Monday, November 13, 2006

The OMAC Project, summaries, and spoilers

The title of this post, please note is "The OMAC Project, summaries, and spoilers" not " The OMAC Project: summaries and spoilers." I will be talking about the concept of spoilers, not spoiling the story of the OMAC Project (which was surely spoiled by bad writing, bad art, and a horrifically mangled structure, which I will talk about).

I bought Identity Crisis because Joss Whedon wrote the intro -- I was right in the middle of watching the complete Buffy and Angel box sets and figured if it was good enough for Whedon it was good enough for me. It wasn't great, but as I have said before, Metzler has a unique dexterity for handling a large cast, which is why I am now getting his JLA run. I got Infinite Crisis a few weeks ago, out of guilt. It was a total mess, but I still kind of enjoyed it in a guilty pleasure kind of way; I wouldn't recommend it to anyone as a good book, but I have to admit I had fun reading it.

One of the things I liked about Infinite Crisis was the totally ridiculous structure that led into it. Identity Crisis was a murder mystery. In the course of that mystery a secret, unrelated to the murder, got revealed. That secret set into motion the OMAC Project, a five issue miniseries roughly centered on Batman and led into Infinite Crisis. Five other miniseries led into Infinite Crisis as well: Day of Vengeance (about magic), Rann-Thanagar War (about dudes in space), Villains United (about the bad guys), JLA: Crisis of Conscience, and Superman: Infinite Crisis. (Forgive me, those of you to whom this is old news). I just like how nuts that is, so I picked up the OMAC Project just to see what one of the lead-ins looked like.

Here's the thing: the five issue OMAC Project miniseries had to be interrupted, in the trade, by the fourth part of a four-part plot that ran through three Superman books and concluded in Wonder Woman, so you could follow the whole thing. Not good planning, obviously. Before the trade jumps into this Wonder Woman book it stops to summarize the first three parts, so you can follow the fourth, so you can understand the OMAC Project miniseries. This is what struck me: reading the summaries was exactly as interesting as reading the trade I was holding in my hands.

People have remarked, not necessarily kindly, that I am too dramatic in my reviews. But in my thinking, either a book has a unique quality and so it must be read (Steampunk), or it is so bad it has to be experienced to be believed (X3), or it is a book like this, which you can easily capture in a summary. And if you can summarize it and it is exactly as good as reading it, then it is crap, and should be cast aside. I think for a lot of folks books like the OMAC project are mediocre; for me it is horrible.

This is, by the way, why I am not that touchy about spoilers. While I understand wanting to be surprised by twists, and how that surprise is part of the experience which is lesser without it, I also know that if revealing the end spoils the story then it was not a good story to begin with. Most of us knew who killed Janet Leigh in the shower and why before we saw Psycho and we knew what "rosebud" meant before the end of Citizen Kane. And we watched and liked those movies anyway because they are good movies. When spoilers come up about contemporary stuff I just put myself in the position of someone from the next generation watching a classic for the first time, who is expected to know the end already because the thing is so famous and so good.

Except for LOST. Spoil LOST and I will hunt you down.


jennifert72 said...

oh man, when u still lived in england i would have been able to harass you mercilessly with fake lost spoilers... damn....

neilshyminsky said...

I'm of the same mind re:spoilers. I knew that Ozymandias had murdered millions of New Yorkers before reading even one page of Watchmen, but having that spoiled probably increased my anticipation and enjoyment in the end - a good comic is not somehow made bad for being 'spoiled'.

You might be interested to know, though, that Peter David is of the exact opposite opinion. He and I got into a protracted argument about spoilers on a message board that I moderate a few months ago when someone revealed an X-Factor plot-twist, implying that his hard work had been ruined. I suggested, as you did, that it's not the plot but the delivery that matters - if people weren't buying his comic after learning about the twist-ending or what-have-you, I implied that perhaps his comics just weren't worth reading. (Incidentally, it doesn't normally take much to upset Peter David. So, of course, he didn't take kindly to the suggestion and dared me to ban him from the site. Which I didn't, and so he just stopped visiting.)

Geoff Klock said...

Neil: that is hilarious.

I have not read a Peter David comic book in years. His original X-factor run got me hooked into buying comics in the first place -- it was so funny, and X-Factor 87, the one where they all get psychoanalyzed was amazing I thought. But I outgrew him; he doesn't seem nearly so smart now, nor does he seem to be that good a writer. The only recent thing I read of his was Hulk: The End and that was not very good. Anything I should check out?

neilshyminsky said...

If there is something by Peter David worth recommending, then I haven't read it. I've phrased that sentence unfairly (but amusingly!), though. While I've heard a lot of plot details about his X-Factor and Spider-man, I've read none of it.

There might have been something clever and quirky about his writing as compared to the norm of the early 90s (hardly a meaningful comparison, that), but I see nothing particularly interesting in what he's doing now: his Mysterious Character in X-Factor has the power of 'knowing stuff' and sports the catch-phrase 'My name is Layla Miller. I know stuff' (it's like 'I'm the best there is at what I do', only worse), and he brought Uncle Ben back in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man. And he's an alternate reality Uncle Ben who is evil and kills people. Not that this doesn't sound appealing on some absurdist level, but - sadly - he's not being ironic.

Anonymous said...

As with most things, there are degrees of spoilers. For the most part, I'm in agreement with Geoff and Neil. I can't think of any spoiler that would 'ruin' a truly wondrous work. But of the ones mentioned, I'd much rather be forewarned of the truth about Rosebud or Mr Bates than that of Mr Veidt. Sure, the joy of Watchmen is Watchmen itself, not the 'twist' of Ozymandias being the 'bad guy'. But the revelation of Ozymandias's role is a great moment of the book the first time you read it. And while you can still get (much) more out of the book on future rereadings, you can't regain that genuine 'oh my god' moment.

Another (more computer geeky) way of stating Geoff's point is that good literature is complex, in the mathematical sense of being not compressible. The best summary of the work that retains the important parts of the work is the work itself. The OMAC Project is very compressible.

I could go on to talk about the differences between The Sixth Sense (which exists only for its twist, and is therefore massively compressible) and The Usual Suspects (which has a twist as a major component, but due to its style and cleverness is nowhere near as compressible), but I'm late for a meeting.

As for Peter David, I will always remember him as the man who introduced us to The Maestro, an evil future version of The Hulk, who apparently wants to be a conductor of a symphony orchestra.

Anonymous said...

Heh, heh, I am so with you on this point about spoilers, and so with you about Lost, as well.

My DVR didn't record an episode last week while I was on vacation, and I'm paralyzed with fear. Tell me it was a rerun, pleasepleaseplease!!

Geoff Klock said...

Neil: wow that Peter David stuff sounds bad.

Dan: your math analogy is dead on.

Starrlett: I think you may have missed the misleadingly named "fall finale", but they throw these things up on the web after they air -- either on or on iTunes -- so you should be able to get all caught up, especially since there will not be a new Lost episode until February 7th 2007.

samax said...

i ignore crossovers a lot, because i don't like having my arm twisted into buying a comic i don't really want just to know what's going on...

so i actually know the surprises before they happen fairly often. in fact, i usually need to read the book to know why the surprise twist is worth caring about.

so my point is, i feel the same way about spoilers, more or less.

TonPo said...

I'm pretty much of the same mind in terms of spoilers. I use Spoilit! a lot for the books that I don't actually care to buy or even bother downloading to read. A lot of the books they cover can pretty much be summed up in the summaries, which kind of proves further the point of this post. However, I do derive some enjoyment from reading fairly mediocre to bad comics. Such as Bilson & Demeo's run on The Flash. Terribe, terrible writing. I would be better off, as a hardcore lifetime Flash fan, reading the spoilers instead of reading the book, but since the book has been seemingly dropped by everyone but myself, I can't even read those. Strangely enough, the fact that there are no spoilers to be found about this book makes the bad writing more tolerable. It's not a bad story. It's just written badly. You can say that one equals the other, but just because Foucault writes like a pompous jerk doesn't make him wrong. I read a lot of bad comics growing up, and it didn't matter that it wasn't the best written stuff I had read. All that matter is that it inspired a sense of wonder and shallow excitation in me. Realistically, I'll never be able to achieve that again being an adult in the age of the internet, but staying away from some spoilers helps me get as close as I can hope.

Peter David's new X-Factor is amazing. It's probably the best superhero book being put out by the Big two right now, in my opinion. The plot is good, but not great. It kind of gets lost in the richness of the characters and dialouge, which I really appreicate. That was something I thought about Identiy Crisis when I was reading it monthly too, but David's execution is such more tasteful than Meltzers. I sometimes feel that Meltzer flaunts his strengths to make up for his weaknesses. David doesn't need to do that. While there has been the occassional Civil War related plot point or mention in the book, for the most part it is an entity in itself, and it's excellent writing and art make it the perfect antidote to "big budget blockbuster" crossovers which the Big 2 seem to be shovelling out in spades these days.

P.S. All the people in lost are ****

Anonymous said...

Well, now Geoff has encountered the great comic conundrum of our time.

I read the issues of Infinite Crisis/Identity Crisis/Omac Project/Rann-Thanagar War/etc etc etc as they came out. I'm kind of required to do so, being the owner of two stores and all. If I don't read them SOMEone will tell me all about them by the end of the day on Wednesday.

As a weekly, serialized entertainment, the whole Inifinite/Countdown to/Inifinite Crisis situation was pretty entertaining. Kind of like a TV series. As a group of TPs, I can definitely see it be less than spectacular. But even read on a weekly basis, they are, at best, popcorn entertainment. Easily enjoyed and easily forgotten just as quickly.

So do you buy the weekly books? or do you wait for the TPs? As someone who personally leans towards the latter, I can completely understand the tendency to do wait for the TP. But I also tend to think that makes complaints from those who wait for the TP slightly less valid. The product was never REALLY intended for you to begin with.

As for Lost, I don't know if you saw last week's episode, but they did manage to commit the greatest sin of the entire series last week. Ah well, can't be perfect.

Tim from Myspace

toothpick said...

ah, but X-Factor's Civil War tie-ins, I'd argue, were some of the best issues. Hats off to Peter David for that. Tie-ins are rarely that seamless.

Geoff Klock said...

Tonpo -- fair point about spoilers. feel free to use curse words in the future. And yeah a lot of the characters are shit (Michael, Walt, Boone) but John Locke is my hero.

Tim: I may have liked it more if I read it at the time, but there was not enough draw. By the way you are going to have to tell me what you thought the big sin was. Email me so you don't spoil anything.