Posted by: Graeme McMillan on September 13, 2007
Continuing the apropos of nothing nature of my posts, I’d like to partially recind my WTF to Nellie McKay. Yes, she continues to play live in San Francisco when I’m on vacation and unable to see her, but having now heard her third album, I’m happy to report that the plot that she so spectacularly lost on the second album (If ever there was a second album that showed someone so flushed with success and thinking they could get away with anything, pushing away editors, it’s “Pretty Little Head”) has apparently been rediscovered; “Mother of Pearl” alone is worth the price of purchase. Also, Bob Dorough sings on one of the tracks! How can anyone have a problem with Bob Dorough?
But you don’t want to read about the semi-jazz music that I’ve been listening to. You want to read about the comics.
How much is too much? That’s what I ended up thinking when I finished WONDER GIRL #1, which is another example of something from DC that has a lot of potential being buried by it’s reliance on current continuity and the readers’ knowledge of same (See: Jodi Picoult’s Wonder Woman run, which ended up being less than half of an Amazons Attack crossover, or Tony Bedard and Renato Guedes’ Supergirl run, which seems to consist entirely of Countdown- and Amazons Attack-related filler, amongst many other things). It’s not that the creators aren’t trying their best – J. Torres’ script is clear and does its best to introduce the backstory necessary for the reader to follow the story, and Sanford Greene’s art is an attractive cross between the DC-animated style and Ed McGuinness or Paco Medina – but that the series itself feels like nothing as much as tying up of loose ends from Amazons Attack and Teen Titans plots instead of a story in and of itself. And I wondered, why does this feel so unnatural? Isn’t this just old-school organic storytelling, with plots and characters running across books and things that happen in one story having effects that go beyond that particular storyline? Why, when I genuinely like the creators’ work, do I end up feeling as if this is an Okay attempt to get around some kind of idea forced on them from outside, instead of a story that they were dying to tell?
When does this kind of thing go from being organic crossover to editorially-mandated mess, I guess is what I was really getting at. The best I can figure is when not only does nothing ever get resolved in and of itself, but when things don’t even get started in and of themselves. The central character arc in Wonder Girl, for example, comes from Teen Titans, and despite the best expositionary efforts of Torres, feels alien and as if anyone picking up Wonder Girl has missed the important first part of the story; even if the continuation of that story is enjoyable – and it is – the first issue is still an unfulfilling experience, because the reader feels as if they’ve missed an important something (because, well, they have). It’s probably the same thing that made me so disappointed in the Search for Ray Palmer; the feeling that it’s all middle (although, in that case, not even enjoyable middle) – the structure of the series as purely a small part of a greater, unknowable, whole being too apparent and ruining the fun.
Interestingly enough, the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA WEDDING SPECIAL #1 manages to sidestep that issue, for two reasons that are both tied to the presence of writer Dwayne McDuffie. Firstly, despite this being a tie-in to the ongoing nuptual doom of Black Canary and Green Arrow, this is very clearly the first chapter of a story, with proper introductions being given to not only the new villains of the piece but also new (guest?-)star Firestorm, continuing a storyline from his recently cancelled solo series. Secondly, McDuffie brings a sense of humor to the book that gives it a completeness despite the cliffhangers – by setting up and then following through on a couple of slow gags, there’s some weird sense of closure by the end of the issue, even though the story’s simply getting started (Similarly, you can almost look as the Firestorm subplot as coming to a bad conclusion, even if that conclusion is McGuffin to start the main story)… there’s a feeling of there being a wholeness to this issue that is missing from Wonder Girl, even if it’s as tied to DCU continuity and other books as the latter book is.
Sure enough, there’s not much original about the new plot nor the new villains – even ignoring the (referenced in story) Secret Society from Infinite Crisis time, we’ve seen the Lex Gathers Anti-Justice League plot in McDuffie’s own JLU cartoon and Grant Morrison’s JLA within the last decade – but nonetheless, this is a fun, smart, Good set-up for what promises to be a much more super-heroic and old-school take on the team and book than Brad Meltzer’s attempt. Worth checking out for those who like guys in costumes fightin’, anyway.