Posted by: Brian Hibbs on December 19, 2004
Hooray! Jeff did a bunch of reviews, so I can safely ignore… well, virtually everything this week. Which is good, because the closing-days-of-holiday-shipping have kicked my ass but good, in addition to the 20 box collection we just bought (how in god’s name can you have a 20 box collection and not have ANY of them alphabetized?!?!?!)
I’ve also got this mildly sick stack of DVDs and videos I need to watch (STILL haven’t watched THE APPRENTICE finale, but thanks to the SF CHRONICLE for spoiling the results ON PAGE TWO OF THE PAPER, sheesh!) — including some year-old things from the library like the LED ZEPPELIN LIVE 2 disk set (*orgasmic shudder*) and I also get LotR on Wednesday, plus I’m itching to play some CITY OF HEROES (been 3 days, man… I’ve gotten to level 43 though!) and I’m just generally drowning in stuff to do.
SO… 3 whole reviews this week!
Hm, let’s go with reverse-alpha this week….
TRIGGER #1: I thought this was a terrific start, though the cynical bastard in me wonders how long this can really go. The best Vertigo titles have always revolved around personal responsibility, and this is structured (it seems) to be against the Man. John Watkiss is a fucking great artist, I don’t care what you think! VERY GOOD.
SHAOLIN COWBOY #1: Boi-yoi-yoi-yoing! That’s the sound of a giant woodie erupting from my pants over this! Holy crap, was this fine shit or what? Sure, the plot is barely a sentence long, but it’s not like HARDBOILED was a masterpiece of plot or writing, either. That “360 degree” sequence was simply the coolest thing I saw this week, and I loved how it felt like, dunno, “480” or something. My only quibble? This shoulda been printed at 11×17, darn it! Like Jeff mentioned, this is 2 weeks in a row where Burlyman spanked DC and Marvel in the quality entertainment department, and, there’s no doubt this is both EXCELLENT and the PICK OF THE WEEK. Selling like a glass pipe on Free Crack Day, too. Hooray!
IDENTITY CRISIS #7: Here’s the short version of the review: Fuck you. Sincerely. In the neck. With a rusty nail. Fuckers.
Ah, but you want the longer version, don’t you?
There are several ways in which this doesn’t work, at all.
(oh, and hey, there will be spoilers here, in case you haven’t read it — so go away now, if you don’t want to be spoiled)
First, and primarily, as the denouement to a murder mystery, there’s nothing to call this but shit. There weren’t enough clues to put this together. Even a game of CLUE is much less random than this. (“Jean Loring. In the Apartment. With a Flamethrower”), and what IS there doesn’t hold up to scrutiny for more than a few seconds. “It was an accident, and I just happened to be packing a flamethrower” The fuck you say? There are far too many improbable things to string together to make this work. Like a) Jean knows how to use the atom suit? b) Ray just leaves them laying around? Really? c) Why the fuck was she packing a flamethrower? Carrying a “weapon” I can conceptually understand, but a FLAMETHROWER? d) um, the world’s greatest detectives (Bruce, J’onn, Ralph) with access to god-like forensics tools (Literally in Scott Free’s case, metaphorically with the Metal Men et. al.) and Jean didn’t leave a single hair, or flake of skin or footprint or anything? I mean, yes, I can buy that she could sneak in microscopically, sorta, I guess, but once she grew, all bets were off. e) I’m no expert, but I kinda thought that flamethrowers would put out a pretty damn distinctive scent? Is that enough? No? Well then, how about f) How did Jean learn to tie that plot-point specific knot? g) Why wouldn’t Calculator have called the JLA and tried to sell them the information about the ATOM’S WIFE hiring what seemed to be a random assassination? Seriously, what’s the benefit to him to keep that information quiet? If anything, he has more future leverage by playing ball. Also h) by involving him in the plot, shouldn’t that mean the Calculator can pretty damn easily figure out that Tim Drake is Robin? And, thus, Bruce, Batman?
There were other non-mystery things too that bugged me. Why was Jean put into ARKHAM of all places? Under her own name? A dank pit of despair and horror, where’s there’s basically no chance of her ever getting better, and every chance of her getting gang-raped by the Joker, Two-Face and Killer Croc? The fuck? There’s even a background “national inquirer” cover that says it happened, if the whole thing wasn’t depressing enough for you.
Plus the entire seven issues was basically one big red herring that didn’t bear upon the actual events in ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM. Think about it: Jean went nuts. Not because of the brainwashing thing though — that had nothing to do with it. She coulda gone nuts 3 months ago, or 5 years from now, and it didn’t have any bearing upon the story Meltzer apparently really wanted to tell.
What this means is that the HORROR of the story, the slaughters of Sue and her unborn child, the orphaning of Robin (which dramatically works against Tim — HE became Robin out of belief of the mantle, not rage at loss like Bruce or Dick or even Cassandra), the absolutely bewilderingly so out-of-character destruction of Jean (and thus functionally Ray, the single most shat upon of all of DC’s “icons”), not one of those things had to have happened in order to tell the MAIN story, the brainwashing plot. And that to me, is repugnant.
Morally so. Ethically so.
I don’t blame Meltzer, per se. He might read this “review” and think I hate him or something. On the contrary, I think he’s a good writer. Certainly he got into the characters heads, and I think the dialogue for the entire series was largely crisp and on the money. Where I really lay the blame is on DC’s management for approving, or perhaps even encouraging, the horrific and cynical events here. This darkens the DCU, again. And this trend makes me sick.
Where is the heroism here? Did anything “heroic” occur in IDENTITY CRISIS? No, we’ve seen rapes, and murders, and insanity and horror, and self-delusion, and secrets and lies. And I don’t think any of these characters are anything other than worse for it. Where’s the damn heroism?
Coming out on the cover of the next PREVIEWS Batman’s holding someone else as a corpse. Just in time for Christmas, have some more cynicism and horror.
Well, no, fuck you. I don’t want that. No one does, not really.
I could go on with the rant, but I’m just sick of it. On the Savage Critic Scale, it gets a CRAP, as well as the PICK OF THE WEAK for this week. In fact, though we have 2 more ship weeks to go, I think I can safely take the position that IDENTITY CRISIS was the worst comic of the entire year. Despite the level of craft being extremely high. It’s well scripted, it is be-yootifully drawn, but the level of unnecessary damage it did… just ugh. And, dig, there were a lot of really really really bad comics this year.
* * * * * *
On a lighter note, let’s look at the books for the week. My first round pick (that is: what *I* took home) looks like this:
AMERICAN SPLENDOR OUR MOVIE YEAR GN
ASTONISHING X-MEN VOL 1 GIFTED TP
KRAZY & IGNATZ 1933-34 NECROMANCY BY THE BLUE BEAN BUSH
MARGES LITTLE LULU VOL 1 TP
P CRAIG RUSSELL VOL 3 LIBRARYOF OPERA TP
POWERS VOL 7 FOREVER TP
I recommend each and every one for your bookshelf, but I’m going to go with Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s ASTONIGHING X-MEN v1 TP as my BOOK OF THE WEEK. That’s how you do super-heroes — funny and brave and bright even when serious. Hooray for it!
What did you think?
(and now Lester can post something about IDENTITY CRISIS, huh?)