Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 1

September 6th, 2011 by | Tags: , , , ,

Sometimes I get identified on this site as being a Marvel guy as compared to Esther being all about DC and while I’d like to argue against it, my latest buying habits in the past year don’t back me up. I seem to skew more on the Marvel side with only a handful of DC stuff on my plate. It wasn’t always that way. I seem to remember that in the mid-00’s, I was either pretty even with it or maybe even more on DC’s side. Thinking back, things were actually pretty exciting during the lead-up and follow-up of Infinite Crisis. It was really Countdown to Final Crisis where the company started to slope downwards in my regard.

As of a month ago, the comics I was reading under the DC banner were as follows: Batman and Robin, Batman Inc., Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Booster Gold and Secret Six. And you know what? I didn’t even like Secret Six that much by the time it ended. I liked the promise more than what happened. There’d be a good one-shot story in there every once and a while, then it would go into six issues I didn’t care about. At least it gave us the happy-go-lucky characterization of King Shark. At the same time, I feel guilty reading that when I should have gotten off my ass and started reading some of the series that I kept hearing were good like the latest run of Detective Comics, Batgirl, Action Comics and Doom Patrol.

When I first heard about DC’s reboot/relauch I raised an eyebrow and initially had the same, “Can they do that?! HOW CAN THEY DO THAT?!” reaction as everyone else. I just used my inside voice. Then I looked back and decided that maybe this is for the best. Oh, sure, it can and may be a failure in the long run. That’s their problem and the problem of whichever readers got screwed over by the big change. Me? I was only reading six comics by them. 52 new comics are being thrown against the wall and if even seven are still there when gravity kicks in, who am I to hate? Yes, this could definitely work out for the best.

I think back to when we got One Year Later and how enjoyable it was, despite how a lot of it returned back to the status quo. While it did turn me onto a couple good comics I wouldn’t have otherwise read, it did also allow me to join in and laugh at some of the stupider moments with the masses, like everything in that first Nightwing comic. Hey, remember when Nightwing is fighting this guy and he kicks him and practically shits himself while going, “Y-you’re a *gasp* m-metahuman…” as if he had only heard of such a thing before and never met one? Ah, man, that was the dumbest thing. I think the balls-out drive behind this new initiative can lead to an interesting six months at the very least.

So since I’m genuinely interested in this editorial stunt and I owe my comic guy for always having me at his place for wrestling PPVs and never having me pay for the show or food, I decided that I’d go headfirst into the new 52. I’m reading every single one of those fuckers. Yes, even the Liefeld one. Every week, I’m going to give my thoughts on them and decide whether I’m going to stick or drop it. Since these are all supposed to last six issues at the least, I’m going to try and keep going throughout that time so we can see what I’m still reading by the end of February. Who knows, by then I might just be doing an update about what I thought about that week’s issue of Blue Beetle because it’s the only thing left I care about. Though in the beginning, I’m giving every #1 a fair shake. You have my attention, DC. Wow me.

Since I only have one #1 to talk about this week, I might as well go over the show that got us to the dance in the first place: Flashpoint. A couple people I know came up to me on Thursday to say, “So… Flashpoint sucked.” I’m… I’m not really so sure. It might not have been so great, but I can’t outright bury it so easily.

Flashpoint initially made me think of House of M, which for the most part was better. In terms of the idea, the big difference is that one was about everyone getting what they wanted while the other was about everyone ending up in a dystopia. The idea of heroes fighting their way out of their own Heaven instead of their own Hell had more potential and the comparative body count definitely has a hand in it. Most of the deaths in House of M came long after the fact when Christos Gage started doing minis about that reality (ie. House of M: Masters of Evil, which came out years later). With Flashpoint, Chris Eckert shows just how much slaughter DC’s given us.

Where Flashpoint is superior is the final issue. They both had the same ending of, “It was really that speedster guy who was behind it after all!” but Flashpoint proceeded to actually have an acceptable wrap-up. Flash fixed things, had a brief WTF moment of causing the reboot, had a bit of closure with Batman and we’re good to go. House of M ended with a bunch of downers and a cliffhanger for what amounted to a New Avengers arc and a new X-Men villain.

That Flash/Batman scene opened my eyes to what was really going on. Flashpoint is a sucky event because it isn’t written as an event. At least, the main miniseries isn’t. We had tie-ins to tell us what was going on, but Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg and most others barely had any real panel time. Usually, an event series goes back and forth to make it seem like everyone does their part and has their say. These five issues were really about the adventures of Barry Allen and Thomas Wayne. When you look at it as merely that, it really isn’t so bad.

I like to believe that Flashpoint wasn’t meant to be a big event, but a story arc in Flash. Remove all the tie-ins and the idea of setting up a reboot and the whole thing can easily be Flash #13-17. DC probably looked at what Johns had planned, saw money in it and used it as a means to an end. Other than a couple stupid moments like the sudden Grodd appearance panel, Flashpoint the miniseries works pretty well as a self-contained story… albeit a story that Geoff Johns copied from himself when he wrote Booster Gold. No, really. Look at the story about Booster going back to save Ted Kord. It’s almost exact.

Any hate the event gets should really go to the tie-ins. On one hand, I do like that there’s a lot of flavor to the choices. Lord knows I got so sick of comics telling slightly different variations of the same story for eight months when tying in with Blackest Night and Secret Invasion. Quality aside, you get a lot of variety with Flashpoint and its tie-ins. It’s just that they’re pointless bloodbaths more often than not and a lot of them don’t have any real closure. I can understand people being pissy about the Atlantis/Amazon war not having a real winner, but I didn’t read the Emperor Aquaman or Wonder Woman and the Female Furies stories, so I only saw the war as a ticking time bomb that Flash had to outrun.

As for the reboot, I think it’s about time people stop overreacting to how this is the fourth reboot of DC. It’s an easy way to make fun of them and all, but come on. Do Zero Hour and Infinite Crisis REALLY count in that breath? Crisis on Infinite Earths was a big, sloppy wiping of the slate. The other two resulted in the JSA being in the present, the Legion being altered and Superman being in another origin story. Even the 52 universes from Infinite Crisis rings hollow for me, since it doesn’t exactly change how the characters are written. Yeah, some stuff changed, but it was nothing overly colossal. Just some editorial tweaking. This time they seem to actually be putting their ankle in it.

I think if there’s anything positive we can take away from Flashpoint and its handling of changing the landscape of DC Comics forever, it’s that we finally have a reboot story that can be explained to non-comic readers and new people. Guy goes back in time to save his mom and it causes history to glitch like crazy so he stops himself from saving her and it returns to normal, albeit altered. I can tell that to my mailman and not have him cross his eyes like he would if I had to explain the Monitor and Anti-Monitor. If we’re talking about accessibility, we’re off to a good start.

I still don’t care about Barry. In fact, I think it’s pretty weird that they brought back the wholesome hero who died saving the universe just so they can have him RUIN the universe and ultimately screw over his own loved ones. Then again, maybe that’ll come into play somewhere.

Now for the other book of the week, Justice League #1 by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. I think of it similarly to how I categorize Flashpoint. In its own way, it’s good, but it doesn’t work in the way it’s supposed to. Considering they pulled back everything else for that week to only release two books, there should be more razzle-dazzle. The comic simply lacks impact of being the great new beginning.

Our story takes place five years into the past. Presumably, Green Lantern and Batman have had their share of adventures over the years already, but Batman is an urban legend and Green Lantern does his business in space, so the idea of superheroes is still pretty new to the public. Because of that, they’re feared and hunted. Also because of that, Hal Jordan is a loveable dick in a way that’s perfectly understandable. I’m sure I would have my head up my ass if I spent so long thinking that I was God Mode in human form. In his experiences, all his problems have been overcome with his ring and the only people who make him look small are other Green Lanterns. On Earth, he’s a big fish in a small pond and can take out any frustration he gets from whatever grief he gets from Kilowog and Sinestro. So far he hasn’t been tested.

His incredulous reaction to Batman is fantastic because it does feel so rare to see someone actually laugh at the idea of him being a normal human being in a costume standing among gods. It’s something I don’t think has ever really been explored all that well because every superhero has had to fellate Batman over how awesome he is. If someone ever brings up that he’s just a man, another superhero has to verbally bitchslap them over how amazing he really is… which is pretty similar to real life conversations now that I think about it. For once, he’s going to allow his own actions to define how much he deserves to be in the top tier.

The interaction between the hero of light and the hero of darkness is fun and I have to say refreshing. I like having their own differences speak for themselves instead of having to hear about how much Batman holds a grudge for the time Hal became Parallax for the 58th time. Hal is an optimist and is too high on his own power to care if anyone wants a piece of him while Batman wants to remain in a questionable existence and likes the power that comes with people hating and fearing you. Hal proceeds with flash and power while Batman actually pays attention.

A couple pages dedicated to Cyborg are thrown at us, which is probably for the best, since he’s the only one who isn’t going to be in his own book. In time, he should probably be taking more of a frontline role of the team and series. We’ll see how they handle his newfangled origin. At least I will, since I’m sticking with this book for now.

If anything, I do like the “again for the first time” possibilities that come with the Darkseid namedrop and the upcoming Superman vs. Batman fight. I like Geoff Johns and have faith enough in his work to say that he’s smart enough not to fuck this up.

Next week, the real games begin. Grant Morrison tries to reinvent Superman, Batgirl is running around and Booster Gold is suddenly Canadian. Bring it on.

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11 comments to “Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 1”

  1. Having not actually read Flashpoint, I have to wonder if it’s an “event” only because it would seem insane to reboot (or whatever) your universe in a regular 5-issue story arc in a regular book.

  2. @Scoops: From many writer accounts, DC kind of threw this reboot business at them almost last minute. That’s why a lot of the final arcs in the pre-reboot comics come off as rushed. It seems to me that Johns didn’t intend for his Flashpoint story to really be a reboot and it was meant to end with everything back the way it was originally. Editorial simply threw the reboot idea out there and decided that if they turned this regular story arc into an event, they can always just use the ending as a way to explain the reboot.

  3. The thing that drove me crazy about the main Flashpoint mini is that nothing HAPPENED. The first issue has the most content, Barry stumbling around the new world and meeting Thomas, but after that… I mean, remember when Barry spent the entire second issue trying to get his powers back, ending up burned to a crisp by lightning, only to realize next issue that he just needed a BIGGER BOLT OF LIGHTNING? None of that first part contributed anything to the plot – it was just so we could laugh at Barry getting all burnt up by chemicals and lightning. And then they spend the third issue rescuing Superman, who ends up having no importance to the plot, and in fact immediately leaves and comes back for a couple panels two issues later. The whole plot is only resolved when Zoom decides to show up at random and gloat to Barry, which he had no reason to do at that exact time except for the fact that they were four issues in and hadn’t met the main villain yet.

    It’s weird to say that “nothing mattered” in an alternate universe story, but very few parts of it actually seemed to matter to the story they were telling.

  4. @Munkiman: Exactly. There’s a real miscommunication between what Johns wanted to portray and what DC wanted to portray. Johns is focused on Barry and Thomas while Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and everything else is relegated to window dressing. DC is insistent that they are NOT window dressing and that they’re just as important as our protagonists. The stuff with Barry trying to jumpstart his powers again is slow, yet acceptable in a story that’s almost entirely about Barry, but it’s completely unacceptable as part of DC’s big summer event.

    I go back to the comparison with Johns’ Blue and Gold story in Booster Gold. Like I said, it’s the same story. Booster uses his time travel abilities to save his best friend Ted Kord. They return to the present and everything is out of whack. Lots and lots of bad things have happened and everyone is either dead or dying. We get an idea of what’s happened to the likes of Superman and Hal Jordan, but the focus is still on our two main characters. It escalates into this big final battle with no clear winner as everyone starts dying in the background until Ted says that he really should be dead, history is fixed and everything is back to normal. Then Booster has a nice chat with Batman in the Batcave to give some closure.

    Now imagine that DC gave that story the same treatment. Imagine if Blue and Gold was the big summer event, sold alongside 3-issue minis of Blue and Gold: Maxwell Lord’s Checkmate, Blue and Gold: Batman and the Resistance, Blue and Gold: Guy Gardner: The Final Lantern, Blue and Gold: Superboy Prime’s Rage, Blue and Gold: Mad Dog, Blue and Gold: Green Arrow and Hawkman and so on. Then they’d use Ted Kord’s sacrifice to reboot the DCU.

    People would have HATED it for the exact same reasons when on its own it’s a pretty damn good story.

  5. Honestly Gavok, that is 10,000 times better than what we got with Flashpoint. After the first issue I thought that this would be like Age of Apocalypse…. Instead what we got was akin to Deathmate: a big, Universes changing story that felt disjointed editorially when it came to individual plots intertwining.

    Flashpoint had good stuff / gems (Batman, Frankenstein, Kid Flash (up until issue 3), The Outsider) just like Deathmate (The Valiant Storytellers did a much better job than Image in combining plots / histories) but in the end, the story as a whole felt lacking….

  6. Huh, this sounds pretty interesting. At this point I’m not really reading any comics and haven’t read any new ones in months, so everything I know about Flashpoint and the DC reboot is stuff I read online. I’ll be keeping tabs on your thoughts of each of the new books, maybe something will jump at me and I’ll starting reading them again.

    Now go finish the Summerslam Countdown, please!

  7. @Gavok: You know, I actually felt the same way about Blackest Night. I really didn’t like it very much, and I think a lot of that was because of the hype and how it had been built up to and overblown, when in the end it just amounted to SUPERHERO ZOMBIES, EVERYONE FIGHT, LIFE > DEATH. I felt that it would have made a cool six-issue GL arc, zombies in space, but that as an massive “this is really important” event it was ultimately underwhelming. I think this might have made a cool Flash arc, and that it wouldn’t be held up to such a high standard because it’s just one drop in the big bucket of Flash stories, instead of the successor to Crisis on Infinite Earths.

  8. So, when can we expect the reviews for this week’s comics? Thursday, Friday, maybe? Or are you waiting until next week to get to those? Either way is fine, but if the reviews come out the week the books are released then that will help me pick out the books to buy that week.

    Also, Booster Gold is Canadian now? :raise: (If that was just a dumb joke, forgive me; I haven’t been keeping up with the DC reboot news much.)

  9. “I still don’t care about Barry. In fact, I think it’s pretty weird that they brought back the wholesome hero who died saving the universe just so they can have him RUIN the universe and ultimately screw over his own loved ones. Then again, maybe that’ll come into play somewhere.”

    I kinda thought that was the point of Flashpoint, at least originally. To show that this hero that everyone looked up to, that made the ultimate heroic sacrifice, was just like everyone else, and he could screw up and be selfish too, just in a way that puts the entire timeline at risk.

  10. at least flashpoint gave us a new azzarello/risso joint, so there’s that

  11. @Healy: Yeah, Booster being Canadian is apparently a thing. Go figure.

    As for when the updates should be expected? Probably Monday nights.