Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Trouble With Two Batgirls

Okay, as I have gone off very emotionally on this on Twitter, Tumblr, and--in the meanest thing I've ever sent to someone personally--over email, I may as well bring the rational point that just barely got brushed onto for my blog.

The big problem of a dual Batgirl setup is John Stewart Syndrome.

Notice how, when Hal came back they promised they had BIG PLANS for each of the Lanterns... And Kyle and Guy got a mini, and Hal and John would get the JLA. And Kyle and Guy got great interaction in the mini.. And he got one storyline, then Hal was the lantern for the last storyline of JLA... which was rebooted as Justice League with Hal?

And then, Kyle got a maziseries and Guy led the Corpsbook and Hal led the corebook but John pretty much disappeared?

Then after the Sinestro corps War where Kyle and Guy shared the spotlight with Soranik, and Hal got the corebook, and John got his paperwork again?

This is not because John Stewart is a bad character. On the contrary, he's a fucking great character. He has been strong since his first appearance, and distinctive as a thinker/activist from Hal and Guy and now Kyle.

But John, despite having been given the mainstream paly with the cartoon most recently (and Hal is now getting the movie), is almost never used. Even now in GLC he's basically a bondage king while Kyle and Soranik lead the mainplot. He is constantly, despite the promises and attempts to the contrary, downplayed for other Lanterns.

This is what would most likely happen in the event of two Batgirls. Endless frustration as Cass is pushed to the side for Steph. I can be an optimist, and a pessimist, but here I am being a realist. It's cynical, and it's a wrong in itself that should be fought but this is the most realistic result of a campaign for two Batgirls rather than a campaign for the return of Cass to Batgirl.

So yeah, gonna resist this suggestion, guys. It's a lovely thought and I'm sure you have the best at heart, but it is not a good option.

Friday, January 07, 2011


There's a really weird phenomenon with me and DC comics. Of all the corners of this universe, there is one that I simply cannot get into. No matter how many times I try the franchise, no matter who they put on it as writer, no matter who's on the roster, no matter what era I pick up... I simply cannot get interested in Teen Titans.

I know I'm about to get comments asking exactly why, and to be honest it's a mystery to me. It's not an aversion, or a hatred, or disappointment... it's just apathy. As a franchise, it just doesn't offer enough to engage me. Somehow they take characters like Bart Allen and Jaime Reyes that I can't imagine not wanting to read and put them in Teen Titans and all of the life and joy seems to drain out of them. Honestly, I probably can't bring myself to care if they get killed during their time on the team, that's how much interest the book holds for me.

When the characters leave, I pick up their stories again and be interested, but there's just this big hole in continuity that I just can't get into. It is the weirdest thing. I've checked out different writers and different time periods, some of the Haney, the Wolfman, the Jurgens, the Grayson, the Johns run and so on... The whole franchise just seems like this nexus of All Boring Things to me, where characters I love just lose their spark and the franchise-specific characters like Raven are about as intriguing as a wet dishrag. There is one exception, though, from the Jurgens and Grayson runs: Argent.

Toni's a rich girl with a kind nature underneath a spoiled demeanor. Not a terribly original concept, I know, but I liked her. She has silver skin, dark hair, a high-fashion style costume (I like to ignore that rainbow thing), and silver energy powers.

Basically, she's a baby Silver Lantern. Of course I love that. I tend to pick up Teen Titans or Titans when it promises an Argent appearance, and while I continue to like her, I almost always find the book not worth continuing. So I've missed most of her story. I was surprised when I looked her up (to make sure they hadn't killed her on me) to find that she had a storyline centering on finding out her father was involved in a criminal enterprise. I mean, who ever heard of a character named Monetti having a corrupt father? That's so incredibly original, fucking DC. (God, I would love for one female Italian-American character in comics who does not have a crook for a Dad. Can I please have just that one nice thing?)

Odious stereotyping aside, it doesn't overcome her character enough to kill my joy at a baby Silver Lantern with internalized powers (especially one of my gender and ethnicity). She's still the star of the Teen Titans story I remember the most, which was a two or three page story in Titans: Secret Files before she developed powers. She and her parents were in a mall food court, ducked under a table while the Teen Titans battled a villain. The entire story was just images of her reacting to off-panel action, which I normally hate, but I liked it. She was a cute little girl, and the experience seemed to be what planted the seed of superheroism in her heart. I'm disappointed no one ever explored her real potential, but at least they haven't killed her yet.

And by rambling about her on Twitter I was reminded that she appeared in "Rock of Ages" so I'm off to find my trade of that. I think she dies, but it's a one-storyline dystopian future and she gets some panel time in a JLA comic out of it.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Addendum to the last post, and a note on advertising

CBR is revealing more teasers of the characters we won't see in Age of X, because they're DEAD! I thought there was some merit in reading it because Jean's supposed to be around, but the blue-bordered image on top here has euthanized my dwindling interest. I know we can see that character in the regular universe, but for some reason a timeline without... it is just not terribly appealing? I don't specifically seek out a book for that character, but I enjoy the thought that this character is alive in SOME capacity and I hadn't realized just how much until now.

I'm sure for some of you this is riveting stuff. I like the characters they've confirmed too. There have been times that I would pick up a comic book to read solely based on Magneto's presence. He's great as an antagonist and a protagonist. I just find it so very weird how the more I see the advertising for this the less likely I am to buy it. Normally I am extremely susceptible to hype. Right now, I may be one of the few people on the internet not mocking the Fear Itself teasers, because they actually have me interested in the story.

I know exactly what they're doing, they're slowly rolling out the timeline to the start of the crossover, but... they're doing it by way of body count. "See, without the X-men all these characters you love to read would be DEAD!" Right now, Kalinara is telling me she's sure that last one is a trick and if she's right we'll find out fairly quickly on Tumblr and Twitter. Then my interest will likely reawaken and I can go back, reorder and I'll buy her yet another ice cream at the next convention. In the meantime, I really don't see how a bunch of teasers telling me that my favorite characters will not be appearing in this crossover is supposed to peak my interest.

I'd call this a step down from "One of these mutants will DIE" because well... if I like that mutant, I at least get to read a little of him before he dies and we all know this death thing doesn't last in genre fiction anyway. "One of these mutants will DIE" tells me "These mutants will be in it. Read it if you like them."

This crossover is going by "This world is so horrible that these mutants didn't even survive" advertising, which is telling me the opposite. And there just doesn't seem to be enough teased about what IS left and what exactly is going on to counteract that.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Disappointed before the first issue ships

CBR has a feature up teasing Age of X by showing the files of Henry Gyrich in the alternate universe, profiling several of our heroes. What really strikes me are the relations listings, and how many characters which are not being used by the X-office and haven't been used by the X-office for years are also missing and dead in this X-men alternate universe. (And I'm going to mention specifics soon, so consider this your spoiler warning.)

And it takes me back to how when Janet Van Dyne was taken off the board in the 616 universe, the Ultimate version of the Wasp was killed in Ultimatum. How when Wanda went crazy in Disassembled it was closely followed by Wanda getting killed in Ultimates.

It's very weird to me, because an alternate timeline storyline is a great opportunity to play with characters you don't normally get to play with, to have dead people alive and inactive people active, and make villains into good guys and bystanders into heroes. It's a really cool playground, but time and time again Marvel seems to decide that when something happens in the 616 universe it is reverberated across the multiverse! Hell, in "Ghost Box" Beast outright states that this is the case with M-Day, meaning that we aren't going to get to see an alternate timeline where mutants are the majority except for House of M flashbacks.

I know there's writers who get it, and we had a lot of variety in Hickman's Fantastic Four excursions and that Exiles is all over the fucking place, but it seems to me like ongoing things like the Ultimate Universe and large scale events like Age of X are squandering huge opportunities by having the same cast in a different setting. Don't get me wrong, Magneto, Rogue and Cyclops are awesome but we can read them together ALL THE TIME right now. We can't really read Cyclops and Havok at the moment because Havok is lost in space. We can only read Magneto and the twins in a single bimonthly series now, otherwise we haven't seen them since House of M. We can't read Rogue and Destiny now, ever, because they killed her off so damned long ago and she's just not a character who gets resurrected.

And these are things that would be fresh and unusual because we haven't seen them in the regular universe for so long. I still maintain that one of the greatest X-crossovers in history is Age of Apocalypse, partially because the only character who absolutely had to be absent was Xavier. With that rule in place, we got a lot of odd relationship stuff that we simply could never see the way 616 was set up. We had Nightcrawler and Mystique as a bickering mother-and-son team. We had Magneto as a loving husband and father, with a supportive relationship with his son (I am a bit irked they killed off Wanda in this crossover). We had Rogue as a mother and stepmother. We had Quicksilver and Storm in a romance. We had Cyclops and Havok raised together by Sinister. We had one-off death Blink alive and active, which actually led to the creation of the freaking Marvel Multiverse by being so popular she launched a series based on traveling through alternate universes!

It was a dystopian setting, but it was expansive and varied. Age of X so far strikes me as based on the same scarcity mentality that is driving the mutant plotlines in the regular universe. There was a "Decimination" and now the vast majority of mutants are dead rather than depowered, so it's a worse place where all the same characters are active. I like Mike Carey, but... it seems so small.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

If anyone's curious as to what my voice sounds like, I was a guest on the 3 Chicks Review Comics special Best of 2010 episode. Go listen to the 3 great regular reviewers and learn why I stick to typing out my thoughts. (Kelly has the covers up on CSBG)

Monday, January 03, 2011

First Rant of the Year (That didn't take long)

So this stuff was up on Tumblr...

Yeah, Marvel... We need to have a talk. This thing with Wanda, I know I've complained before but you are seriously out of your heads with this. Right now you are selling a maxiseries to her fans based on the idea of her CHILDREN finding her and getting her back to regular operation but everywhere but INSIDE THAT MAXISERIES you continue to push the idea that she hallucinated her children and lost her sanity. With zero textual clues to suggest that the characters are wrong in this assumption.

Don't get me wrong. I understand that you have to establish certain things in the regular universe in order to set up the premise, which is that everyone but Wanda, Magneto, and Billy think that the kids were just a manifestation of her mental illnessand out of control powers. I understand that this sets up drama.

The problem is that you're dragging this shit out so long, and fixing it completely underground. Disassembled interrupted half of your line and REBOOTED entire franchises. House of M took over the ENTIRE Marvel line and rebooted the OTHER half of your line! And since then, for at least SIX years every MENTION of Wanda has come with a nod to her being tragically insane and everything short of ominous music. You have spent SIX years and your two highest profile crossovers pounding ALL of your readers over the head with the idea that Wanda is BABY CRAZY.

Then, you offer us an option to fix her in Avengers: Children's Crusade.... A special that is entirely self-contained and not reflected in any of the other books published right now. A narrative thread that we have to go out of our way to find (again, there are NO textual clues outside of Children's Crusade and it's single sad prelude that the Avengers are wrong to assume Wanda's irredeemably insane), is being shipped ever OTHER month, and will last 9 issues that will total up to an 18 month storyline. The book itself is oddly out of time, and does not reflect any of the other developments in recent years despite using characters like Steve Rogers--who appears in half the books you publish--without reflecting their current in-story status, and PROMINENTLY featuring characters like Quicksilver and Magneto who are right now appearing in other books with no nod to the emotional build-up to this story (Magneto's heavy concerns involving his children, Pietro's conclusions that these are his nephews) or the fallout from its conclusion.

This, I believe, would be okay if you had made it as high profile an event as the TWO events in which you destroyed Wanda's image as hero, or did not insist on decompressing the living fuck out of this maxiseries along with dragging it out over 18 months WHILE you continued to use those 18 months to push the narrative of Baby Crazy Wanda.

Y'know, your distinguished competition had this problem with a Silver Age character once. They made Hal Jordan crazy evil and stuck to it for ten years and do you know what happened when they changed their minds? They built up to it. We saw Hal EVERYWHERE and we had foreshadowing all over the fucking place that he was coming back and that it wasn't his fault. After the build up they made him good again in a high profile miniseries... that had a compact six-issue storyline, shipped monthly, and led to the reboot of a franchise. And after that mini? We saw Hal everywhere again rebuilding all those bridges his time under mind control had burnt.

See, after you've dedicated so much time and energy to forcing a heroic character into the role of villain, and have enthusiastically sold the character that way to the readers for an extended period of time... You get a lot of readers and future writers who think that character is a villain. If you want to FIX that, you need to make their redemption a Big Fucking Deal, and make it easily seen by all those readers who gave been eating the shit you've been selling for the last six or ten years rather than just the die-hard holdouts who have been waiting for this since you made her nuts. Otherwise, you'll have a lot of confusion and you risk the right dumbass writer connecting with the right dumbass editor a year or two down the road and having this exchange:
"Hey, wasn't she a bad guy?"
"She's been good since that.. Damn, I forget the name if the mini but it was mind control I think."
"I only know how to write her bad. Let's soft retcon it and use her as a villain."

"Hey, as a kid I read this cool story where she went nuts. Anyone ever resolve it?"
"... I don't remember, I think she jyst came back to the team."
"Okay I got this idea... We'll call it AVENGERS: DISASSEMBLED..."

And even if that seems too farfetched or just like something that happens anyway, you still have characterization creep. Your writers, editors and artists have been not only pushing this shit but they've been consuming it themselves. Future writers, editors and artists are consuming it. Even if they are ASSIGNED Wanda as a hero, they still have the impression of a weak-willed passive woman who cannot tell reality from fantasy. These traits will overtake her as they write, because you have been pushing them endlessly and this is the image they have of her now. This is just like Hal Jordan's inability to feel fear, Quicksilver's mental instability, and Crystal's wandering eye... All flaws never in their original concepts that now serve to completely define those characters to the point of pushing away their relatability unless the writer works their ass off at researching and restoring the original personality. With every reference to Wanda's insanity you are CONTINUING to destroy your second female mutant character and your second female Avenger--one of your few female characters with a solid profeminist Silver Age foundation. This is not only irritating, it is MIND-BOGGLING to me that you'd do this.

There's really only one way you can save her. When Wanda gets back, she needs to be directly involved in rebuilding everything she destroyed (Bringing Hawkeye back was a good idea, but you are really going to need to overturn M-Day through HER actions) and she's going to need to make those Hal Jordan style pop-ins where she teams up with everyone in the Marvel Universe and defends herself against their grievances. If you leave M-Day in effect, if you just have people drop the grumbling without actually interacting with Wanda, all this shit is going to remain and Scarlet Twilight II is just around the horizon.

Also, that quote of hers bugs me on two levels. Continuity-wise that's a Lee quote, long before they ever found Bova and got the story of their birth. That story's set up so that Wanda has to be the older one, that's why Cthon would infuse her with power. (Unless you're planning something odd with Pietro and Oshtur.) Personality-wise, unless she's drugged out of her gourd like in House of M she knows better than to defer to anything Pietro says. That is hardly a quote indicative of her personality, and I'm a bit annoyed at your Polaris one too. It's awfully generic.

That said, the Quicksilver profile is very compassionate look at his actions and leaves open the option that Steve doubts Pietro's Skrull story. A previous one suggested Steve couldn't tell there was lying involved, this one may well have been after Pietro came clean and the "skrull interference" would be the Skrull that was in Attilan during Son of M. That one made me wince, because a) Captain America should be able to tell when someone as neurotic as Quicksilver is lying to him, b) Steve should know Pietro well enough to tell, and c) I was a little worried someone would have Steve on the less likely to forgive side of this one. It gives me some hope we'll see a little interaction between those two characters again, at least.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Memory Lane, April 1998

I remember this fifth week event from when I was a kid. This was actually the first solo Lois story I ever read. (It was also the only of these one-shots with a female creative team.)

I can't say much for the event name (or some of the stories, why the fuck was Donna in a church?), but the cover theme was pretty good. The unobtrusive banner at the top identified the event, and each set had an image of the star in a pose indicative of her concept and/or role in the story. So we have Secret against a black background, obscured by shadows. Lois Lane sneaking around in spy-clothing with a camera rather than a gun. Tomorrow Woman's circuitry overlaid in the darkness. They're not astoundingly good, but they did catch my eye back in the day.

I wish DC would resurrect this idea. It's such a simple event, just pick an underused female character from each of the major franchises (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Justice Society, Justice League) and give her a solo spotlight. Something like Marvel did this year with their Women of Marvel one-shots. It could shine a little light on supporting characters and neglected superheroines again, if just for the fifth week in a month. I mean, they revisited the Tangent universe, why not this?

Or I wouldn't mind another flashback Tomorrow Woman story. Even for a one-issue wonder, she had some charm to her and was an interesting pick for the JLA franchise.