Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Splash Page: Final Crisis Aftermath First Issues (Part I)

[The Splash Page is back! And we're discussing DC's Final Crisis Aftermath titles! Read on, people! Read on!]

Chad Nevett: We have returned. Yes, faithful and patient readers, after a short hiatus, Tim and I are back to deliver our unique brand of comic commentary. You have missed us and we're sorry for being gone so long. But, enough of that, let's get to the comics! We thought long and hard about when to return exactly and what to discuss, and, then, it dawned on us that May has seen the release of the first issues to the four Final Crisis Aftermath titles. Four books, all building on ideas introduced by Grant Morrison in Final Crisis? Seems right up our alleys, don't you think? There are four books to discuss, so on with it! Why not kick things off by sharing which of these books you liked and which ones you didn't, Tim? I have a suspicion that our views will be pretty similar, but I may be wrong.

Tim Callahan: I would rank them from best to worst in this order -- based purely on the first issue of each: 1. Dance, 2. Escape, 3. Run! 4. Ink. I liked the concept of Escape the most, but there wasn't quite enough in the first issue -- as far as actual content -- to top Dance, and though I thought the opening to Ink was fine -- and I like the art quite a bit -- Ink not only seemed to take a complete swerve from what we've come to expect from the Tattooed Man based on Final Crisis, but it was like a parody of bad gangsta movies. Because of its cliched dialogue and plot "twists," it has to be the worst, even though I don't really need to see the Human Flame's hairy ass ever again in Run!.

I didn't plan it this way, but I notice that my ranking matches the way I'd rank the writers based on their overall output too. Joe Casey is the best of the bunch, with highlights like Automatic Kafka and Gødland, followed by Ivan Brandon, who has done some nice work here and there and has a pretty good series brewing with Vikings, then Matt Sturges limps along behind, based on his decent-to-mediocre Blue Beetle and House of Mystery work, and then Eric Wallace comes in last purely because I've never read anything by him before so I can't fairly rank him until he proves what he can do.

So it's certainly no surprise that I'd rank the comics the way I did. Better writers write better comics, as obvious as that might sound.

What do you say?

CN: That's pretty much the order in which I'd rank them, too. I may put Run! below Ink, but maybe not... it's more like I'd leave the third spot vacant and have them share the fourth spot. Dance being very good was no surprise, although I sometimes worry about which Joe Casey will show up to a project since he's had his fair share of rather bad comics. I'm glad to see that it's the Casey I fell in love with. Escape really surprised me with how off-beat and compelling it is. Going into these books, I knew I would be buying Dance, had no interest in Run! or Ink and was on the fence with Escape. The preview pages and references to The Prisoner in interviews made me give it a look and I'm glad I did.

When these books were announced, the common opinion seemed to be "Oh, god, why?" (with an exception made for Dance since the team of Joe Casey and ChrisCross is a great one) and do these books really disprove that prejudgment? Run! and Ink certainly don't, but do Dance and Escape offer enough to justify their publishing? There's a certain segment of fandom that seem to think that certain characters don't deserve to star in books, because they're just not 'important' enough. I do think that Dance and Escape deserve publishing by whatever standards I have -- particularly since I don't care what character are in the book so long as the book is good. Is the idea that these characters are too marginal to warrant books a deserved one? Hell, is it smart to launch four mini-series like this at the same time?

TC: It's strange that there's been such a gap between Final Crisis proper and the Aftermath books, but I guess that's because they had to see what Morrison's final script for issue #7 looked like before they started work on what might follow it. I do like the trade dress for the Final Crisis Aftermath comics -- I pulled all four out of my stacks to review them for this column, and they look pretty cool next to each other. And it makes sense to release them now when 2-3 issues of each series will hit before Blackest Night launches. It's a filler mini-event.

With that said, it's far more "filler" than mini-event and there really isn't a need for any of the books. The Super Young Team certainly seemed the most likely to warrant a spin-off, and the Casey/ChrisCross team is a strong one, but why does Nemesis make sense as a Final Crisis Aftermath character? And unless something really unorthodox is done with the Human Flame and the Tattooed Man, we just get these characters who served a narrative purpose in the event book getting center stage when there's really nothing to them. Their comics lend themselves to mediocrity precisely because they are about the Human Flame and the Tattooed Man.

Between the two of us, we reviewed all four issues for CBR, so we probably don't need to get into specifics about each comic and why we liked it or didn't like it, but I do want to talk about Dance and Escape in a bit more detail, because those are worth talking about. And I do have a few big-picture questions, like this one: Do these comics have an obligation to follow the path seemingly outlined by Morrison in Final Crisis, or should the writers impart their own unique voice and direction? (Because Ink seems to mischaracterize the Tattooed Man's world, and Dance seems to portray a different kind of Super Young Team, with different speaking cadences and perhaps motivations. The former felt wrong, the latter felt fine.)

CN: I actually didn't find Casey's version to differ that much, but I also took into account that the team would be changed by Final Crisis. Okay, that's different from Morrison's version, but almost in the way you'd expect Morrison to portray them post-Final Crisis, as a group of characters that aren't satisfied with partying all night. They've gotten a taste of what being a real superhero is like and want more. I think Ink got the Tattooed Man himself right, for the most part, but everyone else wrong. His wife, for example, seemed to have little patience for his villainous ways in Submit, but is highly critical of him now that he's a superhero, while his son is joining a gang? It's like while the Tattooed Man was learning the value of being a hero, his family was somehow getting the opposite message.

[We've got plenty more to say as the column continues at Tim's blog!]