Friday, April 27, 2007

Comic book musings for 25 April

The musings are a shade of green this week. And there's another screed. Well, not so much a screed as a half-assed apology. You'll see.

Spoilers ho!

Blue Beetle 14 - Okay, I admit it; I'm not much enjoying this series.The pacing is usually pretty off, the characters don't interest me all that much, the science/magic bait-and-switch is growing pretty old, and frankly, the art is pretty bad. And then this issue came out.

The first issue began with an inexplicable fight between Guy Gardner and the new Blue Beetle, introduced in Infinite Crisis. For some reason, Guy's ring and Beetle's scarab don't like each other and provoked them into a huge fight. This issue follows up on that original issue, taking time to explain the source the animosity. It appears that the Reach, the aliens responsible for Blue Bettle's scarab, and the Guardians are long-time adversaries. According to the treaty they have, the Reach can only go to planets to sell their merchandise, and if they attempt conquest, the Guardians will stop them. It's been made clear in the previous issues that the Reach does intend to conquer the Earth (because every race should try at least once to defeat the planet with the largest concentration of metahumans).

What this issue has for it that earlier issues did not is a sort of placement in the DC Universe that has been missing from this book. Guy Gardner comes to Jaime's home and talks to him about his predecessor Blue Bettle, Ted Kord, mentoring him in what it means to be a Blue Beetle, including telling Jaime that Ted was "smarter than Bats although nobody ever noticed." Together Jaime and Guy go looking for a secret powerful Reach base in Antarctica that turns out to be protected by the Ultra-Humanite, bringing the new Blue Beetle more into contact with DC history. Of course, the missiles disguised as penguins are a funny touch, and Guy's combination of stubborn macho and thoughtful mentor personalities hits all the right buttons. This is, finally, a strong issue and actually a very good jumping on point for the series.

JSA Confidential 25 - Father Time approaches Alan Scott about convincing a a former villain gone good to help solve the theft of some sort of technology. The villain, Johnny Mimic (who I believe is totally new to DC), is able to reconstruct any famous crime, as a sort of psychic profiler. Green Lantern had previously captured Johnny Mimic--now an old man) and released him on his word, but now his talents are needed to help solve a classic locked room mystery.

The issue is a solid mix of flashbacks to Alan Scott's earlier career juxtaposed with the menace of Father Time, the current malevolent governmental force haunting the DC universe. Johnny Mimic reminds Alan of what a great hero he was, "the super-man before there was a Superman." He also seems to sense something is wrong with Father Time, but goes about his task with little compiaint, hoping that once it is complete, he can go back to his life.

The missing technology turns out to be the HERO dial, which a member of Father Time's own staff had stolen in order to keep it out of his hands. Time intends to use it to create a one-man super team beholden to the US Government, if not replicate it to create an army of super soldiers. At the end, Johnny Mimic sacrifices himself to keep the HERO dial from Father Time and to further remind Alan Scott of the hero he once was--a man who would recognize Father Time for the menace he is and do all he can to thwart him rather than help him without knowing al lthe details.

While a little sappy at its end, this is another in a string of solid issues from JSA Confidential, spotlighting the heroes in solo stories. It's good to get a feel for Alan Scott after the past year's events, and if he continues to be written somewhat like this, he's going to remain an important part of DC storytelling.

Speaking of which, the screed.

In previous posts, I have written some about the bizarre continuity gaffes going on in various titles. As it turns out, if one is to believe one of the forces behind DC's new direction, the gaffes aren't gaffes at all, just something else DC is not doing a very good job of explaining. Kurt Busiek has taken part in a series of emails with a fan and then allowed them to be reprinted at In their conversation, Busiek explains that the DC Universe has been rebooted, just as it was rebooted following Crisis on Infinite Earths. So, the stories we are reading now are meant to reveal more of that back-story that we thought we knew. Superman knew the Legion? DC's going to explain that. The Krypton history looks a lot like the movies' history? Yup, the new continuity.

The conversation at the link points out the flaw with this thinking--no one told the readers DC history was being rebooted. After Crisis, titles started over at issue 1, and advertisements told us we were going to be learning the new history of our favorite heroes. None of that happened following Infinite Crisis. In fact, the stories picked up as if nothing had happened, with attempts to tie the current stories to the ones that were taking place before One Year Later. The Outsiders Annual that came out this week is a fine example. Why did the Outsiders go underground? How did Captain Boomerang joing the team? Where are Shift and Arsenal? All the questions answered here, but in no case is the answer "because DC history got rebooted."

It feels like DC is wanting its cake and eating it too. Only certain characters have gotten rebooted...well, actually so far only one character--Superman. We still aren't sure what's going on with the Legion, and we don't appear to be any closer to an answer than we were when the series started, never mind that a completely different Legion is showing up the ongoing Justics Society/Justice League crossover. Busiek ends up where my I keep telling my confused coworker--let the stories unfold, let the facts be revealed at the pace that DC wants. It may be frustrating, but the answers are going to come. At the same time, however, I think DC should've tried harder to give us the answer to the global question, "This is not the DC you thought it was. Things are different. This is not just another retcon that will go pretty much unexplained."

To tie this up, 52 supposedly revealed the big answer to the ongoing mystery of the past year. But it was a pretty crappy reveal, tossed off in a couple of sentences before moving on to the splash page at the end with the re-emergence of an old DC villain. Again, the real impact of what DC has done is being pushed aside for the Big Fanboy Moment. But after the gee-whiz element is gone, a long-time reader wants to understand how the stories all tie together, and DC could easily have told us about the reboot without distracting from the fanboy dreams.

1 comment:

  1. I know this comment is a little late, but it was extremely obvious since the very beginning that Blue Beetle's scarab had something to do with Green Lantern enemies, from the fact that every GL that met him noticed how badly his ring was bugging out. (No pun intended.) Not to mention the fact that he helped Batman take down Brother Eye. Doesn't THAT earn him anything in the DCU?

    But back to the Reach thing. No, we weren't immediately told about the Reach, but that was the catch, wasn't it? I mean, we can't just be assaulted by a new race and world. We needed that setup. We needed the mystery of the scarab to really make us question the scarab's origins before throwing a new origin at us. After all, it had just been considered some magic artifact from a pharoh's tomb before. Why should we question that, when DC does have magic users?

    Speaking of magic users, I got that Alan Scott issue of JSA Classified as well. It was a good read. Alan Scott was a super man before there WAS a Superman, indeed!