Sunday, December 30, 2007

Comics Out December 28, 2007

X-Men. I have now read chapters one, five and nine, and was pleased to discover that since Bachalo is drawing the final part I will get to see how this all turns out without being suckered into buying a lot more books than I really want when I suspect that a summary of those books would do just as well. A new character, one I always loved, gets thrown into the mix, and Bachalo uses blood spatter liberally to distinguish those on the front lines from those clean and safe. A gay character is something, I suppose, but I feel like I have seen the dark future where mutants are in camps about a hundred times now, and it makes me glad I am avoiding the other books.

Batman. SPOILERS! I love the understated cover -- this could be any issue of Batman -- that does not hint at the insane last page, or anything like it. This issue is intriguing, but I think I am going to need either more issues, or more background, to figure out what to make of it. Part of the problem is that my entire Morrison Batman run is lent out so I cannot check to see if Commissioner Vane is from 666, or the year that story takes place -- will this Devil Batman become the Batman of issue 666? Time Travel? Just a concept chiming? The Bruce Wayne sequence did not really hold my attention, until he jumps out of a balloon and his Neil Adams lifestyle, and is figured as the Dark Knight Returns; then our Batman is reverse "crucified" on his own Bat-signal by the Devil Batman; gets shot in the chest revealing the shielding plate -- as in Dark Knight Returns; dies, as he does in Dark Knight Returns of heart failure; in his final moments sees the most iconic image from Year One, the full page bat breaking though the window; BUT in one of the strangest non-satiric revisions I have seen calls the Bat-Mite for help at the last moment, something Miller's Batman could never have done -- Morrison is doing what only he can do here, which is smart. Also there is something with a purple mask that I am not clear on -- is this from 52 or something? I am not quite sure how to put all of this together -- and anyone who has ideas should not stay quiet in the comments -- but Morrison does have my attention, at least, for the first time on this book I think. I hope he has a better point than "Batman has a wonderful history, can't we just embrace it all?"

As a side note, does anyone else think that DC pulled the rug out from under Morrison -- or he did it to himself -- with the whole return of the multi-verse thing at the end of 52? Morrison using excised pre-crisis stuff in Animal Man and JLA for example seemed so much more daring before DC decided to canonize so much of the weird stuff in other worlds. Isn't Bat-Mite a more interesting thing to use when you feel Morrison is "breaking the rules" a bit, than when "Zur En Arrh" or whatever turns out to be one of the 52 universes, right next to Wildstorm?

In Comics News Spider-Man: One More Day ended -- someone give us a detailed spoiler.


Thacher said...

I just wrote this and then lost it, so let's try again.

Peter and MJ spend a couple of pages contemplating what if's, and Peter again makes it clear that if this was natural causes he'd be perfectly happy, but this was his fault, so all bets are off. Peter and MJ spend their last day holding each other in a tight close-up of their mouths almost kissing for 12 panels (one full page, one half), almost remembering all the things they did (cutting each "hey, do you remember--" off with "yeah, that was fun.") and the day passing illustrated with rising and falling light effects.
When Mephisto appears, MJ bargains with him, saying that May was only shot because people knew Peter's identity, so Mephisto, being kind and generous, says "sure, I'll make people forget the identity at no extra charge." Mj agrees, and then whispers something to Mephisto. Peter asks what, and MJ tells him not to worry about it. With time running out, Mephisto needs Peter's agreement (they both must turn their missile keys to detonate the marriage). MJ tells him that no matter what happens, they will always love each other and be able to find each other. Peter agrees, and then Mephisto reveals that the little girl he had been before was the daughter that they would've had if they had stayed together, and now "never will." They seem shocked at this for some reason.

Peter wakes up at Aunt May's house in Queens, running late for a party. He rushes off, happy and singing, eating a wheat cake and biking to his destination. He gets to the party, mingles with Flash Thompson and notices MJ alone in the corner. Flash implores Peter to go talk to her, but he says that he would "never forgive him for what happened." The elevator doors open, and the parties guest of honor arrives: Harry Osborn, fresh from rehab. He jokes with everyone and introduces his new girlfriend (who's name escapes me, but she was in the leaked Brand New Day bible). MJ walks out sullenly, and Peter and the rest toast loudly to a Brand New Day.

Ultimately, I find the whole thing a story telling failure on multiple levels. With the ID turnback, you've erased a major point of the Civil War story, a story that garnered mainstream recognition for its realism and echoing of real-world issues. Now, if I have customers coming into my store asking about what happened to Spider-man after that, I have to say "Oh, he traded his marriage away for his identity to be forgotten and his aunt to get better." Most of the time, when Aunt May comes up to lapsed or casual non-Marvel comic readers, they go "Isn't May already dead?" I can't wait for her to almost die or get sick again, or for Peter to tell her his identity for a third time (fourth, if you count Ultimate Spider-man).

Every Spider-man story since the marriage becomes a continuity problem. Mind you, I don't think continuity is the hallmark against which a story is judged, but there's a level of respect you must have for stories told by other people in a shared universe. Quesada would often say "Marvel doesn't have a crisis to fix things." Well, now you've made a crisis. How did that story play out with the marriage gone? What does the effect of that story being different have on the current "brand new" timeline? Obviously some, since Harry is back, so what else is different?

Even the titular "One More Day" takes three issues to materialize and it's resolved in a page and a half of repeated panels. This is what Quesada was late drawing. The thing that comic companies don't seem to get about late books is that the quality is scrutinized more when books are late, as people go "We waited for this? It took them this long to do this?"

Quesada did a lot of good things for Marvel, and I'm more pleased with Marvel books since he's been there, but I feel that this will be his Waterloo. Whatever legacy he had, it's now "He's the EIC that had the flagship character make a deal with Satan." I don't think he's evil, I don't think he's dumb, I don't think he's histories greatest monster. But when you look at the newsarama poll up about it, 80% of people responded with the two negative responses (there are two positive and one neutral). In this instance, he's just wrong and has made a mistake.

That said, I'm optimistic about Brand New Day. I like the creators involved, I like they way they are going to be telling the story, I like the return of the supporting cast and what seems to be the more "serialized" aspect of his adventures (which I think were the basis of his charm, and yes, his romantic exploits were part of that, but not all of it), something that was lacking during Straczynski's run.

Scott said...

I picked up the last issue of One More Day out of curiosity and it really isn't that horrible as long as you don't care about the characters too much. Straczynski and Quesada do a nice job at portraying the emotion and heartbreak that go into the decision.

I probably enjoyed it more because I feel no great emotional investment in the characters or their situation. I love Spider-Man. A Spider-Man comic was one of the first comics I ever bought as an impressionable four year old but I realize that the current Spider-Man isn't for me and isn't being produced for me. With that detachment from the character and the plot (which is kind of cheap,) I really don't care what's done with him, his marriage, his aunt or anyone related to him. So there's no marriage? So Aunt May is alive? So Harry Osborne is back? So what? I know and can appreciate how other fans of the character feel betrayed by Marvel but I just don't have that attachment to any of their characters anymore. I just want entertaining stories and this issue actually provided that.

Christian said...

Reminds of the clone saga.

Thankfully I don't bother with the regular 616 Spidey, ever since JMS' obsession with making him a magical non-everyday man.

I must admit though, that I love the character and am genuinely hoping/expecting this to be a fake-out of "Dallas' Bobby Exiting the Shower" proportions.

James said...

thacher summarised everything pretty well, the only thing I'd add is that MJ's whisper is something she has "to offer" Mephisto, so he'll "put his life back just as it was [and] give him a chance at happiness". Presumably this is why Harry is alive, Peter works at the Bugle, and generally lives his creepy anachronistic "I'm a swinging bachelor who lives with his geriatric aunt" lifestyle. So I guess this secret offer will be a plot thread that continues into the Brand New Day, and at some point some of this will be messily undone, but not all of it, because Peter has to be unmarried and have his secret identity and be just like in all our favourite comics.

For someone who did GREAT things when he became Marvel's Editor-in-Chief, Joe Quesada sure does a good impression of an annoying idiot.

Voice Of The Eagle said...

"I picked up the last issue of One More Day out of curiosity and it really isn't that horrible as long as you don't care about the characters too much."

And that's the killer, isn't it?

Casey Malone said...

Talking to a friend confirmed my suspicion that the purple mask is meant to invoke a Dennis O'Neil story, Shaman*.

The story presents an alternate explanation for why Bruce Wayne would dress up like a bat to the one presented in Year One. One of the issues, set pre-Year One, has Bruce fatally wounded in Alaska, and an inuit shaman uses a Bat Totem Mask to heal him.

While that was my first instinct, I couldn't figure out why Morrison would invoke O'Neil in the middle of his fight with Miller. But, as my friend points out, "Moz loves him. LOVES LOVES LOVES."

Placing the picture of the mask before the more iconic bat crashing through the window as Batman has a heart attack essentially sets the timeline in order: Bruce's life is flashing before his eyes, and he saw the Shaman's mask before Miller's bat. This completely takes all the punch out of the most iconic moment in Batman: Year One (Yes, father, I shall become a bat.) and puts the focus back on a Dennis O'Neil penned Batman.

This is what we were able to make of it, anyhow.


*Legends of the Dark Knight 1-5.

Streebo said...

I'm not a fan of making drastic continuity altering changes to characters - when it involves means that normally seem beyond their normal realm of influence - so I'm staying away from One More Day. I survived the Clone Saga and I'll survive this. Superhero comics are soap operas. Fans are enticed to buy the monthly stories year after year in order to follow the soap opera lives of their favorite super heroes. This deal with Mepshisto - the character voted least likely to ever appear in a Spiderman movie - is a slap in the face of all of the loyal fans that followed their titular hero for years. One More Day sounds like the biggest Deus Ex Machina ending of all time. And with that - Joe Quesada confirms his jump over the shark. In the words of Namor the Sub Mariner, "Bah! Witless mutant!"

cdtaylor said...

Casey: And the story immediately following O'Neil's LotDK stroy was Grant Morrison's "Gothic" (LotDK 6-10).

Geoff Klock said...

Thatcher -- thanks

Scott -- VoE is right. "It is fine if you do not care about the characters" is not a nice thing to say, it is a deadly condemnation.

Christian -- that Dallas thing would be awesome.

Casey -- oh I see! Morrison is using the mask to get around Miller's Year One origin just as he uses the Bat-Mite to swerve from Dark Knight Returns. Morrison's Batman is the most dramatic example of the thesis in my Superhero book.

Scott said...

The problem with getting wrapped up and caring about Spider-Man is that I have no idea what version of the character I really care about anymore? Do I care for the Marvel U version? The movie version? The Nicholas Hammond version? I've seen so many different Spider-Mans over the years that I've gotten used to this being an extremely fluid character and it's hard to find an attachment to a particular one.

Or maybe you're right and it's a condemnation. But if it is, it isn't of Straczynski or Quesada or the current Marvel. They probably lost me those 20 years ago with McFarlane and Larsen and the post-Venom issues. If I don't care about Spider-Man the comic character, I'd trace my dissatisfaction of the character back to then.

Marc Caputo said...

You know, I really had no problem in concept with this OMD thing; I think Spider-Man has been abused by the very company he represents. JMS' run has been dogged by controversy - this is no Johns on Flash or David on Hulk - it's not even Morrison on X-Men. He's made a series of bad to dumb choices and screwed the character beyond recognition.

So - retcon away, I say. Not because the marriage is so bad, but because something needs to be done to force people to write this frackin' book the way it should.

But, this last issue didn't have to be so bad. True, the MJ/Peter stuff was done well, but did Marvel's back door (MJ whispering in Mephisto's ear) need to be so ham-handed? Or what's the equation that makes no marriage resurrect Harry? But most egregious for me was the two-page spread of their greatest moments. They all looked pretty generic, but Joe Q used a direct visual quote from Fraction/Larroca's excellent Spectacular Spider-Man Annual from this summer. If there's a more recent example of how well the marriage could have been written, please tell me. And the guy who hates the marriage the most, draws it in to his "montage".

For some reason, that pissed me off. I was going to actually start reading S-M with this Brand New Day because all the creators are interesting to me to some degree, but now I don't know.

Duncan Falconer said...

The sort of Inca mask thing in Batman is directly from Batman #156, 'Robin Dies at Dawn'; as is the issue title 'space medicine'. I think there is a little sort of personality surgery going on here too - space medicine is treatment for deep isolation, Bruce just needs to embrace his love of Robin of Damian, that sort of thing, instead of being so cold...

Chad Nevett said...

The thing I find funny is that, for all people like to rag on it, "The Clone Saga" had a solution to the problem where Peter and MJ were off having their life and Ben Reilly was Spider-Man. Of course, it's not Peter Parker as Spider-Man, but that's just in name only as a clone is the same thing. A few little things that may bother some, but that way you had a single Spider-Man without breaking up the marriage.

Anonymous said...

I’m not 100% shore but I believe I know were the purple mask comes from. The first ark in the long running but recently canceled ‘Legends of the Dark Knight’ had a lot of business with masks. It’s been a long time since I read the story, but it has to do with Batman’s training at the hands of an Indian Shaman. Also if I remember correctly this was the first comic to have variant covers. So in acknowledging all of batman’s, and comic’s history it could be a nod to a different time period that others discount. If I’m off on this please some one correct me.

Pat aka The Dyslexicon

Anonymous said...

Geoff! Bravo. You're love of Morrison's Batman eclipses even mine. I didn't even think to consider the subtle 'jabs' at Miller in this issue. But, will Bat-mite be just a dream before dying? Knowing Grant's love of the Silver Age, I think not!

Duncan Falconer said...

No, really, the purple mask comes from Batman #156, anonymous.

Casey Malone said...


Damn, that's an impressive recollection. I hear that issue is collected in "The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told" which I guess I'll have to pick up just to try and figure out what Morrison is doing here.

Doop said...

What gay character are you referring to in X-Men?