Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Some random thoughts (and feelings!) about DC's post-Blackest Night annoucement-athon

—DC sure doesn't seem too worried about spoiling the ending of Blackest Night do they? I mean yes, obviously there wasn't a whole lot of suspense over whether or not Nekron and the forces of nothingness would overcome all life in the universe, extinguishing it forever. A happy ending has always been a foregone conclusion here.

But the Brightest Day teaser image (right) includes a new Lantern Corps symbol, which looks a lot like the hand-shaped Black Lantern Corps symbol, only with rays of light radiating from it. There was wide speculation almost as soon as the Blackest Night event was announced that it would end with Hal Jordan somehow becoming a White Lantern at the climax, defeating the Black Lanterns and resurrecting the Black Lantern heroes (or at least the popular ones).

Early in the series, a character went off on an exposition tangent, in which she talked about "the white light of creation," which hinted further at that ending. In fact, they've been hinting at it so strongly—and showing off a White Lantern symbol is maybe doing more than "hinting"—that I'm starting to get a little suspicious of whether or not that's meant as a red (white?) herring.

I don't suppose it matters all that much, though. I think the people reading Blackest Night aren't doing so to find out how it ends so much as they want to experience it unfold, which is, I think, the reason most people read most super-comics in general these days.

—Isn't it kind of strange that DC will be launching its "Brightest Day" event/bi-weekly series/branding effort within a few months of Marvel's "Heroic Age" branding effort/whatever that ends up being? Will the publishing lines of both companies be entering a less dark, less decadent couple of months or years of comic book making almost simultaneously?

On one level, it seems like an odd coincidence, but then, on the other, it seems like perhaps both companies are sensing the same things from their audience—event fatigue, declining bloodlust, aversion to necrophilia, etc.—which they share pretty much down to a reader.

It will be interesting to see to what degree the DC Universe/publishing line will be able to be brighter and the Marvel Universe/line more heroic, and for how long. If the two companies are actually planning on recalibrating their general tone to reflect those words. It could just be some verbal, connotation palate-cleansing after a year or so in which the two universe/lines were primarily branded by the words "Blackest" and "Dark."

—As a reader, I was quite glad to hear about the Brightest Day series announcement. As I read fewer and fewer comics and transition more and more into trades (a confluence of finding fewer Big Two comic books I like and prices being raised in various ways), I've really missed having a good-to-decent DC weekly.

This isn't quite weekly (depending on how you look at it, given today's announcement) but it's close enough.

I hope the shorter run reflects the needs of the story, too. As I've mentioned when discussing Trinity in the past, it sometimes seemed like it was a 35- or 45-part series stretched out to fill 52 issues simply because the previous weeklies were also 52 issues long. (Not that Kurt Busiek and company were noticeably stalling or killing time in any of the issues; I just think it may have benefited from fewer issues and the resultant tighter focus and quicker pace).

Also, if every other week means art that's twice as good as that in the first two weeklies, then that's good news. I was much more forgiving of poor art in the weeklies because of the breakneck pace, but I sure wouldn't mind if it were better here (Also: Please don't have Calafiore or McDaniel on it, please don't have Calafiore or McDaniel on it, please don't have Calafiore or McDaniel on it...)

I'm heartened by the writers involved though. Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi don't always wow me, and each have their weaknesses (as I've mentioned before though, many of Johns' weaknesses are ones I rather enjoy), but they're both solid craftsmen, and Johns is among the more experienced writers at this sort of thing, having previously done 52).

It sounded a bit like there would a 52-like focus on a smaller cast. With the two Green Lantern writers involved, a GL seems like a good bet for one of those cast members—most likely John Stewart, the only book-less GL. Dove seems like a good bet too, as does Mera—if Aquaman doesn't come back and figure prominently himself. I'm assuming Aquaman does come back though, in which case I think we'll see he and the other brought back-to-life characters being focused on here (Although J'onn J'onnz may show up in the other bi-weekly...in fact, it could be him blacked out behind Captain Atom on the cover image).

The Hawks, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Tempest, Firestorm—these all seem like sure-things.

Originally I was hoping just about everyone who was a Black Lantern would come back, as the story is being set up as a sort of "last call" for resurrections, so it seems like anyone who's coming back should come back now. Ted Kord, The Dibnys, the original Questions—it's now or never. (Well, Kord can come back through some time travel what's it, of course). These characters can come back later—if Barry Allen and Jason Todd can come back, anyone can—but it will seem much lamer when someone brings back the Dibnys in eight years time instead of just doing it now.

Of course, the all-the-Black-Lanterns-come-back-to-life conclusion became more or less impossible once we saw Dick Grayson's and Tim Drake's parents return as Black Lanterns. (And, perhaps doubly so, once we saw Jonah Hex and Bat Lash). Now, Jonah Hex and Bat Lash staring new lives int eh 21st century DCU (maybe as roommates!) would be awesome, but The Graysons and Drakes? Not going to happen.

So it seems more likely that a handful of the popular dead characters will be resurrected, which means a handful of Justice Leaguers (Save Batman, who isn't really dead) and maybe (hopefully!) characters killed during the course of Blackest Night.

This answers what DC will be doing with David Finch now that they have him. He'll be providing covers for the 26 issue series, so I imagine he'll be working on whatever his writing/drawing project—probably a limited series or possibly an original graphic novel—is at his own pace, while doing covers for Brightest Day and probably variants and other covers (as Marvel had him doing).

I can see why Finch would want to do the project (as it would allow him to draw most of the DCU) and I can see why DC would want him to do the project (if they seem to think he's very popular), but he seems an odd choice to me, as his style seems so dark and grime and muscle-y and his characters all tend to blend together. It seems like a project premised on introducing all those Blackest Night readers to the DCU in general, and an artist with a stronger sense of character design would have seemed more appropriate to me.

—As for the books to carry Brightest Day banners, The Flash, the GL books and Justice League of America all seem fairly obvious (No idea who might be on that cover though, if that's supposed to be a resurrected lady. Are there any dead Justice League ladies who have returned as Black Lanterns so far? Jade would make sense with the JSA and some of her former Outsiders colleagues on the League, I guess), but a Titans team consisting of Titans villains seems sort of random. There sure are a lot of dead Titans, though--maybe it will be a book about Deathstroke and friends re-killing resurrectees...?

This image/these covers look sooooo terrible.

—Okay, and then there's a second bi-weekly series which, assuming it ships on the weeks Brightest Day doesn't, will mean there will be a new superhero-filled DC book each and every week, Justice League: Lost Generation.

It features the Justice League, which I'm interested in, some characters I like (Fire, Ice, Booster Gold), it's co-written by Keith Giffen and I dig the just-about-weekly format BUT! Giffen's co-writer is going to be Judd fucking Winick, perhaps the one creator whose presence can cancel out every other factor associated with a comic book for me.

I thought DC had blacklisted him for complaining in a CBR interview that all the terrible ideas in that terrible Battle For the Cowl were originally his terrible ideas, but Tony Daniel took over and used them as his own terrible ideas? No? He's still allowed to write for them? This is awful, awful news, because I really, really, really want to read this series, but how can I read something Winick wrote? I mean, sure, as a trade borrowed from the library, but to pay money for? Why would anyone do that?

I suppose it's possible that Giffen's presence will make Winick's writing less terrible—perhaps Giffen's plotting and Winick's just scripting the dialogue, but then, his dialogue is terrible too.


Josue said...

I´m so incredibly tired of Blackest Night/ Dumbest Johns

James Figueiredo said...

Caleb, I agree with you regarding most of Winnick's output at DC (I enjoyed his Exiles run at Marvel), but I have to say I find his creator-owned stuff (Barry Ween, Pedro & Me) really, really strong - Have you ever tried one of his books?

Maddy said...

Man, Battle for the Cowl would have been improved by Winick writing it. His issues of Batman following it were far better than Tony Daniel's work, IMO. At least, I found them more enjoyable.

Also, Winick is apparently the only writer capable of writing Jason Todd in a way that makes much sense. (Daniel and Morrison should just stay far, far away from the character.)

Hyle said...

Here's hoping that Winnick can bring the conversational humor that a Justice League International title demands. Honestly, I'm not too worried, because Giffin himself is co-writing it with him and a fresh outlook on these characters wouldn't hurt (even if is is Winnick's). I think he works best with breezy material (Barry Ween and the lighter issues of his Green Lantern run come to mind), so maybe this is finally the project that redeems him in the eyes of the DC faithful.

As for "Brightest Day," I can only muster less and less enthusiasm for each massive universe-wide-conceptual-rethink. A DCU where limbs aren't severed or cities aren't annihilated every other issue sounds great, but we've heard it all before (and it seems to fly in the face of that four cover spread which shows, well, characters with severed limbs amidst the rubble of a destroyed city).

Lately it feels that the DCU is less an organic fictional environment and more the personal plaything of Dan DiDio and Geoff Johns (with little sandboxes for Grant Morrison and James Robinson). If you're not on board with their creative vision, there's really no where for you to turn. The prospect of yet another year long "epic" (albeit bi-weekly) to further align things with their idealized version of the DCU, circa 1978, just seems exhausting at this point.

Hdefined said...

I want to echo James's recommendations of Barry Ween and Pedro and Me. Just really great stuff.

Joel said...

Given the heavy JSA influence in that Justice League cover, I'm inclined to say that female form is Jade. Notice Alan and Todd are grouped together, I'm seeing that as a clue. Also it helps that she's the highest profile female character not among the living right now.

Caleb said...

Have you ever tried one of his books?

Yeah, which is what makes his super-comics writing being so poor so frustrating. He's made me laugh and cry with Barry Ween and Pedro and Me, but everything of his I've read for DC has been just awful.

I have a theory that writer/artists who also write tend to do their best work when writing/drawing because it forces them to focus for long periods of time on each and every panel, and Winick and Bendis are my two main examples of this.

I haven't read his Exiles, but I have a little stack of back issues a friend gave me to get to some day.

Also, Winick is apparently the only writer capable of writing Jason Todd in a way that makes much sense. (Daniel and Morrison should just stay far, far away from the character.)

Like Winick-written stories, I try to avoid Jason Todd stories, so I can't really speak to that. I thought Battle for the Cowl was pretty poor, but thought Morrison did okay with his story arc...at least what I could make out of it. I guess the character work on Todd wasn't anything special, but I appreciated a gag or two he'd written into it).

I think the big problem with the character is that he was brought back because DC/Winick thought it would be exciting to bring him back, but no one had any idea what to do with him, so each new story he's in seems to have a new direction/different moral alignment for the character.

Matt said...

re: Judd.

I have this crazy theory that it's a hell of a lot harder to write corporate comics in a shared universe and trying to sync up voices with what's come before than to do your own work without any creative limitations.

I usually get stoned by people when presenting this theory on the internet.

Anthony Strand said...

Yeah, I'm really torn about that JLI comic. On the one hand, JLI is my absolute favorite superhero comic book ever and it sounds great to have Giffen back on that. I own all of the original series and the reunions in singles, so I kind of want this in singles too.

On the other hand, Winick is the worst. I cringe at the idea of him writing those characters.

Maddy said...

I think the big problem with the character is that he was brought back because DC/Winick thought it would be exciting to bring him back, but no one had any idea what to do with him, so each new story he's in seems to have a new direction/different moral alignment for the character.

It's true. I know I may lose all credibility (if I have any, that is) with the following statement, but I liked some of what they did with Jason in Countdown.

They had Jason come to the conclusion that everyone was being an asshole to him, and he'd rather just quit the costume game entirely. If they had stopped it there, I think it would've been interesting to have him simply be a background character trying to get a life outside of the heroes and villains business.

Caleb said...

but I liked some of what they did with Jason in Countdown.

Having him and Donna on a team of continuity problem characters/mistakes did seem like a kinda sorta neat idea, but they didn't go very far with it (Kyle didn't really belong in that company) and, while I didn't know that's where he ended up, it does sound like a different place then where we'd see him in Battle for the... and Batman and Robin.

Has he had a different motivation and goal in, like, every single story arc he appeared in then?