Bendis vs. Johns: Conquering the Big Threat

June 10th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

I’m one of those comic fans who tries not to allow himself to be dragged into the whole Marvel vs. DC argument based purely on the characters and being loyal to them. It’s all about the writers and the quality that comes with it. Sure, there are many times when the scale is skewed immensely, such as pre-Flashpoint when I was only reading a couple DC comics compared to now, but that’s on them. For the past 6-7 years, when you compare Marvel and DC, there’s no better writer sample size than Brian Michael Bendis and Geoff Johns. These two are the butt of a crazy amount of jokes about how they each write 80% of the comics of their respective companies.

Hell, I’m guilty of this myself. If they ever brought back Amalgam Comics, every issue would be written by Geoff Bendis.

They both have their strengths and weaknesses. I dropped all the Bendis Avengers books after growing impatient and realizing that the only reason I was reading them in the first place was because of enjoying what he used to write. At the same time, I’m really loving Ultimate Spider-Man and the whole Miles Morales experiment. With Johns, I lost complete interest in Justice League shortly after the origin arc, yet I eat up his Green Lantern and think his Sinestro is the most compelling character going in DC. Not that that’s hard, considering he has a head start over 95% of the New DC cast.

This isn’t so much a simple Bendis vs. John post, but more a comparison over something Johns does that I’ve always dug about his work and really helps earn him his spot as “that DC Comics guy”. It’s also something that I’ve found Bendis to almost get, only to drop the ball and go the opposite direction.

What I’m talking about is setting up a threat, usually in the first act, that allows the readers to say out loud, “These heroes are absolutely screwed.” This is a lot better as a selling point to a comic than “it’s important.”

I’m going to focus on the event storylines, since these are the ones given more emphasis and put under such a microscope that the two writers have to make extra sure that their threat is something that can’t simply be waved away.

I’m also going to skip over Avengers Disassembled and Green Lantern: Rebirth, since I don’t even really see those as events as just gigantic plot points meant to set up the next several years of storyline. Disassembled is something I read years after the fact and found it to be kind of a mess in terms of storytelling and Green Lantern: Rebirth was a big mess of retcons and reveals meant to pave the way for Johns’ lengthy run on the Lantern corner of the universe.

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April 21st, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Booze, Broads, & Bullets was not going to be a week at first. It wasn’t going to have posts by other people, either. No, I had the great idea of reading Frank Miller’s entire collected body of work and doing a post on every single book over the period of– well, I don’t know how long. I know I own almost all of his trade paperbacks, save for things like Bad Boy and his ’80s charity/one-off stuff, and that’s like 19 or 23 books. At that point, writing that much over a short period of time, essentially doing with Tim Callahan did with Grant Morrison: The Early Years, would leave me dead, depressed, or worse. I think a book on Miller’s work like Tim’s book would be fantastic, but not writing it myself over a short period of time. So, instead, I drafted some friends, turned it into a week, and we went at it. Booze, Broads, & Bullets speaks for itself, I think. What you see is what you get. We had a team-up. You were great.

About three weeks before BB&B, I began the process of rereading every Miller book I owned. I put my already sizable to-read stack on pause, making occasional breaks particularly enticing new purchases, and breathed Frank Miller for a few weeks. At some point during this process, I think during the first week, Tucker Stone emailed me and told me that I absolutely had to read James Ellroy’s American Tabloid trilogy. I quote: “This was made for your brain.” He was right. Tucker is a guy who knows good books. He takes bad ones to task, yes, but when it comes to recommending books, Tucker doesn’t steer you wrong. And he didn’t this time, not even close.

My days were Frank Miller. Lunch breaks at work, that week I had to ride the bus because it was raining too hard to bike, and a bit of the evenings were dedicated to reading about hard men and harder women. That hour I usually spend in bed staring at the ceiling before I fall asleep was given over to James Ellroy, Kemper Boyd, Ward Littell, the Beard, and Jack Kennedy. I knocked out American Tabloid in two weeks, longer than I usually take for real books, and moved on to The Cold Six Thousand. I’m about halfway through it right now.

I’m addicted to Amazon. I’ve got Prime and I make an obscene number of orders a year. I made an order during BB&B, round about halfway through the week. I pick up One Piece 24-27 (four for three? shoot, I’ll take advantage of that all day), the beginning of the Skypiea arc, and Usagi Yojimbo volumes one through three. It wasn’t until I got them and looked at them that I’d realized what I’d done. I’d ordered four violent children’s books and three violent rabbit samurai books, but ones with an all-ages kind of violence.

I needed a break from crime, bastards, and brutality, apparently. And those are pretty much my favorite ingredients in fiction.

The same kind of thing happened last year. I was doing regular reviews of Lone Wolf & Cub from spring to summer. I made it almost exactly two months in, writing up six volumes of Lone Wolf & Cub, one of Path of the Assassin, and then a few miscellaneous posts that weren’t focused on anyone book, before quitting. I own at least nine of these books, and I was burning through a book a week or so, so I know I read several I didn’t write about.

The thing about Lone Wolf & Cub is that it is very… dry. It’s fairly formulaic, you can guess story beats once you make it to volume three or so, and it is just a miserable read. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but absorbing all of that in a short period of time? It’s not very pleasant. By the end, I didn’t even want to think about the series again. Ogami Itto was too perfect, and his setting too horrible. It was a Debbie Downer, is what I’m saying. So, I took a break. I found something else to do. I took a few days off and came back talking about Asterios Polyp.

I was actually talking about detoxing from comics to Esther the other day. She’s frustrated with the direction of DC in general, with a specific focus on the Green Arrow family. DC has several books that have been piling misery upon misery for years at this point. The Teen Titans franchise, whether Teen Titans proper or the grown-up and trashy Titans, has been toxic since long before Geoff Johns left in 2007. The Green Arrow titles have been tripping from tragedy to tragedy ever since Green Arrow and Black Canary got married.

It gets old. At some point, you’ve got to have some kind of a release for all the misery and pain. I’ve read that Ian Sattler and Dan Didio have been saying that Cry For Justice “worked” because people are upset about the book. And well, no, it didn’t work. People are mad at the book and what happened in it, but not because it’s sad. They’re mad because it’s just another body on the pile. Ted Kord’s death was sad. Lian Harper’s death was pointless, cheap theatrics meant to shock you, rather than make you actually feel anything. But hey, yell “BOO!” at someone often enough and they stop caring.

Why did one straw break the camel’s back? Here’s the secret: the several dozen dead or maimed bodies underneath it. Lian’s chilling with Gehenna, the girl who was tortured and killed so that Black Firestorm could live in White Firestorm’s head in a bunch of comics I’m not going to ever read.

Daredevil’s life has sucked for years. Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev’s Daredevil helped draw me into reading monthly comics again, but I quit the series sometimes during Brubaker’s run. I got tired of watching Daredevil’s life spiral into misery, over and over and over again. I’m tired of that story. I’m numb to it. No, that’s not right. I don’t care. Spider-Man’s life sucks. The writers throw him curveballs every couple of months to shake things up. But, there are issues where he hangs out with his friends. There are horribly sad issues. There are happy issues. There are bittersweet issues. There is a mixture of content, which makes sure that each punch to the gut actually feels like a punch to the gut.

I got my first tattoo back in March. I was asking about how much it’d hurt, and the guy told me that after a certain amount of time (or trauma), the body goes into a kind of shock and you barely feel anything. That didn’t happen with the tattoo, but it absolutely happens with comics.

I’m supposed to feel bad for Roy Harper when he’s imagining his daughter screaming and crawling and dying slowly in the rubble of her house. But hey, guess what! I don’t. I don’t care at all. I’m more amazed/offended/appalled at how blatantly emotionally manipulative and inept all of it is, like the comics had been written by and for people who only had superhero comics as a reference point and had never seen a good movie or read an actual book. Hysterical melodrama-infused superhero decadence in the worst way. It’s a sob story, only the person telling it doesn’t know when to pull back and stop layering in unnecessary details.

But hey, wack writers tell wack stories.

Storytelling is essentially lying. It’s making up a new truth and hoping people believe it. The trick to being a good liar is to keep it simple and effective. When Crossed, Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows’s incredibly violent and obscene zombie miniseries, treats the death of a child in a more reasonable and mature way than a DC Comics-branded comic book, you’ve got a problem. Your emperor has no clothes. We don’t believe in you or your stupid stories.

You want to know my review of Cry For Justice and Blackest Night and all these other comics that keep banging that one drum and then go “GOTCHA!” when you go “Ew, what is this?”

“Who cares.”

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Hard Question for a Soft Target

April 1st, 2010 Posted by david brothers

NRAMA: Fair enough. Back on the subject of your work on Blackest Night, is there a character you’re writing that you’re liking more than you expected?

GJ: A bunch. The biggest surprise is how easy it is to write when Hal and Barry are together. These two know each other so well, and there’s such a strong tie to them…it’s like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. And something happens to Hal when he’s with Barry. It happens to me when I hang out with my friend, Matt. He’s so organized and punctual that a little part of my brain shuts off. I don’t need to worry about the time or where we’re going. I feel like that happens to Hal when he’s around Barry. Hal goes with the flow a little more, while Barry’s taking up the slack of figuring out where to go. I have more Barry and Hal scenes written down because they just keep writing themselves. Introvert and extrovert. Saint and sinner. Time and space.

And then there’s a character that’s really surprised me. I don’t want to give it away but she’s one of the strongest and most recognizable characters in the DC Universe, and yet she hasn’t been in the spotlight for a very long time. But she will be now. For quite some time to come.

NRAMA: OK, then which character will people get to know better in Blackest Night than they’ve ever known before?

GJ: Same character. She’s been around since the ’60s.

-Geoff Johns, from an interview with Vaneta Rogers. Newsarama is currently throwing up malware warnings in my browser, and there’s really no reason to click through anyway, but if you do, browser beware.

Let’s take a brief look at a few high-profile moves in Geoff Johns’s post-Flash career:
1. Brought back Hal Jordan
2. Brought back Barry Allen
3. Brought back Professor Zoom
4. Brought back Ronnie Raymond
5. Introduced a bunch of lame-os in JSA
6. Wrote Blackest Night
7. Explained various minutiae, including Power Girl’s boob window, Barry Allen’s bowtie, and why love is actually a bunch of creepo stalker chicks who don’t wear clothes and love to brainwash people
8. Called Aquaman’s wife “one of the strongest and most recognizable characters in the DC Universe”

Honest question: why’s Geoff Johns seem to like the boringest parts of comics?

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This Week and That Week in Panels: Weeks 25 and 26

March 21st, 2010 Posted by Gavok

For those who haven’t noticed or forgot, a nasty storm caused me to lose my cable connection last week and rather than wait a day to post TWiP, I made the dumbass decision to add it onto the next week. Apparently I was too busy to notice that this week was a huge one regardless, making this a gigantic update. Welp, let’s get moving.

The A-Team: Shotgun Wedding #1
Joe Carnahan, Tom Waltz, Stephen Mooney

Amazing Spider-Man #624
Mark Waid, Tom Peyer, Paul Azaceta and Javier Rodriguez

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This Week in Panels: Week 23

February 28th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Time for another go at trying to portray the comics we’ve read in one singular panel. I was asked to go with the last page of Secret Warriors, which is great in its own right, but a little too weird out of context.

Amazing Spider-Man #622
Fred Van Lente, Joe Quinones, Greg Weisman and Luke Ross

Batman and Robin #9
Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart

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This Week in Panels: Week 22

February 21st, 2010 Posted by Gavok

It’s a pretty big week for this installment. How big? This one’s all me. Ow, my wallet.

Authority: The Lost Year #6
Grant Morrison, Keith Giffen, Brian Stelfreeze and Joel Gomez

Avengers vs. Atlas #2
Jeff Parker, Gabriel Hardman, Scott Kurtz and Zach Howard

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This Week in Panels: Week 20

February 7th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Well, it’s Sunday night and we’re ready to strike!
Our special forces are in for a fight!
With heroes in the air and zombies on the ground!
This Week in Panels is takin’ over the town!
We gotta get ready! We gotta get right!
There’s gonna be some comic art at 4th Letter tonight!

So get ready…
I MEAN, get ready…

This week I’m going against my rule of never using a final, or even last-page, panel for this. Why? Because that Deadpool Team-Up panel completely sums up the entirety of that issue and why Stuart Moore wrote it in the first place.

Batman Confidential #41
Sam Kieth

Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #3
Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott

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This Week in Panels: Week 19

January 31st, 2010 Posted by Gavok

A fine set of comics this week. Ah, it’s good to have Batman & Robin and Frankencastle Punisher around.

Batman and Robin #7
Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart

Captain America Reborn #6
Ed Brubaker and Bryan Hitch

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I’m not even reading the Lantern Saga

January 28th, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

But I love this page with my whole heart.

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This Week in Panels: Week 18

January 24th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Welcome to this week’s edition of This Week in Agents of Atlas. We have a lot of Agents of Atlas this time around, so let’s get to the Agents of Atlas!

(Not shown: the Agents of Atlas backup story in Incredible Hercules)

Amazing Spider-Man #618
Dan Slott and Marcos Martin

Authority: The Lost Year #5
Grant Morrison, Keith Giffen and Jonathan Wayshak

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