Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cry for Justice #3

I'm quite a bit behind the curve since I went overseas, and I'm only paying slight attention to the rest of the Blogosphere.  That's the way my life is now.  Even I couldn't miss the Cry for Justice thing, in no small part because Chris was IMing me for my righteous Hal Jordan defense.

I know, in the past couple weeks this subject has been covered ad nauseum and probably better, but I've let it stew too long.

When I first heard the complaints assumed we were witnessing a case of what I like to call "Civil War Syndrome".  Basically, the phenomenon where they attempt to do a political argument between a character on the Left and a character on the Right, but really end up with a character behaving sanely and a character behaving insanely.   This is because in the past decade American discourse has been skewed so absurdly towards the right on certain issues that people quoting Ronald Reagan's views on torture are considered liberal.  I suspect this is because of the different ways in which both the political parties and the media handles Right-wing and Left-wing crazies in the 21st Century.  The Democrats disavow and distance, the media ignores the Truthers and the wilder sides of the Anti-War movement.  This is to the detriment of the Left because the general public adores the middle of the road, and a little exposure to crazy goes a long way in making your slightly left-of-center view palatable.   On the Right, the Republicans embrace and pander, and the media spotlights the Calhoun Club.  This is to the detriment of the Right because the reasonable viewpoints that are just slightly right of center are glossed over, and never discussed as the centrists and the leftists can only see the dark cloud of madness devouring the landscape and defend themselves accordingly.  And so a proper compromise is never reached.

But that's just me doing my periodic tangent into my Personal Grand Unified Theory of Fiction, the Media and Politics, as required by Paragraph 2(c) subsection 7 of the Universal Blogger's Code.

How does this translate to Civil War and Cry for Justice?  Well, the writer of a story looks at an issue in the media and marks down what the conservative character would do and say, and what the liberal character would do and say.  This way, the writer can have a big relevant story.

This is my Grand Theory of how we get the behavior of Tony "We can totally circumvent the justice system and still be good guys" Stark in Civil War, and more recently Oliver "Are you sure you wanna do this horrible thing?  Okie-dokie, Hal" Queen in Cry for Justice.

When I initially heard of the torture sequence in Cry for Justice, I assumed this was how Robinson placed Hal Fucking Jordan--the guy who was basically the conscience of the Green Lantern Corps up until Emerald Twilight Which Was Recently Proven to Be Not His Fault--in the position of defending the torture of a suspect.

Being quite a fan of the O'Neill/Adams run, I had some expectations about the scene.  I pictured Oliver Queen pitching a fit and Hal having a grief-induced breakdown.  I expected that Oliver Queen would be proven right in the end when, as Mr. Sims informed me on the dark day this issue was released, the suspect was revealed not to be the person they intended to torture after all.

I was outraged and angry that my favorite character would be put in the position of rolling back on his principles to make such an obvious point as "torture is bad" simply because once again the O'Neill/Adams run had been misunderstood, and Hal was needed to play the conservative character when there were plenty of other characters who would canonically be in favor of beating/scaring information out of a prisoner.  Didn't this man understand that there are certain characters that you just don't do that with?   I was fired up and ready to rant but stopped myself until I'd had a chance to read the whole cursed issue, even thought I had already completely made up my mind about just how James Robinson had fucked up the character.

Then I read the issue in question.  And was shocked into silence.

It appeared, on first and second reading, that Robinson was condoning the use of torture on a suspect.  And I'm still not quite sure what to say about that.

I can say that the sequence takes place with three characters acting so far out of character they might be their Crime Syndicate counterparts.  Hal Jordan, who has the role of stopping this sort of thing when it occurs in the Green Lantern Corps is observing as Ray Palmer, who is aware of this technique being used to murder one of his dearest friends, is inside what is apparently the head of Prometheus, tap-dancing.

Oliver Queen, who has the role of stopping this sort of thing anytime it happens anywhere, was timidly asking Hal if this qualified as torture.  The Real Oliver Queen would be standing between Ray and the Prisoner making comparisons to Hitler, but this person wearing Green Arrow's beard and costume was standing slightly behind Hal was asking ever so quietly if they should consider human rights.

And the torture itself.  It was a "clean" torture.  You're supposed to read this and think it's not so bad thing.  This is not watching them argue about getting their hands dirty with something that gets relegated in drama to the
basements of Nazi criminals.  This is something that is designed to say to people "See, this causing pain to other people to get them to talk? That's not bad, that's not really evil.  It's not even a risk to his life."  Just a little headache.  Using the same technique that killed Sue Dibny.

And, even though it turned out to be Clayface rather than Prometheus, the torture worked.  The guy spilled his guts and gave them information.

I was angry before I read it because Hal Jordan is what you'd call a "High Road" character.  I thought that he was being dragged through the mud to present a conservative foil to a moral rant. But no, this doesn't seem like that at all.  This seems like the writer thought it was a perfectly okay way to have them go about.  Edgy.

And yeah, this worked for the Shade, but you know what?  Not every character is the fucking Shade and they shouldn't be.


  1. I've been reading Cry for Justice, and laughing my ass off, because that's the only way that I can do it, without wincing. If I take it all as satire, then I don't get outraged. Because it IS outrageous...completely and utterly outrageous.

    Oh, and the new look for the blog is very nice.

  2. I find Cry for Justice intolerable.

  3. And yeah, this worked for the Shade ...

    The Shade is such a morally grey character that this is almost like stating "this worked for the Punisher". When I read Starman, I figured the Shade wasn't supposed to be terribly heroic or good, just that at this particular time and place he'd decided to try his hand at being a good guy for a while. Because he gets bored and decides to spend a few decades doing different things every once in a while.

    Now I wonder if Robinson thought the Shade was really supposed to be a heroic figure. And that kind of bums me out a bit.

  4. The way Hal, Ollie, and Ray have been acting in this miniseries I just want Barry Allen to show up and super-speed pimpslap all three of them like this:

  5. From the brief bits of the comic I've seen, I just can't believe it's written by a writer I like so much. Just horrible stuff.

    By the way, nice redesign!

  6. I'm waiting for the collection of this series, and experiencing it now only through read solicitations, reviews like yours, and the Twitter conversation (which is to say, I realize I'm speaking from a position of ignorance here), but some of the solicitations have lead me to wonder if Robinson is moving toward a comeuppance for the heroes -- that is, they're going to realize these bad things they're doing are, indeed, bad.

    Now, there's a way to write that story that wouldn't have fans slapping their foreheads getting to that point, but I have wondered -- given how far off the reservation Robinson appears to be -- whether he's won't be quite as far off the reservation at the end of this miniseries as he is right now. Though again, there's a right and wrong way to write that.

    Or maybe it's as bad as it seems.

  7. CE -- I considered reading #4, because the solicit sounds like the discussion about the morality of torture happens in there, but I'm having trouble getting over Ollie being so damned meek in this.

    Also, can't get over that Hal is verymuch the wrong character to use for this lesson. If he wanted someone on the wrong side of the torture debate, he's got a teenaged girl who can be forgiven for not knowing better and his own blue alien Starman. This is one of those sacrifice the characterization for the story things, and while I like to think of myself as able to handle variations in character... Hal's supposed a High Road character, even when he's in the wrong.