Archive for Final Crisis

Reading 2011’s Batman

Posted in Comic Books with tags , , , , , on December 2, 2010 by pbiris

Batman Incorporated J.H. Williams Cover

Interesting things are afoot in the realm of the Bat, dear reader.

(Side note: did you know that most of my blog’s traffic comes from Batman-related content and links from comic blogs? These things are important to me, insofar as that little counter in the right-hand column counting up to “30,000” is important to me, like some real-world Galaga score accrued in direct proportion to my writing output — sorry, I’ve been reading this.)

Yesterday, Comic Vine posted a rather good (though purposefully incomplete, as of right now) article that aims to “break down the secrets of Grant Morrison’s Batman.” It’s a worthy read, especially if you’re interested in Morrison’s veritable Batman epic, spanning (gulp) four years now, but not the sort of fanatical interested, yet, that has you literally foaming at the words “ZUR EN ARRH.” Also, the always-worth-listening-to David Brothers wrote a nice little guide on the new Batman books for Comics Alliance that should serve well as a sort of road map for comic book readers that want to jump in but are kind of intimidated by the fact that there are 10 monthly Batman-related books right now, not counting specials and upcoming books like David Finch’s Batman: The Dark Knight ongoing.

Whew.

Anyway, I’ve had bats on the brain, and in the spirit of a now somewhat embarrassing post I made two and a half years ago (“Reading Today’s Batman“), I wanted to weigh in on some of the goings on in this massive corner of the DC Universe.

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Final Crisis vs. Blackest Night, in better words than mine

Posted in Comic Books with tags , , on April 8, 2010 by pbiris

I just came across an entry on Mindless Ones that basically nutshells the shit out of my Blackest Night post while simultaneously embracing more of an intellectual tone. (Then again, it is my belief that a silly comic deserves a silly post.)

In any case, check this out:

If Final Crisis is a story about DCU stories, which it undeniably is, then of course Earth is the most important place in the universe. Also, whether or not you like Final Crisis, whether or not the series succeeds, Morrison was undoubtedly trying to say interesting stuff with his mythological noodlings: about genre conventions, about art and about life. It’s striving to be bigger than the sum of its parts,  and at the very least provides us with some fun, internally consistent, higher order game playing.

Johns on the other hand, he’s not saying anything that isn’t written on the tin and what’s written on the tin is genuinely weird*. The Green Lantern concept allows Johns to quite literally reify just about anything he likes and so he has: Life? Check. Death? Check. Avarice? Check. Rage? Yup. Everything is reduced to spandex and glowing energy. In that way he’s not entirely unlike Kirby or indeed any number of other writers, but unlike some of those writers Johns has none of Kirby’s wild creative energy, add that to the very particular world view that comes through in his comics (love=the Predator remember) and the overall deficit of broader, non-DCU, non Green Lantern orientated concerns gives Johns’ mythology a parochial and bizarrely concrete feel… Morrison doesn’t need to worry over much about things like physics because he understands and he wants you to understand – as he explicitly demonstrates in Final Crisis – that the history of the DCU is the history of a fiction, and within fiction things are more flexible, ambiguous and open to interpretation. Johns mythology is modelled rather more on the history of real places, it’s an unambiguously physical history of life the universe and everything. The consequence being that the reader – even the reader disinterested in big C Continuity – is tempted if not quite compelled to start asking really awkward questions like: is DCU Earth older than the Sun?

Frankly, it’s pretty obvious that Final Crisis and Blackest Night are at completely opposite ends of the spectrum. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least bit if DC’s Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Dan DiDio approached writer Geoff Johns midway through Final Crisis’ publication and said, “Listen, people aren’t getting this, Blackest Night needs to blow shit up.”And that would be fine if it didn’t also blow ass.

Even fellow die hard Grant Morrison fans probably think I’m a bit loony when I say that Final Crisis is probably one of the most important mainstream comic works of the 21st century and that the entire thing is a manic meta-textual experiment that just works, at least as read in the collected hardcover edition, but most would probably agree that Blackest Night is a big stupid rag that we all ought to be very, very disappointed in DC for releasing as a follow-up. Hell, I’m disappointed in it as a direct sequel to the Sinestro Corps War storyline, also by Johns, which was much more grounded, tense, and – mm – crisp.

I’ve said that I understand why people like Blackest Night. It’s a flashy turn-your-brain-off blockbuster that basically has a direct analogue in things like Michael Bay’s first Transformers movie. But, uh, you know, what’s there to applaud in an intellectually void story when DC had just shown us its biggest events can go above and beyond the artistic merit of even the most revered creator-owned works?

Surely I’m not the only one that wonders about this?

Batman: Reborn and Fixing DC Comics (UPDATED 07/02)

Posted in Comic Books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2009 by pbiris

(Writer’s note 12/03/10: You may find this piece to be somewhat more relevant now that Grant Morrison has concluded his stint on Batman & Robin. Feel free to read both, and thanks for visiting!)

Batman comics are just about all I buy anymore. Marvel forfeited my business – completely, irrevocably – after the plodding mediocrity of Secret Invasion and unimpressive early entries to Dark Avengers (“pick up Invincible Iron Man,” they coo, vainly). DC, unable to unify its disparate brands after the brilliant psychedelia of Final Crisis (ultimately insignificant, save for DC’s predictable “Final Crisis Aftermath” schlock and Batman, but more on that later), pretty much has me in the bag for this summer’s “blockbuster event” Blackest Night, but has me less and less interested in some of my previously favorite books like Justice Society of America, Action Comics, Green Arrow/Black Canary, and The Outsiders; they’re just too all over the place. Will I pick them up on occasion? Sure. But can I really find it within myself to actually care about the supposed importance of, say, Deathstroke’s most recent dip into the bleeding rumps of the Teen Titans? Not really. Because half the time, these stories aren’t even fun anymore, and they almost never have any impact whatsoever on the rest of the “DC Universe,” which now seems a collection of galaxies with light year upon light year between them.

It’s cynical, but it’s also mostly true. DC understands how to provide excellent standalone stories, based on the preview material for Wednesday Comics – which looks stunning – and their major events like Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis (mentioned above) and Geoff Johns’ Sinestro Corps War (which, despite spanning several issues across a number of series, is collected in two very digestible trade paperbacks), yet its monthlies exist in some sort of horrible limbo between those and the admirable cohesion of the Marvel Universe. The monthlies share characters, vague references to “big ideas” (Martian Manhunter and Batman getting incinerated are about the only two things that DC’s writers seem to be getting out of Morrison’s sprawling opus), but generally fail miserably in attaining any sort of dramatic weight. The Spectre can suffer and rampage all he wants in the Revelations mini-series, but then a seemingly different character altogether is featured a few months later in Justice Society under the same name, which makes both exercises seem pretty insignificant. Similarly, Mary Marvel, forced to change her look and become an insane force of lust and violence after being possessed by an evil God in Final Crisis, should, presumably, be back to sorts after Darkseid is crushed and good prevails, but she’s strangely present in her S&M form in Johns’ recent JSA arc; is this supposed to take place during Final Crisis, when all of these characters were united against a force beyond all reckoning and the skies were raining fucking blood, or is it set afterwords in a DCU that is seemingly – bewilderingly – unaffected by the cataclysm, save for Mary Marvel’s ass-hideous haircut and exposed Shazam-boobies? Readers can’t enjoy these stories on their own, as they would be able to with the aforementioned events or Wednesday Comics, because the editors insist on pushing the concept that these threads are all connected when they just aren’t.

It’s difficult territory to navigate, I’m sure. Marvel’s Universe feels like a cohesive whole, but that can make it kind of boring and one-note from time to time. And we wouldn’t want DC to forget continuity completely, because then the comics would feel less essential and the science fiction tapestry would collapse altogether. So what should they do?

If the last month of Batman is any indication: reboot.

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Quick Boner: Grant Morrison and Final Crisis

Posted in Comic Books with tags , , , on March 26, 2009 by pbiris

I can’t get enough of my favorite bald drug abuser!

DC Comics released the cover art to the Final Crisis hardcover, due out in June, and it is gorgeous

Final Crisis Hardcover

The fact that it’ll look handsome on my bookshelf, along with recent news that the collected edition will include the crucial Superman Beyond 3D mini-series, secures that I, ever the salivating fanboy, will be buying Final Crisis all over again. Lolz consumerism!

Also, a number of interviews with Grant Morrison have been going on recently, the best, in my opinion, being published in Wired. Lots of exciting stuff coming up in the future, with Batman & Robin, Seaguy: The Slaves of Mickey Eye, and the possibility of an original graphic novel? Oh baby! Perhaps the most interesting and informative bit from the interview:

Wired.com: Like All-Star Superman with the Man of Steel, Final Crisis pushed apocalypse and deicide to the outer limits of narrative possibility. What are your thoughts on that series? Taken together with The Filth, is it the heaviest series you’ve ever written?

Morrison: Final Crisis was much heavier, much harder to write than The Filth, which at least came with massive doses of surreal black humor to sweeten the bitter pill of the subject matter. On Final Crisis, I spent months immersing myself in the thought processes of an evil, dying God who longed for nothing less than the degradation, destruction and enslavement of all of DC’s superheroes, along with every other living thing in the universe and beyond!

To get into his head, I had to consider people like him in the real world and there were no shortage of candidates. The emissaries of Darkseid seemed to be everywhere, intent on crushing hope, or shattering human self-esteem. I began to hear his voice in every magazine headline accusing some poor young girl of being too fat or too thin. Darkseid was there in the newscasters screaming financial disaster and planet-doom. It was that sick old bastard’s voice terrifying children with his hopeless message of a canceled future, demanding old ladies turn off their electric blankets to help “save the planet,” while turning a blind eye to corporate ecocide.

Up against that, all we had to offer were the wise words of Pico Della Mirandola and Superman singing a song to break your heart. I had to grind America’s superheroes down so hard there was nothing left but diamond in the dark. Everything was falling into a black hole, even the story structure … and fans on message boards were going to war over the thing, screaming “genius” and “gibberish” at one another. It was quite unpleasant to be at the heart of all that but also strangely exhilarating.

I like Final Crisis a lot now that it’s all over. I think it’s the closest I’ve come to creating the type of DC superhero comic I most want to read.

Didn’t think it got much heavier than The Filth, myself, and it’s hard for me to place Final Crisis in that category simply because, at the end of the day, it’s a super hero book where the good guys save the day (kind of?).

But then, maybe seeing our favorite icons of good blasted into oblivion rather than a balding, cat-obsessed chronic masturbator makes it all the more disturbing, if you think about it.

 

Death is a bummer.

Posted in Comic Books, Quickies with tags , , , , on January 15, 2009 by pbiris

When I wake up tomorrow, Batman is still going to be one dead ass motha, and that is actually kind of depressing.

Batman Death Final Crisis

At least he, like, totally wasted Darkseid before he went out, though. That’s the Batman I know and love.

Or should I say

Knew.

Don’t read these, please: Final Crisis: Secret Files, Batman: Cacophony

Posted in Comic Books, reviews with tags , , , , on January 7, 2009 by pbiris

I am a DC Comics sort of guy, which means a couple of things; I am classier than your average, Marvel-slobbin’ geek, with a refined taste for the true essence of super hero mythology, and I tend to get a firm tuckus-reaming for it by none other than DC Editorial, a group of what I can only presume are the psychotic-est of sadomasochists, the sort of people that I guess get their rocks off pleasing their devoted fanbase only to follow up by defiling all vestiges of quality with their putrid bloodshit machine.

Last week, we were treated to two such resultants of this vile mechanism. First:

Final Crisis: Secret Files. The fucking Hell is this shit? Grant Morrison presents readers with an innovative, frightening, modern take on Jack Kirby’s legendary New Gods concept in Final Crisis, and someone along the way decides to shovel up this soggy, self-gratifying dreck as a suitable background for the previously menacing new villain Libra, once a primary point of interest in the epic crossover series, now reduced to being the shittiest piece of shit this side of the shattering of the Paradise Dimension in Infinite Crisis. (Lord Christ almighty has DC ever come up with a good idea without sullying it with a slew of really, really bad ones?) Mostly written by Len Wein but branded with the names of Grant Morrison and JG Jones, assuredly to promote sales in the most underhanded way possible, Final Crisis: Secret Files is an origin story for Libra done in catastrophically awkward style that attempts to emulate early 70s Fourth World stuff, a dismal failure executed with such wonkiness that it simultaneously makes us pine for the good ol’ days while reminding us why we left them behind to begin with. The whole thing looks like it was made in that cheesy Mac OSX comic book program. To add insult to injury, there’s some shoddy back-up content (done by favorite creators like Morrison, Jones, and Greg Rucka to salt the wound a bit) that basically nuts on the Final Crisis project without providing anything even remotely worthwhile. Grant Morrison’s write-up about the Anti-Life Equation at the end is enough to lacquer even the most devoted fanboy’s face red with embarassment. (For the record, the problem with the explanation is threefold; 1) the violence and devestation in Final Crisis work damn well because they defy explanation, 2) it’s obvious that the whole thing came about because some editor was all, “Yo, Grant, write something so we can slap your name on this rag!” and 3) some things are just better left to the imagination, Christ.) It’s pretty clear that DC’s trying to bleed this one dry. Still, given the primo quality of Final Crisis and its tie-ins so far, one fudged attempt is almost forgiveable, except now we know that Libra is pretty much a worthless throwaway character, so fuck that noise.

Batman: Cacophony. Surely the ripest of turd enchiladas. Kevin Smith, an occasionally brilliant writer (Clerks, Clerks II, Dogma, Green Arrow), but far from a guaranteed talent (Jersey Girl, Zack and Miri Make a Porno), squirts out this puerile Batman story, now in its second of three parts. Absolutely the most amateurish portrayal of the character and his universe in recent memory, Smith attempts to sell us with violence, nasty jokes, and cliche, completely off-kilter characterization. Batman’s never been more boring (or offensive; after being sprung from Arkham Asylum in the first issue, the Joker disrobes and offers his behind for his benefactor to plunder if he so pleases), and I’ve never been more disappointed in a comic series. Kevin Smith redefined the Green Arrow in his seriously bitchin’ run nine years ago; now he’s selectively falling back on Batman history (a reference to Azrael in the most recent issue shows a nod to continuity, while everything else shows that Smith has no idea what the character’s been up to for the past 15 years) while excreting a decrepit plot that will surely do no favors to the continuing mythology of the DCU. If I was an editor, I would have rejected this script that reads more like an awful fan fiction than a $4, heavily publicized landmark of a comic book. Instead, DC’s tossin’ this shit around, probably selling many, many copies because, hey, Kevin Smith and Batman, and readers ain’t gettin’ squat out of it but pink eye. Who’s in charge of quality control over there? I don’t see how DC plans to close the market share gap between itself and Marvel with crappy products like this. Alas.

 

Jeez, don’t even get me started on how they’re handling the core Batman series these days. It’s a mess, I tells ya. (Nerd rage nerd rage lol? I think posts like these are why bloggers get all the pussy. All the pussy.)

Final Crisis #4 Reviewed!

Posted in Comic Books with tags , , , , on October 28, 2008 by pbiris

Evil Has Won.

Grant Morrison and JG Jones kick our asses in DC Comics’ Final Crisis #4. Read on to find out how, but note that spoilers follow!

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