Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Comics Out 25 April 2007

Nothing in comics news grabbed me this week and the only comic book I picked up today was Justice Society of America #5. Because of the JLA/JSA Crossover (for which this is the second part and the first JSA part) I wanted to track down issues 1-4 before I got to 5. I got 1-3 and did not like them -- too much exposition and too much nostalgia, which is a bad combination. Either assume your audience knows who all the characters are, or don't and give them proper introductions, but don't half-ass both. One of the things that is making the nostalgia dense is what I think are pre-Crisis characters, who, it looks like, will be soon interacting with the cast of Kingdom Come (the Mark Waid Alex Ross comic book and not the LL Cool J movie, though they latter is so much a better idea).

Mark Waid established "hypertime" in the post-Kingdom-Come Kingdom Come stories -- the idea that story lines do not have to be wiped out to create a coherent continuity (the first Crisis) -- all the universes of every story exist at once and borders can always be crossed (the second Crisis). For the record the only reason I know that is that Frank Quitely drew one of the post Kingdom Come Kingdom Come books (I cannot for the life of me remember what they were called: Kingdom Come Again? Kingdom Commer? Kingdom Come 2?). It didn't stick, and Johns is going to try again. This is where DC is going with all their countdown stuff I think. They even used Ellis's Bleed in Green Lantern, since Ellis made a big deal of this structure of universes with the Snowflake in Planetary. Frankly watching these guys develop the structure of a multi-verse so that continuity glitches will not keep them awake at night is very boring. Just give me a well told story with good art. I don't care if it does not have a clear place in your neat little universe structure, you big engineering geeks with your graph paper and your mechanical pencils trying to figure out the real world physics of the light saber.

Long story short: I could not find JSA 4 so JSA 5 is going to have to wait. Flipping through it Batman appears to be fighting the Batman of the Multiverse (Miller's Batman, Vampire Batman, Adam's Batman and so on). I already read that story in Batman/Superman: Vengeance and before that in the Planetary/Batman Crossover. Before that I saw it in the Batman Animated where the kids tell stories of all the different Batman (Miller's Batman, the 60s Batman), which was itself based on a comic book. Yeash.

Solomon saith: There is no new thing upon earth.
So that as Plato had an imagination, that all
knowledge was but rememerance; so Solomon giveth
his sentence, that all novelty is but oblivion.

Except Matt Faction's Casanova.

[Before anyone objects that Casanova is hardly knew, drawing in everything in its gravity, Casanova FEELS new, which is all I am really asking for.]


hcduvall said...

He has nothing come out this week, but Paul Pope's stuff always has that new energy in it. Here's his Optimus Alpha for a Wired magazine transformers issue:

Well placed engine block.

Madd_Hadder said...

At your suggestion, I went looking for All star superman stuff. I found issues 1,2,3,5, and 7. I have only read issues 1 and 2 thus far, but thank you very much for the suggestion.

I didn't pick up anything new this week.

Erik Schark said...

I haven't made it to my comics shop yet, but I always look forward to the next installment of Alex Ross's wonderful Justice. The art's fantastic, and there's a genuine sense of danger for all of the characters. Granted, I think it will read better in trade format.

Also, somehow I missed Darwyn Cooke's brilliant The Spirit last week, so I'll be picking that up a week late.

And I'll totally agree that All-Star Superman is fantastic, although not quite as much this week.

Dan said...

Dok Klockhammer, I don't know what you've taken today, but I surely want me some of it:

"I don't care if it does not have a clear place in your neat little universe structure, you big engineering geeks with your graph paper and your mechanical pencils trying to figure out the real world physics of the light saber"

Thacher said...

Loathe as I am to be "that guy" I will say that what Batman is actually fighting in that issue are nightmare versions of himself created by Dr Destiny. I know, I know, big difference, but still. I could be the coworker of mine that was super excited to get his Green Lantern replica ring.

I never understood the furor over Hyperime (established in the Kingdom, the sequel you were thinking about. I think the Quitely issue was Offspring, about the son of Plastic Man. Nerd hat, please *sigh*). Ever since Crisis 1.0, the DC faithful have been overly zealous about the notion of "other universes," something pretty much every other SF-like fiction embraces. Hypertime came up and everyone was slitting their own throats about it. I mean, is it so bad that the Superman from "Red Son" can crossover to our universe? I realize that Crisis happened because the DC multiverse got too mismanaged. Probably the biggest surprise in the issue are the revelations about Superman and the Legion. I found it pretty baffling, and more proof that the post IC DCU was not really given a proper "this is how things stand now.

Hut I loved loved loved this weeks 52.

craig taylor said...

No comics for me this week, as neither Batman nor Hellboy showed (I'm sure they were due). But All Star Superman Vol. 1 HC is a treasure. I know it didn't release this week, but it resonates.

And I can read it with the light off...

scott s said...

I liked this post because I finally read Casanova (on this blog's continued suggestion). it is, in fact, totally awesome

after the klockhammer affair i listened to matt fraction's comic geek speak interview, and he sorta addresses the bacon quote: i think his criticism of kill bill was very accurate and interesting. if all art today contains self conscious pastiche, there are good and bad ways to go about it. kill bill is a bad way, because its list of references seems arbitrary (particularly part 1). the whole is only equal to the sum of its parts

casanova is definitely greater than the sum, and it will take me a long time (and more albums) to figure out why. it might be the cleverness of the pastiche, as in characters like david x. it could also be an affection for the matt fraction persona, which makes the metafiction very sentimental. but i suspect (and hope) that there is something even greater than cleverness or sentimentality behind that comic and i'm deeply satisfied that you motivated me to read it

Marc Caputo said...

"And I can read it with the light off..."

That ought to be the pull-quote for the next HC and definitely the sure to be coming omnibus edition.

Geoff: Is it just me, or have you elevated to curmudgeon status of late? As said in Wedding Crashers, "It's like pizza, baby! It's all good!"
This isn't the 60s, when Stan Lee was doing campus lectures and that era's college kids were the first to take their comics to the dorm with them. Nor is it the 80s, when comics "finally grew up" (quote from every third writer on comics for a non-comic forum from 1985 on)
This is the 00s, where the first generation of direct market geeks (in the club, so I can say so) has gotten their pens into the major companies. They're smart enough to realize that they can have their universe the way they learned it, especially the DC folk. And so you have what's been going on lately.

Also, the profile of someone who reads Casanova or something else from its rack buddies probably is someone who gre up on comics and wants a bit more. You're simply not going to get someone off the streets to read now if they haven't already read somewhere from ages 6-18. So there is a need for mainstream comics to be the mindless, pulpy fun they are. Every so often, they stretch their boundaries and come up with a homer (let's say, Green Lantern: Rebirth or our beloved JLA:Classified 1-3) but for the most part it's business as usual from month to month. The reason that a Seven Soldiers or a Planetary or a Casanova exists (and you can see a progression amongst them)is because someone wants to create, in the comic medium something with more to say than the average monthly. There's room enough in my love of the form for all types.

Also, the rag on continuity is pretty mean-spirited. Continuity is not for that, but for freedom to tell all types of stories without having to lock it down to one universe. It's not so someone can shrug off why Clark had rimless glasses in one book, but not in the other. AND it's doubly mean from someone who hung his theoretical book on what some might call a cynical cash-grab x-over between licensed properties and a half-assed X-Men ripoff. (Not me, though; I read your book and have spent the last two years mining the biblio for new material.)

Geoff Klock said...

HCD: thanks

Thacher: I appreciate the info. As marc point out I have been being mean this week, so don't let me scare you away from providing good information to people who need it, including me.

Scott: I really need to listen to that interview.

Marc: I have been in curmudgeon satus lately, which is a nice way of saying I have been mean and in a bad mood. You are nice to be so nice, if you see what I mean.

I find myself frustrated with a lot of things lately, not the least being the fact that everyone seems so happy with everything all the time -- every comic book that comes out seems to get a five star review at newsarama. Paul O'Brien really set me off this week, giving New X-Men 140 an A. I can not understand how people can "appreciate" both his A and my F at the same time without their heads exploding -- the things I called mistakes he did not mention at all. That was an overreaction, and I am sure O'Brien is a good guy and I am going to contact him soon for a little debate on this subject. I know that is not true that everything on newsarama gets a great review, but there are days when I FEEL like it is, when I see a horrbile book getting a great review, and start looking for ANYONE who is feeling the way I do. The way I feel is that some kind of quality control is important, and that when everyone loves something and I demonstrate -- DEMONSTRATE rather than the "SPAWN SUKS / SPAWN RULZ" school of criticism -- there is no category for me other than killjoy jackass.

Your use of "mindless" in "mindless pulpy fun" is what throws me. You make it sound like I am objecting to mindlessness, but what I am objecting to is bad storytelling. If you are focused on reparing the structure of your fictional universe rather than storytelling your priorities are screwed up and it is going to show. And look what a mess of a story Infinite Crisis is. Civil War is not quite the same thing but the same principle applies: when editorial mission trumps storytelling bad things happen.

"Love of all types" is what I cannot embrace and it makes me look like a horrible person. When applied to people it is a nice idea: we should all care about different kinds of people and accept them for what that can do rather than for what they cannot. But I am not sure that comic books are like people in this regard. I think with a comic book it should be easier to say "well I see what it is trying to do and it does it, but what it is trying to do is stupid."

Also, life is short, and I try to just find the "homers" as you put it. People who do not distinguish between the two -- for example people who LOVE WE3 AND Runaways -- throw me off track by telling me that the books are both fantastic. WE3 is fantastic; Runaways is only pretty good at best. It is good, don't get me wrong, but it is nothing like WE3. So that is a big source of my frustration.

"Continuity is for the freedom to tell all types of stories without how to lock them down to one universe". Well, for a while it was trying to lock characters down to a single universe; now they are working on establishing something the structure of the multi-verse, or whatever, where characters can go from the main universe to the Kingdome Come one -- where one rule explains all the transitions. This will do what you describe, allow for lots of different stories. But what if no one cared about continuity so closely? What if no one needed to explain that continuity glitches were caused by the Pre-crisis Superboy punching the universe very very hard? What if we could just accept that the DC universe is a bit of a mess, with characters being in the same (Batman and Superman) but sometimes different (Batman and Wildcats) worlds that crossover sometimes for whatever reason? It seems like a small complaint on one level, except for the amount of money people are expected to spend to follow DC's world building -- Road to Infinite Crisis, Identity Crisis, OMAC project, Rann-Thangarr War, Spirit of Vengance, Infinite Crisis, 52, Countdown, all the spinoffs and so on.

But in the short term I am going to try to to be so mean spirited. Maybe. :)

My book -- which I wrote six years ago, when I was 20, and have moved on from a little since then -- was not about properties but about writers (it should also have been about artists, but that is another mistake I made there). Yeah the subject matter had all kinds of weird financial and imaginative debts to all kids of things (i am not going to deny that), but the writers were thinking through comic book history in a new way, and so my book.

Geoff Klock said...

man, maybe I should just relax...

Teaching four classes of community college writing, thirty students a class, may be too much this term...

Jason Powell said...

" I can not understand how people can "appreciate" both his A and my F at the same time without their heads exploding"

Speaking for myself, it helps that I haven't actually read the issue in question. It's a Schroedinger's Cat type of deal. The issue is both an A and an F, for one who hasn't read it.

Marc Caputo said...

Geoff: Didn't mean to make you feel bad, man. You're doing a great job, you inspire others to talk about their passions and inspire others to this blog thing. (I'm back with a vengeance after next Tuesday, when my coursework for my administrator's diploma is submitted.)

Continuity doesn't have to be a bad word or something that engineering types only deal in. When DC pulled the first Crisis, they were fixing something that really wasn't broken; the real problems came after that trying to fix mistakes that arose from the solution. After that, everyone worried about continuity. But before that, there WAS continuity - a bit fantastic, but if fantastic wasn't your bag, what were you doing reading comics? Was John Byrne right in 1986 when he retconned Superboy from the DC mythos on the basis that those stories had no tension (since we knew he grew up to be Superman)? NO, HE WASN'T. But he got his way because he was JOHN BYRNE and off he went. Now, granted, he came up with a good way out, but again, it was unnecessary. And whole characters and concepts got needlessly muddled beyond repair (Hawkman, anyone?) Guys like Johns, Morrison, Waid and to a lesser extent, Busiek all (easily) outstrip Byrne as a writer on their least day; they've been given the keys to the kingdom and they want their toys, the stuff of their youth back. I know you hate nostalgia, but I think it has its place, to a degree. I could hardly contain my joy when I read JSA 5 last night. But I'm also a bit gun-shy. They can bring back the Legion of the 70s/80s - great, I'm all for it. But make them work in this age, though. It can be done.

You want good stories with good art - total agreement, there. But I want that wrapped in a cohesive universe; DC is trying to give us that. And they haven't been cavalier about it; remember, the seeds of this go back to 2002. They've been laying their bricks carefully and well, for the most. I do want and end to this neverending on-ramp of "this is leading up to the thing that is leading up to..." - I want two solid years of NO company x-overs.

Whew, that was a lot for me today.
Keep up the good work, Geoff.

Geoff Klock said...

Jason: HA

Marc: no no no people should call me on being mean some times, otherwise I will just become this awful person.

Here is my question: what is the good of wrapping stories in a cohesive universe, especially when creators who should be storytellers (Grant Morrison on the wonderful Superman) are spending part of their talent being world builders (Grant Morrison on the horrible 52)?

When you post on your blog, let people know here on Free Form Fridays, or in the comments of a post you are responding to.

rocafan said...

I'm said to hear you don't like 52...I love the fact that DC had the balls to make their world a huge breathing world. I always had to imagine what other lesser characters were doing while they were getting ready to be invovled in the next cameo issue, but this gives them a well deserved bump up. I enjoy both Marvel and DC but DC(for the time being) is the one giving me the biggest feeling of the good old days. And all though I love Morrisons Superman, it really hardly makes sense. I still pick it up because it's fun but many times I feel like it just an excuse for him to do crazy stuff for no reason. The bizarro issue made absolutely no sense, but we all excuse it because it's Morrison and it's Bizarro world. I mean when Morrison pulled the same chucking random ideas at the page in NEW X-MEN most people screamed bloody murder...but no one notices he's repeating his M.O on another book. Now after all this I for the most part enjoy most of what Morrison does. I think you can pick everything he does in 52 and ALL Star Superman #4, i think with Lex Luthor was actually by far, to me, the best one. Morrison's story for #4 is what I wish All star superman had more of.

neilshyminsky said...

Jason wrote:
"Speaking for myself, it helps that I haven't actually read the issue in question. It's a Schroedinger's Cat type of deal. The issue is both an A and an F, for one who hasn't read it."

Jason's response reminded me that Schroedinger's Cat is often misused. While Schroedinger's Cat is often taken up as some allegory for quantum mechanics and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, it isn't. Not exactly, anyway. Schroedinger's example of the cat is meant to explain that the uncertainty principle does not apply to the macro level above the sub-atomic.

In short, Schroedinger's Cat is actually meant to demonstrate that while we can hold both the A and the F in our head, NXM 140 cannot possibly be both - it is not a sub-atomic particle and so it must be either A or F. While we might suggest that the potential exists for either, that potential exists only within us, due to our lack of knowledge. Inside the box, the cat must be alive or dead: there's no in-between.

James said...

Neil: Cool! I've always hated Schroedinger's (fucking) Cat precisely because it doesn't apply to anything in real life. It's nice to know that it isn't supposed to.

Jason Powell said...


Thanks! That's cool to know. That said, I did like the guy who posted on one of the comments-threads in this very blog that Xorn is like Schroedinger's Cat: Both Magneto and not-Magneto on a quantum level. The idea of applying it to comic-book ret-cons is pretty brilliant. Was that Jean or Phoenix who died at the end of X-Men 137? It's both! I just have to remember that it's Heisenberg rather than Schroedinger that I need to thank for that solution.

As far as the physical macro-reality of New X-Men 140, I'm going to trust Geoff and agree with his "F."

So hey -- who would win in a fight: Schroedinger's Cat or Alan Moore's Hypothetical Lizard?

Geoff Klock said...

Rocafan: Morrison may be nuts in New X-Men and nuts in the same way in All Star Superman, but he is a bad storyteller in New X-Men as I have demonstrated issue by issue, and he is a great storyteller in All Star Superman as I have demonstrated here and on comic geek speak. 52 is a badly told story as I have also demonstrated -- I did a whole post on how bad issue 13 was, and then stopped getting it.

Neil, James, and Jason: the cat thing has been explained to me a number of times and I have to say I have never been able to remember the point of it for more than five minutes. Also I dislike science metaphors, but that is a personal reason I never use it.

Jason: thanks for trusting me.

Matt Brady said...

Geoff, I'm all for you being mean about stuff that deserves it. I probably would have been the same way before I pretty much gave up on superhero comics (or superhero universes, at least). Sure, there's still good stuff here and there, but the companies are just wrapped up in their Permanent Event Climate (I love that term) and just trying to sell you books that they forget to tell good stories. So I prefer to just watch from afar, reading reviews and laughing at the ridiculous stuff they come up with. I'd rather read manga and other comics.

Hmmm, maybe I'm the one being mean now. Sorry about that, everyone.

sara d. reiss said...

there's a funny exchange about Schroedinger's in the first series of QI. You can find it on tv links. I heart that show.

just... y'know... putting in my 2 cents for no reason.

Matt Brady said...

What's QI? Oh, wait, is that Quite Interesting? The show with Stephen Fry and other guys who talk about whatever the hell they feel like? Schroedinger's Cat seems like a good topic for that show.

Cthululaw said...


I think being 'mean,' as you put it, is important. The alternative to having mean voices of comic criticism is having all nice voices. The problem you claim to be seeing in the comic criticism community is exactly that all the voices commenting on comics are nice about everything. If every comic is called excellent, how do you distinguish them? This was essentially your point, and one which you should stick to your guns on.

I believe that discussion, learning, and progress all come from disagreement. However, disagreement is not possible in a realm where everything is labelled identically (all comics are excellent!!!). By being mean in your review or 52, Runaways, or JSA, you give people an oppurtunity to defend those books; you simultaeneously demand that defenses of those books take some kind of reasonable format because you give reasons why those books are bad. If I think JSA is the best comic book in print, then the best way for me to demonstrate the uniqueness of my appreciation and understanding of the book is to engage you (or your ilk) in a proper argument about the merits of the book. If I convince you that I'm right about the book, all the better. Alternatively, if everyone says that JSA is excellent, then there is little or no space for me to assert a unique and honest point of view (to be unique I would have to be dishonest and say the book is bad). I believe that the scenario that allows for a proper, argumentative response is a more psychologically satisfying scenario for both supporters and detractors of books.

In addition to providing a more psychologically satisfying, shared experience, I believe that learning can follow from proper argument. If the discourse is all agreement, then nothing really new is going on and no one is going to have their mind changed. Passionate, proper discourse should also lead to innovation: if saying that Johns is a great writer, or saying that Cyclone is an excellent innovation as a legacy super-hero, do not persuade you, then one would have to come up with progessively more creative arguments to persuade you that JSA is a fantastic comic. It could go the other way too, and you could convince someone that JSA is not worth their $3, and maybe that person would then spend their $3 on some deserving, but under-read book.

I suspect that you are already aware of most of what I just said, but I hope that my restating it to you will invigorate you to continue with honest, if sometimes harsh, criticism of comics.

Geoff Klock said...

Matt: dont worry about it

I agree with sara QI is awesome

Matt: yes it is the stephen fry show

Cth: thanks man. I just keep worring I will alienate people and loose the whole audience. Cause most of the time I am not even expressing how angry some of this stuff really makes me.

Cthululaw said...

That is tough call. I really, really don't like hurting people's feelings either. But, I know, somewhere inside that I can't properly articulate, that people should not be internalizing cultural artifacts that they like, so much that they are offended when people critisize those artifacts. I'm as guilty of that as the next person, even though I don't think I should be doing it.

Maybe just emphasize that people are not bad, or dumb, for liking a book that you try to demonstate is bad. Of course, if you really think there is something kinda wrong with someone who likes something you don't, or dislikes something you do, then I'm not sure how you can say this honestly. Personally, I'm absolutely certain that there is something fundamentally wrong with the humanity of a person that does not find beauty in the music of Leonard Cohen. But, I'm equally certain that I would write a much more valuable, and entertaining, analysis of Cohen's work than the work of someone I don't feel as strongly about.

The passion of the reviewer, or critiquer, for their subject is important and discernable in the review. I wish you the best of luck in discovering a way (or continuing) to be honest and passionate in your discussions of comics, without insulting or alienating readers.

I'd wager that the readers want to read these things in your work more than they want to read about how much you love JSA.

P.S. I frikkin love JSA, but, I think it is long-form, Claremont-esque, epic melodrama that is probably not innovative. As soon as I figure out why I'm wrong about that, I'll let you know. ;)

neilshyminsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
neilshyminsky said...

Geoff: The point of Schroedinger's Cat is hard to recall precisely because it's meant to illustrate that the laws of quantum mechanics apply only at the sub-atomic level. So if you don't understand quantum mechanics (and I don't claim to have any more than a basic understanding myself), then the Cat only proves that something you don't understand in the first place applies only to something you don't notice anyway. It's hard to really care about something that abstract when it's outside one's field of interest.

Geoff Klock said...

Neil: what is confusing me is that I have heard this several times -- and admittidly forgot every time -- but I don't remember the point you say being the point. I LIKE your explanation much better because it makes great sense, but I have a vague memory of people trying to explain to me that now there are TWO universes, one in which the cat is alive and one in which the cat is dead, and everytime something like this happens it creates a parallel universe, and when you open the box you are discovering whcih universe you are in. Anyway, it made not sense to me, and your explanation seems much better.

neilshyminsky said...

Geoff: Whatever those people were talking about, it wasn't quantum mechanics. The Cat is probably more famous for the way it has been misused - and I suppose there's something to be said for that. But what you describe is not what Schroedinger meant, nor is it quantum physics. (Maybe it fits elsewhere in the field of quantum mechanics? I doubt it, but...)

I'll give the last word to Stephen Hawking: "When I hear of Schrödinger's cat, I reach for my gun."