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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Crisis control


Well, I have my $1 Countdown to Infinite Crisis, along with Infinite Crisis #s 1,2, and 3, sitting in a stack next to my keyboard. Here are some random questions and comments:

Overall, I love this comic. Other bloggers have noted the steadily increasing body count in the book (and its periphera) as if this is something that surprises them, but those of us who suffered through the first CRISIS understand that this kind of event is, among other things, a large broom with which DC periodically sweeps all their accumulated continuity detritus away. Last time, the people in charge of deciding what went out with the trash, and what stayed, and what got transmuted into something presumably better, were Marv Wolfman and Len Wein. This time around, apparently, it's Geoff Johns and Greg Rucka, and maybe a few others I'm less thrilled with. Still, I respect Johns' apparent devotion to Silver Age continuity, and so far he and I seem to be in alignment as to what should go on which list.

Still, you can't please everyone; the fan community has already seen a great deal of weeping and wailing and guh-nashing of teeth over the death of Ted "Blue Beetle" Kord, a character who was very nearly the text book definition of extraneous. I don't mind that he's dead at all, although I will note that it is one of Geoff Johns' particular talents, apparently, to take a complete loser of a character, make them likable and even admirable for the first time ever... and then kill them.

Having said all that --

Phil Jiminez's art has been, for the most part, excellent, and in spots it has even transcended excellence and become goddam scarily impressive. However, he simply does not know how to draw the Golden Age Superman. Panel 2, on the next to last page of Infinite Crisis #2, is a horror. I'm not sure who that is, but the closest I can come is Fred Gwynne doing a "What If Elvis Had Never Died?" impersonation. It's certainly not any Kryptonian I've ever seen. Rags Morales wouldn't have done this to us.

Now, I'm moved to ask -- who is this other Luthor? No, I don't mean the Luthor running the Society, who seems to have recently been revealed to be Alexander Luthor from Earth 3 (which revelation I don't believe for a second, but we'll get to that). I mean, who's the guy in the battle armor who apparently can't think when he's in the same room as the guy running the Society? The post CRISIS, Modern Age, Byrne-designed Lex Luthor I knew was a pudgy, leering businessman turned politician, and while he was certainly no dolt, he wasn't a supergenius rogue mad scientist capable of building nuclear powered battlesuits. However, when Superboy-Prime strips the battle armor off this Lex towards the end of IC #3, we briefly see a very slim, buff looking Lex Luthor in skintight purple togs with crisscrossing green chest straps... the spitting image of pre-CRISIS, Silver Age Lex.

I suppose that pudgy snarling Byrne-Luthor could have turned into this guy over the past twenty years and I just wouldn't have known about it, since I've barely glanced in the direction of the SUPERMAN titles long enough to spit for most of that time. But honestly, if this is the Modern Age Luthor, I wish someone would tell me, because, well, my theory is that Alexander Luthor is actually the pre-Crisis, Earth 1 Lex Luthor. Knowing the universe was about to undergo radical quantum revision (c'mon, Lex would just know that; he'd have sensor devices seeded throughout the universe that would tell him), he doubtless killed Alexander Luthor and craftily took his place... and ever since then, he's divided his time between slowly, secretly getting the Society organized down on the new Earth-Alpha, and gradually bringing the Earth-2 Superman, as well as Superboy Prime, under his mental dominance up in their 'crystalline heaven'.

I think it would greatly appeal to the pre-Crisis, Silver Age Lex Luthor to use what would seem to him to be inferior (but still powerful) otherdimensional doppelgangers of his lifelong arch nemesis (Lex was mortal enemy to both the Silver Age Superboy and Superman, after all) to take control of this brand new Earth. And re-organizing the Silver Age Secret Society of Supervillains on this brand new, post CRISIS world would also appeal to the pre-CRISIS Lex.

I don't understand why pre-CRISIS Lex's brainwaves apparently jam the thought processes of post-CRISIS Lex, but I won't argue with it, either. It seems... just.

Other questions -- we've seen many of DC's occult heroes in Days of Vengeance and the related sub plots through IC... but where's Swamp Thing and John Constantine and the rest of the Vertigo crew? Has Vertigo been so resolutely spun off into its own sub-continuity that IC has no effect on those books? If so, that's a little sad.

Beyond that, just a list of comments regarding my favorite moments from IC so far:

Issue #1: The Freedom Fighters open the wrong door. I swear, that double page spread of the Society, with Bizarro saying "Good bye", just chilled me to the bone. Once again, Geoff Johns exhibits his peculiar brilliance, making me like a bunch of useless goobers for the very first time... and then killing them ruthlessly. Except, apparently, for Damage, the one I most want to see dead, whom we find out in #2 is still alive.

At least Dr. Polaris got blown to bits, too. Never liked that guy.

Other things I liked: the foreshadowing represented by the Bat-signal projecting onto the Spectre's chest. Bruce Wayne as the new Spectre, while Tim Drake becomes Batman for a while? It could work. I'd rather see Dick step up to the Big Eared Cowl, but TITANS continuity says it will be Tim, and I like Tim well enough.

I liked the talk-talk-talk between Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in the ruins of the JLA Watchtower. I've always hated the Watchtower. Very few writers could get away with page after page of dialogue between DC's three most powerful icons, just standing around doing nothing but yak... and Johns threw in a meaningless battle with Mongul to keep stuff moving... but I don't think he needed it. He could have carried it with just the word balloons. He's that good.

Is anyone else but me wondering if the hole in the universe, among all the other craziness that's going on, has something to do with Krona, and the events in JLA/Avengers? That would be sweeeeeeeet.

Issue #2 -- Booster Gold is back. Why? Oh, well. He looks good.

I enjoyed seeing the Joker torture the entire Royal Flush Gang to death. And it's nice to see that Luthor is sane enough to avoid recruiting the Joker to the Society.

Geoff Johns is the only writer who has ever made me believe that Lois and Superman should actually be married anywhere but in an Imaginary Story.

Conner Kent has always been a big whiney sissyboy, but this is carrying things too far. Lex has to be mind controlling him from a distance.

I don't remember all that pre CRISIS back story for Kara (Power Girl) in the actual Silver Age. Is Lex planting false memories through his Golden Age Lois Lane android? (C'mon, if that's really the Silver Age Lex Luthor, there's no way he really saved the original Lois Lane. She's an artifact he created to help mind control Superman and Superboy. Or she's Harbinger in disguise.)

OMACs fighting Amazons bored the crap out of me, but then, the new OMACs bore the crap out of me anyway, and the Modern Age Amazons have always been pretty tedious, too. Nice to see them gone. I did enjoy Paula's Purple Death Ray, though. That was a brilliantly geeky touch.

Oh, and the opening to issue #2, where Animal Man is frantically searching for the space suit Adam Strange gave him, only to find out his wife threw it out because it was leaking rocket fuel... priceless stuff. Worthy of Moore. In fact, Johns is a lot like Moore, he just doesn't seem to feel the need to paint Silver Age icons with three coats of shit in order to generate drama.

I have no idea who this 'Mick' guy is in Firestorm's head. But he's got a good eye for the female form.

Superman's concept of bringing back Earth 2 to supplant the current, Modern Age DC Earth-Alpha is beautifully portrayed. To us old fanboys, it simultaneously makes you want to cheer... and shudder. It's a brilliant idea... and an utterly megalomaniacal one.

Issue #3 - Batman's near nervous breakdown. A perfect marriage of words and pictures. "This wasn't supposed to happen. ...I can't breathe. Can't... do this anymore. God... I wish... I wish I could just start over." Without the pictures, those words just don't hit hard enough, but with them, it's a devastating page. And then, Superman shows up... but is that really him? Am I the only one who noticed that this is the only sequence with Superman-2 which isn't accompanied by Superman's own narrative? The whole thing is so fabulously, sneakily manipulative... if the Silver Age Lex Luthor can cast an illusion that he's Alexander Luthor, certainly he can look like the Golden Age Superman, too.

The only thing that rings wrong there is Superman's shame faced looking away as he admits that the Earth-2 Robin wasn't any better than the current, Modern Age Dick Grayson. Lex would certainly have fed Batman the answer he wanted to hear... but... then again... what answer would that have been?

Anyone else get the sideways reference to an old Tommy Tomorrow strip? When Animal Man channels a beast that 'shoots lightning out of its face', that's straight out of a really bad Tommy Tomorrow story where Tommy constructed a kite to get a lightning-eagle from deep space to inadvertently recharge his cosmic radio, or some such horseshit. Terrible, terrible story... but it's that kind of devotion to Silver Age trivia, combined with an ability to do wonderful characterization and excellent plotting, that makes me love Geoff Johns' work.

Luthor building his machine out of the bones of the Anti Monitor is ever reminiscent of Kronos' building his citadel out of the bones of Galactus, in JLA/Avengers. Tribute... or hint that 'Alexander Luthor' is actually a new Kronos, reborn from his infant universe?

I should note that I don't expect anyone to answer all these questions, or even any of them, since my constant, well deserved abuse of Modern Age fans has no doubt driven any and all of them who used to drive by this blog shrieking away into the nether void. But that's okay. The nether void is where they all belong... and anyway, from what I can see, they may as well get comfortable there, because the Silver Age is making a big comeback at DC.

And I couldn't be happier about it.

9 Comments:

At 5:25 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

My semi-monthly box of comics is due Thursday from Westfield. As it contains Infinite Crisis #3 I've held off reading this post, but in the meantime I didn't want you to think it was just being casually ignored.

 
At 12:11 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Said creature shooting lightning out of its face or something similar, anyway, is responsible for Lightning Lad's powers in the old Legion continuity, too. (along with his sister and their brother)

 
At 12:42 AM , Blogger Luis K. said...

Great post. :) The new OMACs bore the crap out of me too, but then again I felt the same way about the shadow-creatures from the 80s CRISIS. Even minor characters deserve to be killed by something with more personality, I suppose. Or perhaps it's purely a design thing -- I mean, speaking of villainous faceless hordes, I don't find Marvel's Mindless Ones nearly as boring (am wondering now -- were they originally designed by Kirby or Ditko? They look Kirby-esque, but the first story I remember featuring them was a Ditko-drawn Dr. Strange one. Anyway).

The Royal Flush scene leads me to wonder what possible significance the Joker will have in a storyline as cosmic as this; barred from being a co-conspirator with the main bad guys, perhaps he'll end up inadvertently saving everyone in some last-minute ironic twist. ;)

 
At 6:40 AM , Blogger Highlander said...

Mike,

No problems, check back later.

Anon,

Yeah. I had actually forgotten, in amongst the avalanche of endless (bad) Legion reboots, that once upon a time, Garth, his sister, and his brother all got similar super powers from an encounter with a lightning-hawk. This made them perhaps the only members of the Legion who weren't simply representatives of a humanoid race that had 'evolved' powers in order to deal with some otherwise lethal hazard native to the planets their ancestors had colonized.

Of course, later on, still in the Silver Age, various more 'grown up' writers tried to ret con this embarrassment away by saying that actually, the original Earth settlers on those worlds had genetically induced these survival oriented powers in their descendents with gene altering drugs. So... evolution or intelligent design? Something to get both ends of the political spectrum up in arms, right there in the Silver Age Legion!

Luis,

I think you and I have exchanged emails in the past, under my 'docnebula' pseud. If so, nice to see you again. If not, nice to see you anyway, especially with such a cogent comment.

The Mindless Ones never struck me as being very Kirbyesque. Kirby's monsters always seemed a little cleaner and better rendered to me. For really twisted ugliness, you had to go to Ditko. But, then, on the other hand, they both had a lot of experience in Atlas' monster mags, pre-Marvel... so I guess it could have been him.

To the best of my knowledge, though, the Mindless Ones originated in early DR. STRANGE, and that was all Ditko. Or so I've always heard.

As a HeroClix player, I will find the new OMACs to be very useful when the next set comes out. I just wish they'd given us a Unique figure of the original Jack Kirby character. That would have made the set for me.

As a comics reader, though, yeah -- the OMACs are deeply boring, and with their whole "they're actually innocents underneath -- you mustn't use deadly force on them" dynamic, they just stink of the Modern Age to me. Once upon a time, heroes didn't use deadly force, ever... they found a way around it, always. Even with great big robot looking things.

 
At 12:22 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing your observations.

As for Joker, maybe Luthor didn't recruit the Joker because he's afraid the Joker would recognize him or realize that Luthor wasn't Luthor. Maybe Alexander Luthor and Joker have some kind of history we don't know about.

 
At 6:25 PM , Blogger Luis K. said...

Highlander/docnebula,

Not sure if we've corresponded before, unless you were the guy I exchanged emails RE: Hypertime with, years ago (I lost my record of those messages due to... well, stupidity, to cut a long story short). In any case, am very glad to have stumbled across your excellent blog, and will be reading regularly. :)

And speaking of the Legion -- man, Legion continuity makes my brain hurt. Followed that title for years, but the only run I can remember now with any semblance of clarity is the Levitz/Giffen stuff, though I hear the recent relaunch is worth looking into.

 
At 6:43 PM , Blogger Highlander said...

A Nonny Mouse,

Hmmm. Well, let's see...

* * * *

HUGE TWO PAGE SPREAD of every still living hero in the DC Universe, watching in horror as the vast face of Kronos etched across the starry heavens laughs and laughs.

STARGIRL: Will he really DO it? Will he really... WIPE OUT THE UNIVERSE?

MUSCLEMAN: He has... the POWER to do it, girl. But... that anyone WOULD -- !

DEADWOMAN: If anyone would, that crazy loon is the guy! Or my name wasn't Sue Dibney when I was alive!

CAPTION: Every sentient being in the universe holds its breath as the very fabric of the cosmos shudders through what can only be its final death throes!

CAPTION: But --
CAPTIOON: THEN --

THREE PANEL SEQUENCE: Kronos face, still laughing, begins to suffuse into the trademark death's head grin of a Joker-gas victim. In the third panel, he stops laughing.

PAGE WIDTH PANEL of every hero and villain staring wide eyed. In the distance, we hear:

FX: THUD.

BATMAN: I. Don't. BeLIEVE. It.

ROBINS 1-4: (in unison) We quit.

* * * *

Yeah, yeah, that would work...

Luis,

I believe, if we corresponded, you were replying to some of my Martian Vision articles, that I wrote under yet another pseud, John Jones, Manhunter from Marathon, IL.

If the only Legion I could remember clearly was the Levitz/Giffen relaunch, I'd have my brain scrubbed. With Brillo pads, if necessary.

 
At 6:45 PM , Blogger Highlander said...

Luis,

Sorry... YOU made the suggestion that the Joker might somehow save the day in the end. I thought A Nonny Mouse did... I'm getting old. Very sorry. Hope the post was entertaining, anyway.

 
At 2:58 PM , Blogger Luis K. said...

Yes it was. :) I especially liked all the Robins quitting.

Speaking of the Joker, I seem to recall that he captured and tortured Lex Luthor a couple of years ago, in an early arc of the Outsiders relaunch. Did Lex ever pay him back for that?

Of course, I'm not even sure which Luthor that was, now.

 

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