John Buys Comics, Fights His Way Back From Alternate Timeline, Defeats Evil Self

I’m… I’m going to put my Blackest Night review at the end, okay? Just read the first part if you got enough of that last week.

Mysterius the Unfathomable 

Yep, this trade totally came out last week, but I got it yesterday. I don't know if I missed it or it was on a slow comic delivery boat or what. Maybe I'm just a terrible person.

Mysterius the Unfathomable is simply a delightful comic. It's full of fun characters and crazy monsters, big-bellied men and hippy women (and women who are hippies), and a plot that worked well when it was told in individual issues and even better as a unified whole. Every event in the story ties back into the main plot, but not obviously, not insultingly, and even better: in a way that is explained early on in issue 1. 

So, yeah, this is an amazing comic. It looks incredible, rewards careful rereading, features a main character who is a Bastard With a Deeply-Buried Heart of Gold (one of my favourite archetypes) and has a sidekick/conscience who isn't just a horrible whining guilt-tripper (also good). Plus, Seuss-analogue-as-demonologist Dr Gaust and his cadre of Hellmoggin are the most entertaining antagonists that I've encountered in a very long time.

It's just pure good times, is what it is. 

Astro City: The Dark Age Book 4 No. 3 – Holy moley. The Dark Age is over as of next month. While I am completely sure that the world is divided up into people who have read the whole thing and people who couldn’t give a dang, I’ll probably write a lot about the whole thing next issue. For now I just have to say that the payoff on being an Astro City fan is enormous. The Pale Horseman was mentioned in “Confession", what? Twelve years ago? Just one line from one angry old hippy way back when and now he’s on a cover, and I’m dang certain that Busiek had at least part of this planned out when he was writing that hippy’s dialogue. If you’re a continuity junkie but are disenchanted with Marvel and DC: here’s the book for you.

Adventure Comics No. 9 – Man, the retro cover design that this book has been rocking doesn’t really work with every art style, does it? Especially with that child-frighteningly hideous Superman in the middle of things. Bright and clean folks, bright and clean. As for the inside of the book: meh. It looks okay and reads okay, but it’s partially the Legion in the 31st Century, partially Superboy and the Legion Espionage Squad on New Krypton in the 21st Century and partially Project 7734 bullplop. I’ll be interested to see what’s done with this comic once the Superman Family books calm down, but until then it’s necessarily going to be tepid, as only a book that has been shoehorned into an event but has no actual stake in the event can be.

Blackest Night No. 8

Look, I’m going to spoil this, okay? I’m already breaking last week’s promise not to do this any more, so why not go whole hog?

So, Blackest Night happened. A big ol’ crossover, yup. And man, was it terrible.

Not that the ideas behind it didn’t have merit: why do people keep coming back to life? (wasn’t it because Kid Eternity was jammed in the door to the afterlife?) What are the consequences of all of those people coming back to life, other than Kid Eternity being uncomfortable? Why can’t we set up a page where we make a huge unintentional joke about how most of the DCU super-heroes are Caucasian?

Heck, a lot of the thing looked really pretty, and the weird aliens were suitably weird (although there was no panel that featured the just-a-big-head guys from the Red and Green Lantern Corps standing next to each other, and that made me sad) and I like the possibilities inherent in the various Lantern Corps. 

But this was interminable and about two-thirds of it was full of gut-wrenchingly, melodramatically awful writing - Green Lantern Corps was fun throughout. It may have been due to the fact that whatever Johns had worked out ahead of time and meticulously set up was smeared across the entire DCU instead of being confined to three series, but looking back on the whole sad shebang the overwhelming impression is of forced improvisation, like he had a starting point and an endpoint and was just filling pages until the requisite number of issues were scripted: an issue of characters figuring things out, one of gathering up Deputy Lanterns (and how supremely helpful they were!), tiny victory, huge setback, tiny victory, huge setback etcetera etcetera etcetera ad nauseam barf.

Actually, I was going to say something about how it was like the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths in that regard, but on further reflection I realized that this series was actually opposite of that one: the universe is now much more complicated, some super-heroes have come back to life and the Anti-Monitor is on the loose. Sadly, it lacked the two elements that made Crisis worth reading: Perez art and novelty. Oh, and necessity, or at least perceived necessity. Even the caveat at the end about how people won’t be coming back to life any more essentially means nothing, because the very fact that people were brought back provides a reason for every dead character ever to no longer be so: they were White Lanterned. Ralph and Sue Dibny won’t be coming back and that’s it.

And there were just too many stupid moments: the Black Lanterns’ dialogue. The Deputy Lanterns, (except for Scarecrow, but exactly how necessary was he?). Having most of the event happen on Earth. Bringing back characters (Martian Manhunter, Captain Boomerang) in idealized, not-at-all-what-they-looked-like-when-they-died form. Bringing back Reverse-Flash at all, since that a) undoes the end of just-finished, written-by-the-same-guy Flash: Rebirth and b) Implies that Flash actually killed him at the end. Or maybe c) this takes place before that series and Barry Allen is going straight from this incredibly life-affirming moment to a period of awful, whiny angst.

But of course the stupidest thing is the entire concept of the White Light of Life and the White Lantern Corps. People have been making jokes about White Lanterns for about two years because it’s the most dumb, obvious end to this story imaginable. Especially because the second most obvious end, which is Hal Jordan putting on all seven rings and using them to generate white light and smash Nekron, would actually be kind of cool. Heck, it would at least justify the Hal Jordan lust amongst the various Corps.

*looks at cover* Oh, hey, Sinestro wears his ring on his left hand. Clever!

Blackest Night Cheeses Me Off Again

 I've calmed down since, but I got kind of irritated by a certain aspect of Green Lantern No. 52 earlier today. Let's watch!

Spoilers! Spoilers aplenty! Read no further if you care about such things!

So this is a mostly-talking issue and I’m not too upset about it. There had to be an origin of that white light thing that Sinestro ate in Blackest Night and if it was a bit long, well, that’s kind of what happens when a story is blown up to somewhere between four and ten times the size that it needs to be. Gah, and there’s probably going to be another one of these for Nekron, isn’t there.

So Sinestro stops in the middle of a fight with about a million dudes and narrates the history of the White Light Entity. It goes something like this: the Entity appeared in our universe and created all of the stars and planets and stuff. It then created the Earth at the point in space where it first entered our universe and hid inside (deep within the planets gooey centre in the narration but about a foot below the surface in the actual comic). The Entity’s presence caused life to evolve, and then as creatures start displaying emotions (emotions like willpower!) they are transformed into Ion and Parallax and Predator and so forth, seven in all. I think that this is the origin of the emotional spectrum. Like, Ion is the first anything anywhere to exhibit willpower and afterward there is green light power for all - it's not explicitly stated but it's strongly implied and so I'm going with it.

This whole thing has been bugging me for a while now and I think I’ve figured out why: it’s the Earth-centric aspect of the whole thing, straight out of terrible 50s sci-fi. Where Our Heroes Are is the Most Important Place in All Creation. It’s a perennial problem in comics, especially DC comics, wherein writers feel a perpetual need to explain the remarkably high instance of alien invasion and such. I kind of thought that they settled that problem fine way back in Invasion: humans have a crazy genetic code and so there are lots of superhumans and so alien races want to exploit/conquer/destroy our planet. Simple, and yet every new event seems to layer on another heaping spoonful of importance, until the fictional history of the DCU Earth resembles some ungodly narrative casserole. I swear, if this exact same origin was set on a random alien planet I would have no problem with it, but it isn't and now I have to tear it apart.

Okay, so the timeline goes: Entity arrives - creates universe - creates Earth, hides inside - life starts - unicellular/whale-looking thing feels first will - flying bug thing generates first fear - some other bug (?) feels first love - snake feels first avarice - bull (?) feels first rage - bird feels first hope - octopus feels first compassion.

I guess that this is a comic book and that the Earth could be 10+ billion years old instead of the 4 or 5 we currently reckon it to be, and maybe the universe revolves around a stationary Earth that is certainly not quintillions of kilometers away from where it might have been 10 billion years ago. Maybe the DCU is that radically different than ours.

And maybe the entire Age of Reptiles happened without any creature feeling anything like rage. Maybe dinosaurs went about their business in a dignified manner and didn’t take anything personally. It took the Rise of the Cows to mess things up for everyone. And maybe no living creature in the entire universe felt hope or compassion any time until the last, say, million years or so - remember, that octopus didn’t get around to it until after the cow-murder.

But even if every Green Lantern story told before this whole rainbow brouhaha is now said to be completely apocryphal, there are some holes in this story. Geoff Johns creation Larfleeze the Orange Lantern got his start billions of years ago, all fighting the Guardians and betraying his homies and such. And then billions of years went by and snakes and apples evolved and a snake in an apple tree felt avarice for the first time. Bah.

I suppose that I should be as willing to discard what I know about evolution and such as I was to abandon cosmology and common sense and the prior established history of the Green Lanterns and by extension the DCU, but this last detail pushes things just a bit too far. An earth that is the centre of the universe, that evolved the very first life anywhere and that reached the Age of Mammals something like 10 billion years ago (necessary for anyone to have gotten angry for most of the history of the universe, remember) only to remain in a sort of evolutionary stasis since then is just a bit too much for my suspension of disbelief glands to process. Especially since I just described the planet Malthus, a central element in Green Lantern’s history. There’s already a place that this could have been set that would have made all of this make sense! I mean, it wouldn’t be the greatest story ever told, but by GOD would it be about a billion times more palatable without ERTH ISS COOL AND IMPURTENT scrawled across it in foot-high letters.

Okay, I had to go and do something and I’ve calmed sown a bit. All I’ve got left is that it’s weird that that one robot would know the term “Western Seaboard” and not “Tootsie Pop”. They’re both pretty Earth-colloquial, right?

Okay… nerd rage spent. Go read the rest of the reviews in the next post for me being happy about comics. I'll try not to do this any more.