Posted by: Brian Hibbs on August 9, 2006
52 WEEK #13: The one-quarter-mark hits with a mighty and depressing thud. Clearly, part of this is me: I don’t want to see Ralph Dibney under a burned out bridge crying and insane — though I’m sort of hard-pressed to see how ANYone is interested in seeing that either. But the real sin here is the relentless and wretched plot-hammering. Some of this, I expect, is the nature of this project — I can’t picture anyway of making this work without a rigid chart of what HAS to happen and when, in order to get to all of the beats, and everything they want/need to do. This isn’t a normal comic, where they can decide suddenly that they need an extra issue or two, or that other threads need to be cut off before they prove cancerous — the structure seems locked and solid.
When I left the house this morning, Jeff still hadn’t posted reviews, so hopefully I’m not stepping on his toes or anything when I say he put it to me that the structure of 52 simply isn’t working — the central conceit that each book is a week, no more and no less, is crippling the dramatic through-line of the book. And I’m hard pressed to disagree, really — it has been a full real month since we’ve even seen Booster or John Henry; even longer since we’ve heard back about the teleportation accident — is Hawkgirl still 40 feet tall two months later? While “3 pages each of the 6 leads” would have been a worse structure, there really needed to be some sort of checking in with each protagonist week-by-week — even if it is just a panel or two. How is it that it takes 2 weeks or more to get to the middle east? Even a panel of Renee on the phone on hold trying to get a flight, and being told they’re all filled up because people with the meta-gene are fleeing to the region or something (anything) would have been preferable. See, unlike a monthly title where the reader largely needs to be recapped and hand-walked through the story-threads because enough time has passed and we’ve forgotten, in a weekly release, he audience is directly behind you, and needs forward momentum, more than anything else. Look at all of the complaints about the back half of the first season of LOST, for example. No one wants to see you spin wheels — we want PROGRESS.
So, 1/4 of the way through the entire series, and, basically, nothing has happened — not 13 issues worth of comic, a least. A bad comparison, to be sure, but look at what WATCHMEN accomplished in less issues, with a main cast roughly the same size. Economy should have been the watchword, something to have made 52 dense and compelling, and, instead, we’re just watching paint dry.
My specific problem with week 14 is, as I said, the hammery hammer of plothammering. Ralph has to be broken and sobbing at the end of the issue, regardless of whether or not any of he staging makes any sense. An ACTUAL servant of god, and a man with a magic ring that can do ANYthing (like make “telepathic ear plugs”) can’t find a normal person 200 feet from their location? (Sure the “shadowy figure” could be to blame, but please!) Or how about the destruction of the “church”? Why is Ollie sending down shards of glass upon a bunch of confused kids? What the heck is GL blowing up on page 12? And why? What, exactly, starts the fire on page 14? Its not the superheroes, or any of their actions — they’re all accounted for on page 13; and it doesn’t appear to be Devem or any of his acolytes — they look to be just as surprised as anyone.
And I was kinda enjoying the first 11 story pages…
Feh, just feh.
Insult-to-Injury returns this week, but at least it isn’t Dan Jurgen’s fault — now it’s just the obnoxious juxtaposition of Ralph’s origin against the tone of the preceding story. Gross.
I’m not as extreme as Graeme, but, seriously, that was AWFUL.
CREEPER #1: Didn’t like this, either. Part of it is the constant rebooting of ideas — apparently there never was a Creeper prior to this (Damn that Superboy and his wall-punching!), while part of it is missing out on the right lunacy of the core idea of the original — the Creeper is madness and lunacy, not just another superhero secret identity. Losing any origin story set at a costume party is a dire mistake. I’m going to go with another AWFUL.
ALL-NEW ATOM #2: The only one of the “Brave New World” launches that has worked at all for me, becomes more compelling in its second round. I’m finding a great deal of affection of our new hero and his supporting cast (whom I HATED in the BNW special), and I like how the approach is from scientific curiosity, rather than super-heroics. Our first week sales took a mighty hit on this issue, though — dropping to like 60% of #1, which is a really bad long-term sign. Still, *I* liked it: GOOD.
OUTSIDERS #39: I really wonder if Winick knows why the team is like this, one year later, or if he’s just making it up as he goes along. Very EH.
INVINCIBLE #34: Reading this, followed within seconds by MARVEL TEAM-UP #23 made me realize something: Robert Kirkman is a really really good fan-fic writer. He clearly has a lot of love and affection for the Marvel tropes and characters, and, as long as he’s having to twist them to, you know, be far enough away so he can’t be sued, he rocks. But, put him on the ACTUAL characters, and it all turns wet and limp. That’s also why MARVEL ZOMBIES was entertaining — it is official fan-fic. That’s what it looks like to me, at least. INVINCIBLE: a very high OK; MARVEL TEAM-UP: AWFUL.
AGENTS OF ATLAS #1: I, for one, would have preferred a period piece. This first issue suffers from a lot of need-to-recap from a 25 (is that right?) year old story, and the contortions to bring it into the modern MU. EH.
Bah, truck here already. I’ll wrap up at…
So, uh PICK OF THE WEEK, right? Well, the best thing I read this week was published in 1986 — I’ve been rereading THE QUESTION, and I have to say, MAN, were those first dozen or so issues really really excellent. It’s not just the comic itself, but also the letter columns, with the recommended reading lists, and the heady philosophical debate, and the rotating behind-the-scenes at DC editorial matter (which makes Didio’s weekly attempt to be fairly feeble), and, man, the house ads, too — it’s easy to forget just how fertile and experimental DC from like 86 to 88 really was. A lot of horrifically failed experiments, too — but that was a fine fine period of books, really. Try to dig up THE QUESTION, you’ll really dig it (but, absolutely avoid under all circumstances THE QUESTION QUARTERLY… man, what a sour and discordant note that book was). Especially fun are all the early appearances of Lady Shiva…. before, I think, anyone really figured out her character. (plus, her Sensei here really contradicts some of the BoP stuff, I think)
PICK OF THE WEAK: I’ll go with THE CREEPER #1, thanks. At least 52 only has 7 days to get better (and I read Week 14 on the bus ride home, and liked it quite a bit)
TP/GN OF THE WEEK: Well, it sure isn’t the reprint of BATMAN SON OF THE DEMON — it is kind of a shame that Morrison is bringing that back into continuity, because it’s exactly the worst example of post-DARK KNIGHT Batman story-telling. Swearing, ass-hattery, even Batman deciding it is cool to kill… as long as it is personal. And all the way through, I’m thinking, well, OK, it will probably end up well, as long as Ra’s follows through on being Ra’s, and pulls the big betrayal at the end. But when given a chance to take control over a weather satellite, Ra’s decides that he should, instead, destroy it because that’s what he promised Batman. Holy WTF, Batman!
What I will recommend, however, is stupidly expensive at seventy-five bones, but I think the production, design, and extra backmatter of ABSOLUTE KINGDOM COME to be a real joy. Yes, the story is overwrought, and largely becomes what it is condemning, but, man, that’s pretty to look at “full size”, and this is a great presentation.
If you’re poorer than that being acceptable, then go for the LOUCHE & INSALUBRIOUS ESCAPADES OF ART DECCO TP, cuz it’s just swank. I will, however, hate them forever, because it is going to end up under “L” in Diamond’s system, forever, instead of “A” where it belongs.
What did you think?