Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Brightest Day is the Blackest Eye For All I Care #73

Booster Gold #33
Brightest Day #3-4
Green Arrow #1 (2010)
R.E.B.E.L.S. #17 (2010)

Booster Gold #33 (DC, 2010, $2.99)
I only bought Booster Gold #1 because the house ad promised me a pin, but I guess the offer didn’t extend to Circle K convenience stores. I wasn’t wowed by Booster then, he was an undesirable element in JLI and over twenty years later I appreciate him mostly as one of the last intact members of the funny League. Plus, he’s still a ne’er do well amongst titans, and I do love contrast.

Reading my first Giffen/DeMatteis issue of the current run, I can finally see the possibility of Booster Gold becoming a character I can like, a rare thing after so many biased years, Played straight, the time-travel element of the character doesn’t excite me, but when used for humor or as a means of developing a supporting cast, it has loads of potential. Rip Hunter has always had a stick up his butt, but his interaction with a child in this issue brought out his humanity. I assume the kid was ripped out of some doomed chronal potentiality, which is a card that could be played with a lot of cool characters from alternate DC timelines. Manhunter 2070 would be a pretty boss sidekick, and who wouldn’t enjoy a visit from Prez?

After a perfunctory battle sequence, Booster Gold is allowed a metatextual defense of his Justice League. I have a hard time seeing Cyborg as the guy getting into Booster’s face about his checkered past, but maybe the 4th wall press extended to unkind comparisons in the late ‘80s between JLI and the Wolfman/Perez model New Teen Titans. Anyhow, while Giffen has been an enabler in the steady ruination of JLI’s memory, co-writer J.M. DeMatteis finally gets up on his soapbox through Booster to address the haters. It was indulgent, but the kind I can lap up, under the circumstances.

Space is allotted to explaining Maxwell Lord’s infamous heel turn and Booster’s role in Generation Lost, before Giffen and DeMatteis use time travel to return once again to their heyday. The trip isn’t especially funny, but it is comfortingly nostalgic, and it’s nice to see Booster use his brain for detective work instead of con jobs. Temporal paradox rules the day, but I like the handling of the matter here.
Chris Batista may not be Kevin Maguire, but his clean, tight line is welcome. The characters may sometimes look referenced from action figures, but they’re well sculpted ones.

The thing that stuck with me about this issue was the time I felt I’d invested in it. I rarely walk into a bathroom with less than two comics these days, because they’re so light on story. Here, there are so many scene changes and plot twists, a modern writer would have dragged this on for numerous unsatisfying issues. Instead, Giffen and DeMatteis keep throwing good shit at you until something sticks, and in my case, I reek of entitled enjoyment.

Brightest Day #3-4 (DC, 2010, $2.99)
There once was a super-hero team made up of total bullshit B-listers that was redeemed by being genuinely funny, a rare quality in comic books. As a result, humorless fanboys railed against the book, the B-listers were replaced by C/D/F-listers, and the run just got more endearing and mirthful. Then one of the humorless pricks started running DC Comics, killing/raping/ruining all the old members of the fun team until they were just as shitty as most other comic book characters. Oblivious to his doucheness, the publisher then hired a member of the funny creative team to write the same characters with sticks up their asses. On one book, let’s call it “Booster Gold,” the funny creators still have fun with the funny characters that aren’t worth a shit when they’re not funny. On another book, let’s call it “Justice League: Generation Lost,” the publisher tries to do serious shit with the stupid characters that don’t matter to the straight world.

Dan Didio looks at a cover with Maxwell Lord’s nose bleeding, and in a Peter Griffith voice, goes “oooo, ominous. He’s mind controlling people.” Keith Giffen set the scene by having Lord put on his form fitting, ready for action Checkmate uniform, holstering a firearm, then going to his desk to think thoughts harder than anyone’s ever thunk before. This guy is out to shit on the world’s brains through his own. He’s preparing a mind turd hard and heavy enough to kill Elvis twice over, and when he’s done, blood trickles from his nose. Fans look at that cover, knowing full well Max isn’t bleeding from a fight or nothin’, and think “what a goddamned pussy.” Keith Giffen thinks about the cock-up over Ambush Bug #6, about how he could set Didio up to look like a fucking moron with a straight face, and chuckles to himself.

Right about now, you may be looking up to check if the header stated this was a Brightest Day, review, but I’m making a point. You see, there are two bi-weekly series running on alternating weeks for a year, and one fails at a conceptual level. Meanwhile, the other one moves at a snail’s pace, and could really stand to pick up Generation Lost’s slack for its own sake. Jim Aparo used to do this thing where he’d separate one image into a series of panels, with gutters and everything. This indicated slow motion, with figures frozen in shock/horror/etc. Each panel break was an instant in time, a heartbeat. Beat—beat--beat—beat—Action! That’s how this entire series to date feels.

Beat: Deadman battles Anti-Monitor.
Beat: Firestorm breaks up.
Beat: Aquaman unintentionally summons undead sea life, while Mera acts suspiciously.
Beat: Martian Manhunter reads a dog’s mind to learn about a homicidal alien.
Beat: Hath-Set escapes the Hawks into another dimension opened through the bodily remains of their past incarnations.
That’s five inches of plots advanced over twenty-two pages. I could elaborate on the dialogue, but that’s`really all there is to tell about the story. Two weeks later…
Beat: The Hawks go through the portal.
Beat: The escaped Deadman meets with Dove and Hawk.
Beat: A couple of black teens find a pool has dried out overnight.
Beat: Underwater villains kill innocent coast guardsmen.
Beat: Ronnie Raymond visited by salt “ghost” of Gehenna while Jason dreams.
Beat: Hawk asks Deadman to try resurrecting his brother.

What happened to Aquaman or Martian Manhunter? Tune in next month. How important are all the side series involving resurrected characters, like Justice League of America, Birds of Prey and so on? Who knows? The “trailers” in old Marvel Age and DC Sampler promotions offered more involved stories than this. One sixth of the way through the series, I’m still waiting for it to start. In terms of relative progression, we’re roughly equivalent to the first issue or so of Blackest Night, except I paid five times more to get there. Also, maybe you missed this, but Blackest Night didn’t have an ending. That book just sort of stopped, and then bled into this one. Now, all these storylines will inevitably bleed back into one another, but who wants to bet that’s more of an interruption than an evolution? I suspect the creators are teasing out arcs that won’t actually play through until four or more spin-off series roll out. Maybe instead of supporting two bi-weekly series that probably won’t matter in the end, we should just wise up and wait for the real show?

Green Arrow #1 (DC, 2010, $3.99)
Somebody please explain to me why I’m still reading books about a costumed archer a decade into the 21st century? I appreciate that Green Arrow has been published near continuously in some fashion since the Stone Age, but I think it may hurt DC Comics’ contemporary appeal to continue supporting a seventy year old cinematic fad. Oliver Queen has no gadgets, no super-powers, no money, a stupid costume, substandard fighting skill and wooden fucking arrows. This will not do, or didn’t three canceled series in a little over a decade offer any clues?

Look, get Connor Hawke a personal trainer… let him start running around topless with the six pack abs like Taylor Lautner. Give the kid a few million dollars and some diamond cutting explosive arrows. Watch the Smallville girlies wet their panties, and maybe get a real series going. At least shave Ollie’s stupid old face, though.

Hey look, Oliver Queen’s a modern day Robin Hood, because kids fucking love Robin Hood in 2010. That Russell Crowe movie was the hit of the summer, right? Now he’s got ridiculous villains and ‘90s art and the promise of homo Merry Men love and a magical forest that makes actual super-heroes suck more so Green Arrow doesn’t look as bad. This sure is a real winner this time! Alternately, you bitches better suck off that Brightest Day branding like a middle aged truck stop whore promised some rock, because fourth fuckin' time ain't looking too charming.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #17 (DC, 2010, $2.99)
The DC Universe is based in magic and pulp science fiction, two hard sells in comics for decades. DC made a big show of radically altering and reorganizing these domains during and after Infinite Crisis, hoping that a marketing push and sheer force of will would turn the tide back in their favor. On the magic front, they put out a bunch of bifurcated anthology series with ongoing protagonists and Shadowpact, but the only seeming remnant of that effort is Madame Xanadu, which landed at Vertigo. On the sci-fi front, there were the various Rann-Thanagar Wars, Countdown to Adventure, Omega Men, the Captain Comet anthologies, and a teased but stillborn Hawkman title.

It isn’t difficult to see where R.E.B.E.L.S. would have fallen into the scheme. Take Vril Dox’s security force, already reestablished in the Adam Strange mini-series that got the initiative rolling, would serve as an adversarial presence across the line. Dox himself would gather his renegade band of forgotten ‘80s Legionnaire analogues to try to retake his company, and team-up with the other sci-fi properties. However, most of the intended line sucked out of the gate, and was canceled. The running furiously in circles Jim Starlin had popularized in the ‘90s coupled with the Evil Space Catholics he hasn’t let go of since the ‘70s had kept the Comet/Strange rotating mini-series going for a bit, but Geoff Johns’ taking back Hawkman for Blackest Night seemed to be the death knell.

Once the R.E.B.E.L.S. cast had been introduced during their first story arc, you could practically hear the crickets’ chirping, so a change in direction seemed in order. Most of the earliest Silver Age Justice League villains were fondly remembered aliens, and their reunion here moored the book more closely to the Terran DCU. Then the lead characters from deceased sister books were folded into this title, and the team’s raison d'être was resolved a year and a half in. Now, with the creation of a new Rann tying into just about every major cosmological element in DC’s history, R.E.B.E.L.S. is essentially your one stop shopping source for all things space-related. The book even has its own Green Lanterns now. Not only does it make for exciting reading, but the book is one major crossover away from being essential. In fact, I suspect a cancellation and rebranding is in its near future.

After explaining all that-- the issue at hand? Eh. Lots of pieces moved into place, only to stall in favor of drawing out racial tensions as the new status quo. The art by Sergio Ariño is in line with the house style of the series. To drive my points home, the entire cast besides Dox is from Starlin's book, with only one "R.E.B.E.L." gets a single line in the entire book. Lots of room to expand on this thing, but we need a direction and protagonists that'll stick for the long haul.


mathematicscore said...

Brightest Day feels an awful lot like four or five monthly miniseries chopped together. Hence the pacing. I'm really enjoying the characterization of J'onn though, and you know I love Mr. Gleason.

Still, if M'gann is dead next issue and not just hurt, I'm gonna be pissed.

Diabolu Frank said...

She's in the upcoming cartoon, and her head was still attached, so I'm calling this as safe with a chance for ambush/recent escape of the Martian serial killer.


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