Category Archives: How To Drop The Ball In Comics
My Thoughts On Batman #26 (WARNING – SPOILERS AND ANGRY RANT) #PoisonIvyLeague
…Have you ever written an article and then something happens that’s related to it and it makes you wish you’d waited a few days before writing it? I’ve officially had this moment. A few days ago, I wrote an article talking about Tom King’s Batman as part of my DC Rebirth One Year Later series. Well, the newest issue is out, and…yeesh, it’s like it went to whole new depths of stupid for me to rant about. In fact, this is so bad, you can consider this the newest entry of How To Drop The Ball In Comics, just minus a lot of the deep analysis on how this had potential and shit. So, here we go.
So, first off, Poison Ivy randomly murdering people. And already, I know I’m gonna get it for this, but I’m not a fan of this. I know that Ivy DOES kill people, but the thing is, she only kills when she feels it is absolutely necessary. Here, she kills a bunch of people because they’re trying to kill Riddler for the Joker, and Riddler mentions that Joker will “scorch the Earth”. This cannot possibly be Ivy’s only motivation for getting involved in the War of Jokes and Riddles, because she has no evidence of this outside of Riddler’s word, and she has no real reason to trust anything he says to her. Furthermore, after the two page spread of her killing these guys, we get a splash page of Batman going over the people she killed and how killing them further ruined their families in the most horrific ways, including one guy killing himself because he was originally set to marry one of the men she killed, meaning SHE JUST PUSHED A GAY MAN TO SUICIDE!
Look, here’s the thing: I get it. A lot of the problem involving fan interpretation of Poison Ivy (and other characters for that matter) all stems from the fact that various writers and editors come and go, and the ones that replace them don’t always have the same game plan as who came before them, or even with each other. Add onto that the number of different spin-off universes, Elseworlds comics, TV shows, movies, games, etc., and it CAN be hard to get a for-certain context for how a character is supposed to be, and Ivy is one of the worse cases in that regard. It’s why I don’t necessarily blame any fans for thinking she’s different from what other fans think, outside of situations where people online outright argue and send threats to each other just on the basis of having different viewpoints. THAT is just childish to me. On the other hand, though, not only is Tom King not a fan, but rather one of said writers who isn’t on the same page as those who prefer Ivy in a more heroic light or as an anti-hero, but there’s also the little matter of THIS:
Um, lie much? Blatant-ass lie, right there. Regardless of whether you think Ivy should be a straight-up villain or not, that’s a lie.
Getting beyond my issues as a Poison Ivy fan and member of the Poison Ivy League, though, there is another issue I have with this story that I never really realized until I saw the spreads of Riddler and Joker’s groups of villains. See, I was trying to find any kind of rationale, motif, explanation, etc. for why Ivy is involved in the War of Jokes and Riddles beyond Riddler’s line in this comic, and then I saw those spreads, and a thought occurred to me: What in the name of all that is sane do ANY of these other characters care in the slightest about the blood feud between Riddler and Joker? Why would Mr. Freeze be on Joker’s side? Victor Fries’ motivations all stem around either curing his wife’s illness or getting revenge for his current condition. What the fuck does ANY of what’s going on have to do with either of those things? What do any of these characters give a monkey’s nutsack about Riddler and Joker trying to kill each other? The ONLY possible explanation I could come up with is fear of reprisal from Joker for people sided with him, or wanting to see him dead for people sided with Riddler. In other words, the motivation is the further propagation that all the other rogues of Batman are inferior in some way to Joker, even though I could list at least half a dozen who could kill him easily. Lovely.
And just as an aside, why in God’s name would you ever make a story where Joker is one of the main villains, and he never ever smiles or laughs? That takes away ALL fun from a story involving Joker whatsoever. And yeah, I get that most Joker stories as of late haven’t been very fun to begin with, but holy fuck, give us SOMETHING, DC.
Anyway, those are my thoughts on this issue, and my continued belief that Tom King was the wrong person to put on this book. Lemme know your own thoughts as well. Ja né!
How To Drop The Ball In Comics – The New 52
…Well, we’re finally here, folks. It’s been five years, but at last, the New 52/DC You is dead. Granted, a few of its titles are still finishing up their runs, and the new books still take place in this universe, but it’s a changed one, and, quite frankly, a VASTLY improved one in my opinion, but I’ll be going over how when I look at DC Universe Rebirth #1 (the reason I haven’t yet is because there was still some fallout from it that continues into the other Rebirth one-shots). Before that, though, I think it’s time to look back on exactly what happened with the New 52, where it went wrong, and some of the worst titles that I personally have ever read from this era. So, welcome once again to How To Drop The Ball In Comics as I, for one last time, let it all out about the New 52.
What Is It?: The New 52 was basically a way to bring in new readers who might be intimidated by 70+ years of history, likely as a means of competing more with Marvel by upping their numbers. Sound familiar? It should. It’s something that DC has tried to do a few times now. However, they never tried anything quite like this: Following the event Flashpoint, the DC Universe was rebooted to where most of the heroes of the world had only been active for about 5 years. Most of the history of the characters were either gone or changed, thus creating a blank slate to start over from scratch with new talent to tell their tales in a modern setting. Now, DC was no stranger to reboots and retcons. But, as I said, this went a bit above and beyond anything they’d ever done before. So, the question one has to ask themselves, as has been done since the beginning of this new comic universe, is the same singular word as it’s always been: Why?
How Did It Have Potential?: Really, when you get down to why DC felt the need to reboot everything, it usually leads to a common question: Are there really that many people who want to read comics but don’t because of so much continuity to go through? And the answer is…complicated. I’ve had this talk before, and as I said then, this generation is actually the luckiest when it comes to stuff like that. We have the internet, with which we can read up on all this information. Sure, we might not get EVERYTHING, but the most important details will be waiting for us. That said, there DO exist people who either don’t know where to get this information, or don’t feel obligated, for whatever reason, to read up on it, but would STILL like to get into comics. Now, personally speaking, nowadays, I’m more of a subscriber to the theory that the best way to get new readers isn’t to sweep everything under a rug, but instead to give just enough allusions to these old stories and make them sound super exciting and interesting, thus making the reader want to know more. If you wanna know where I figured THAT out, read JLA/Titans: The Technis Imperative. Or, if you can’t find it, watch Linkara’s review of it. However, I’m not blind to the views of those who would implement this strategy to get more people reading.
On top of all of that, though, there is one thing people have to consider. And I know that there are people who have forgotten this, but…there ARE some heroes who kinda got screwed over LONG before the New 52 happened, and who have since gotten a new lease on life as a result. Want an example? Okay, VIBE. Vibe was considered the worst member of the Justice League EVER. His name was practically a punch line, and he likely either would’ve remained that way or completely faded from everyone’s memory, were it not for the reboot giving Geoff Johns a chance to do something new with him. And after seeing how he worked in the New 52, I gotta say, I really like Vibe. I would gladly have him on my Justice League team. I hope he comes back again. And, likely as a result of his being brought back in the New 52, the character was also adapted into The Flash’s TV show, which has another new interpretation of him that I really like. So, yes, the reboot had potential when it came to characters like him. Also, while I’m not necessarily a fan of how Donna Troy was brought back in the New 52, I will say that I’m glad it finally gave her a definitive origin that didn’t require a road map to understand…I think, anyway. Not sure exactly how her origin works in terms of how she could’ve been a member of the Titans, but whatever. Something I’ll get into another time.
Finally, though, we have to be honest: The New 52 had good books, many of which I listed before. Also, some of the books which were of actual good quality would not or could not have worked in the old continuity. Not without their own share of heavy changes, anyway. And some of these books were so good that, when the word got out about them, they brought in new readers. You know how I know that? BECAUSE I WAS ONE OF THEM! Yeah, I was one of those people who was on the fence about actually buying comics. Sure, I was a fan of many of the characters long before that, but that was mostly via their TV shows, movies, video games, stuff I learned through Atop The Fourth Wall, and just word of mouth. But when the reboot came, I saw it as an opportunity to get into comics, starting with Scott Snyder’s Batman, and I’ve been buying comics ever since. And a few characters DID eventually get put over as new stars. Harley Quinn is one of the top characters in DC right now, and has been outed as bisexual in her own book, meaning she is one of the most high-profile LGBT characters in comics. Speaking of, Batwoman got her own monthly title. Granted, she was already the star of Detective Comics for a while, but here, she had her own self-titled story. So, yes, we have to accept the fact that, in some ways, THE NEW 52 DID SEE SUCCESS… … … … …Now for the half-to-three-quarters empty.
How Did It Drop The Ball?: Well, before I get to that, I wanna show you something. Before writing this article, I went out on Twitter and asked a few people, if they could sum up exactly what went wrong with the New 52 in about 10 words or so, what those words would be. Let’s see what they had to say, shall we?
To be fair, though, one person I asked also had THIS to say…
…And yeah, that’s a legit concern to have, one that I’ll address when I get to DC Rebirth. Regardless, I can’t help but agree with the other responses, too. So, let’s start with the obvious one: What the loss of the past continuity cost us. Well, for starters, at the beginning of the New 52 (so the first 52 books printed), there was no Wally West, Donna Troy, Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain, the VAST majority of the JSA, Aqualad (either of them), and several other legacy heroes. Dick Grayson was back to being Nightwing. Bart Allen was the only Kid Flash. Cassandra Sandsmark was the only Wonder Girl. Barbara Gordon was the only Batgirl, was only in a wheelchair for a couple of years (give or take), and was suggested to have never been Oracle. There was no Young Justice team. The Outsiders were forced underground and were ultimately forgotten for a time. Cyborg was never a Teen Titan, instead taking Martian Manhunter’s place as a founding member of the Justice League. Martian Manhunter was more or less made into a hero everyone had trust issues with and would freely mindwipe others at a whim. Aquaman and Mera weren’t married, although no one apparently thought to tell Geoff Johns that while he was writing. Also, the Teen Titans never existed before Tim Drake’s new team, but again, apparently no one told Scott Lobdell. Roy Harper never had Lian, nor did he ever become Red Arrow, and instead became an anti-hero working with Jason Todd. Batman never revealed his identity to Catwoman, and instead the two were just having sex on rooftops. No one knew where the frak Renée Montoya was. But probably the most damning of all, Clark Kent and Lois Lane were never married, nor in a relationship.
But even beyond stuff that no longer happened due to the loss of past continuity, there were other retcons passed around throughout the New 52 that either didn’t make sense, came outta nowhere, or just served to piss people off. I’ve already gone over stuff like what happened to Wonder Woman, Starfire, and Martian Manhunter, but it didn’t end there. The Phantom Stranger was made to be Judas Iscariot. The Question was… … …I have no idea what the hell the Question was supposed to be, honestly. Tim Drake didn’t find out Batman’s identity and become Robin out of a need to help him, but instead failed to figure out who he was and instead forced his hand by messing with Penguin and almost getting his parents killed. Supergirl’s dad became the New 52 Cyborg Superman, which apparently is still canon in Rebirth for some reason. Billy Batson was turned into a little asshole who never shuts his gob. Roy Harper got a STUPID trucker hat that he refused to take off for some reason. Jason Todd’s back-story was changed to where Joker apparently set up his life to turn out exactly as it did to where he was killed and brought back. Mr. Freeze was never married to Nora, but instead was obsessed with her because of stuff relating to the cold and his mother that just makes my skin crawl. Overall, though, most of these changes and several others served for a single purpose: To make the DC Universe darker, and the stories were more often than not reflective of this, oftentimes filled with lots of sex and violence.
More than all of that, though, where I think the New 52 fails most in terms of stories is just on a sheer conceptual level. You’ll recall that I said the reboot was meant to put everything back to a clean slate. Here’s the problem: Some events in the past continuity did still happen. Several moments in DC’s history were condensed down into a much smaller time frame that made less sense the more one thought about it. Supposedly, events like Hal Jordan becoming Parallax, Blackest Night, and Batman being sent through time and believed dead still happened, but several key people involved weren’t, and the exact details of how it happened were changed. All the male Robins still exist (though Tim Drake was apparently never Robin and instead was always Red Robin), all within the span of 5 (later changed to approximately 10) years. Barbara Gordon was still shot by the Joker. Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend was still murdered and stuffed into a fridge (which, of all things to wipe away, why did THAT have to remain canon?! o.O). And, on top of all of this, some things happened, others didn’t, and not only was DC quiet about what did and didn’t happen, but they failed to give memos to the people WRITING THE STORIES about what was and wasn’t in canon. Like I said before, guys like Geoff Johns and Scott Lobdell, who were given high-profile books, weren’t informed of certain details. The first issues of Red Hood And The Outlaws and Teen Titans clearly made reference to past Titans teams, only to later learn that, supposedly, there were no previous Titans. I honestly have NO idea if Superman being killed by Doomsday is still canon or not. Heroes like Plastic Man and Miss Martian were referenced in the first issues of Justice League International and Teen Titans, only for it to be retconned that they never existed. George Pérez had to quit after six issues of Superman after repeated failures of being informed of details about Superman’s new status quo in this new universe. And I’m sure there are other instances of stuff like this that I’m not thinking of.
If you haven’t put it together by now, a major problem with the New 52 was mismanagement, and it wasn’t just a problem with the stories, either. Ask any of the talent that have left DC within the past five years, and you’ll probably get a similar story of broken promises and last-minute changes. Many left their stories unfinished as a result. In particular, Andy Diggle left the company before the first issue of his run on Action Comics ever even hit the stands. I think probably the one that still gets me is the controversy involving Batwoman, and I’ve gone over this before, but here’s as quick a summary of what happened as I can do. In September of 2013, J. H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman went public with the fact that they were leaving Batwoman, starting with issue 26. Why? Well, because of last-minute changes to stuff they had planned, specifically that they were told that Batwoman and Maggie Sawyer, who had just recently gotten engaged in the book, would never be allowed to get married. According to Dan DiDio, superheroes shouldn’t be married because being happy would undermine their angst and turmoil, and would compromise their commitment to being superheroes. Now, apparently, DiDio claims this is only to do specifically with the Bat-related characters, but if you’ll recall, neither Superman nor Aquaman were married, either. In fact, the only superhero seemingly still with a family was Animal Man. So while DiDio says it was only a Bat Family thing, I think it’s more likely that he doesn’t like the idea of superheroes being married, for one reason or another. This is evidenced further by notes of his going back as far as Infinite Crisis, where it’s clear he wanted to break up Clark Kent and Lois Lane for YEARS. But hey, I’m not in charge of DC Comics. I don’t have any say in what goes on. So maybe Dan DiDio DOES know better than me. But, if that’s the case, can I ask a simple question? And it’s one I’ve asked for years now and never gotten a good answer for: If Batwoman getting married was such a problem, then why was it ever given the green light to begin with? Why were they ever allowed to get engaged? You could’ve avoided all of this and the controversy that followed if you’d simply suggested against this move to begin with in a calm and rational tone, and instead worked out something different with Williams and Blackman.
Speaking of the controversy involving Batwoman, that leads me to another issue: The women of DC. And that’s not just the characters. That said, here’s a list of just SOME of the examples of violence and fridging towards women in the New 52 (though PLEASE be aware that these are horribly graphic in many cases, so read at your own discretion): Link. Beyond that, though, there was an overall lack of female creators working for DC at the beginning. I think the official figures were that the female creators at DC had dropped from 12% to 1%. And we’ve got more now, but it’s still a rather small number. And probably the most high-profile among those at the beginning was Gail Simone. Only, guess what? There’s controversy there, too, not only because Secret Six, a best seller at DC before the reboot, was cancelled, not only because the book she’d be working on, Batgirl, had Barbara Gordon taken out of the wheelchair and claimed to have never been Oracle, a move that ticked off a LOT of people, but because she was, in December of 2012, fired from Batgirl via e-mail (which was later suggested to be inaccurate or untrue, but who knows at this point), despite the fact that she’d made the book work and be a top-seller in the face of everything working against it. Granted, she was hired back 12 days later, but I honestly feel that’s only because her firing got SO public that DC was basically becoming a lightning rod of hate. But again, guess what? She eventually left the book AGAIN, and then went on to write a rebooted Secret Six, which is, again, getting cancelled. Maybe it’ll be back in Rebirth someday down the road, I don’t know, we’ll just have to wait and see.
And lastly, I was GOING to include a list of my 5 Least Favourite Books of the New 52. However, I’ve decided not to because, at this point, you should probably have a good idea as to which books I didn’t like and which ones outright pissed me off. Maybe I’ll go back and do it later if I REALLY feel the need to, but for now, here’s just a quick rundown of the books I didn’t like, hated, or just had problems with.
Batman The Dark Knight: A horrible and nonsensical opening arc, and then later, the AWFUL killing of Batman’s love interest at the time. Even excluding those, though, it just wasn’t good.
Action Comics/Superman: The character was just not as likable or inspiring as he could be, even with the reboot, and later became crossover event after crossover event.
The Fury of Firestorm: Sorry, Gail, but every great writer’s gotta have at least one bomb, and this was just terrible.
Detective Comics: The book started off with Joker getting his face cut off just to set the stage for a story written one year later in another book…Do I even need to SAY anything else after that? Even when it was good, it always felt like it was just the other Batman book.
Teen Titans: Even if Scott WASN’T a sub-par writer, the lack of communication with editorial over what was and wasn’t canon ruined it in the beginning. The second volume started off promising, but later delved into being just bad. Overall, both volumes have kinda ruined Tim Drake as a credible leader. Still, I really like Bunker and hope he returns in Rebirth.
Wonder Woman: Massive retcons to Wonder Woman’s origins and the Amazons, and was later given to the Finches, who frankly just do not get the character.
Justice League of America: Existed solely as lead-in to Trinity War, and was later scrapped and reworked into the superior Justice League United. There’s also a JLA book going on right now that involves the seven main members of the Justice League going up against Rao, but I haven’t been following, and apparently, the book has been outright plagued with delays and cancellations.
The Movement: …I DID mention that I really like Gail Simone, right? 😀 …Okay, to be fair, I actually really liked the characters, but the overall story structure seemed problematic. Maybe it was just me, though. I’d actually be fine with this title coming back someday, or maybe the characters making comebacks, especially Vengeance Moth and Virtue.
Superman/Wonder Woman: Would’ve been fine if it was just about the two teaming up to fight bad guys, except it was far more about the two’s relationship that many were sick of already, and later existed solely to further the crossover events involving the other Superman-related books.
Birds of Prey: Started off okay, and had a new fan favourite bisexual character in Starling and put Poison Ivy on her more heroically inclined path, but it quickly fell completely apart, particularly when both aforementioned characters had heel turns and left the group.
Nightwing: While I personally enjoyed the book, it had a problem that a lot of other books frequently involved in crossover events had, in that there was rarely if ever a status quo to become invested in.
Red Hood And The Outlaws: The only reason I can fathom as to why this book is being brought back for Rebirth is as a means to keep Scott Lobdell away from anything else. That said, at least it won’t involve Starfire and Roy Harper anymore, who are returning to the Titans books.
Earth 2/World’s End/Earth 2 Society: Earth 2 started off promising, but then Dan Wilson took over, and the ship was pretty much sunk in every conceivable way. Dan Abnett’s actually trying REALLY hard to make Earth 2 Society good, and you can tell he’s a good writer, but I just don’t know how or if you can save this outside of another reboot, and that’s what got us into this mess.
Harley Quinn: If this was a book that was just about Harley, that’d be one thing, but they include Poison Ivy and just do strange and stupid things with her at times (though they DID at least make it canon that these two are bisexual), and did an amnesia arc with Power Girl where the latter was utterly humiliated and degraded in more ways than one.
Futures End: Brought Terry McGinnis into the mainstream continuity just to kill him off and replace him with an alternate future version of Tim Drake. Also, was FULL of body horror, dark twists, and ultimately proved to be pointless as the future presented never happened. Still, it DID have some good tie-ins, like the Batgirl one that I’ve brought up before.
Martian Manhunter: If anyone can tell me just what in the hell happened in this book without giving me a headache, that would be much appreciated. lol
Catwoman: I don’t even. I just don’t even. The first issue has her having sex with Batman for no reason, and has gone through multiple writers and arcs, none of which seemed to be written all that well.
Black Canary: I wouldn’t call this BAD, it’s just weird seeing Dinah in a band. But, let’s be fair, that could just be a problem with me.
There’s almost certainly more I’m either not thinking of or didn’t read, but that’s enough for now. Honestly, at this point, I’m sick of ranting about the New 52. And really, this is why I decided to do this article: Just to get this all out one last time so I can move on. Because, if you’ll look back on my blog and read my DC-related articles, it’s clear that I need to move on. I can’t live in the past, especially THIS past. I need to look to the future, and while DC Rebirth has a few things I could pick out as problematic, I will say that it still looks like a VAST improvement over the New 52. In the end, all the New 52 was was just a poorly managed era of comics history, one that even those behind it have figured out was a failure, and one that I am more than happy to leave behind for brighter horizons.
So, that’s pretty much the New 52 in a nutshell. Got any stories about this era of comics or details I might’ve left out? Lemme know in the comments below, and come back later this month when I finally take a look at DC Universe Rebirth #1, and my overall thoughts on the new era going forward. Ja né!
How To Drop The Ball In Comics – #SayNoToHYDRACap
How To Drop The Ball In Comics: All-Star Batman And Robin (It’s Miller Time)
Sometimes, comic book companies will try different ways of getting new readers who might be interested in their characters and stories, but are a little intimidated by years, even decades, of continuity to go through. One method that seemed to work pretty well for Marvel was the Ultimate Universe, which was basically taking those same characters, distilling them down to their core traits, and retelling their origins in a modern setting. DC attempted something similar with the All-Star comics, and the greatest of them was All-Star Superman, a story that, while possessing elements that one could criticize, nonetheless presented the main protagonist and his greatest elements in a story where the reader didn’t need to know everything that ever happened in his history. This…is not that comic.
Welcome to the newest installment of How To Drop The Ball In Comics. Say… … … It’s Miller Time. ^_^
With the final issue of All-Star Batman And Robin reviewed on Atop The Fourth Wall, and the adventures of Crazy Steve and Dick Grayson (Age 12) forever put away, I figured now’s a good time to discuss my own thoughts on the comic and exactly what went wrong. So…yeah, this is really just me giving my own thoughts on ASBAR, after having watched reviews of every issue on AT4W, on my blog as opposed to filling up poor Linkara’s comment section with my ramblings. lol But, for the sake of those who have never heard of this book, let’s do a quick recap of the concept.
What Is It?: As I alluded to earlier, DC was trying to cash in on the same success that Marvel was having with the Ultimate Universe. As such, they laid out a plan wherein they would do something similar with the characters of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Batgirl (the latter two series being cancelled when the All-Star line ultimately went belly up). For reasons that are best illustrated within the pages of All-Star Batman And Robin, though, I’m not sure that the intent was for these books to all exist in the same universe, but to each be their own unique take on the characters in question without being bogged down by three-fourths of a century’s worth of continuity. And while the All-Star line did eventually become cancelled, we now have a similar line-up of books entitled Earth One, although these ones are graphic novels only. And while I haven’t read them, I will admit that at least Superman Earth One addresses certain issues I’ve had with Superman’s back story (namely how the Kryptonians were seemingly so advanced and yet still died with their planet), and is clearly popular enough that it warranted not one but THREE graphic novels.
How Did It Have Potential?: Well, like I said before, there DO exist people who would like to read comics, but because their stories have gone on for so long, there’s so much information to go through. Granted, most of us on the internet can look this stuff up, which makes the necessity of stories that have all past continuity stripped away a little pointless if that’s the point behind doing it, but not everyone has that time. And while some of us might scoff at the idea that retelling the same origin story with a few tweaks will result in a well-selling story that people will buy, let me again remind you of the success of Ultimate Spider-Man, a story that set off a chain of events leading directly into stories that are STILL being told to this day, nearly 16 years later. However, the thing is, that’s because the overall quality of the books and the storytelling in them was so good that the success far exceeded anyone’s expectations…which of course leads to…
How Did It Drop The Ball?: Well, for one thing, because Jim Lee’s schedule is kinda funtastic, the book was outright PLAGUED with delays. In four years, they only managed to release TEN ISSUES. However, whereas that would usually be enough to kill a book, that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what went wrong. The rest? Two words: FRANK MILLER. Yes, Frank Miller has written some great works for Batman that, while having points one could take issue with and point out as being problematic, were at least well-crafted takes on the character. However, that was a while ago, and since then, Frankie’s pretty much become one of the most sexist, bigoted, racist, appalling, homophobic, classless, and downright moronic HACKS to continue to get work within the comic industry to this day. The same man who once had Batman rescue a cat in the middle of a firefight was now using words like “retarded”, taking glee and beating up thugs and damned near (if not outright) killing people, was cruel to the people who cared for him, and was pretty much Batman in name only. Or, as the memes refer to him, “The Goddamn Batman”. We who watch AT4W prefer to refer to him as “Crazy Steve”, crazed hobo/escaped mental patient/potential pedophile with homicidal delusions who found Batman’s costume and a winning lottery ticket, and decided to become the Dark Knight. But, as horrible as that is for anyone who considered Batman their childhood hero, that’s not all that went wrong. The pacing is awful, the dialogue repetitive and stupid to the point of hilarity, every single female character is written to be either over-sexualized or inspired by Batman to the point of near-cultism, and the Justice League are included and written as being completely ineffectual so that Crazy Steve is the only seemingly competent superhero among them, even though he pretty much, in every way, violates what it means to be a hero, or more specifically, what it means to be Batman.
See, here’s the thing that Frank Miller has clearly forgotten about Batman, and I know I’m getting on a soap box for the sake of a fictional character, but just hear me out. Yes, the phrase “I am vengeance! I am the night! I am Batman!” can make him sound harsh, dark, and cruel, but the real Batman knows how to temper those things with the ideals of justice and compassion. Yes, he is the man who engages in brutal, bloody fights with thugs, recruits teenage sidekicks over and over even after one of them got killed, and keeps hidden contingency plans for shutting down the other members of the Justice League, his friends and allies, if need be. However, he is also the man who is always there for his city and his friends when they need him most. He is a man who fights day in and day out, pushing himself past his natural limits, not for the sake of inflicting pain, but for the sake of a world where no other 8-year-old child will ever lose his parents because of a punk with a gun. And, and this is the big one for me personally, he is a man who once sat on a swing next to a little girl who was dying, and held her hand until her time came. Above all else, for his faults, Batman is not just a crusader, or a detective, or a ninja, but ultimately, he is a hero. Crazy Steve is not.
So, what would I have done differently? Well, the heart of this story was very clearly supposed to be about how, in a city that was so cruel and corrupt that it took a young boy’s parents and didn’t care, there was one man who was there for him. One man who, while tortured, was compassionate for that boy, saw himself and his own trauma in him, and offered him a chance to join in his crusade, while also letting the boy’s youth and optimism keep him grounded. If you are seeking to distill Batman and Robin to their most basic formula, THAT is the story of the Dynamic Duo to me, and what should’ve been the heart of the story. And there ARE times when it delves into that. See, while issue 9 is overall abysmal, with Batman and Robin painting themselves and a room yellow and making Green Lantern out to look like a complete tool (and even I don’t think Hal Jordan is THAT big a moron), the ending of that issue, where Batman recognizes he never gave Robin a chance to grieve over his parents’ death and takes him to see their graves, was perfect. Even the last few lines of the book, which usually is badly written in nearly every way, perfectly captures the moment: “We mourn lives lost. Including our own”. If we had more of that from the very beginning, and the book focused on Batman and Robin without adding the Justice League, Batgirl, Black Canary, and a bunch of other mischaracterized characters, it’d be a much better story. Hell, I wouldn’t even mind the change of making the Joker the man behind the Grayson killing if it kept to the themes and character motivations of everyone involved. Towards the end, you could see how it was at least building towards SOMETHING, that there was a point they were trying to reach. The problem was, by that point, nobody was left to care, and the reason is that, if that WAS the heart of the story, then clearly, Frank Miller forgot that. He forgot WHY Batman is, as he once put it, “as good and pure a superhero as you can find”.
But, I have to be completely fair on this. If I’m gonna judge Frank Miller for what went wrong, I have to be equally judgmental of Jim Lee. While his artwork in this book is gorgeous at times, except when he has to depict stuff like Vicki Vale seemingly literally talking out of her ass, his schedule ultimately hurt the book as well. He seemed to get back on schedule after a while, but much of that came from making splash pages and two page spreads that, while a visual marvel, could’ve been used for advancing the story, or what story there was. And I suppose I should also point out that Bob Schreck, the editor for the All-Star line, was seemingly all too happy to let most of the content of the books through, with the only exceptions being stuff like swearing…which is hilarious, when you consider what happened with issue 10. lol
Bottom line, for various reasons, this series is pretty much the epitome of what it means to drop the ball in the realm of comic books. Or, if I may borrow a phrase (and why not at this point), as we say in my favourite corner of the internet, “This comic sucks!” If you’ve got your own opinion on the book, feel free to leave it below. Or, if you wanna know more about the book and what went wrong with it, as I’ve said numerous times, Linkara has now officially reviewed all ten issues, so feel free to go to his website and check ’em out, plus his reviews of similar Frank Miller titles like The Dark Knight Strikes Again and Holy Terror. Ja né!
How To Drop The Ball In Comics: Val-Zod
There are characters who can sound AMAZING on paper, and maybe even be so, but, when placed into just the absolutely wrong situation, can fail epically. Welcome to the next installment of How To Drop The Ball In Comics, where I look at what I believe to be a legitimately GOOD idea in comics, why I felt that it was, and how it failed to live up to the hype. And following in the tradition of the first one I did, let’s look back to the rebooted universe of Earth 2 as we check out at Val-Zod, AKA the new Superman of the new Earth 2.
Who Is He?: Created by Tom Taylor, Nicolla Scott, and Robson Rocha for Earth 2 #19 in 2014, Val-Zod is presumably the son of General Zod in the rebooted universe of Earth 2 in the New 52. As I mentioned before, in this version of events, Earth 2’s Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman died saving the world from Darkseid. However, after one of Darkseid’s agents, Brutaal, was revealed to be Superman back from the dead and under his control (actually, it later turned out to be a Bizarro-esque clone, and that the real one was kept locked away to have more clones created from him), the heroes of the world found themselves in a desperate struggle to save the world from its greatest hero. Luckily, as it turned out, they had a trump card hidden among them, kept under lock and key by Terry Sloan: Val-Zod, one of the last surviving Kryptonians. While he was initially agoraphobic and wished not to fight, he eventually came to grips with his fears and concerns, becoming the new Superman.
How Did He Have Potential?: Well, while he’s not the first example of this, it’s nonetheless cool to see the Man of Steel also be a man of colour. Granted, I don’t know how that works with an alien species, but then again, this a race that looks just like us anyway. If we can accept that, it’s not TOO much of a stretch to think they have different skin colours among them as well. But really, the thing that I love about Val-Zod as a character is the fact that he’s a pacifist. Growing up, he was under the belief that violence was senseless, and learning the value of mind over body, he has chosen not to fight. So, for those wondering, no, there will be no “I AM A MAN!” punches coming from him. But don’t you dare think of him as a wuss. Instead, he takes all that strength that his Kryptonian body has, all the amazing abilities of Superman, and uses them specifically for the purpose of helping and defending people. He will not fight back, but as shown through his eventual confrontation with Brutaal, he doesn’t need to. Just standing up to Brutaal when he was threatening others was enough, as the act of trying to punch Val to death instead caused the clone of Kal-El’s body to break down. As he himself put it, “I won’t kill Kal-El…but I need to fix what he has broken.” In short, he is everything that one can and should be: Strong not just in body, but in mind and conviction, unwilling to let bad things happen to good people, and able to inspire others to be better themselves. In many ways, it’s hard not to consider him the legitimate successor to Superman’s legacy… … …however…
How Did It Drop The Ball?: The problem is that, while I concede that Val-Zod is a legitimate successor to Kal-El, there is another who is every bit as legitimate as him, who has been around for much longer, and in the original Earth 2 history was Superman’s successor on the Justice Society of America. That person is Kara Zor-El, AKA Power Girl. And again, as I’ve brought up before, when Kara returned to Earth 2, she was immediately set up to be nothing more than just another member of the Super family, Val-Zod’s love interest, and most degrading of all, had a Superman logo placed on her costume. For those who don’t know, in one of her earliest appearances, Power Girl was given a logo for her costume, but crushed it because it was blatantly a Superman logo (except with a P instead of an S), and she didn’t want to be seen as just being Superman’s cousin. She wanted to be her own woman, not in any way ashamed of her heritage, but looking to carve out her own legacy as she carried on in Superman’s place. And what’s REALLY sad about that is that, with the current Earth 2 stories centering around the idea of them inhabiting a new version of Earth 2 to replace the one destroyed by Darkseid (long and AWFUL story), there’s more than enough room for both Kara and Val to co-exist as successors to Kal-El without taking away the other’s credibility, if the story was well written. The problem is, it’s NOT well written, because Daniel H. Wilson doesn’t understand how the character works and has taken away her agency. But on top of all of that, when you get down to it, Val himself isn’t really doing much of anything to be a big deal either, as most of the attention in the Earth 2 books goes to, you guessed it, BATMAN. And it’s not even a worthy nor legitimate successor to Batman, but that’s a rant for another day. The point is, whatever momentum Val had as a character seems to have completely come to a halt, and the way that he, Kara, and really everybody in the Earth 2 books have been handled just goes a long way to show why they’re just not any good, despite the mass amount of potential that they had.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got to say about all of this. If you wanna know more about how the Earth 2 books are continuing to fail miserably, be sure to check out Lapses In Logic over at http://www.helenawaynehuntress.com/. Ja né!
How To Drop The Ball In Comics: What Bothers Me About The X-Men’s Plight
…Okay, before anyone sees that title and asks, no, I don’t hate the X-Men in any way, shape, or form. I love the X-Men. In fact, I think it’s that love of the X-Men that helped me realize this issue of mine. See, a few days ago, while discussing the possibility of the X-Men and Fantastic 4 being phased out in terms of importance to the Marvel Universe, I mentioned how, and I quote, “the X-Men’s continued plight as being loathed by humanity becomes more absurd the more you think about it and the more time goes by”. I also mentioned how I’d like to see Marvel Studios come to some kind of deal with Fox to be able to incorporate the X-Men into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, if for no other reason but to have Wolverine potentially join the Avengers for a mission or two. However, looking back on that, I think that would only make the same problem I have with the X-Men in the comics present in the movies. And for those wondering what that is, I will spell it out for you: The X-Men and mutantkind in general being hated and mistrusted by ‘normal’ human beings MAKES NO SENSE when they exist in the same universe as the Avengers, who are seen as the legitimate heroes of Earth. Hell, it doesn’t make any sense when presented in the same universe as ANY superhero team that has super-powered members of any kind. Every excuse I’ve ever heard, be it that they’re too powerful, too different, were ordinary humans changed to be superhuman, can read minds, none of them have any kind of leg to stand on when you really analyze them. And, if you’ll allow me, I’d like to present my evidence in a very simple bulleted list.
- The Avengers have plenty of super-powered individuals that can be seen as being as powerful or more-so than the average mutant. And don’t split hairs with me, you know what I mean by average. The number of mutants that could take Thor or the Hulk in a one-on-one fight are probably a bit on the short side. So, those that fear that mutants are too powerful have clearly never taken a good look at Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
- Members of the Avengers have come not only from various walks of life on Earth, but from different worlds and even whole different realms of existence. And while I’m not saying that people aren’t afraid of Thor for being different, I would go out on a limb and suggest that they are considerably less than the number of people that fear mutants for the same damned reason.
- There exist plenty of superheroes both on the Avengers and other superhero teams (hell, EVERY MEMBER of the original Fantastic 4) who were ordinary humans that were altered, empowered, or transformed in some way, shape, or form that all get free passes from prejudice and hate. Now, granted, there are those that ARE feared and hated, too. Probably the biggest example of such would be the Hulk. However, let’s look at the biggest example of a human being who was changed and became able to perform superhuman feats: Steven Rogers, AKA Captain fucking America. Granted, at the end of the day, he’s still a human being with basic human weaknesses, but he can lift more and run faster than any non-enhanced human being, and can process information quicker than the average person too. And while I wouldn’t wanna make an ass outta you and me, I’m nonetheless going to assume that significantly fewer people fear Captain America than mutants.
- Mutants aren’t the only individuals in the Marvel Universe that possess a form of telepathy. Granted, the list of humans that can use telepathy and aren’t considered mutants is pretty frigging short, and mutants employ several of the best telepaths in the universe, but they aren’t the only ones. Hell, Sam Wilson has a telepathic connection with his fucking bird, and no one raises an eyebrow. Look, I get it, the idea of people able to read our thoughts can be kinda creepy, and there are those in the mutant community that don’t exactly do a great job of diffusing such fears. I’m not even necessarily talking villains here, either. Recently, the time displaced Jean Grey of the past (long story short for those that don’t know, the original five X-Men of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Angel, and Beast were brought to the present and have refused to go back until they fix the mess their future selves made) revealed that Iceman was gay by going into his brain and reading his thoughts without his consent and continued to do so even after he asked her not to. Still, it’s not like that’s a scenario exclusive to mutants. Oh, and speaking of which, I can’t help but notice that Earth in the Marvel Universe has, like the real world, become a place where we’re becoming more accepting of people of different races, religions, orientations, genders, and anything else that could divide us as a species…and yet, mutants, which have been used as a metaphor for all of those things, are still not accepted. That’s a problem. lol
Anyway, I think that pretty much covers most of… … … … …Oh wait, I almost forgot…
Even before the Unity Division, AKA the Uncanny Avengers, X-Men members like Wolverine, Storm, and Beast have joined various incarnations of the Avengers. Hell, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver have been longtime members of the Avengers, and they used to work for the Brotherhood of Mutants. Y’know, the bad guys? Don’t recall that ever being a problem, or if it was, I never heard of it being so.
So, with all of that said, the only conceivable answer I can come up with for why mutants are still loathed and feared in the Marvel Universe when there are people like the Avengers and the Fantastic 4 running around is because humanity is either immensely hypocritically bigoted, or it’s fucking stupid. And, as I’ve said before, if a story only works because the characters involved are morons, the story ultimately fails… … …which, to be perfectly frank, is probably why the X-Men and the struggles of mutantkind being pushed aside a bit in the grand scope of the Marvel Universe, and not being an element of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, are good things. And again, I love the X-Men. I love seeing the characters show up and be awesome, and watching them take part in big, epic events to save the world is great. And the stories that focus primarily on them are still good. It’s when I’m asked, in a story involving the Marvel Universe in general, to believe that they’re still despised by humanity in spite of every reason why they shouldn’t be that I find the severe logical problem in storytelling, which is one reason why I REALLY didn’t like Avengers vs X-Men… … … … …And oh God, do I ever dread the day when I’ll have to give my full thoughts on that event. -_-
Anyway, those are my thoughts on that particular subject. Lemme know what you think of it in the comments section below, and be sure to bamf back here the next time I have a random thought about how a comic idea can kinda fail sometimes. Ja né!
How To Drop The Ball In Comics: Worlds’ Finest
Hello, and welcome to a new spot on the blog I like to call ‘How To Drop The Ball In Comics’. This is where I take a look at what I thought was a legitimately GOOD idea in comics, why I felt that way, and how it eventually kinda fell on its ass. With that said, let’s take a look at Worlds’ Finest.
No, not that one. THIS ONE:
What Is It?: Created for The New 52 as part of a branching-out to tell stories involving characters from Earth 2, Worlds’ Finest specifically looked at Huntress (Helena Wayne), daughter of Batman and Catwoman, and Power Girl (Kara Zor-L/Karen Starr), cousin of Superman. However, the twist was that, after surviving the final battle of a war that claimed the lives of their respective families, the two found themselves accidentally exiled to Earth 0, the primary Earth of the DC Multiverse since the Multiverse’s rebirth in Infinite Crisis. As such, we had cases where, in this and other books, they’d encounter other-dimensional relatives, like Robin, Batman, and Superman, and even Power Girl’s alternate universe self, Kara Zor-El, many of which were pretty awesome. As another twist, it was revealed that, in this continuity, Power Girl and Huntress started their crime fighting careers as their world’s Supergirl and Robin (bringing the female Robin count up by one). So, let’s take a look at what I liked about it.
How Did It Have Potential?: Well, for starters, it was a book about two badass superheroines. Second, Power Girl and Huntress’ history, given certain reboots and retoolings to the DC Universe and its history, can be…confusing. For example, most people that started reading comics after Crisis On Infinite Earths, or have watched Justice League Unlimited, are probably more familiar with the Earth 0 version of Huntress, Helena Bertinelli. This was a good way to bring in Helena Wayne and distinguish her from her counterpart. Mind you, this led to some confusion as well, given that Hel apparently passed herself off as Bertinelli for five years, except that in the New 52, Helena Bertinelli is black, but whatever. This helped explain a few things about the characters for people that weren’t in the know about them. Also, as I’ve established before, the initial arc ended with them and the military fighting a giant villain in a Japanese harbour. If Godzilla and Megazord had shown up at that moment, I would’ve squeed so hard, you could’ve probably heard it IN JAPAN! lol And as much as some people got ticked about Karen’s new costume, I actually kinda liked it…until it proceeded to get torn and burnt up over and over, to where Power Girl was actually more decent in the old boob window costume, which is part of the reason why I was glad she switched back to it.
How Did It Drop The Ball?: There’s a few reasons. First…I don’t know if it was an issue with editorial, or if Paul Levitz, the man who frigging CREATED Huntress, forgot how her character worked, but the characterization for Hel and Karen feels off in this book. Hel’s a bit too much of a buzzkill, and at one point called someone a “little bitch”, and Karen is WAY too flirty, and once witnessed a bunch of kids being sucked into a Boom Tube and was pretty much like “…Huh. That was a thing”. Also, in my opinion, they spent WAY too long on Earth 0, only managing to get back to Earth 2 when things were at their darkest, lowest point, and when their place as the rightful heirs to Superman and Batman’s positions had been usurped in their absence by two men: Val-Zod (who I actually don’t mind, save for when he’s Karen’s blatant love interest), and Earth 2 Thomas Wayne (who was revealed to be alive, a frigging bum, a drug addict, and an overall horrible character altogether). And once they made it back to Earth 2, did the story become about how the two worked together as last-minute surprise reinforcements to turn the tide against Apokolips? NOPE, the book instead completely shifted gears to tell a prequel story about Earth 2 Superman and Batman, will apparently be cancelled along with the other Earth 2 books (not counting the one that’ll start post-Convergence), and Huntress and Power Girl were instead treated to World’s End, where Karen flirted with Val, lost Kal-El AGAIN, and got a Superman logo on her suit (completely missing the point of the boob window), while Huntress was subjected to body horror, torture porn, and drugs. If you are a fan of either of these characters, by all means, send your grievances about such decisions to the head-writer of Earth 2: World’s End, Daniel H. Wilson…Seriously, here’s an example of his very lame attempts to justify his decisions regarding Helena.
Anyway, that’s all I have to say about the matter. If you’d like MORE on the subject, as well as the overall mistreatment of Earth 2, women, LGBT characters… … …Really, anyone that’s not a straight white male in The New 52, be sure to check out http://helenawaynehuntress.tumblr.com/ and http://helenawayne.blogspot.ca/. Ja né!