Category Archives: Discussion

The Coming of Black

Happy October, world. D.C. here to start off this month with something that garnered intense discussion.

Recently, it’s been revealed that a new miniseries by publisher Black Mask Comics will be out this coming week, called Black.

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The controversy with this kickstarted series by Kwanza Osajyefo is succinct:

“What if only black people had super powers?” You can find the article here.

With a logline like that, one might imagine the firestorm in the comic fandom–if indeed the rage is from the fandom.

On a thread tonight, I saw a large swath of comments which consisted of variations this sort: “Hypocrites,” or “If a white writer wrote this, everyone would call it racist!” or “What if the shoe was on the other foot?!” or “Garbage.”

This book, like anything controversial or other, invoked such emotion. Supporters and opponents of Black threw verbal stones at Osajyefo and at one another: racist. Racist, racist, racist.

After reading the article and the comments, my view is something like this:

Racism is a strong word to use anytime, anywhere. You have to really, really know when to use it. There are sensitive people on both sides of the argument who are too quick to call something or someone racist whenever it is something they don’t like. If you want to call something racist, you need to understand what–and most importantly why–something is racist. It’s not truth just because it comes out of your mouth or your fingers.

Using the “if a white person did this…” argument is short-sighted and, in my eyes, seeks to mitigate one’s hang ups without actual proof. To argue in such a black and white way means you disregard content and context from a historical and current events perspective.

Ignore context and history, and books like these get supplanted by less informed and less intelligent dialogue. It’s one thing to write a book like Black off as racist or bad, provided you’ve read it. But in lieu of reading and understanding the content of the story, how much information can one go off on before calling something racist, PC, pandering, or garbage? How well can you judge its merit?

Racism in media exist. Racist media does exist. Movies such as the 1915 film “Birth of a Nation” can be seen as racist. Books like 1978 The Turner Diaries can be seen as racist. Still, someone like me can see why some of those have importance. I mean, hell, “Birth of a Nation” is on the American Film Institute’s 100 top films list.

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I am a tried and true comic fan, and I find controversial topics very intriguing. If it were any other ethnicity, including white, with powers, I would still be curious to see how said group of people will use or squander their powers. I think books like this, if written well, can serve as strong, potential cautionary tales of bias, identity, conforming, social and racial tensions, prejudice, and humanity, on all sides of the coin.

Rather than cry foul or racism, I choose to read a book. Rather than be a fool and run on emotions (and Kay knows my emotions), I choose to judge a book by its content, context, and merit.

If Black, a miniseries that puts a controversial spin on superheroes and intends to address social issues that do involve black people, black sentiment, and tensions, makes you outraged, I ask: Why?

Why are you outraged? Why SHOULD you be outraged? Are you outraged at the message of the book? The content of the book? Its execution/portrayal? The very idea of the book?

Careful, though. The answers we get will tell us exactly how a dissenter thinks.

END THROWDOWN.

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DC Rebirth at a Glance

Hey, all, this D.C. back for a throwdown. No, we’ll call this more of a rant-fest.

I had a discussion with Kay recently about how I wanted to discuss my feelings on DC’s latest revamp, Rebirth. It’s been about 4 months since DC decided to try and salvage the stink many people felt regarding the New 52 initiative, and the lackluster response from the DCYou after ConvergenceI wanted Kay, who’s far less experienced with comics and with DC Comics in general, to give her own take as well. But then today, I saw that Newsrama beat me to the punch.

Damn Newsrama.

While I agreed with a couple of the staff’s grades, I disagreed with others, so I will still give my own insight on my feelings, what DC’s latest change left me with, and what could be points of improvement.

Action Comics

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When the Rebirth version of Action Comics was first proposed, I was both turned off and curious about Lex Luthor being a primary character in this. I really displeased with the prior Superman taking over again as a whole because of the sheer implication of “going backwards,” “going back to basics,” “giving fans what they want,” or whatever platitude or patronizing term people choose to use. While I dislike Lex Luthor as a character, I was intrigued by seeing him trying to live up to his unearned role as a Superman.

How would Lex step up? Could Lex step up and be something bigger than his ego? Who are his supporters and dissenters?  Could the old Superman help him understand what responsibilities come with the “S” of the Superman family?How will we see him fail? In what ways will we see him triumph and actually surpass Superman?

What I go out of the first arc didn’t come close to touching on any of this. And even if there were, any question was quickly subverted by the appearance of Doomsday. I wasn’t aware that I was this Rebirth was going to feature another tired, desperate battle with Superman’s killer. Was this Action Comics, or was this Death of Superman all over again?

The introduction of a powerless Clark Kent threw in an interesting element, but as stated in the Newsrama article, there really was too much introduced in too short a time.

I was even more disappointed in Lex Luthor essentially becoming a background character to the old Superman. There was too little justice given to Lex for this played out battle.

And don’t let me get started on Wonder Woman hammering home that Lois and Clark being together is more fitting than hers and the recently-deceased New 52 Superman. That was hard pandering there.

Cyborg

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When I read the first volume of the New 52 Cyborg series, I was pleased by the evolution in Cyborg’s character, and in the evolution of his abilities and cybernetic nature.

Two issues into Cyborg’s Rebirth, and I found John Semper, Jr.’s take on Cyborg not compelling at all. For one, the upgrades to Cyborg’s power set are all but forgotten–already an egregious move when no reason is given. It would’ve been nice to see Cyborg still adjusting to those upgrades, instead of the same, tired moments of his questioning his humanity or whether he has a soul. As many times as Victor Stone has questioned that, even in New 52, you would think he’d come to terms in ways that he can move past that. It would also be nice to see him have a more extensive rogues gallery that didn’t have a focus on technological threats. Some, of course, but that shouldn’t be the norm for him.

Supergirl

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Supergirl has become one of the more unexpected books I liked. It may help that I have little experience with the character as a whole, but I have enjoyed the sense of realism and relatability given to this advanced alien character who is forced to adjust to primitive life on Earth. Getting in touch with humanity is an old trope in comics, but it serves an honest purpose for Kara Zor-El. While the DEO’s overall purpose in Rebirth does not seem to have been fleshed out as well, I do look forward to this title developing, and how Supergirl and the DEO could tie in to the events that caused Rebirth in the first place.

 

Aquaman

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Aquaman has easily been the biggest surprise to me. The character had always been derided, both in comics and among comic readers. Seen as a very limited character, I was curious to see how Dan Abnett can run with the character in Rebirth. I loved how Abnett addressed how the public makes fun of Aquaman in the Rebirth issue (mirror by many comments in real life).

I have been very pleased with Arthur’s efforts at diplomacy with a very distrusting and somewhat conniving and controlling government (isn’t that how the U.S. is always seen?). Aquaman has his work cut out for him on his path to uniting his two worlds. How he rise up against xenophobes, subversives and government all remain to be seen with bated breath.

 

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey

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I will make a confession: I could not finish the Rebirth issue of this book. Julie and Shawna Benson do a great job writing what I’d read so far. Batgirl’s introspection was well-written, if not already beaten to death in the years since New 52.

It’s the art. Claire Roe’s art is just atrocious, and every character is penciled hideously. Batgirl’s facial expressions are awful, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. It was so bad that it was distracting.

It took me days to finish Starbrand and Nightmask just because of its terrible art. I know it willtake me just as long to get through this singular issue. I can’t continue this series with art like that.

I also wasn’t clear just one what this book would be about before picking up the series, which left me with more issues. Beyond this hunt for a villainous Oracle, where is this book supposed to go? How is it supposed to fit into the cause and theme of Rebirth, beyond “let’s push old series again?”

Nightwing

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This series was already off to a bad start with me by way of Dick Grayson going back to the role of Nightwing. The first arc of his series proved why: Nothing done required Dick  to be Nightwing to do it. Why, then, was he made to regress into this role? To play sidekick again? Even his Rebirth issue didn’t address that well to me.

The first arc did absolutely nothing to me in terms of enjoy Nightwing’s character. It just seemed to show he was too stuck in his ways, and that his current status only served as another way to prevent any relationship developing between Dick and Batgirl.

I don’t like regressions in a character, whether it be role or identity. Then again, I was an advocate of Dick staying as Batman, growing into the role, and developing his own rogues gallery. In many ways, I feel the concept of the Court of Owls arc would have had greater impact with Grayson as the Batman.

The Flash

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If there were ever a disappointing series in Rebirth, it is The Flash. As a forensic person, I was looking forward to seeing the series have a greater focus on Barry Allen’s forensic mind and how he can use that to combat crime.

What I got was a series that lacks is focus and direction. Badly written with bad logic–from Barry revealing his identity to S.T.A.R. Labs employee Meena after a kiss, to his severe lack of focus on his personal life and career–anyone who’s read Spider-Man knows that NO character who focuses more on heroics can hold down a job…how does Barry expect to keep his own?

Even his focus on teaching the growing amount of speedsters had little meaning. No focus on any of the new speedsters means that we don’t see much of an interaction between teacher and student…no development on the Flash as a teacher. Or were we not supposed to?

The first arc was just fragmented, disappointing, and lacked any sense of logic. Even though I’m excited for anti-hero the Shade returning, I can’t say I’ll continue this book.

Superman

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Kay and I have differing opinions on this, I think. She was more receptive towards Peter Tomasi’s take on Superman training his son’s developing powers than I was. I’m wary of this series, because it just screams “paranoid parent of superpowered, irresponsible child who’ll get found out.” Which, unfortunately, didn’t take long to happen. I was a bit disappointed with how the Eradicator was handled, because I was hoping for a new Kryptonian ally in this alien world.

Still, this series has massive potential, and Mr. Oz’s meddling can make this series more intriguing.

 

 

Superwoman

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It’s only two issues in, but I’m still mixed on my feelings about Superwoman. I was receptive towards two Superwomen with two very different power sets working together, but after the end of the first issue (already surprising on its own), I’m left confused: were the solicitations of this series about Lois’s powers killing her, or Lana’s? I feel I was tricked, and I’m glad I was.

If this Lois returns, I would be pleased, because that could introduce some very interest questions regarding the nature of her new powers. I just hope this isn’t another ploy at removing a character in the same manner as New 52’s Superman.

 

Justice League

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Another disappointment. In the aftermath of the Darkseid War, I would have expected the first arc to, or even the Rebirth issue, to have a bigger focus on reorganization and reevaluation of the team–especially after the removal of Luthor and Shazam from the team. At least I would’ve expected something than just a look at Superman. Perhaps that would have been a better arc than what was presented.

I need to catch up on Darkseid War, but…is there no long-term consequence from that long arc, or was everything just smoothed over? I would have expected something of that magnitude to have the Justice League take a look at themselves and what they can do to be proactive or better equipped to handle large scale threats.

This first arc just seemed like things were happening without proper buildup. Just…event after event. I’ve yet to read the fifth issue, but Brian Hitch’s take on the premier DC team hasn’t gone off to a good start.

If anything, Hitch wrote Green Lanterns Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz far better than the writer of their duo series…

Green Lanterns

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Sam Humphries has done a grave disservice on this series. Just like Justice League, Green Lanterns’ first arc failed to have proper buildup and just had things happen. Worse, it had too many things happening and being introduced out of nowhere. I don’t understand how Simon Baz can have some unknown ability called Emerald Sight, and how that can change a Red Lantern to normal in a non-fatal manner.

Humphries’ use of millennial references with Jessica is infuriating. Why would she rather be playing with Pokemon than fighting the Red Lanterns? What possessed Humphries to even write that out? Just because Pokemon Go’s been in style? Give me a break. Write like you’re writing a story, not a meme.

What is this Red Dawn that Atrocitus had an urge to start, and why on Earth? So much was left undeveloped, and the artist renditions of these characters leaves much to be desired. I’m not sure why the artists are having a problem drawing Jessica Cruz with irises.

I’ve already touched on my opinion of Green Arrow and Blue Beetle. I am hopeful of BatmanHal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, and have little love overdone “hope and optimism” of The Titans. I haven’t read Batgirl, Suicide Squad, Deathstroke, or Teen Titans for various reasons. While I’ve had some pleasant surprises, I’ve found DC Rebirth more of a disappointment than a pleasure.

Enough Whining…

Okay, so…what would I have liked in Rebirth going forward?

  1. For one, I would have enjoyed progression. Actual, honest progression that moved further away from regression of “going back to basics.” Would Mr. Oz’s meddling have less impact with the New 52 Superman? Could Jaime Reyes find out the secrets of his scarab without Ted Kord in the mix? Could any of these stories progress with the Wildstorm characters included, beyond Midnighter and Apollo? That depends on the writer. That is an important thing to take note.Perhaps DC has failed at carrying new material with them. How else can we have such a strong move towards a “back to basics” approach?
  2. Much better development. I’m getting that so far out of New Super-Man (another surprising like), but that’s because the character is both new and a jackass. Kenan Kong has substantial room for growth and development. Development is difficult with characters with such lengthy history, but hopefully DC will move to newer elements with all the characters and let that have as much prominence as they give “going back to basics.”
  3. More Wildstorm and Vertigo characters. Since DC claims the Rebirth world is still New 52 (combination of DC, Wildstorm, and Vertigo universes), then we should still see these characters. Midnighter and Apollo are not enough, and I’d sooner say they’re only included because they’re a gritty twist on the gay couple. Neither is Hellblazer all of Vertigo. What about Grifter, the daemonites, Dream, Spartan or Majestic, Hawskmoor, a new WildC.A.T.s group? Something to spice up Rebirth beyond nostalgia with compelling antagonists.
  4. KEEP THE CONTINUITY IN CHECK. It’s bad enough that DC tried its hand at the “loose continuity” plan with the DCYou. If the company seeks to solidify things and bring back this or that, then a better handle on character history is a must. It’s bad enough that co-publishers Dan Didio and Jim Lee gave a lazy explanation to how they’ll handle any continuity issues:“I mean, when you have 75 to 80 years’ worth of publishing behind you, every story can’t have the same weight or matter in continuity. Every story cannot be as canon as the others…Things will unravel as we go forward. Some things will be explained and some things will probably be left hanging.

I don’t approve of their “we’ll leave it up to the reader to make up their own continuity” excuse in lieu of making a sound decision on what is or isn’t part of the mainstream history. DC is known for this, and it was still an issue in New 52/Rebirth. Point: How can 10 years be taken from the universe as a whole, when Batman and Green Lantern still have their entire histories intact–which already didn’t make sense in the 5-year span of New 52?

All in all…I’d like some progression. If DC is going to grab fans, they need to make sure they can keep them with something good. A long endgame with Dr. Manhattan and the Watchmen–long–may not be sustainable alone. They need to make better decisions in how they weave the stories and continuity, and not ride on nostalgia.

It’ll only carry so far.

Okay, it’s time to get back to reading better things.
END RANT-FEST!

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New Avengers: The Illuminati

“Reed Richards…I expected more from you.”

Hey, hey, everyone. D.C. here to share my thoughts with you on more comics.

I’ve talked before about my thoughts on what should have happened in the All-New, All-Different Marvel, but with all the talk about Marvel’s Civil War II event (which I’ve enjoyed thus far), I had a sense of nostalgia and decided to read probably one of the quintessential starters to any Civil War:

While the Avengers: Illuminati one-shot is a tie-in to Marvel’s first Civil War event, it’s also a prequel to other storylines. This book is chronologically set after the Kree-Skrull War, and sets up Planet Hulk, Civil War, World War Hulk, and perhaps others storylines.

Why is this book even good? For one, Brian Michael Bendis writes a very, very compelling story of what we already know: in every society, there is always a group of persons who deem themselves worthy to pave the road to success. Whether it be politicians, kinds, doctors, or some other expert, they take it upon themselves to be the ultimate protectors, the ultimate shepherds of the world.

 

After the Kree-Skrull War, six heroes met and saw themselves fit to meet in secret and to decide the fate and safety of Earth: Professor X of the X-Men; Mr. Fantastic; Namor the Sub-Mariner; Iron Man; Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme; and Black Bolt, king of the Inhumans. They met in the Black Panther’s nation of Wakanda to decide whether the formation of their little faction of experts would be for the best of the world.

Black Panther, the only dissident at the time, put it perfectly: “You just decided all by yourselves that you are the earth’s protectors…What happens when you disagree?”

The book answers just that. These secret six (haha, see what I did there?) decide not to trust their associates, families, and friends, and take it upon themselves to tackle any threat to Earth. But when the Hulk’s latest rampage results in deaths, a schism finally forms. The Superhuman Registration Act which caused the first Civil War broke them until the end of the multiverse mitigated their reformation.

The Illuminati saw several different members since World War Hulk, but the same issues always remained: a group of protectors that could never truly agree on those morally ambiguous methods of safeguarding. Whether it was the Skrull threat, or the Scarlet With, or the X-Men, or the incursions that brought out the All-New, All-Different Marvel setting, these people could never support one another’s decisions. Nor could anyone ever sanction theirs.

I loved the Illuminati’s role in the Marvel Universe all the way to the end Time Runs Out. The moral dilemma seen–the sheer realism–is the perfect darkness you need in a world of heroes. Why, then, has the superhero community let the Illuminati live with impunity? They’d been scrutinized for the most part, but always  welcome back. Why is Iron Man still revered as a member of the Avengers, is if his actions in the Illuminati were his ONLY transgression?

Why are Black Bolt and Black Panther still welcome in their own lands? Why is Namor the only one having been hunted by the Squadron Supreme? Would a group like the Captain Britain Corps had approved of the Illuminati’s efforts?

In the All-New, All-Different Marvel, I would have expected the fallout of the Illuminati to extend past just Black Bolt and Namor’s contact with the Squadron Supreme, and beyond Time Runs Out. I would hope that the last members of the Illuminati to be hunted down and at least made to answer to their hubris and actions.

Perhaps that is what should be happening more in this new Marvel initiative?

END THROWDOWN.

The Steve Rogers/Hydra Issue

Welcome, all. This is D.C. here to throwdown on what everyone seems to be throwing down on. I thought it was time I wrote my own take on this.

As many of you know, read, or heard, Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 came out this week. The end of the issue featured a single page, and a single sentence that seems to be throwing this whole country for a loop.

Dun dun dun…

 

 

What a visceral reaction this generated. What a visceral reaction it generated before people even got to read the issue.

True to my nature, I took the news with intrigue, I took the new articles with a grain of salt, and I disregarded the overwhelming rage sweeping the web and nerdom. I bought Issue #1 to see how this call came about, and how I would feel about it, taking into account my feelings towards Steve Rogers the character, and my almost 30-year experience with him.

How was Issue #1?

First off, let me say that I thought the first issue was okay. Steve’s costume, like anyone’s that changes, will always take time to get accustomed to. I have no malice towards the design, but I think the coloring on the costume wasn’t consistent with that on Jesus Saiz’s cover art it in general.

The dialogue of Cap’s supporting cast really needs work. I think writer Nick Spencer needs to take more time to read up on and to understand the psychology and the idiosyncracies of each character beyond Sharon Carter and Steve Rogers (both of whom were done well, in my eyes).

What pleased me was Nick Spencer’s internal dialogue of Steve Rogers. It showed that this twist in Cap’s association still appears to be rooted in the same values Rogers always had: nobility, altruism, and the belief that one person to change the world.

I was surprised by Sharon Carter’s appearance. When the hell did she get so old? There’s obviously something I missed in between the last books I read, so it’s time for me to do some backtracking.

Why all the hate?

Oh, we all know why there’s so much hate, but is it justified? I guess it depends on who you’re asking. I think critical assessment is what is missing in the discussion about Cap being a Hydra member. Common arguments are:

1. “That’s like saying Batman was responsible for his parents’ deaths!”

That comment has become trendy in the last couple of days. I don’t think I’m even going to dignify that incongruous comment with an analysis. It’s an asinine analogy. It’s illogical, and it’s nonsensical. Please don’t use this in an otherwise meaningful discussion.

2. So Steve’s a Nazi now? That’s stupid!

No. There was no indication that Steve Rogers is, or has ever been, a Nazi. Even if he were affiliated with Hydra from youth, those two points are not mutually inclusive. One does not become a Nazi by becoming a Hydra member, and vice-versa.

Why does that make sense?

Was there not a suicide bomber in issue #1 that wore a swastika and shacked up with white supremacists? Did that make him a white supremacist, or did he join up because he needed protection while in prison? Was it not stated that he had no problem with non-whites? Did that suicide bomber not have difficulty with his associates beating a non-white man to death?

It might be odd to say it, being a black man, but one does not need to wear a swastika to be a Nazi, neo-Nazi, supremacist, or whatever derivative that exists.

Does make the affiliation any less reprehensible? I want to see if that gets answered for Steve Rogers. 

But black-and-white is the way our world wants to work sometimes.

People forget that many, many people join a group or cause not because they believe in everything a group does, but because something in that cause resonates with their fear, anger, hate, love, and desires. One doesn’t need to agree with genocide or the horrific, ugly words; one only needs to agree with any number of beautiful, powerful or manipulative words that may come out of a speaker’s mouths.

(If anyone has seen “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” you understand my message. Beautiful and gripping film, by the way.)

So, no. Until further notice, I disagree with the argument that Rogers is a Nazi. They may have had leading members and done acts that one would liken to Nazism, but think about it like in the real world: does that mean EVERY member of a group do EVERYTHING good and bad related to that group?

3. “Steve Rogers stands up for [insert American value here], and this destroys everything about him/his core ideas!”

First off, we’re adults. Even if you’re not an adult, I would expect us all to argue points without ridiculous hyperbole. It makes you sound emotional, and emotional is a fast track to losing your point in any argument. It is the internet, and I’ll have to accept that people say very emotional things. But that doesn’t mean I’ll take anyone who uses hyperbole like “destroys everything” seriously in a debate.

I don’t like political debate, but I’ll tiptoe as best as I can. For anyone who says that Captain America stands for x, y, and z, and the values of America, I ask this:

If Cap is supposed to embody the ideas of America, which America are we talking about? Whose America? Because I can guarantee you that, from the past until now, people interpret what America was/is very differently. Some have seen America as utopia, but some have seen America as hell. It’s an uncomfortable thought, but that doesn’t make it any less probable.

But as for my view: America is imperfect. It has flaws, just as every person and nation does. Just as Captain America is. America is complex, and it should stand that Steve Rogers would be the same. Many “fans” and other outspoken opponents to this issue believe Cap should not have changed.

There have been times when Steve Rogers didn’t even know what America was anymore. The most recent example I can recall was in the Siege storyline, when Rogers allowed Bucky to keep the shield and identity of Captain America. What’s Rogers’ view of America been since then? Does anyone know for certain?

What is Captain America in an America that is constantly changing? What ARE America’s values now, as opposed to what they WERE?

Most importantly, how should those values and views of America be expressed? Should we damn or shy away from any expression that appears unfavorable to our sensibilities, no matter how possible it could be? Is that an American thing to do?

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4. “This is a crap/bad story!”

This goes right up there with my issues with hyperbole. I’ll make the argument against this type of comment very simple:

This is the first issue of a book, and the start of an arc. One issue does not make a crap book or arc. If you decide the entirety of a creative team’s run and the entirety of a character off of one page, then you are not a critical thinker at all. You are not properly vetting the book in any significant form, no matter how many issues of Captain America you’ve amassed, or how extensive you think your comic knowledge is.

Like I said before, Steve’s nobility and core values seem present to me still. Twisted, perhaps, but still. I hope he comes out of this better than now.

5. “This is liberal, destructive bulls#**!”

This is not an argument that has any sort of sense. But for the sake of argument…is a supportive view of Cap’s new status quo unpatriotic or “liberal?”

Well, I had a conversation with a coworker today about Cap’s new status. That coworker is a very proud former Navy man, and an extremely proud conservative. And yet, he explained to me the sensibility in Cap being a Hydra member. So…without going further, I think that fact alone would eliminate the “liberal” argument right there.

Nonetheless, I would expect intelligent people to take time to understand what is happening in this book, and no one can have complete understanding from one issue. I expect us to to do more than cry foul and spout purely subjective and nebulous reasons for why something is “uniformly” bad.

I think Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 had a very interesting and disconcerting twist on Steve’s life. If and when this status is reversed, I do hope there are lasting and real repercussions for Steve, his outlook on America, and how Americans see him.

What is your view of it?

END THROWNDOWN.

 

The Caption Reads..?

Hey, everyone. This is D.C. back for something I want to open up for discussion. I’ve not finished any comic reviews (adult life, you know), but I have several in the works, and just as many questions I want to ask the readers.

Let me state the obvious again: I have read comic books for most of my life. Since comic books have existed, there have been literary devices used in them as often as any other literary work. When my comic book addiction (yes, ADDICTION) was rekindled in full swing, I’ve picked up old and new books alike to indulge in my vice.

However, something started to nag at me as I read more modern books. It was an itch at the forefront of my brain that wouldn’t stop. What was bothering me about the comic books today that did not bother me before? When I came across Ed Brubaker’s The Fade Out (you can read Kay G.’s blog on The Fade Out HERE), that annoyance I felt about modern comics made itself known.

Modern comics have NO captions in their books.

Let me rephrase: the majority of modern comic books I’ve been reading have NO captions in their books, and the others aren’t using them effectively.

Now, for me, as a comic lover and a lover of reading (as any well-meaning adult should be), I like literary devices in my books. I like the writer to show me his/her skill in describing imagery while throwing out alliterations, similes, and metaphors. As I stated in my blog on Miracleman, literary devices give life to a book.

Why are writers these days shying away from captions? Let’s ask some questions:

Do writers just not prefer captions?

If that were the case, then I would hope writers would show how skillful they are at writing so readers can understand the nuances and idiosyncrasies that give each character their own identities. I’ve seen some lack in that. Case in point:

*SNIKT!*

From the onset, Laura Kinney, formerly X-23 and now Wolverine, was portrayed as a killing machine who struggles to understand emotions and to just be a girl. More importantly, Laura’s speech style was distinct. It was one you would expect of born-and-bred assassin: succinct, calculated, tactless, and completely devoid of social grace:

When I next see Laura Kinney, she’s in the company of the young, time-lost X-Men in All-New X-Men. Worse yet, she’s talking like this:

 

 

X-23 in  The Trial of Jean Grey

And like this:

 


Now, why in the nine circles of hell is Brian Michael Bendis writing X-23 like this? Did he never pick up any X-23 or New X-Men books she was featured in before taking the reins on her?

I’m very open to changes, and I can understand Laura trying to smoothen out her own edges to feel more normal, but this quickly? Why is she speaking so colloquially now? Where did Laura’s eloquence go? Why does she use contractions when it was something she never did? It goes against her entire character, her essence, and her upbringing, no matter how heinous it was. And like real life, we rarely, if ever, change the essential parts of what makes us, us.

Did Laura ever go through an evolution in which she made attempts to break her mold? Was she shown actively trying, and failing sometimes, to “normalize” herself? Was there a progression, or did this all happen spontaneously?

Not only do I feel X-23 lost her essential parts under Bendis (neglecting her standard hack-and-slash), but she lost what made Laura distinct. She sounds generic.

Hm. I went a little tangental there, so rant over on that.

Just kidding. Rant continues!

Real writing?

Let’s take a look at how I feel “real” writers write:

Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing

Alan Moore’s 1982 run of Miracleman

 

 

Brubaker’s 2015 book The Fade Out

 

Looking at the top three examples…need I really explain what makes the captions satisfying? They delve beyond the characters’ words or thoughts. They give life to the worlds in which they live and to the situations in which they find themselves.

 

Jim Zub’s Wayward

Jim Zaub uses captions in Wayward, but they serve little more than thoughts rattling in the characters’ heads. If you’re using captions as thought bubbles without ever going beyond simple thoughts, why bother? You’re doing NOTHING special.

Even simple captioning is effective. Charles Soule’s Death of Wolverine is proof of that. Throughout the book, Soule wrote captions with simple words or phrases that, to me, conveyed primal emotions and perceptions characteristic of what an animal might perceive.

Death of Wolverine by Charles Soule

Are writers inept at caption-writing?

I will enjoy comics unto my death, but honestly? Yes. I believe the majority of today’s writers are showing that they’re inept at their expertise. If they ARE adept at caption-writing, then why isn’t it being used? It’s not enough to just show a character speaking or thinking (if they can even muster that anymore).

How about telling us what the characters feel? What do they see and think?

No, scratch that. We KNOW what the characters see and think. Better yet, how about you tell me what the characters perceive from their actions, choices, and their environments? That requires skill.

As Zaub’s Wayward proved, there’s nothing skillful about replacing thought bubbles with captions. That does not suffice for one hungry for literary skill.

Is there some stigma around caption-writing, or is it because writers believe the readers don’t want it?

On the latter point: I hope we as readers are not being taken for fools. I would hope, too, that my fellow readers are smarter than this, and are looking critically at the quality of their comics in every facet.

On the former point…We can see that that simply can’t be so, given how modern writers like Ed Brubaker, Mark Waid, and Charles Soule employ captions effectively. If they prove that it can still be done to this day, then what is the silent, apparent aversion?

Recap and reflection

Can we get more from the books we read? Can we get more quality and more skill from those who claim to be writers? I am assuming that they don’t polish their skills through lessons and workshops, which is an admittedly gross stretch on my part, but let’s consider the possibility: If those of us who work in the professional world are expected to remain up-to-date in our profession via training and workshops, is it a stretch to expect writers to be held to the same standard?

Comics are still good to me, and some writers have gotten away with writing and selling well without using captions (or with little literary skill in general, I suspect), but if you can do better, why not?

I ask again once more: Is it really too much to ask our comic writers to be writers?

END THROWDOWN.

The Avengers, which Avenge..?

Hey, all. I’m not reviewing a comic per se, but I’m going to share a question that’s been nagging me for a while. Kay G. said I should mention it so we can share our answers with you.

Like I said before, I’ve read comics for nearly 25 years by all kinds of publishers, but I’m primarily Marvel-bred. Among my favorite teams has been the Avengers, because…really, who doesn’t enjoy a team that changes every so often? Changes in team line-ups and team leaders mean changes in character dynamics and different storylines.

The O.G. Avengers

I have enjoyed the many incarnations over the decades, my favorite being the Avengers Machine from Jonathan Hickman’s world-ending saga:

Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers

Even the splinter teams have had interesting stories of their own: the West Coast Avengers (which, I don’t recall having read–again, reading for years, haha); Force Works; New Avengers; Secret Avengers; and the Avengers Unity Division. And they’ve all used the cool catchphrase: AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!

But one thing’s been bothering me for some time:

Just who are the Avengers avenging?

If you’re reading into their name literally, the Avengers are tasked with avenging. If we took them at their name and its meaning, you’d think the Avengers would act in a manner similar to this guy:

VENGEANCE! …Which is similar to avenging…

For as long as the Avengers have existed, their shtick has been that of a group coming together to handle threats that no one hero can overcome. As such, they’ve had confronted high-level and even cosmic threats. They fight to protect.

But protection isn’t the same as avenging.

Avengers seem to react to the threats they see before them, not taking action to what was DONE to others.

Have the Avengers actually avenged anyone? I’m not certain. There may have been exceptions–Yellowjacket’s death during the 1995 storyline “The Crossing” being one, but avenge means different things to different people: kill, apprehend, punish…

Why haven’t the Avengers, after a good 50-some odd years, not reflected and questioned their own name and purpose? Why haven’t any of the writers? Will they ever?

Now that we have the All-New, All-Different iteration of Avengers…which, frankly, look so odd, especially with the Avengers’ long standing against having children in their ranks…will the creative teams really take a introspective look at what the Avengers are, and what they should be standing for?

Or are they just going to be another aimless team that just attacks threats?

Or, worse: are they just going to repeat the same kinds of stories all over again, like so many other teams and characters do?

What do you think?

Are these your (All-New, All-Different) Avengers?

END THROWDOWN.

You Feelin’ the Darkseid?

Hey, all. This is D.C. back for another throw down on some thoughts regarding an interesting issue.

I was on Facebook one day, stalking around a comic book page…either Newsrama or All Things Marvel or DC–the latter of which I dropped because I just couldn’t stand the Deadpool oversaturation…A person made a complaint about this comic series:

Earth 2: World’s End. Time for a crash course:

On Earth 2 lives alternate versions of the mainstream DC Universe heroes. The DC New 52 Earth 2 series sees the rise of a new group of heroes–known as “wonders” on this world–after the deaths of Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman during an invasion by Darkseid and his forces from Apokalips. Earth 2: World’s End is just that: the end of the world of Earth 2, when Darkseid returns to reap the resources of this world.

The story is gripping, because it’s title is literal in every sense. These heroes lose the battle.

Correction: they lose the war.

And for some reason, this person on Facebook complained. His rationale for World’s End being a bad story seemed to be rooted in the fact that “Darkseid just gets away with everything.” This person took issue with fact that superheroes aren’t winning.

I wrote back to that person, but I decided to expand on my thoughts here.

My rebuttal to such a complaint is simple: “So what?”

I believed that the Wonders losing against Darkseid made perfect, rational sense. Let’s see:

1. Most obvious reason the Wonders lose:

DARKSEID IS.

It’s freakin’ DARKSEID. Lord of Apokalips, the DCU’s equivalent of Thanos. A sinister, megalomaniacal, and immensely powerful god. Darkseid is quite possibly the most powerful god from Apokalips, if not the most powerful of all of the New Gods. A god with, one can only assume, centuries, if not millennia, of life and battle experience. His Omega Beams alone disintegrates his opponents.

This man is calling SUPERMAN an insect. Let that sink in.

To Darkseid (or Uxas, if you’re looking to be intimate with him), his will is the way. His command of Apokalips and its citizens are absolute–barring the occasional subversive and rebels.

On the other hand, we have these people:

2. Next reason why the Wonders lose:

The new Wonders of Earth 2. It’s important to stress the key word, NEW. Let’s flesh these out:

  • Huntress (Helena Wayne, formerly Robin) and Power Girl (Superman’s cousin/adopted daughter, Kara Zor-L…or is it Zor-El? I forget these days) are the only veterans of the Wonders, having just returned to Earth 2 by the time Darkseid comes to reap the world.
    • How can a human girl possibly hope to content with godly forces? Or a young Kryptonian not fully matured in power, and so reliant on the sun’s rays for power?
  • Jay Garrick, the Flash, was an aimless college student who gained the powers of a dying Greek god. He is a staunch optimist, and perhaps the most heroic of the group.
    • Can you possibly expect a boy still learning to manage his powers to outrun and outwit a planet of murderous invaders?
  • Alan Scott is the Green Lantern, the latest avatar of the plant-life force, the Green. He is arguably the most powerful Wonder to surface in the new age.
    • The Green Lantern, for all his power, is still new to it and his true potential. Even if he can realize reach his potential, is it enough to fell Darkseid, let alone stave off the consumption of his world?
  • Hawkgirl (Kendra Saunders-Munoz) is our very own winged Tomb Raider. She is our Icarus of the story, but never too audacious to go beyond her place.
    • What can a winged gunslinger possibly hope to achieve in a war with gods, whose energy beams and weapons can outrun and out-fly her?
  • Khalid Ben-Hassin is Dr. Fate, an archaeologist who becomes the tortured host of the domineering helm of Nabu to wield vast reserves of magic.
    • Dr. Fate’s internal struggles against his host are a severe detriment to the fulfillment of his powers and a liability in this war. What good is all-powerful magic when you cannot even achieve synergy within yourself?
  • The second Batman is Thomas Wayne, who uses the mind-addling drug Miraclo to wage his own vigilantism on crime in the name of his late son.
  • Val-Zod is the second Superman, with all his power curtailed in favor of pacifism.
  • The Red Tornado is a wind-manipulating construct which houses the mind and soul of Lois Lane, who died during Darkseid’s first invasion.

The vast majority of these heroes are, again, nascent. They are discovering their abilities, and discovering the nuances of their powers, as well as their new place in a post-invasion Earth. How, then, can these Wonders, in trying to master their own abilities and place, possibly hope to contend with a malevolent force like Darkseid and his invaders?

Well, they sure as hell try.

Not afraid to hit a lady, eh?

The Wonders try valiantly to stop the Darkseid’s invasion. I very much enjoyed watching the Wonders and the World Army try everything and anything to save their people and their world, even when faced with moments of treachery from within. The heroism of the Wonders and a small handful of humans is the among the brightest of any seen.

At some point, though, the war stops being a matter of trying to win. It becomes a matter of how not to lose. That is when you can feel and see the futility of Earth’s efforts. It’s disconcerting and endearing at the same time.

The Wonders manage to win small defeats in this massive war, but the Wonders are, including new alliances, only about 15-20 individuals.

Twenty tired individuals who have had so little time to fully realize their abilities and strengths, against thousands of invading parademons, and perhaps a dozen warring gods. And Darkseid.

Val-Zod probably would have been Earth 2’s best bet for survival, but he lacks the killer instinct–let alone any battle instinct–and the proper power levels, to help turn the tide. Pacifism in one so powerful is an endearing quality, but not an effective quality in a world-ending war.

Val-Zod: Super-Pacifist

Is this person’s complaint a valid reason to find this book lacking merit? Absolutely not, I think. All things considered, I enjoyed Earth 2: World’s End. It does, however, suffer from what I’ve seen from other large events with a large amount of characters doing a large amount of things at once: the story gets a little disjointed. But perhaps that’s how the story was supposed to be, yes? To have the reader feel as jumbled as you’d expect humans–no matter how empowered–to feel when their world is literally falling apart at the seams?

If that’s the case, I’d really have to commend Marguerite Bennett, Mike Johnson, and Daniel H. Wilson on their efforts.

So, again, I ask…how can one expect such a lofty effort from such righteous, yet learning, individuals? Should the Wonders and World Army been able to defeat Darkseid and to prevent Apokalips consuming their world?

You read it and tell me which option makes more sense.

END THROWDOWN.

newuniversal in a new universe?

Yo, this is D.C. Jackson, and for my first (shaky) blog entry, I think I’m going to throw down my thoughts on what should be a game changer in the All-New, All-Different Marvel universe.

That’s far too long of a title, so that will forever be known as ANAD.

For those who don’t know, the ANAD Marvel universe is just the latest move by Marvel Comics to change up its main universe (earth-616) after the winter crossover Secret Wars. For those of you who have NOT read Secret Wars (including myself–but that will change soon!), it is the climax to Johnathan Hickman’s two-year run on the Avengers and New Avengers titles that detailed the end of all universes and reality from the world-ending incursions.

Hickman’s most striking turn in his arc was, for me, the very beginning, when he declared that the Avengers need to get bigger. Look at this group:

AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!

This was, by far, my most favorite iteration of the Avengers. And with an Avengers line-up THAT powerful, you know Hickman’s arc will have had to have been monumental. For the record, I enjoyed Hickman’s arc, and I may write my review of that arc. But back to the point…

From what I’ve read, Secret Wars ends in the “recreation” of 616, with some inclusions from Marvel’s Ultimate Marvel line, including Miles Morales (Spider-Man), and the Maker (Reed Richards…wha!?).

Earlier today I thought, with this “new” 616, there should be some game changers, with new, viable threats. Why rehash old stories and concepts if Marvel seeks to create the world anew? Dr. Doom? Thanos? Galactus? Apocalypse?

Psh. I love my villains, but they’ve been around for far too long and have kept up the status quo for the most part.

But then it hit me:

What would be a real, serious threat to not only heroes, not just mutants, but ALL metahumans in 616? My answer was found in the universe of…newuniversal.

 

Enter: newuniversal

 

newuniversal: Great storyline!

A quick-ish recap for those who don’t know: “newuniversal” is a re-imagining of another well-known Marvel universe from the 1980’s, called “New Universe.” Notable characters that emerged from “New Universe” included Justice, Nightmask, and Star Brand. Elements of these concept were reintroduced in “newuniversal,” designated Earth-555 in the multiverse of Marvel, and were also incorportated into the 616 during Hickman’s Avengers run.

Nightmask (Adam) in Earth-616…max love.

Nightmask (Izanami Randall) in Earth-555. MAX love.

“newuniversal” had a very compelling threat to the metahumans that emerged from the White Event: one Philip L. Voight.

Voight: Possible Man-of-the-Year in Marvel?

Philip Voight was an agent of the U.S. government that took part in projects that murdered superhumans. Not captured. Not catalogued. MURDERED. Malicious intent, pre-planned, preemptive attacks on unsuspecting superhumans. No due process. Voight’s victims were none the wiser of Voight’s beloved Project: Spitfire. We will discuss “newuniversal” in depth at another time to see this man’s conviction.

Needless to say, Voight’s conviction to his cause is strong, and his methods were VERY effective.

So, I wonder: Why shouldn’t Marvel incorporate a man like Philip Voight into the 616 post-Secret Wars? It’d be a real game changer, something that will produce a new villain, and a true, efficient threat to the proliferation of superhumans on earth.

With extinction-level powers like Franklin Richards, the Hulk, Blue Marvel, the Sentry, and Hyperion running about with ostensibly (and explicitly) altruistic intentions, we should have an everyman who sees any and all metahumans as a threat. An everyman which personifies the ugliness of mankid, that nagging nature we have covet that which we don’t have, and to hate and cull that which we don’t understand. A man will go to extraordinary lengths to do what men like Henry Peter Gyrich, Steven Lang, and Graydon Creed couldn’t even succeed at.

A man who will go to any length to do what men like Hitler HAVE succeeded at.

Perhaps this man can find new weaknesses to such powerful metahumans in the world, and begin a crusade to wipe ALL post-humans from the world. Voight could continue Project: Spitfire, and he would have plenty of guinea pigs to test it on: mutants, the Avengers, Inhumans, Daredevil, Silk…the list goes on.

Forget the Superhuman Registration Act. Think the Superhuman Neutralization Act.

How would the heroes and villains see regular humans, who MAY support Project: Spitfire? How would they see the humans who suddenly want to take the world back from the gods who fly and battle above them?

How will they see a government–a world, in fact–that now believes posthumans don’t DESERVE due process before a sentence of death?

Would villains and heroes unite, as some have during the first Civil War? How will they face genocide that make the Mutant Massacre, all Sentinel storylines, and the Days of Future Past look like simple scuffles?

Consider that game-changer in the 616, Marvel.

 

–D. C.