Thursday, May 29, 2008

One Book To Fool Them All

Here, in the first issue of Final Crisis, begins the supposed last installment of the Crisis Trilogy. This assertion is a tad ballsy coming from the people who inflicted the Countdown series on us like a weekly subway mugging.

Two-thirds of the way through Countdown, it was plain to readers that the characters' actions (all four of them) were stalling tactics. The real action was over in another series called Death of the New Gods. Err... wait. Try Countdown Arena. Even hackwork from Scott McDaniel has to go somewheres! Or not. DC editorial eventually told us what they were counting down to...

That means an entire YEAR of mediocre comics was the cost (in brain cells) of this conspicuously gorgeous J.G. Jones series. A year of comics that killed my interest in their resolutions by being incoherent and dull. A year in which, had DC's landscape not become a crud-topia, my questions regarding dying New Gods and multiple Monitors would have simmered organically.

But alas, here we is. DC's dependables are finished chopping up Grant Morrison's Big Ideas like just-auctioned blue fish (Gail Simone being a notable exception), and the thing we're supposed to care about is before us. The first interaction we see, disconcertingly, shows Metron giving paleolithic Man (Anthro) the knowledge to make fire. So immediately Morrison's tweaking the game so that the New Gods are literally creators of civilization rather than alien superheroes.

Now, I love the guy. His shtick of moonwalking back and forth over fine lines of continuity and cutting edge works ninety-eight percent of the time. If this is part of the story, great. I'm sure many intriguing revelations are forthcoming. I fear, though, that there's an equal chance these images from the dawn of genocide (New X-Men wants its opening back) have been thrust in place to give the tale grandeur.

But what else is in here? We see New God Orion, half-alive on a ship bound for garbage island. We see Darkseid making unsubtle plans to reshape Earth after the demonic fashion of Apokalips. We get another version of the Injustice League, in front of whom the mysterious turk Libra trots a Martian Manhunter weak enough to kill. Also, Monitors showing emotions other than homicidal psychosis.

It's hard to distrust these pages because of their sheer beauty. Yet, thanks to the glut of preparatory mini-series, none of these ideas are fresh any more. I want Morrison and Jones to floor me with this series, but I resent that it has to stink of "A-List Creators' Projects Are Better".

Speaking of which, across the hall we've got the last Joss Whedon issue of Astonishing X-Men. It's four months late, it's a little longer, with scanned-in skyscrapers as unobtrusive as pink cats, but holy fuck is the writing delicious. We discover, for example, that Agent Brand of S.W.O.R.D. is in love with Beast: "I'm so frikkin' hot for you right now I could pass out." This is not a throwaway line. At the end, Brand offers Beast a position with her group and at her side, based solely on their intellectual compatibility. The fact that cat man is handled with this much heart is absolutely wonderful.

Quite a bit of the Marvel U shows up in support of the X-Men- Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, the Sentry and even the FF with that weird female Thing from Walt Simonson's run. The scene where we find they're being mind-controlled is beautiful- creepy, CHECK PLEASE smiles all around.

Both Kitty and Peter live up to their potential in heart-rending ways, the former phasing a giant bullet through the Earth (and being unable to let go of it), the latter threatening to rule the BreakWorld by force if necessary. And as literal events, these stand one way. But also running throughout the book is Whedon's tying up of emotional loose ends, hitting every right note concerning Emma and Kitty's animosity like only a man of his range can.

Well, now we get to wait, shitting in fear of what Warren Ellis will do. Is he going to take this seriously, as if it were his precious Ms. Sparks and company? Or will we get the multi-tasking hitman who'd really rather be crooning with Nick Cave in the Middle East basement?

Tedious considerations like sleep and work must cut short this missive, my nerdlings. But more to come in the near future.

And never forget- I want to have all of your babies.


steve said...

I entirely agree about the hurdle facing "Final Crisis" - "Countdown" was such a dramatic failure that it sapped 95 percent of the interest readers should have had going into "Final Crisis." And having read the first issue, I don't know that this series won't also be a gigantic misfire - I mean, where can a storyline go that's so incomprehensible from its first page? And the whole Martian Manhunter development - not only was it way too fast, but how much can any reader BELIEVE in it, when the whole POINT of all these 'crises' seems to be that NO gigantic plot happening cannot be overturned? After a while, it becomes sort of ghoulish.

And I have a question: why does Morrison write the Justice League scenes as though our heroes had never heard of the New Gods, or at least were really, really unfamiliar with them? Does that reflect a plot development I don't know about?

elmo said...

I've no idea why the League was dumbed down. Probably to facilitate this story, and give a forced sense of "gosh-wow" to the whole thing.

Kevin said...

I don't know diddly about Infinite Crisis or Countdown or Final Crisis... I did read Identity Crisis and 52, though.

I hadn't been to the comic book store since doin' sketches on Free Comic Book Day (with Larry Stroman and Guy Davis! Both great guys). I walked away with a $50 stack of goodies, including:

All Star Superman
Astonishing X-men (what the heck made you think that was the Simonson-era female Thing?)
Omega the Unknown
New Universal
Bat Lash (gotta support my former fellow Colorado comic book creators)
and Marvel 1985, which I picked up off the rack.

So far I've read Astonishing X-men (which I enjoyed, but not as much as the first 3 arcs. C'mon, a space-bullet? You know the nearest star is 4 light years away... How much faster than light is this 'bullet' traveling? For this I lose my precious Kitty Pryde?) and All Star Superman. And the 1985 thing, which wasn't bad. All Star Superman was as charming as ever.

steve said...

Oh come ON! The physics of the whole plot development are well enough laid out by Whedon, and in exchange for that admittedly iffy premise, we get some of the greatest X-Men moments, emotionally, that we've got in thirty -plus years! Have you no HEART?

Although I must say, based on 'Buffy,' 'Angel' and this series, Whedon seems to have a marked sensibility for romances that are poignant but ultimately, poetically, doomed. Makes me feel a bit sorry for his girlfriends. Or boyfriends.

Kevin said...

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it... Maybe I'm just sad to see it go.

elmo said...

Cassaday's Thing was so diminutive and, dare I go here, CUTE, that I had to draw the conclusion.

Kevin said...

You were just excited to see Topless Girl-Thing.

Admit it.

Working my way toward finally reading 'Infinite Crisis'. I've now read Prelude, Omac, Vengence, and I'm halfway through Villains United (thank goodness for bit-torrents). Not bad so far. Dale Eaglesham's pencils look terrific under Wade von Grawbadger's inks, don't they?

elmo said...

Sara noted that Spidey's page one crotch was the most alluring thing in the issue- have to agree.

And yes, Dale Eaglesham is too good to be true! I hope he evolves toward the speedier end of the spectrum, like Immonen and Romita.

I still haven't read the last Crisis in trade form. It's riddled with so many painful kiss-offs- the worst being a Deathstroke fight that's so intense NOBODY BOTHERED TO DRAW IT.

elmo said...

The end of X-Men reminded me of The Usual Suspects. Kind of. But what an awesome device allowing for Kitty to return when she's needed most.

Beepy said...

Elmo, it's just beautiful, just beautiful. I don't know jack about comics, but somehow can follow along and get a laugh or two. What would my pleasure be like if I knew anything about the subject? I guess we'll never know.

elmo said...

Now THAT's a compliment.

And if you read comics regularly, you would feel your mind impersonating Steve's gut at Old Country Buffet- expansion at breakneck speeds, threatening pets and pregnant women.