Wednesday, March 01, 2006

One Month Before One Year

You know how I knew Crisis On Infinite Earths meant something? That it was a sea-chance in the DCU, and nothing would be quite the same again?

That's how I knew.

A story that still stands as a landmark in comics, and that ended an era. Crisis set things up, but Alan Moore's story of Superman's Ragnarok put the period at the end of the sentence and announced that something new was coming.

So - as the One Year Later experiment starts to roll out tomorrow, what did we get as a farewell to this DCU? In those final issues before the jump do any stand as the great goodbye to what was and the welcome to what will be?

This is a snapshot of what happened just before "One Year Later".

Gotham Central #40 was thisclose to being a classic. Greg Rucka put the cast through their paces, and headed them to the grim and gritty resolution the series called for. Sadly, editorial concerns robbed the tragedy of its punch. We didn't get resolution, only a coda. And a coda that was dissonant with what we'd seen so far.

Outsiders #33 was a prime example of the thumb twiddling that has marked much of DC's output the past few months. I like Jen Van Meter, and have been impressed with her writing so far. I just happen to think that one of the ground rules here is that a fill-in writer, fill-in artist, and a issue that reads like Infinite Crisis 3.5 does not qualify as the denouement I'm looking for.

When Brad Meltzer takes over JLA this summer, it's going to be hard for many to not compare him to the last relaunch the title saw. JLA #125 was part of a brilliant gambit by DC to deflect that criticism. There will be no cries of "It's not as good as Morrison!" ... rather, the masses will cheer that "Anything is better than Harras' arc! Viva Meltzer!"

Without knowing where Infinite Crisis is heading, it's hard to be sure what kind of impact JSA #82 will have. If this story is the last we see of the Earth-2 JSA with Batman and Superman as members ... it's fitting. It's s slight story, but feels very affectionate and authentic towards the old done-in-one caper comics of the pre-Crisis days.

Set in a brief timeslice between issues of Infinite Crisis, Firestorm #22 is a very enjoyable postmodern diversion as writer Stuart Moore lays bare his thinking on how to build a better Firestorm by literally "Building A Better Firestorm". I expect many would find it too-cute-by-half, but I completely enjoyed a glimpse into the decision making process involved in a character reboot. This is a title that easily could have become aimless, considering the demands the overall Infinite Crisis storyline places on the character. Moore didn't let that happen, and probably provides my favorite issue of this "One Month Before One Year".

Batman #650 wraps up much of the Red Hood storyline, has some great Joker scenes, and ends with a nice cliffhanger that adds some suspense to One Year Later. Winick seems to be the butt of a lot of jokes, but I'm enjoying his Batman. This is one book that never seemed to struggle to make it to the One Year Later break, and the fact we'll skip a year after the conclusion to this arc feels very organic.

I missed the controversy over Hal punching out Batman. Green Lantern #9 largely exists to address that controversy, and somehow set things right. There were some nice character moments, however - the discussion over methods of transportation was stupid fun, and I like the active choice of Batman holding onto his grief. It was a nice coda on two of the pivotal characters in the DCU, and left what should be a clean slate for this title to gain some momentum.

I don't follow Catwoman, and so it follows I didn't read Catwoman #52.

After reading Melchior del Darien's interesting posts on this particular issue (here and here), I think I may have missed out on something important.

Wonder Woman #225 was closure, and issue #226 was postscript. Wonder Woman is being cancelled and relaunched, and Rucka ties up the story pretty well in #225. #226 felt a bit like a "very special clipshow", but I still enjoyed the issue. It dealt nicely with the Wonder Woman/Superman relationship, and sounded the leitmotif of "The Trinity" that's been running through Infinite Crisis.

When I saw the solicits for "This Is Your Life, Superman!", the idea of a guest writer coming in and writing an arc across all the Superman titles that would serve as a summation of the character, a reflection on his history, and just so happen to feature some fantastic artists ... well, I couldn't help but think of Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?

That's not quite what we're getting here. The last issue ships today, and perhaps the arc will make some sense, but right now it features some wonderful artwork set amidst unintelligible continuity issues. Lots of promise, and perhaps haunted by an unfair milestone: not everyone is Alan Moore and Curt Swan.

This is not an exhaustive list, as I don't read DC exhaustively. DC's been playing a bit of a shell game, and I've bought in. With the promise of One Year Later (and the further promise of new creative teams a bit later, and new series a bit later than that), I kept reading and reading titles that often seemed to be killing time. I hoped for classics, for resolution ... and got a lot of filler.


Spencer Carnage said...

Alan Moore's story, even years after the fact and completely out of context as I was not familiar with pre Crisis DC, was very heart warming and sad because the end of the pre Crisis allowed for that kind of story to be told. Considering that DC restarted everything, it gave Moore room to do all the things that he could to give the story a real feeling of saying goodbye. Right now, things are just jumping a year forward, so instead of getting closure, we merely get thrown into a new situation that is a continuation of the old. Personally, Gotham Central seems to be the only one that had a little bit of closure to it.

What about the rest of the pre Crisis DC issues before the change? Did they try to give any sense of closure? Or did things merely change out of the blue, with a little blurb at the bottom saying "Read Crisis Of Infinite Earths for the whole story!"? I don't know, but it would be interesting if Alan Moore was the only one who tried a send off like he did. Or maybe other people did, but they just weren't good enough for anyone to care about so many years after the fact.

Mark Fossen said...

I think Moore's story was pretty unique. I certainly can't remember any others that made a similar statement.

It's a totally unfair comparision, to compate WHTTMOT to anything happening now. Still ... DC is so heavily pushing this Crisis as a spiritual heir to that one, it's hard to avoid the comparision.

Spencer Carnage said...

That's true that DC is aping what came before, considering they called it Infinite Crisis, however to try and hold the current work to Alan Moore's,'re just asking way too much. Believe me, I would love DC to publish comics that were as good if not better than Moore's work, its just not going to happen.

As new as everything is, it seems that they're doing a lot of recyclying. Let's take a look at the evidence:

Nightwing? New one showed up.

Catwoman? New one showed up.

Batman? New vigilante showed up, however I believe Batman's still around.

Aquaman? New one showed up.

There might be another example or two, but I can't remember them right now. Everything is new, newn, new, new, new, NEW, when really, they should just focus on making things GOOD instead of new. Then again, this really all for the sake of toys. Why sell only one Nightwing toy when you sell two! Did I mention there's an Earth-2 Nightwing? Oh, and don't forget about Earth-1 Robin whose Dick all grown up, but still wearing the Robin costume! Wait! We almost forgot the cartoon Teen Titans Robin!

I kid you not when I say, that's what DC really going for with all of this. Seriously.

Jeff R. said...

There was another story just before the original crisis that fit into that same general ideaspace, but, unlike Alan Moore's, wasn't particularly very good. It was the last issue of DC Comics Presents, which was an attempt at closure for the Phantom Zone villians. And a couple of the "untold stories of Supergirl" that came out in the middle of the Crisis also come to mind, especially the one that revealed that she had been married on an alien planet.

And, of course, there was the Trial of the Flash.

I think this time around compares fairly well to the non-Alan-Moore portion of the last time 'round...