'tisn't easy bein' green, tee tee tee tee tee

I've never been a massive fan of St. Patrick's Day -- it is one of those days where I want to get the hell off the streets before the sun goes down to avoid "Amateur Night", where all of the people who really don't know how to drink large amounts of alcohol get to, in fact, prove that. I do like how Ben's school does it though. In Kindergarten and First Grade (at least) they have the kids build and design "leprechaun traps", which is a fun project that really exercises both the kid's creativity as well as their engineering skills. Ben built an awesome "bank" for the "Leps" to "rob", with ladders to climb, and a collapsing rug over this neat net trap. He covered it in shiny paper and chocolate coins and (ha ha!) Lucky Charms cereal. It probably isn't very culturally sensitive (though the Irish-as-in-actually-FROM-Ireland parents in the class thought it was a hoot), but these little 6 and 7 year olds really went all out in coming up with non-lethal ways to catch the Leps. Mechanically, some of them were really cleverly designed.

In Kinder, I did most of the construction for Ben (he didn't have the manual dexterity then), but I left it mostly to him this year -- about the only thing *I* did was show him how to to cut a hole in the "rug" so it would "collapse" into the actual trap area, but not show the trap (I cut an "x" in the center of the rug) -- and his trap was the most popular one with the kids, which made me deathly proud.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon the kids carefully set their traps up all over the room (they called them "L.T.s", in case any of the Leps were listening in [Sneaky bastards!]), and went home.

This morning they came in, and the classroom was totally wrecked! Desks turned sideways, chairs thrown around, "Lep dust" on everything... and all of their traps wrecked, in a giant pile, with parts tacked up to the wall, whatever. There was even a clear line of "Lep dust" that lead out a window, that some of the clever little detective girls found. It was chaos, it was madness, and it was an enjoyable of a morning as I've ever spent in class as the kids all screamed (in joy!) at the disaster the Leps left.

The Lep even left a note, and a sack of potatoes (!) for the kids. Apparently, they're going to do a science lesson today with turning those solids into liquids (soup)

This has nothing to do with comics, I know, but I was entertained...

What I wasn't really at all entertained by was last weeks JUSTICE LEAGUE RISE AND FALL SPECIAL and this week's GREEN ARROW #31...

...which both made me think of other things I had read on the net this week. One of those was this interview with Steve Englehart on Newsarama, where Steve says, in response to "do you want to do more comics?":

The last stuff I did for Marvel and DC had way too much editorial back-and-forth.  Once upon a time, editorial said, “These are your books, do whatever you want to do.”  The story I’ve told a zillion times is that Roy Thomas said, “We’re giving you Captain America – if you can make it sell, we’ll keep you on, if not, we’ll fire you and we’ll get somebody who can.”

That was the sum total of the editorial influence!  What I did and what Steve Gerber and those other guys did came from that.  Now, editorial says “Here’s what we’re going to do with the line and the major books, and we’ll just get people to fill in the blanks.”

The other thing I read that I flashed on was Buddy Saunder's letter to CBG that Stephen Bissette reprinted in his excellent ongoing series about the rise of comics labeling in the 80s.

Then, as now, I disagreed with a number of Buddy's points -- especially with his seeming insistence that comics are, would continue to be, and should be anything other than a juvenile medium for juveniles (that's a dramatic oversimplification of his point)

Now, despite the perhaps foolish nature of some of his complaints, a tremendous amount of what he said ended up coming reasonably true -- "mainstream" superhero comics are really unacceptable for kids these days; I literally can't have my son look at this week's new books until I fully vet them first, and that's a pretty drastic sea change from 1980-something, and probably not one for the better.

I've been thinking of this all this week anyway, as I decided Ben was probably old enough for James Bond films. He saw the box for Live and Let Die at the library, and wanted to know what was up with the skull-faced guy. So we borrowed that, and quickly went through The Man With the Golden Gun and The Spy Who Loved Me, and since they didn't have Moonraker in stock, we went backwards to Goldfinger, and we'll do the rest of the Connery pictures soon.

These are, of course, violent films, and there's a smattering of salty language ("Daddy, he said the 's' word!") -- but the violence is generally cartoony. When Bond mows down a line of Faceless Minions with a machine gun, they all just kind of fall over, bloodlessly, y'know? The character Jaws is scary to Ben, but it isn't gross or anything, even when he bites people.

But Ben also saw Goldeneye and wanted to see that one, and I hesitated, because my memory says that by the Dalton era the violence starts getting ramped up with blood flying around, and that I am less than cool with. I don't know, maybe I'm being silly, but I want Ben to be able to enjoy things I enjoyed when I was his age-ish, but we hit a point culturally where violence is portrayed harshly, and I don't trust his instincts that those things aren't "Cool!", and maybe desensitizing him.

So, when I read comics like those Green Arrow ones, I wonder: "who is this really aimed at?" and "why are they doing this?" -- on screen graphic murder and dismemberment, with blood spraying everywhere... clearly "Justice League"-branded material is no longer suitable for kids, but I don't know any adults who are saying that this is what they want or need to see.

I might, maybe, be able to justify it in my mind if it lead to giant sales, or massive interest in Green Arrow -- DC seems to be trying to manufacture a "Big Year!" for GA, but after week 1, our sales on JL:R&F are barely a third of JL:CFJ #7, and while, sure, that's 50% above "normal" GA sales, that's still that sales level where it is barely profitable for me to even rack the book in the first place, and I suspect all of that "bounce" will be gone by this time next month anyway.

Dubious editorial direction leading to no long term sales benefit, and putting a somewhat viable character in a position that doesn't appear to have a lot of real long-term storytelling potential... I dunno, this doesn't seem to me to be a smart plan?

I probably wouldn't mind as much if there was stunning craft on display, but these comics just simply felt mechanical to me -- like the editorial flow chart says this beat must happen here and that one there, so get to it, Mr. Writer Cog. And I know story-logic goes out of the window when you're talking about superpowers, but I have a hard time believing that the guy with the Magic Wishing Ring (which can find ONE person "without fear" in a population of billions in a split second), or the other guy who can run from here to Africa between heartbeats is going to have ANY problem dealing with a guy and a bow, even IF he's "hiding in the sewers".

Plus the less said about Conner renouncing Buddhism, the better.

I don't know, I found these comics to be mechanical, souless, repellent, and very very AWFUL.

What did YOU think?


David Loses His Shit on Justice League: Cry For Justice #7

[This is a reconstructed post from Google Cache; originally posted by David!] “Cry for Justice is a singular work,” said James Robinson in the backup prose section of the sixth issue. I can only hope this will forever be the case.

This series has been getting negative reviews from the beginning, for a bunch of reasons – stiff art, stiff dialogue, a somewhat cliched premise – all of which made for a fairly silly comic that could be accurately titled Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen’s Act Like Jack Bauer Day. Still, it was buoyed by Robinson’s enthusiasm for its self-aware campiness, and while it wasn’t anything I’d call high art it was at least entertaining.

And then, the conclusion came out this morning. SPOILERS behind the jump.

From a pure technical standpoint, there’s a lot wrong with “Cry for Justice” #7. It’s got three inconsistent artists – up and coming DC/Marvel artist Ibraim Roberson (who’s got the Second Coming issues of “New Mutants” coming up), regular miniseries artist/painter Mauro Cascioli and the rather awful Scott Clark, who combines an incongruous chickenscratch style alongside a complete inability to write a comprehensible double-page spread (check out these pages from the preview to see an example). And on top of that, a character says “we’re loosing” instead of “we’re losing,” once again demonstrating DC’s mystifying inability to properly spell-, grammar- and logic-check a title’s lettering. Or at least, if they do, I’d hate to see the first pass before their corrections.

The real problem here, though, is a story. This continues the Identity Crisis paradigm of cheerfully sacrificing civilians and supporting characters on the pyre of cheap, maudlin drama. For those of you who haven’t read this comic, and I don’t blame you: the villain Prometheus, from Grant Morrison’s JLA run, has basically tricked Ira “I.Q.” Quimby into building a machine that’ll ostensibly transport the area around it (in Prometheus’s design, a city) to an unknown location in spacetime. His big master plan is that he’s going to send all the heroes’ cities to these unknown locations, and therefore TORTURE THEIR SOULS by forcing them to forever comb space and time for their loved ones! MUA HA HA! This was revealed around issue #6, and while it’s still throwing civilians onto the sacrificial pyre, it’s at least comic book supervillain ridiculous rather than real world mass murderer ridiculous, and it leaves the option open for them to come back.

And then I read #7.

You see, the device malfunctions, and a few panels later we end up with people carrying Lian Harper – the, like, eight-year-old, adorable daughter of Red Arrow/Arsenal -’s bloody corpse out of the ruins of Ollie’s house. We end up with tons of panels of people carrying bloody bodies out of wreckage, and once again a cityload of civilians are mercilessly slaughtered just to send two characters down the tired, boring, cliched THEY’RE TURNING INTO DARK KILLERS path.

Robinson then goes on to render the heroes in this story completely ineffectual, if not downright accomplices to Prometheus, by having them completely give in and let Prometheus go in exchange for not blowing up the similar devices he has in every other city. This allows Prometheus to… I don’t know what, make a point that the Justice League won’t sacrifice people over a grudge? They don’t foil him, they aren’t useful in any way, they’re just a reason for Prometheus to commit an epic case of domestic terrorism.

In the end, the only person who does anything proactive is Green Arrow, who, in the last few pages, just straight-up murders Prometheus in his Phantom Zone crib. FOR JUSTICE. (Which he says, after shooting an arrow through his head.)

Now, I don’t know whether to throw all the blame on James Robinson for this. It was long ago referenced that the book would have a shocking ending, one suggested by Dan DiDio and Eddie Berganza. But the fact remains that this comic destroyed a city, cynically slaughtered a young girl, maimed a hero and ruined the moral track record of another just to… I don’t know, to turn Ollie back into the ruthless street vigilante of the Mike Grell run, maybe? To break up the “Arrow Family”? To… God, I don’t know.

I guess all of this comes back to a question: why does THIS bother me? I didn’t really have a problem with the mass murder in Siege, or in Civil War, or with Superboy-Prime ripping peoples’ arms off, or the Sentry opening Ares up like a kid with no hand-eye coordination getting frustrated with a pinata. Those were casualties in stories that could only be told in a superhero universe; they were instigating elements, not finales, and the heroes had some sort of win at the end.

Cry for Justice, though? It’s just a really shitty season of 24. Let me rephrase the entire series’ plot this way:

Some terrorist makes a call to the President, saying he’s going to blow up six different cities. One blows up in the first two-hour premiere episode, just to make his point that the bombs are real. The President calls on CTU to save America – but it turns out the terrorist has actually already infiltrated that organization! When he’s finally found out, he says he’ll give them the deactivation codes for the other bombs if they let him go, which they do. Then, in the last episode, Jack finds him at his house and shoots him in the head.

Does that sound like a superhero comic you want to read?


Hibbs rushes 1/27

I'm drowning in work, so I'll keep this super-double short this week...

JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRY FOR JUSTICE #6: You know something's gone wrong with scheduling when a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT ARTIST THAN SOLICITED (Scott Clark, rather than Mauro Cascioli) does the interiors. Clark's work has enough surface similarities that it isn't jarring (and, in fact, if you didn't check the credits, it is possible you didn't notice), but man that's some tacky shit.

There's not much to this issue, other than "Prometheus kicks roundly everyone's ass, except for the one guy he doesn't have a file on" (well, and a sucker punch) -- which is pretty much exactly the plot of the LAST "canon" Prometheus appearance. I don't think there's a lot that you can really DO with a "reverse Batman" like this, but at least Prommie has read his copy of WATCHMEN (Which that issue of "The Question" shows was published on Earth-DC), because he pulls an Ozymandius, and POOF! goes a fictional DC city.

I guess I just felt all the way through this "Been there, read that", and it all seems... well, I don't know if "Cynical" is too strong, but poofing away cities and mutilating heroes -- both possible because no one cares all that much about that city or character -- well, it's all so 1990s, y'know? "Maybe people will care about this character again if we put unspeakable tragedy upon them" or whatever. Feh. By which I mean: AWFUL

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #41: In a certain way, this is even worse, because it totally spoils CFJ #7, AND BLACKEST NIGHT (though, in the latter case, I don't think anyone expected the Big Guns to stay Zombies or whatever), which is such a... well, it is a Marvel-move, and we all expect much more from DC. It also shows why having Big Events with Lots of Moving Parts can be a really awful idea, since if they don't ship in the correct order everything breaks down and your Willing Suspension of Disbelief fails... and what is a superhero universe except a REALLY BIG W.S.D.?

Having said that, I enjoyed the "tone" of this issue pretty well - much like the STARMAN comic from last week, it feels like Robinson has found his sea legs again, and is getting refocused on character development, as well as crazily obscure DC minutiae (Darwin Jones, indeed!)

I'm not really all that enthused by a JL that's largely characters from TITANS "graduating", anchored by not-quite versions of the Big Three (Donna, Dick and Mon-El), but one nearly imagines that's just a stop-gap problem. I was also deeply underwhelmed by the GL/GA sequence which takes place seemingly nowhere, AND manages to totally undersell the tragedy of a major city going "poof", but there seems to be enough groundwork being laid here that, yeah, maybe this will end up being a good run, eventually.

BUt, for what is probably too many Meta reasons, I'll go with OK here.

As always, what did YOU think?


JUSTIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICE! Capsules for 7/2/2009 (We operate on Canadian time up in here)

This was certainly a week of high-profile titles, although uncharacteristically dominated by DC in that regard (if not in OVERALL output). DC had two A-list releases this week: the second issue of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's nearly-universally-praised Batman and Robin, and the first issue of James Robinson and Mauro Cascioli's seven-issue Justice League: Cry for Justice miniseries, a book DC's seriously promoting (unquestionably to the detriment of the regular Justice League of America title) as one of their major event books of the year. A review of Cascioli's art is pretty short: if you're the kind of person who enjoys the stiff realism of Alex Ross, this is your thing. If the stylish, partially cartoonish fluidity of a Frank Quitely comic rings more of a note with you, I'd recommend Batman and Robin, which has been praised enough everywhere and will soon be annotated by me on Funnybook Babylon.


I think Justice League calls for some special attention. There've been a number of reviews that fairly accurately point out its flaws with considerable accuracy - Wolk was able to masterfully criticize it from this single issue alone, even though it took me a while to get the reference due to the fact that it's been a while since I read Promethea.


Anyways! Justice League: Cry for Justice #1: From the start: this isn't a very good comic, although I very much enjoy Robinson's work both on Starman and the Superman franchise. The thing is, you have to realize this comic was written over a year ago: first it was an ongoing series, then it disappeared for a while, and now it's back as a mini that's going to feed into the ongoing series. It's pretty clear not only why this sort of mercurial narrative ground would drive the incredibly talented (and more than familiar with these characters' natures and dynamics, he proved he was able to write some pretty great Justice League stories on TV) Dwayne McDuffie to frustration, but also why the fans have developed such a cynical attitude towards the book - an attitude Robinson directly addresses in the text piece following the main story.

The problem is: the book reads like what me and my university buddies would come up with as a parody of Brad Meltzer's comic-writing style. It's hilariously maudlin, with such REPETITION of THEMES that it's about as subtle as a Michael Jackson impersonator kicking you in the taint. It's almost impossible to judge the book on a plotting rather than scripting level because Robinson's script obscures the plot to such a great degree that we don't know anything about it - supposedly Prometheus is involved, and he's attacking some Z-list heroes that were chosen by James Robinson and Dan Didio throwing darts at a George Perez spread in a con hotel room. These z-list heroes then cry, sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally, for justice, or vengeance, or revenge, or justification, or vindication, or pie, or whatever the fuck they seem to think is fair. The fact that they charge an extra dollar for six pages of text and a two-page origin already posted on the DC Comics website is just the icing on the taint-kick cake.

Robinson mentions in this text afterword that the book's conclusion was changed considerably by editorial fiat (seemingly, in his mind, to the story's benefit), but the issue's most noticeable and technical problems are all script: questionable characterization (Ray Palmer doing his impression of his wife's tapdance on Sue Dibny's parietal lobe in an attempt to look edgy and willing to torture), overly continuity-conscious dialogue ("remember that time I became a liberal?"), and a plethora of Identity Crisis-esque shock deaths that exist purely to provoke insincere emotional reactions from the main cast. Not to mention the completely disjointed pacing that leads to a first issue with very little of a driving hook at all.
The thing is, all of this reminds me a lot of Robinson's first arc of Superman upon his return to comics - "The Coming of Atlas" - and the considerable narrative flaws therein that were very much corrected over coming issues. The dialogue went from stilted to James Robinson stilted, the plotting became tighter and less manipulative (Robinson's entire first issue of Superman being dedicated to doomed Science Police members was a pretty big misstep)... the time period backs this up too: I really think James Robinson was just rusty as hell when he wrote this comic, and I don't really expect the book to maintain this amateur-hour quality level in the long term. But as an atomic unit? This was a pretty fucking AWFUL comic.
Captain America Reborn #1: I feel bad for Brubaker here, because when he plotted all this shit out like two and a half years ago there was no way he could have known how repetitive his planned resurrection method for Steve Rogers would seem - not only did the "unstuck in time" time travel methodology become a major focal point of the next few seasons of notoriously comic-related sci-fi interpersonal drama Lost, but 2008's Final Crisis also featured a time bullet and an iconic nonpowered hero being rocketed to the past (albeit with a totally different method). So he's getting a lot of flack for this, as well as what seems to me to be his deliberate choice to exposit the time travel physics to the reader by using terminology lifted from not only Lost (which was "stolen" from, uh, math in the first place) but Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, a book which featured a war veteran undergoing a metaphysical and temporal journey very similar to that of Steve Rogers.
The thing is, I don't think he's ripping off the ideas as much as using them as shorthand to explain the basic concepts to the reader. "Dude's consciousness pingpongs around in the life of his body" really isn't that unique, and having Arnim Zola say Steve Rogers is unstuck in time might evoke S-5 a little bit too directly, but it also prevents Brubaker from having to write, and us having to read, like five or six dialogue balloons from Arnim Zola carefully explaining what they did to Steve Rogers. "Well, you see, Norman, his body is in one place, but now his consciousness is inhabiting different time periods of his body in..." etc. Man, nobody wants to read that - "yo, Norman, it's like Vonnegut" gets the point across just as damn well. Unless you're a reader who hasn't seen Lost or read Vonnegut, in which case fuck you, and I applaud Brubaker for assuming superhero readership has a basic level of functional cultural literacy.
Other than that: it's the best Hitch has looked in years thanks to Guice's inks, even though a number of panels are WAY too evocative of his work on Ultimates and there's a pretty good photoshop "ruin the moment" opportunity replacing the last page with the infamous "letter on my head stands for France" image. And it's certainly a relief to read an issue of Brubaker's Cap that doesn't have Frank D'Armata's distinctive but incredibly muddy coloring.
But enough about that, how is the story? Well, it's a whole lot of exposition. It's well-written exposition, excitingly drawn and skillfully laid out, and I can't imagine new readers being in the dark after reading this issue - it pretty much recaps the important plot points from the last 25 issues of Cap without drawing the book's narrative to a complete and total halt, although longtime readers will, like me, probably feel at least a little bit unsatisfied due to how much of this comic is going over familiar ground. Still, though, it features Hitch drawing Bucky punching people and the first non-shiver-inducing Hank Pym appearance since Secret Invasion, and "it didn't have enough new shocks for me wahh wahh" really isn't a good reason to dislike a comic. It was pretty goddamn GOOD, and I expect the series will hit great to excellent before it's through.
Batman and Robin #2: Is there even anything new to say about this? Godawful background colors aside (welcome to Gotham City, where the skies come from a fucking Amiga game!) this is pretty close to the perfect superhero comic, other than a single confusing point (the final panel) on the second to last page where the fact that the location changes for that panel isn't made incredibly obvious. There's a whole lot to love here, and I'll be annotating it this weekend (I wasn't able to block off Wednesday for it like I usually do thanks to Canadian holidays) in more detail, but in short this comic was EXCELLENT.
Uncanny X-Men #513: I'm hearing a lot of grousing over this "Utopia" storyline, some of it deserved - for instance, the Humanity Now! coalition is a lot more difficult to consider as an effective metaphor for a real-world group since Fred Phelps isn't a robot who convinces totally normal people to follow his lead via nanobots. The whole idea of Humanity Now! being a bunch of humans trying to fight obsolescence is totally blown out of the water when their leader switches from using standard coercion tactics to silly sci-fi bullshit, but other than that I thought there was a lot to enjoy about this issue. Terry Dodson's art is certainly far more aesthetically pleasing than the effort put forward last week by Marc Silvestri and his Legion of Super-Embellishers (seriously, I'd love to see Silvestri's "pencils" for Utopia - I bet they're just faceless figure drawings on panel grids with arrows pointing to characters saying CYCLOPS and WOLVERINE), and the reactions of the mutants, as well as the continually escalating violence, all make sense. We've all stayed late at the bar and then gone out and done something stupid with people we probably shouldn't have followed at some point; this shit happens, and I don't think it's at all unrealistic for characters who should usually know better to get drawn into doing retarded things out of peer pressure, it's just how social groups work.
Other than that, it's pretty boilerplate Fraction, which is still better than most other superhero comics out there today - clever, self-aware dialogue; jump-cut scene changes; scientific geniuses being written as sarcastic douchebags. It's a fun, entertaining superhero comic, and I'm loving the ambiguity as to whether Scott and Emma are aware of each others' plans or not, but part of me wishes Fraction hadn't thrown away the one thing that really made this story seem real-world relevant. Still, this book was pretty OK as a whole.
Invincible Iron Man #15: This issue, on the other hand, is Fraction at the top of his game, with the driving "World's Most Wanted" premise of Tony slowly losing his intelligence (and therefore, practically, his individuality) finally kicking into high gear, leading to some insanely sad and well-written moments between Tony and Pepper where he just can't remember some of the most important events and people in his life. This story's interesting because while "Hey, let's take everything away from Tony Stark" is hardly a unique premise, I don't think anybody's taken it so far as to actually effectively lobotomize him as well as remove his worldly possessions and assets. He's got no money, no credibility, very few friends and now he's losing his mind too. Even after half of the Marvel writing staff seemed hell-bent on portraying him as a heel for the past few years, watching a man who's essentially altruistic (if sometimes incredibly arrogant) pay such an immense price is affecting, and new.
Also, like Larroca's art or not: this book has been coming out for fifteen monthly issues now without a single change in the creative team, other than the pages of the first issue Stephane Peru colored before his extremely untimely passing. That means the writer, artist, colorist, letterer and editor have stayed static for fifteen issues, and they've been almost all perfectly on time. That's worth praising in today's market. VERY GOOD.
And finally... Fantastic Four #568 must win some kind of award for the flattest climax in comics history. After fourteen high-octane issues of Mark Millar setup, we get a scripting assist by Joe Ahearne here and - I'm not sure if anyone else is reading Fantastic Force, but his panel transitions are incredibly disjointed there with tons of missing information, and as a result it's led to a comic that really feels more like a progression of random images rather than a story. This problem rears its ugly head pretty early here, with one page ending on the Thing about to make out with his lady and the next starting with his back on fire and Deb freaking out. Something like, I dunno, a panel where a flaming bottle is thrown through the window, or a look at whoever did it across the street, or something could have made this far less confusing, and this basic amateur-hour comics storytelling mistake is one of many in this issue.
The problem is, this isn't just two issues of Millar's FF, they're the climax of not only that run but also the events of Marvel 1985 and Wolverine: Old Man Logan. The guy's entire superhero output for something like two years now has rested on the character of Clyde Wyncham and his story as the Marquis of Death, and while I know Millar and Hitch's reasons for not working on this issue are both valid and personal (hospital visits for one, dead mother for the other), it's still incredibly disappointing to finally hit the big villain reveal and have it delivered so... matter-of-factly. We've been seeing this guy from the shadows for months, and now that he's appeared Ahearne just can't pull off that kind of over-the-top ridiculous villiany that Millar can. The guy just isn't scary, or even intimidating; he just looks ugly and talks a lot, and presents Reed with some pretty obvious moral conundrums. It's not a terrible comic, but it's really hard to read it without wondering what it could have been if Millar and Hitch had been able to give it their full attention, and it's certainly a disappointing climax to this entire story. EH.

A Political Examination Of Sexual Dynamism In The Afrikaner Narrative "Tharg's Future Shocks"

Nah, this is just more of the Savage Critics ongoing coverage of Justice League: Cry For Justice #1. Never let it be said that I don't respond to a strongly worded memo from the desk of Mr. Hibbs. I know how to respond to memos.

Wolk's already covered the best possible Insta-Review you can give this piece of shit, Graeme's already nailed the comparison to that Secret War thing, Hibbs covered the whole "hey, that word looks like gay sort of" thing, and I'm betting the Savage ain't done with this dead horse yet. And make no mistake: this pony lacked a pulse on arrival, it's the equivalent of somebody pushing a wheelbarrow full o' carcass up to the starting line at the Belmont Stakes, saying "I think she's got one more in her. Put five on Luck Be A Lady!" Cry For Justice will probably do pretty well financially--it's got DC's "this one counts" push going for it, it's written by a guy a lot of people give a shit about, and the art is--sorry Brian--that sort of ridiculously overdone realism nonsense that turns people on. But it's bad, bad comics, and the only naked pleasures to be found in it, unless you like this gaudy art (geez Brian, I'm really sorry), is in reading it as a parody of other "serious" comics. The tools are laid out for you, it actually takes some serious effort not to pick them up. Does Hal flex his muscles at Superman while quoting Judge Dredd? Does Green Arrow talk like he's one of Bob Haney's "hep cats?" Do the two Atom characters use the patented Loeb/Meltzer color boxes to write each other mental mash notes?

Does Atom say "I want him to pay. Yeah....JUSTICE!" ohboy Dude, all those things happen. This isn't "let's be sarcastic and exaggerate the failings of this particular super-hero comic book". Nobody is pulling a Photoshop Fast One. This is a real thing, that you can go buy at a store, and it's written by a real person, who gave it to another real person to draw, and they did something on a computer that was sort of like drawing (c'mon Brian, I'm not even sorry anymore, this art is terrible), and then some other very real people, people like your mom and your dad (but mostly like your uncle) they had it printed, and then it got sold in a store, and after that, those Real People, all of whom are adults, only a few of which can blame drunkeness, they said "Yes! We did it!" There were plans made, and those plans involved This Comic Book, and This Comic Book has a panel where Ray Palmer says "You have a LOT to say...You. Oodles", right before he tortures him, right before he says "Yeah. JUSTICE." That's all real. It's not made up, and it's going to sell a lot more copies than Criminal, and it might even get nominated for a Harvey Award, it just needs to get published on a website, or have worse art. mememe Of course, if it was just a bad comic, it would just be another bad comic. And it is, but maybe part of the reason it's worth looking at it is this...thing in the back. It's not really an essay, because it doesn't have anything to say, but it's not wholly p.r. bullshit, because it's got a bunch of random personal anecdotes in it. (And a veiled criticism for the Terminator series?) It's written by James Robinson, and he opens with this:

"It's hard sometimes to know if a miniseries is going to matter or not. By this I mean, irrespective of whether the writing/art is good or the story compelling, will it be something that will matter in the big picture of the comic book universe that you're writing for. I can think of many mini/maxiseries that, although well crafted and entertaining, vanished into the ether of yesterday, with the next wave of super-events that followed."

I love this. I love it because the intent of this comic, a comic that contains lines like "I am the law in space sector 2814. And that includes Earth." is now guaranteed. "Irrespective of whether the writing/art is good or the story compelling"--get it? Writing/art--totally fucking negligible! It's important to the people involved in its creation in a logistical sense, but the whole writing/art thing, you know, the whole thing that Makes It A Fucking Comic and not, like, cheese, or scissors--those things are completely secondary, because this is a comic book With Goals. The intent is for this comic book to "matter in the big picture of the comic book universe." Look, I'm not even sure what that means, for something to "matter" like that. It can't mean "i hope the fans like it", because that's completely fucking insane. So what does "matter" mean? Bigger than Zero Hour? More fondly remembered than Final Night? Stronger paperback sales than Millennium? Or does "matter" just apply to the spin-off designed-for-revamp-purposes category, meaning all this has to do is serve as being more worth your precious fucking time than Justice League Spectacular, or Midsummer's Nightmare, that it just has to read smarter than Extreme Justice? At the same time, you go back to the comic, you go back to the part where Congo Bill talks to himself by saying "A Smell! Beat. A Trail! Beat. His heart. What will stop his heart?" You read that, you look at the page that Wolk ganked that scan from, where the gorilla is crying--and you realize that It Doesn't Matter what "Matter" means. Because whatever magic thing that this comic is supposed to do, whatever importance it's supposed to have, this is how they plan to accomplish it! The dialog is going to quote Judge Dredd, a gorilla is going to weep, there's going to be exploitation style violence drawn in this hyper-realistic style, the Atom is going to act like Jack Bauer, and Green Arrow...aw man. Green Arrow is going to talk like this. withyoubaby This comic is CRAP. Yes it is. But it's some of the most EXCELLENT CRAP that's available. Not in the sense that some might want, I don't think there's a case to be made for this being "everything that's wrong with super-hero comics". It's just hardcore pornography for train-wreck enthusiasts. It's a compilation of "i can't believe they said that" dialog panels mixed with the message board "why doesn't somebody just shoot the Joker" argument for plotting. And somehow, this is going to be one of the most important mini/maxiseries that DC has ever published. iamsosorry Don't you dare apologize to me. Don't you dare, guy who looks like Alfred Pennyworth with a bad wig. I may not have gotten what you wanted to give, but I got something.


Not that there's Anything Wrong with that...

Damn, everyone already spoiled my best joke -- yes, indeed, the logo really DOES look like "Justice League: Gay For Justice"

Plus, it has the Mikaal Starman (Gay), Batwoman [soon] (Gay), Congorilla (Maybe not officially, but compared to some of what I saw coming home through the Castro during Pride Weekend, suggestively Gay), Green Lantern & Green Arrow, without the Canary Beard, and Freddy Freeman who, to me, is the Gayest of the Marvel Family.

I guess there isn't anything particularly gay about either Supergirl or The Atom (OR IS THERE?!?!!?)

Anyway, yeah, that was pretty creakingly dialogued, but I thought the art was super-swell, and it had something I miss so so very much: a text feature of "What I'm thinking". I'm willing to add two grades to this JUST for that alone. I mean, the DC books have stopped even doing the "Next Issue:" boxes, even with simply the cover, which, to me at least is the simplest cheapest most effective tool to create excitement for your next issue.

My biggest problem with the issue is that at least two of the characters don't want JUSTICE, they want VENGEANCE, which is a completely different thing altogether. A exploration of the difference between the two could possibly be interesting, but it's really unclear at this point if they're going to explore anything like that at all.

When I put down this issue I thought, "Hey, that was GOOD", but after an hour or two reflecting on it, It's probably really only OK at best.

What did YOU think? (Like you didn't say so in Graeme or Douglas' threads...)