Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Same Old Song And Dance…

You hear it all the time as a comic fan, heck you probably say it all the time, “This is just (insert storyline) all over again.” It is true there might be a twist here or there – the writer might have added a reverse turn, a hip sway, a rond de jamb – but ultimately you are looking at the same comic samba that impressed you in the 70’s. Here is the thing though, you used to be able to count on some breathing room between the retelling of pot arcs – say five to ten years, maybe even twenty. One of the issues that I have had in my comics recently is that we are not getting even that break. You don’t get even get four years of something on the back burner before it is heated back up again.

Let’s look at Robin, the monthly that is the impetus of this post. For like a year and some change now Robin has basically been one story, “Who is behind that mask?” First we had who is Violet followed by who is Spoiler and now, before we have even digested all this new info, we get who is Red Robin. It’s boring and distracting from the larger “Batman R.I.P.” storyline.

Take a look at Justice League of America; rehashing the storyline that Meltzer kicked the series off with less than three years ago. Amazo? Check. Vixen’s powers on the fritz? Check. Red Tornado without a body to really call home? Check. Some people might call this cleaning up dangling story threads. I call it played. Hell, the Teen Titans have been on a membership drive since before Johns left.
Even more startling, is this developing trend of retelling origins or taking people back to where they were in the beginning and watching them develop all over again. I bring up Green Lantern and the whole “Brand New Day” event in Spider-Man. Comic companies are so worried about the new and the untested that we expect the status quo at the end of a plot arc.

But the status quo does not get a person excited, or at least me excited. It’s hard to maintain a weekly medium with the same stories over and over. Yes, it’s true soon we will have a dead Batman and Darkseid making everyone bow to the Anti-Life Equation, a world of Gog and a Starman again in the Justice League. Yes, we have the X-Men on the West Coast, Red Hulk and Iron Fist dead by 33 (supposedly). Despite all this my sense of wonder and excitement is not being peaked. After all, unless all the hype and solicitations are lying to us – Superman will not be dealing with Final Crisis fallout; he will be dealing with the residents of Kandor. Didn’t we just have a storyline with a ton of more super powered Krypotonians?

So you say, “Ben, what are you expecting? These are comics. Stop being naïve.” The thing is though some comics are changing things up, a scant few companies are giving us those drastic events that leave everything different. These are titles that have moved to the top of my must read list. They might not be the best comics out there but they are taking familiar characters and jacking them up. What are these titles?

Wild C.A.T.S, The Authority, GEN 13, and Stormwatch P.H.D.

This World’s End arc, following the superb Number of the Beast, has changed the face of the entire Wildstorm universe. Those catastrophic events that occur in the Big Two with little repercussion happened here and now everything is different. Least of all many people now have beards, which I love. It is what I hope for from my comics, drastic change and growth even if it means that the stories take turns that don’t make me happy. At least I can honestly say I don’t know what is going to happen next.

Same thing goes with Fables. If you believe the hype the series will have a dramatic new direction after issue #75. The war with the Empire will be over. That’s huge. The driving force behind the series gone in the span of one arc. Time to take the same characters and start them on a new path. Love it.

However, I think I am minority here. I think my want to truly alter a character’s life, as long as it a step forward so Brand New Day doesn’t count, is not the want held by most comic fans.

What Do You Think?


John Trumbull said...

Contantly shaking up the status quo doesn't mean a thing to me unless there IS a status quo at least some of the time. Changing things constantly is fine for titles like Wild C.A.T.S, The Authority, GEN 13, and Stormwatch P.H.D., but if I'm reading Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman or Spider-Man, I expect certain things to be givens.

Have Wonder Woman or Nightwing REALLY been helped by getting a brand new setting & supporting cast every time a new writer comes on? If Clark Kent has been working for The Daily Planet for 70 years, I really don't see the point in changing it now, because it's only going to be a temporary change at best. Just concentrate on telling interesting stories within the status quo. Animated shows do it all the time.

kingbeauregard said...

Gotta disagree about "Green Lantern": the whole point of the retelling of Hal's origin seems to be to insert lots of material about Red Lanterns, Black energy, and all manner of material that is basically new. You may or may not like the Rainbow Brite effect that's taking place in "Green Lantern" (personally I like it despite the stupid premise), but either way it's new material.

Also, they're recasting Sinestro so he's not just a crappy gimmick villain; now he's a guy who is actually damn good at what he does. If a little backstory helps fill in the details, I'm okay with it.