Posted by: Brian Hibbs on September 18, 2012
Tags: Andy Clarke, Batman, Brent Anderson, Brian, Dan Didio, DCnU, Earth 2, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Guy Gardner, James Robinson, Joe Staton, Phantom Stranger, Steve Englehart, Team 7, They Didn't Learn From Crisis and Hawkman, Zero Month
Yeah, so the DC “Zero month”, hows that working out?
(I know this is lazy bloggery, finding an easy theme and going from there, but in my defense it took me longer to write the Tilting than I thought it was going to take, and I gave Kimbrough the weekend, so I’ve been working a crazy lot recently. I’m sleepy!)
One thing I’m not going to do is be all dumb and try to review each and every one of these comics — my head still aches from doing that with the #1s. So, just overviewy time, I think. Let’s start with some new books?
PHANTOM STRANGER #0: There are some characters — like, say, Wolverine — who stay much more interesting when there’re bits of them shrouded in mystery. Knowing that ol’ Logan used to be a foppish little child who wore a night dress… well it kind of diminishes him, I think. Much the same with the Phantom Stranger, whose very appeal IS IN HIS NAME. “I…am a stranger.”
So, turning him (actually) into Judas Iscariot (with his trademark ’70s love-disk necklace becoming the literal 30 pieces of silver) is… well, ill-considered, at best, right?
What you need to remember is that when there was an issue of “Secret Origins” about The Phantom Stranger in the 80s, DC was clever enough to give him four different possible origins. That’s smart, and really kind of amusing really. But, no, today we need to be all literal. Ugh.
It’s a bad idea though to really underline that both the God of the Old Testament and the “Council of Wizards” on display here who are handing out apparently handing out god-like powers and conditions and, like, the Greco-Roman pantheons all exist in the same world. You CAN make it work, but mostly by God being indirect, but in this first issue we’re already well off the rails, as Dan Didio conflates The Phantom Strangers origin with that of The Spectre. Oh boy.
So, follow along: PS *is* Judas, condemned to “walk this land until the debt for your sins is paid”. And, when PS levels up, one of the thirty pieces of silver drops from his chain. (!)
So, let’s think about the storytelling problems with this set-up.
First and foremost, “Redeeming Judas” is a fairly distasteful Plot — 30 level-ups and PS is forgiven for killing the Son of God, really? We’re going to make Adolph Hitler the next Green Lantern, next? Yikes!
The second problem is that PS’ first level-up comes from encouraging Jimmy Corrigan along a path that makes him The Spectre. In other words, he earns his first level-up from essentially *betraying* Corrigan, not helping him. This version of God is a supremely large asshole, doncha think? Didio tries to kind of be coy about the involvement of God by being all “I’m not sure whose Voice it really is”, but this is all put to a lie at the end when the Voice clearly has the power to not only create, but to control The Spectre.
Theologically, cosmologically, this thing is just a horrid mess — it feels like the kind of idea come up with at 3 in the morning, the night before your solicitation copy is due, when someone panics and points out that someone counted wrong, and you only have 51 books in the third wave. It’s just possible that maybe, the setup could be messaged to make work, but it would take a much more skilled writer than Didio to rise above the errors of the plot.
Brent Anderson’s art is nice, of course, but otherwise this comic is a fairly insane mess. Flatly AWFUL.
TEAM 7 #0: Here’s a book whose premise I really don’t understand: is it meant to be permanently set in the past? It’s a “flashback” series? That won’t work, not with these characters, at least… ugh, and my first week sales really show that (3 copies only? ruh roh). Wow, I’ll be selling zero copies by issue #6 for certain.
The problem is, kinda, that this is retarded: they won’t tell us the backstories of, say, the JLA in the “five year gap”, but they want people to buy a team that includes Grifter and Deathstroke… characters in the bottom 20% of DC sales? And that it is a mixed hybrid of WS and DCU at that? Ew. It’s all guns and ammo pouches and belts and shoulder pads… and really nothing that almost anyone in the modern audience is really interested in at all.
The other problem is there are at least 9 team members introduced in this first issue (but only seven on the cover, so guessing a few of those are introduced-to-die), plus “control” from Lynch — and introducing all of THAT doesn’t leave any room for, y’know, actual plot.
I’m giving this a Thumbs Down, but from pure craft, it’s not any worse than OK.
EARTH 2 #0: I was really wondering how the LAST wave of books was going to work, considering they had just started and all that, and here’s one answer: it feels like James Robinson had no idea what to do with this interruption to his world building — most of this issue is really just a minor redo of issue #1, now with more Terry Sloan. Pity, I was groovin’ on this until now. OK.
GREEN LANTERN CORPS #0: Some of these books are playing “fast and loose” with continuity, and this one might be a good example: Guy Gardner has a TOTALLY different origin here than in the original comics — here, he’s the fully trained sector partner of Hal Jordan, plus he’s a failed cop from a family of cops. In the original, Guy was a gym teacher who missed being a GL by a few feet, geographically, then was rescued from a coma by a rogue Guardian during the first Crisis. So… I guess none of those Englehart/Staton issues actually happened, then? But… if none of that happened, then… how did Hal ultimately go nuts, and become Parallax, which lead to the Rebirth, which lead to the Blackest Night? Add that to the other characters that couldn’t have participated in that story, then how was GL #1 a follow-up to Brightest Day? Oh god, oh god, my head hurts! THIS is why the “five year gap” simply doesn’t work — you tug on one thread and all of a sudden all of the rest of it falls apart.
If you want a laugh (or maybe I’m the only one who is laughing), go look up the Wiki page for Guy Gardner and watch how BOTH his pre- and post-DCnU are expressed on the page, jumping back and forth between them paragraph by paragraph. Silly.
This new origin is pretty EH — it makes Guy Just Another Corpsman, rather than the complex contradiction he used to be. Oh Well.
GREEN LANTERN #0: It’s actually kind of nice to read a #0 that’s contemporary, AND an origin, AND will be followed up directly next month. The new GL is Muslim-American — how timely. And, of course, his “origin” involves 9/11 and being mistaken for a terrorist. OF COURSE.
And, sure, 9/11. 2001. Which is made explicit in GL #0, since it’s more than 10 years ago, by captions. But, of course, BATMAN #0 takes place “six years ago”… making Bruce and Kal and everything else explicitly post-“War on Terror” and, Jesus, doesn’t THAT change the characters dramatically? And that, folks, is why you NEVER tie superhero comics to explicit dates or historical events — my son was 3 years old when the JLA started? *headsplode*
Anyway, back to GL — I’m pretty cool with this new setup, except for the cover, I think — why does the muslim GL have to wear a gimp mask and carry a gun (!) when he’s got a MAGIC WISHING RING on the end of his fist? Why wear a mask like that when your EXTREMELY DISTINCTIVE tattoo is all lit up in green light?
But, even with all of that, this COULD work… if only GL didn’t launch into a four-month, four-book crossover next month. *sigh*
Even with all that, I kind of thought it was a low GOOD.
BATMAN #0: As I noted before, this goes the furthest back in the “near past”, set SIX years ago. But, I think this might have been one of the most effective #0s I’ve read so far as it really did try to add to the legend of Batman, showing us something we’ve never seen before, with pre-costume batman-ing. And, I frankly loved the backup story (mostly from the art by Andy Clarke), even with the whole Jason’s-an-accessory-to-murder bit (which is reasonably fine with his character) — so, yeah, I’m going to say this one is VERY GOOD, even if the timeline makes zero sense.
OK, books almost arriving today, I’m out of time… as always, what did YOU think?