despite the dueling thought bubbles. But the whole “evil heroes” arc … yay, I get to see Supes strangle Diana to death with her own lasso. My life wasn’t complete without that moment.

A great Aquaman relaunch turns into Aquaman fighting … the spread of heroin in Sub Diego. Soon McGruff the Crime Carp will join him.

Gwen Stacy gets dry-husk-sucked in the Ultimate book.

Robert Kirkman, who I think is fantastic, has Walking Dead (yes, I get the double entendre) and Invincible. Walking Dead is now adding characters just so they can die miserably, making increasingly illogical choices along the way. Also, I don’t know what Kirkman’s home life is like, but DAMN the wife in this book is a hateful shrew. She just bitched in the last issue, about how hero Dan keeps “taking off” and how she’s “sick of him.” Oh, you mean the guy you LEFT IN A COMA? The guy who crossed the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the flesh-eating dead because he LOVED YOU? The guy who saved your ass and the collective asses of everyone in the group MULTIPLE TIMES? The guy who was incredibly cool about maybe your baby not being his? Seriously, nobody’s that pinheaded.

And Invincible – still one of my favorite books – teeters on the edge of pathos. More Atlantean courtship fights, less with the drunky-drunky mom.

100 Bullets, well, it’s supposed to be grim. But added to the Year of Bummers …

We3 – wonderful. But mega-bummer.

Peripherally, I actually liked some of the Cross-Gen books. Poof.

Just as the New Avengers kicks my ass and delights me, it turns out there’s a traitor in their midst! Good Lord, can’t just tell some interesting team stories, can we, we have to break the paradigm from moment one. Bummer.

Mark Millar … heh. Why, why, when he has such chops, does he insist on the juvenile eye-stabbing? In the same book he writes one of the best Hulk variants and by far the smartest Thor update, he turns Cap into a right-wing asshole and completely misses the point of Nick Fury – Fury’s a bastard, but he’s a righteous bastard. (Oh, and by the way, big props to Ed Brubaker for, in his latest issue of Captain America, a classy, thorough bitch-slap of Millar’s “Does this A on my head stand for ‘France’?!” crap) WANTED is maybe, maybe the worst idea in comics. In a decade. Oooo,. Look, I’m writing the seductive side of evil! Ooo, look, I reject your petty morality! Yes, yes, but without some sort of moral framework underneath, it’s like a twelve-year old showing off a stick-on tattoo and thinking it makes him tough. To paraphrase Repo Man, “Fuck nihilism, at least anarchy’s an ethos.” I’ve seen WANTED compared to Fight Club. Well, if you believe that, you also missed the point of Fight Club. Just like you missed the point of The Authority when you ran that into the ground.

New rule: I’m not buying another Millar book unless he can get through an entire year without a wife-beating or a sodomy reference. I will actually contribute a $1000 to the Comic Book Legal Defense fund if Millar can write twelve issues without them.

Which leads us to the two biggest bummers of the year, united by a common them I like to call ...


Douglas said...

Okay that's not too bad. Crossgen going south was a royal pain, just when I thought I had a pitch for them they might listen to. One that I doubt very much DC / Marvel or even Image would care for - but I'll work it later.

Anyway back to Comic's being a bummer in 2004 - I just can't think of anything that filled me with joy, apart from Bone.

But this year... this year is already shaping up well. Lion,Tigers and Bears is a book for all ages - and yeah it's really a kids book. But it's a great guilty read - like many kids books that hold up well to adults. In fact it's the kind of book I wish I had kids to read from.

Also sure there's been bummer stuff but there's been great stuff. Gotham Central is just - well it's the best book DC puts out week in and week out. Why isn't it the next DC TV-show. Fuck it's tailor made for TV. You don't even really need Bats showing up! Hell spin it out of the new movie this summer - quick someone pitch the show to Warners. It would be far better than Birds of Prey (which was fun but used wrong) - and there's no need to have Jim Gordon on the show as in the Movie he's not Commissioner yet.

Anyway rant over. There's some fun stuff out there this year at least.

DougBot said...

Did I miss the point where we lapped the 80s again? All of a sudden so many comics are full of grim anti-heroes again. It's like The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen fiascos all over again, where the idiots thought the comics were selling because of the attitude, not the quality of the work.

I have high hopes for Morrison's Seven Soldiers and Superman runs, but he can't do it alone.

(Are you reading Noble Causes? Oh, wait, the current storyline THERE is another murdered woman. Crap.)

Benari said...

I totally dug Darwyn Cooke's "DC: New Frontier." I thought it was fantastic.

But yeah, I thought comics were supposed to be big and fun: loud explosions, snarky one-liners, and lots o' fighting - with a dash of melodrama and pinch of pathos. No wonder not as many kids read comics these days.

1031 said...

At least Brian Vaughan's Ex Machina was a breath of fresh air this past year, right?

I mean, part of the problem with your "Year of the Bummer" might be with all the "mainstream" DC and Marvel books you're reading. Walking Dead and Wanted are the only two books not published by the Big Two that you mentioned. You just need a bit of diversity to go along with all the crappy been there, done that pervert suit books, as Ellis likes to call them.

Books like Scott Pilgrim from Oni, and Queen & Country...wait, you did an intro for Q&C, didn't you? So you know about that.

You get what I'm sayin', though. Sometimes you just gotta let the superheroes do their thing, and move on to some other, less "mainstream" titles.

And yes, I know that Ex Machina is a DC book. But it's Wildstorm, so there's a difference.

Angelophile said...

There's plety of bummer stuff beyond those examples as well. Not only did we have Ultimate Gwen Stacy being sucked dry, but we also had it in the Marvel universe, which her boffing Norman Osborn and giving birth to rapidly aging twins. Then there's Millar's Spidrman, kidnapping Aunt May and possibly killing her. Plus over in the X-men universe, more characters buying the farm with almost as much rapidity as they keep bringing them back.

Plus, of course, the year's biggest bummer - Rob Liefeld returning to X-force.

If you'd read any of that you'd be truly depressed.

alex said...

Don't know if they're mentioned in another post, but I see you had no words on Conan, Astonishing X-Men, and (as others said) Ex Machina--the only three mainstream books I currently don't wait for the trade on. That mean you didn't read them or didn't consider them a part of the poo poo pantheon? Guess I lucked out this year in that I enjoyed most of what I read. But I do feel familiar with a lot of this crap through my Wizard sub.

Ross Richie said...

You're reading AQUAMAN???!!!

Anonymous said...

Don't read anymore superhero comics. Chill, buy the arc of Colonia that came out last fall and you're set. And buy a couple Finder TPBs.

And if you need a superhero fix, get Steven Grant's Last Heroes GN.


Lizzybeth said...

Wanted.. sheesh. I had hopes for Millar after I read Chosen, which I thought was fun. I thought Wanted could go in an interesting direction. But he really fucked it up. I can't think of a more spectacular flameout than that title. It was wildly popular at all the shops in my area, and now I see universal disappointment and irritation. I bet Millar thinks it's because he pegged the fanboys right or something equally pompous, but the fact is that it was done badly, just an absolute fumble. Too bad. Not going to pick more of his stuff any time soon..

Anonymous said...

"Why isn't [Gotham Central] the next DC TV-show."

It was. Except it didn't have Batman in it and it was called Homicide.

Sean said...

"Walking Dead is now adding characters just so they can die miserably, making increasingly illogical choices along the way."

Not sure what illogical choices you mean - can you elaborate? Also, I'm surprised that you seem surprised by the 'bummer' aspect of a post-apocalyptic zombie-filled book. I mean, unless you're just taking the piss, like Shaun of the Dead, isn't a zombie story NECESSARILY a bummer?

"Also, I don’t know what Kirkman’s home life is like, but DAMN the wife in this book is a hateful shrew. ... Seriously, nobody’s that pinheaded."

Well, Rick's BEST FRIEND did completely flip his wig and try to kill him, so I don't think it's out of bounds in this book for otherwise likeable, sympathetic characters to push the envelope a little. Remember, Rick might be acting really cool about it not being his baby, but that doesn't mean he's not really upset about it, and it certainly doesn't mean SHE'S not upset about it either. People act in strange ways when dealing with stress, loss, depression, etc., and I think Kirkman's gone to fine lengths to show us the range of human resiliance by having each different character respond to their challenges in different ways. Besides, Kirkman's been planting the "moody seeds" in the wife character for several issues now.

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