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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Monkeys chasing weasels

I have no idea. Sometimes I just type stuff.

SuperFiancee sent me over here. It's a hilarious post, and if you've a mind to, you should hit some of the links to the author's other articles, as well. He writes as funny as I wish I did. But regardless of all that, THE MATRIX is still a wretched, evil movie.

I picked up TITANS AROUND THE WORLD, which is not what a filthy jaded old pervert comics geek like me might hope it was, but is in fact a collection of that last 10 or so post INFINITE CRISIS issues of Geoff Johns' TEEN TITANS. As I've noted before, if anyone had ever told me I'd one day be a more or less avid follower of any comic book featuring a bunch of wretched Marv Wolfman All New All Different Teen Titans, I'd have laughed and laughed. But I would have been reckoning without the genius of Geoff Johns.

I may have said before that Johns' writing reminds me a lot of the Silver Age work of Steve Englehart. Or I may not, but, well, it does. I'm currently (when I have a few free minutes here and there, which isn't often lately) making my way through my ESSENTIAL DEFENDERS volume (a much appreciated Christmas present from the inestimable SuperFiancee), and the enormous upgrade in writing quality that the DEFENDERS title underwent once Englehart took over the scripting from Roy Thomas is very similar to what I see whenever Johns takes over a title from whoever may have preceded him.

The transition from Thomas to Englehart on DEFENDERS is abrupt; nearly as abrupt as the same transition on AVENGERS. Where Thomas comes up with interesting plots based around the background continuity of whichever universe he's writing in, and then throws whatever characters he's working with at the time into the middle of it, Englehart creates stories that derive from the background continuity of the characters themselves. In AVENGERS, this meant the difference between sweeping, cosmic stories like the Kree Skrull War, in which the individual personalities and histories of the characters involved really meant very little as the events were larger than the participants, and more intimate, character driven stories equally sweeping in scope, yet far more satisfying and enjoyable to read, like Englehart's much vaunted Celestial Madonna saga.

In DEFENDERS, Steve E. didn't do his best work, mostly because coming up with character derived plots from the likes of the Hulk, the Silver Surfer, Dr. Strange, and the Sub-Mariner would be difficult enough on its own; when coupled with the editorial restriction that nothing that happened in THE DEFENDERS could in any way impact events occurring in the regular titles of most of those characters, well, it was a tough gig, to say the least. Still, Englehart did his best with it, pulling together threads from past DEFENDERS 'continuity', such as it was, and interweaving them with the personalities and backgroudns of the characters he was dealing with. It wasn't the pinnacle of his career, but it made reading the book very involving and enjoyable, as for the first time one could actually see some real credible depth to characters like the Sub-Mariner, Dr. Strange, and the Silver Surfer, who under previous writers had been pretty much two dimensional icons rather than living, breathing personas.

And that's really how I feel about what Geoff Johns does with the characters he takes over. I never in my life would have thought I could find characters like Raven, Jericho, and Cyborg to be either believable or interesting, and yet, somehow, Johns manages to pull them out of all that horrible hyperemotional soap opera twaddle that Marv Wolfman (the poor man's Chris Claremont) substitutes for characterization, and give them actual personalities that actually work.

Other than that generalization, well, I was startled to discover as I perused these stories that apparently this last twelve month period in TEEN TITANS has been Let's Rip Off Jack Kirby Year, as is evidenced by the presence of a Medusa-like character in the Brotherhood of Evil named Goldilocks, and the equally alarming conversion of old Titans standby characters Mal and the Bumblebee into Black Bolt and the Wasp, respectively. Still, I'm not objecting, anything that can make Mal and the Bumblebee more interesting... or, at least, get them into hailing distance of being such... is a startling and brilliant innovation in the annals of the Teen Titans, and I'll take it. And, personally, if you want to make a dead ender interesting, I can't think of any better way to do it than by stealing from the King.

Beyond those non-specific observations, I'll let you read the stories for yourself. Or don't. But if you do read them, you can do so with the assured knowledge that that new crappy Superboy is still dead by the end of the collection.

And you'd think I'd have more to talk about right now.

Maybe later.

Okay, it's later.

I'm enjoying the latest story in CHECKMATE. After the deadly dull previous arc in which we followed the misadventures of a minor CHECKMATE agent trying to infiltrate Kobra, which featured way more of Shadowpact than I ever want to have to read in a series that isn't about them and they don't belong in, it's refreshing to get back into stuff that seems more fitting to, well, international espionage and backstabbing intrigue in the DC metaverse.

For this old time 80s era SUICIDE SQUAD fan, it was very pleasant to see the Wall and the Squad back in action, and I also enjoyed the grungy little 4 dimensional 'hyperrealistic' twists that Rucka brings to the story. Yeah, Ostrander always depicted the Squad as doing 'dirty tricks' type covert ops, but superhero comics universes are usually careful to keep politics out of their story arcs. When Rucka does Amanda Waller, her neoconservative cred pretty much hangs out all over the place, as she's sending the Squad in to steal elections in South America to make sure pro-America dictators stay in place.

Add in to all this that one time Batman villain and social revolutionary Bane was backing the anti-U.S. candidate, and Bane killed old time Charleton character Judomaster during INFINITE CRISIS, which ties into both BIRDS OF PREY (where a new, female Judomaster has recently shown up) and this current CHECKMATE arc (where one of the 'normal', non costumed operatives is the son of the previous Judomaster, who chose not to take up his father's costume and name), and the current incarnation of the Suicide Squad used hokey old FLASH villain Colonel Computron to rig the electonic voting machines, and you've got exactly the kind of continuity-reference rich story I love to see at either Marvel or DC. And Rucka didn't even have to make Wolverine a CHECKMATE member or have every hero in the DC Universe go to war with every other hero to do it, either. Amazing stuff... at least, nowadays.

DC's editorial staff is having just as much trouble keeping its new continuity straight post INFINITE CRISIS as it did back after the first CRISIS, but the One Year Later gimmick is working beautifully for them there. If you read more than three or four ongoing DC titles (and I'm currently reading something like 8) you're going to notice inconsistencies, but until the 52 miniseries finishes, you basically just don't worry about that stuff, because, well, hopefully someone will deal with it in 52 and what's going on One Year Later will suddenly all make sense. On one level, I realize this is wildly unlikely to actually occur, but for right now, it's enough to sedate my frontal lobes and let me move on and enjoy the story.

Which may be something I should apply as a general lesson -- just stop being so goddam anal about every last fucking detail of every story I watch or read having to make sense, relax, and dig the pretty colors, man... but no, that ain't me. If I go that route, eventually I'm watching BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and not noticing how retarded it is that nobody on the show seems to be aware that Baltar is a fricking nutjob. And from there, it's just one or two more steps to voting for Cheney when he inevitably runs for American Caesar, after which I'd have to start watching NASCAR, and I just can't go there.

Okay, I think that is all for now.

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