October 14, 2005

crisis after crisis (cheating myself of everything that moves)

Project X continues to eat my brain (and make it impossible to listen to anything for the review-a-day project; I'll catch up). People continue to ask about details on this year's NaSoAlMo. Patience.

I've spent a few days with the first issue of Infinite Crisis, and I've got very mixed feelings about it. (Spoilers ahead.) I should preface this with a little story from my favorite comic store, Excalibur, from this Wednesday:

Clerk #1: You know, I think I've figured out who Mockingbird is: it's Alex Luthor, from Earth-3!
Me: Oh... my God.
Clerk #2: Oh come on--you're in a comic book store! You shouldn't be shocked when people talk like this!
Me: No no no no. That wasn't an "oh my God what a geek," it was an "oh my God, it's so obvious! Of course!"

Essentially, for people who know and care who Mockingbird and Alex Luthor from Earth-3 are (like, uhh, me), this is a pretty kickass story: densely plotted, decently choreographed, bringing back all sorts of plot threads that have been dangling for decades. And I do really like the fanatical level of visual detail. And the fact that this story does emerge from a setup that's been rolling for a couple of years, building toward this feverish moment of everything happening at once, with a master narrative that spills over directly into a whole lot of other comics.

But IC is also supposed to be a "jumping-on point"--a place for new readers to get sucked into the action--and on that count it's a miserable failure. This first issue explains nothing to readers who might've heard the hype and wanted to get into the action. The screwed-up thing is that there are plenty of opportunities to provide a little bit of backstory, a little bit of expository dialogue--and they're all missed. Just as an example: in the scene where we see Nightwing on a rooftop beneath a sky filled with a zillion OMACs, there's a caption that says "The skies DARKEN with the corrupted technology of his mentor." If you're going to bother with the caption, you could maybe mention in passing who his mentor is, you know? Or at least have a few pages of "if you're just joining us now..." notes at the back of the issue? It does have a great big numeral 1 on its cover.

Another example: the botched segue out of Day of Vengeance. There was a cliffhanger ending there: Billy Batson's falling from the sky and doesn't remember his magic word. How do you resolve that one? The correct answer, dramatically speaking, is not "at the last minute he remembers his magic word." Then we see Cap announcing "the Rock of Eternity... the ROCK... he... did it... the SPECTRE... he KILLED him... he KILLED the wizard..." This is useful recapitulation if we've read all but the final issue of DoV. If we've read it, it's useless. And if we don't know who the Spectre or the wizard are, it's also useless.

The point of the Wolfman/Perez Crisis was to get rid of a lot of baggage that made it difficult for new readers to enjoy DCU comics. It didn't work that way, really, for a lot of reasons, but it seems like the point of IC is to go pick up all that baggage up again... which is more or less an admission that the old-time fans are the core constituency. Probably true, but disheartening.

(Also, a thing other people have picked up on: of all the characters killed in this issue, Phantom Lady's death is particularly graphic and unmistakably sado-sexualized. Not necessary, guys.) (And a small quibble: how would a newscaster know what the OMACs are called?)

One element I unequivocally love, though: George Pérez's cover for the first issue. It's got 23 recognizable characters, a neat encapsulation of the events leading up to the story (the outcomes of all four pre-IC miniseries are represented), and the incident that kicks it off (the exploding Watchtower), the gist of this episode (the schism between the three major characters), and the central element of its composition alludes to something that I suspect is going to be a major theme of the whole story: the idea of succession in the DC world. The implication we've seen before is that there's always an Atom, always a Flash, always a Green Lantern--it's just who it is that changes. But who gets Batman's job if there's no Bruce Wayne? Superman's job if there's no Clark Kent? That's one of the reasons that we see that bit of dialogue about "the last time you really inspired anyone was when you were dead": that was the last time that the order of succession was brought up (and the only interesting thing about the whole death-of-Superman storyline, but that's a whole other thing.)

So we see each of the Big Three next to their possible successors, and we realize that not only are they no longer really in any kind of shape to fulfill their roles, but the next people in line aren't either. The "unready successor shoved into very big shoes" theme has shown up a few times after COIE, notably Wally West and Kyle Rayner's respective histories, but I don't think that's going to be what happens this time. Actually, I have no idea what's going to happen this time.


Posted by Douglas at October 14, 2005 11:55 PM | TrackBack

First off, Excalibur? Really? I've been kind of disappointed by their selection and completely confused by their layout of stuff. (Not that I've found anything better in Portland so far)

Secondly, there was one theory around (I think it was perhaps based on a DiDido interview and likely was gleaned from a barbelith board?) that this crisis was really more of a wrapup of the fairly gritty continuity that post-coie turned into, and moving solidly into the Waid/Morrison shiny/happy superhero/myth world.

If that's the case, I can kind of see why they're willing to make this story utterly impenetrable to non-compulsive fanboys. How they're going to make the transition however (or how it jibes with the continuity-free All Star line) remains to be seen.

And maybe the newscaster just noted the similarity to the Kirby OMAC comic and concidentally decided to use the term (or did the "DC publishes comics within the DC universe" concept not survive the first crisis?)

Posted by: chucklehound on October 20, 2005 5:09 PM
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