So, I had a dream the other night where I met Brian Michael Bendis. It was one of those traditional disorientating dreams you know something is wrong, but can't quite put your finger on it... In this case, I was at some sub-San Diego con thing, and someone had introduced me to Bendis, and I was trying to think of something nice to say to him. The best my dream-self could come up with was "Secret Invasion doesn't suck so much if you read all three issues at the same time..."
Yeah, I know; smooth. I don't think he noticed, though, because he seemed happy enough as he showed me how to operate his new home theater set-up with his supercharged remote control.
But that's enough about me. FINAL CRISIS #2, anyone?
Here's the thing: The second issue of DC's Big Summer Event book is Very Good, taken on its own terms. If you ignore Countdown to Final Crisis and all of the lead-ins and other books (except maybe Grant's own Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle series) and forget that it's supposed to be this big "event" book, it works really well - It's definitely still in "slow build" mode, but it works nonetheless; seeing Dan Turpin slowly realize that something is wrong with him (and getting odd hints that what's wrong is that he's slowly turning into Darkseid, oddly enough - but then, we know from the first issue that bodies wear out quickly for the New Gods), watching the DC Universe get more corrupted... It feels creepier and more effective because it is happening relatively slowly, as opposed to the big "And then the Skrulls invaded New York! So much for that 'secret' invasion!" take of Marvel's summer smash. Not that nothing's happening here, of course; if anything, Morrison's guilty of too much happening, too much taking place between the pages or without proper explanation just yet (I would've liked to have seen more of what happened to John Stewart, for example - Why wasn't he killed? Surely leaving him alive means that his attacker will be identified?).
That compression, the choppy style of storytelling that needs the reader to both be patient and also to pay attention, also feels like the downfall of the book, in a strange way. Like I said, taken as a book in and of itself, it's great. But as "The Summer Event" for DC Comics, it doesn't deliver, yet; it's too slow, too fragmented, maybe too smart to do what we've come to expect from these big summer flagpole series. It's not just that it doesn't do explosions, like I said when talking about #1, it doesn't really do anything that we think a book like this should do. Even the by-now-traditional death of a superhero is treated in a more quiet, subdued and serious way than usual - No tearful declarations of revenge or a stranger picking up the mantle here, just three panels of a funeral and then a sober investigation. Don't get me wrong; it's a better read because of that, I think... It's just that it's something that feels more like something that a smaller audience would appreciate, rather than the simplicity and lowest-common-denominator appeal of a Secret Invasion or Crisis On Infinite Earths. In a way, it's brave of DC to have give such promotion and status to what is, essentially, Grant Morrison's sequel to Seven Soldiers (which the opening of this issue, with the introduction of a whole new subculture of superheroes, really felt like), but in another way, it's almost setting themselves up for disappointment.