Monday, November 30, 2009

The Splash Page: Almost the Best of the '00s (Part 1)

[We have returned! And we totally aren't continuing from where we left off last time! Why? Because we didn't feel like it. Ah well. Enjoy anyway...]

Tim Callahan: It looks like I'll be doing a big-time two-part "Best Comics of the Decade" festivapaolooza thing at the end of the year as part of my "When Words Collide" column, but the word on the mean streets of Comic Book Town is that you won't be doing any sort of "Best of the 00's" list at all. What's with that? Is your new wrestling column sucking up all your free time? Do you not like any comics of the past decade? Are you afraid that listing ten consecutive Joe Casey comics followed by a few Warren Ellis runs will cause you to lose friends and un-influence people?

Because I'm telling you right now, my Top Ten of the Decade is ALL Morrison. (I may be lying about that.)

Chad Nevett: I don't feel qualified, honestly. I only read comics in a large enough amount during the second half of the decade when I actually had money to spend on them on a regular basis. But, more than that... I don't want to? I really don't feel like doing a best of the decade list. I'm happy to do my regular best of the year list and leave it at that with maybe some variation on the best of the decade post. Besides, it would be a lot of Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison, and Joe Casey... and I did top whatever lists of Ellis and Casey's works this past year, so there's a big tip-off. Plus, I just had to do a top ten storylines list for Brian Cronin's thing over at Comics Should be Good. And, yes, the wrestling gets in the way as I need to do lists for best of the year stuff there, too. How many lists must I do, Tim? When will you be satisfied? When?

TC: When we've listed everything. Then, I rest.

But since you're not into the whole list thing, what we need to do is talk about what might have been in contention for a possible list that you would have theoretically made at some undetermined point, maybe. And I can talk about the stuff that made my "under consideration" list, but didn't crack the Top 20, and therefore won't appear in my WWC column.

Because I came up with over 40 worthy comics, easily. And I want to talk about some of the not-making-the-cutters. Like DC: The New Frontier, for example. I enjoyed it upon first release and fell in love with it in its Absolute Edition, but it didn't make my Best of the Decade Top 20. Darwyn Cooke's a pretty powerful force in the comic book art world -- he really made his mark in this decade, but the series is just a bit too light to make the cut. It's a brilliant celebration of the DCU, of the Silver Age, but that's kind of all it is.

Would it have been in contention for your possible list that you refuse to make?

CN: Not New Frontier, which I got the first trade of shortly after it came out and didn't enjoy. Then, I recently reread that first trade and was still unimpressed. A few nice scenes that don't really fit together. Maybe it reads better as a whole, but I'm not inclined to give that shot. That's a bit of a tangent.

Some books that would probably make my list... Transmetropolitan would be there even though its best days were pre-2000. Wildcats volume two by Joe Casey and Sean Phillips would be there -- and, if I didn't combine it with Wildcats Version 3.0, it would rank higher than the subsequent series since it's, well, better. Automatic Kafka would rank high as would Marvel Boy and Punisher MAX and Casanova and many, many others. The obvious suspects, really. See, I don't need to make a list -- people who've been following my writing for more than two weeks could figure it out on their own.

So, I'll throw out a title that would surprise some: The Dark Knight Strikes Again. It's almost become fashionable for online critics to proclaim their love for this fantastic series, but trust me when I say I've been a fan since it came out. I love the insane energy of the book, the sheer balls that Miller displays in fearlessly doing with those characters as he wishes, and just having fun. When people were bemoaning Batman being too grim in his book, Miller just made a fun Batman comic that's bright and shiny and stupid. Hell, I'd maybe throw All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder in there as well since I have a fondness for that. (And, yes, it would still rank higher than All-Star Superman... just to spite you...) Would The Dark Knight Strikes Again come anywhere near your list or was it brushed aside?

TC: By the time our conversation hits the eager internet public, you'll know that I just wrote a whole column about Dark Knight Strikes Again for CBR. [Edit: Ooops...] That is, if I ever get around to writing it, which I'm planning to do, um, sometime today, maybe? This is like witnessing time travel.

Dark Knight Strikes Again just misses my Top 20 cut, though. It comes in at #22, just after X-Statix. Is DKSA more important than that Milligan/Allred camp fest? Sure, but I'll take Allred's art over Miller's current style anytime. I do enjoy DKSA for its madness, for its spectacle, for its rambling attacks on liberal America and the way Miller wraps his love for DC's Silver Age icons into a lumpy allegory about more things than an allegory should probably be about.

I need to stop talking about it, otherwise I'll use up all my commentary before I write my column. Anyway, see that for more of my DKSA thoughts.

All-Star Batman and Robin was on my preliminary Best of the Decade list, but it didn't crack the Top 40 when I started ranking things. I miss that comic, though. It was something to look forward too, no matter how awkward and discordant some of the individual issues were. It has gained a kind of happy glow in its absence. Mainstream comics are distinctly lacking in strong authorial voices these days.

Better than All-Star Superman, though? Well, even you must know that such an idea is ludicrous. I'm waiting for the day when you realize what a masterpiece All-Star Superman is. I mean, the Quitely art alone makes it one of the best comics of the decade, surely.

Still haven't read Transmet or Wildcats vol. 2, but I do have a complete Wildcats 3.0 run that I always intended to finish. So those won't make my list out of pure ignorance and laziness. Automatic Kafka I do like, but not enough to crack even the preliminary list. You won't see that on very many Best of lists I'm afraid, which is why you NEED to make one. You need to balance the scales of ignorance and anti-Caseyism.

Here's one that was pretty damn good but didn't make my final list: Umbrella Academy. I think the second arc is even better than the first, but their combined awesomeness still didn't catapult the series into my Top 20. Would it show up on your non-list at all?

CN: I've yet to read it, honestly. It's on the list of things to get, but that list is long, my friend... And Quitely's art on All-Star Superman is indeed great, but there are other series where he does the art that I like a whole lot more.

I couldn't agree with you more about All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder (full title, dammit!) and Miller's strong authorial voice. It's one of the reasons I have a fondness for his recent work as he just does exactly what he wants with no apologies. Hell, I even liked The Spirit for that reason. You so rarely see work that uncompromising and pure in its intention/execution. It may falter at times, but it's interesting. And, as Steven Grant said this week, interesting trumps good most of the time.

Automatic Kafka topped my ten favourite storylines list, so it's represented elsewhere by me. And it was on Tom Spurgeon's preliminary top superhero books list.

Here's a technical question in the matter of this sort of list-making: are you including just new works that were released during the past decade or also including repackaged works where the collections came out during the past decade? I've always had a certain dislike for reprints of old material being included in 'best of' lists since they weren't really works from that time period. Then again, when I used to do lists of my favorite albums of the year, I always had a category for albums I bought that year that were from previous years to recognise that that year's music experience was broader than just the new releases. So, what's your view on reprints being included? An example I'd be tempted to include: Absolute Authority, which, of course, collects material that can't make the list since it came out in 1999 (though the last two issues of the Ellis/Hitch run came out in early 2000 -- but, come on, it's a pre-2000 book), but the collection is gorgeous and wonderful. Is it fair to include it in its collected form despite the individual issues (excluding the final two issues) not qualifying?

TC: If the serialized version was in no way published in this decade, I think it's unfair to list it. Which is one of the reasons my list will contain less manga than it should. Not that I've read a whole lot of manga anyway, but Drifting Classroom would definitely be on the Top 10 of the Decade IF it were actually released in this decade. The fact that it was translated and repackaged for American audiences thirty years after its original release doesn't make it a Best of THIS Decade kind of book.

Same goes for the Kirby reprints or the Absolute whatevers. They can get a different list, but it seems foolish to put the reprints next to the stuff that was actually first released in this decade. I mean, you wouldn't just put whatever new Shakespeare or Joyce or Nabokov reprint on the list of Best Books of the Year, so why would anyone do it for comics?

You really need to get on Umbrella Academy. I suspect you'll like it more than I'd like Transmet, though that's totally without basis in fact. But as far as speculation goes, it's a sure thing!

[To be continued at Tim's blog!]

Sunday, November 29, 2009

CBR Review: Son of Hulk #17

I recently reviewed Son of Hulk #17 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "When Skaar, Son of Hulk debuted, most wondered if it could really sustain itself in the current market and, when the title became simply Son of Hulk and shifted the focus from Skaar to Hiro-Kala -- the other son of the Hulk and Caiera, twin of Skaar -- the book’s future looked even bleaker; it’s no surprise that the title ends this week with issue 17. What may surprise some is how strongly it ends, particularly after a weak first half that leads into an effective conclusion."

You can read the rest HERE!

Friday, November 27, 2009

CBR Review: Chew #6

I recently reviewed Chew #6 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "I’d heard good things about Chew but, honestly, the concept didn’t strike me as one with legs. A detective that eats things to learn their histories? 'That’s a good one-off idea,' I thought, 'but not one that can sustain an ongoing series.' So, when the chance to review the first issue in the book’s second story (aka the one where the concept falls flat after the novelty is gone) came up, I jumped at it if only to prove to myself that I am, like always, right in all things."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

CBR Review: Fantastic Four #573

I recently reviewed Fantastic Four #573 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "While dystopian futures are nothing new in comics, this one has a different feel to it because it’s not the planet we’re used to seeing. By using Nu-Earth, Hickman transforms the concept from this other planet similar to the one we know with its very own heroes to something more alien and disturbing, something that’s again a threat and something to be feared —- a new Negative Zone or Savage Land if you will."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Thor Giant-Size Finale #1

I recently reviewed Thor Giant-Size Finale #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Thor Giant-Size Finale #1 should be read as just any other issue of Thor in J. Michael Straczynski’s run, because that’s what it is. Ignore the ‘giant-size’ label since the main story is one page longer (hardly giant-making) and the rest is filled out with a preview of next week’s Thor #604 and a recolored reprint of Journey into Mystery #83. If you expect Straczynski to end his run on a giant ‘this changes everything’ moment, forget that, too, as the plot is advanced here as much as it is in any other issue of his run. If you ignore all of the hype and stick to the comic itself, it’s a good Thor comic with an interesting story that looks like it may just get more interesting in the future."

You can read the rest HERE!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

CBR Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation: Ghosts #1

I recently reviewed Star Trek: The Next Generation: Ghosts #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Another small quibble that fans of the show and property may have is the lack of a subplot that focuses on one particular character. One of the strengths of the show was always intermingling a personal story into the main plot somehow and that is lacking in this issue. Zander Cannon does set up a couple of different characters to have personal subplots that will arise as the story progresses, though."

You can read the rest HERE!

Monday, November 23, 2009

CBR Review: The Brave and the Bold #29

I recently reviewed The Brave and the Bold #29 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "When this issue was solicited, the idea of Batman and Brother Power the Geek teaming up had a certain wacky appeal that suggested a channeling of Silver Age team-up books where two characters you’d never expect to appear together pair up and solve a crime. And, technically, that happens, but if you expected any of the fun suggested by such an odd pairing, you won’t find it here. Instead, a moralizing and nostalgia for the ‘60s is mixed with a Batman characterization that rings false."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: The Authority: The Lost Year #3

I recently reviewed The Authority: The Lost Year #3 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "It’s not that this comic is bad, it’s that it’s not great, not even good. It’s an average, mediocre superhero comic that would barely warrant publication on its own merits let alone as the continuation of a story that began over three years ago and built up a mystique around it. The Lost Year doesn’t just have to compete with every other comic on the shelf, it has to compete with the imagined quality of Morrison and Ha’s run had it not died after two issues, a task that would be difficult for most comics, let alone a tepid issue like this one. Is that fair? Perhaps not, but it’s the truth."

You can read the rest HERE!

Friday, November 20, 2009

CBR Review: Dark Reign: The List -- Amazing Spider-Man #1

I recently reviewed Dark Reign: The List -- Amazing Spider-Man #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "It all comes down to this issue as Dark Reign: The List culminates in a confrontation between Norman Osborn and Spider-Man. A head-on fight between the two has been teased a few times before but, with Dark Reign winding down and the series of List one-shots meant to signify the first step in Osborn’s fall, this issue looked to be big. And, in some ways, it is a big issue, but the impact of it is a little too low key, which is fitting since The Siege is coming up as the true finale and this issue acts as a teaser well."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

CBR Review: Irredeemable #8

I recently reviewed Irredeemable #8 and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "With each issue, Irredeemable proves itself to be more complex and thoughtful in its deconstruction of not just what it takes to be a hero day after day, but also in how we treat our heroes. The Plutonian’s journey from hero to villain has been a slow unveiling and this issue adds another piece to the puzzle as we see that, while a second action is what drove the Plutonian over the edge, it had been building for a long time, wearing him down until he snapped."

You can read the rest HERE!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CBR Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly #5

I recently reviewed The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly #5 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The conclusion of this story continues its ability to tell a new story featuring Sergio Leone’s famous character without drifting too far from what’s been established. Given Chuck Dixon’s long history of writing corporate superhero franchises, he obviously has a skill for finding new territory while also remaining true to what’s come before. This issue is a mix of new moments that add to the myth of ‘the Man with No Name’ and allusions to famous scenes from the movies."

You can read the rest HERE!

Friday, November 13, 2009

CBR Review: Supergod #1

I recently reviewed Supergod #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The cover has a Superman-esque hero on the cross, which is almost what you expect from a comic titled Supergod and in the hands of a lesser writer, that’s what you’d get. This, though, is much more serious and thoughtful, narrowing in on the idea that a superhuman wouldn’t think like a regular human, it wouldn’t have the same concerns, it wouldn’t focus on saving cats from tress or stopping bank robberies. It would slaughter millions to solve India’s overpopulation crisis. It would be alien to us, it would be a god in the most sincere and terrifying senses of that concept."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

CBR Review: Punishermax #1

I recently reviewed Punishermax #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "It’s difficult to read Punishermax #1 and not be reminded of Garth Ennis’ years of writing the character. After some missteps and mediocre stories since he departed the previous MAX volume, the book has been relaunched with Jason Aaron writing and longtime Ennis collaborator Steve Dillon drawing. It’s Dillon’s presence that’s the biggest reminder of Ennis’ lingering influence over the book and the title character. Aaron’s writing doesn’t seek to depart too much from the model either, delivering an issue where the credits at the end are almost surprising with their lack of Ennis’ name."

You can read HERE!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

CBR Review: Batman/Doc Savage Special #1

I recently reviewed Batman/Doc Savage Special #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "There’s a novelty in seeing Batman make mistakes and fire guns, in watching him succumb to overconfidence, and using his Bruce Wayne persona to check up on Doc Savage’s abilities. However, that novelty isn’t enough to carry this story, of which there isn’t much. It’s standard crimefighter team-up fare: two men who are on the same side are put at odds somehow, fight, gain an appreciation for one another... while that appreciation doesn’t result in Doc Savage inviting Batman to his Fortress of Solitude, the story doesn’t deviate from that pattern much."

You can read the rest HERE!

Rated R Reviews: Absolution #3

Absolution #3: Think of this as the other side of New Avengers #58 where a hero kills and, yet, it's just as simplistic and vaguely insulting to the intelligence. That's not to say that I don't enjoy Absolution, but it does very little to actually explore that dark grey area where the hero kills. He does it, he stresses over people finding out, he continues doing it, a villain gets involved, he's got a patsy. Not exactly insightful. What it does get right is John Dusk not just killing murderers. My biggest issue with capital punishment is, honestly, not the sanctity of life -- since that's something I've never really believed in as an absolute, preferring to defend the quality of life not life itself -- but that it's only applied to murder, a crime that doesn't top my list of the worst thing someone can do. It's theft on a grand stage, but it's a crime that, ultimately, harms those around the victim more as they feel the loss and pain where the victim doesn't anymore. So, it's built up as bigger, as justice for the family and friends. Now, I can only imagine, but rape has always struck me as far more damaging to the victim who lives on with the memories of that experience... that's always seemed worse, more damaging. And, yet, that crime is barely discussed on the same level as murder (though the disparity has gotten better over the past decade or so)... I can understand why, but it's never seemed right to me that something so damaging to the victim that it acts as continuing attack, a continuing level of pain and suffering should be downplayed... I do like that Dusk goes after rapists, seeing them as just as evil and worthless as murderers. I do wish that this book was more nuanced, as well. It's the example that going the other way isn't always better, it's just the same thing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

CBR Review: Greek Street #5

I recently reviewed Greek Street #5 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The fifth issue of Greek Street concludes the first story arc of this retelling/reinterpretation of classic Greek myths and drama in contemporary London and it’s a solid issue, but the end of the story acts more as a beginning to a larger story. Anyone hoping to find a conclusive story in the first arc of Greek Street will need to look elsewhere since, by issue five, Milligan and Gianfelice are still just setting things up for the future. At the same time, it’s difficult to judge where this book is going, something that should be clear after five issues."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Amazing Spider-Man #610

I recently reviewed Amazing Spider-Man #610 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Marc Guggenheim concludes his tenure as one of the writers of Amazing Spider-Man with the end of the three-part 'Who is Ben Reilly?' story that is a bit of a mess. Based around an old acquaintance of Peter Parker’s clone, Ben Reilly, returning to seek revenge on Reilly over the murder of his family, the story gets more complicated by the involvement of Kaine, Screwball, and the action all taking place at Aunt May’s house while she’s out of town."

You can read the rest HERE!

Monday, November 09, 2009

CBR Review: Captain America: Reborn #4

I recently reviewed Captain America: Reborn #4 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Though the pacing has been slow during Reborn so far, things pick up in this issue as various elements set up during the course of the series begin to pay off. The question being who will figure out how to bring Steve Rogers back first: Reed Richards and Hank Pym or Dr. Doom and the Red Skull? With H.A.M.M.E.R. in possession of Sharon Carter, it looks like the bad guys have the edge coming into this issue."

You can read the rest HERE!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

CBR Review: The Boys: Herogasm #6

I recently reviewed The Boys: Herogasm #6 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "With the release of issue six this week, one has to ask the question 'Was Herogasm worth its own series?' The answer being yes... and no. Yes, as it allowed Garth Ennis to tell this story without interrupting The Boys. No, because it didn’t fill six issues strongly with only half of the issues being better than mediocre, suggesting that the series could have been a couple of issues shorter to greater effect. Worse than that, Herogasm ends with a shrug rather than a strong impact."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

CBR Review: Act-i-vate Primer

I recently reviewed Act-i-vate Primer for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The first print collection of material from the online webcomic collective Act-i-vate is both a stunning display of talent, crossing a variety of genres and styles, and a bit of a letdown, as it feels more like a series of trailers for the webcomics instead of an anthology of complete short stories. That sort of preview wouldn’t be out of line in other formats, but for a $25 book, it doesn’t quite seem worth it. Thankfully, the strips that are complete stories in their own right more than make up for that."

You can read the rest HERE!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

CBR Review: The Great Ten #1

I recently reviewed The Great Ten #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "This issue centers on Yao Fei, the Great Ten’s Accomplished Perfect Physician, as the Great Ten’s latest mission in Tibet to quell a ‘riot’ mirrors a similar encounter Yao had 12 years previously when he was a member of the People’s Liberation Army. The young Yao fled after killing a man, unwilling to open fire on unarmed civilians and was shot in the process. Taken in by an elderly woman, he learns that the man he killed was meant to be the seventeenth incarnation of the Accomplished Perfect Physician and, now, that burden was his to carry."

You can read the rest HERE!

Rated R Reviews: Secret Warriors #9

Secret Warriors #9: I remember when I loved this book quite a bit. Wait, that was only two or three issues ago... what? This issue isn't bad, but it doesn't have anything that really grabs me. I'm still wondering how Alex and Ares's relationship here meshes with that issue of Dark Avengers where Ares follows him to Fury's base... The end of the issue also lacks a lot of drama or purpose because we've all read that "List" issue that completes that particular plot. Nice job, Marvel.

But, questions beyond this book:

Is it just me or are the Dark Avengers really bad at fighting? Have they won a fight against anyone yet? Everytime they show up, they get their asses handed to them. Now, here, it makes sense, because these kids are trained by Nick Fury to kick ass. But still... how effective is that group when they can't beat anyone? That's why you don't hire villains as your superhero team: you're hiring losers.

The constant jobbing out of Bullseye/Hawkeye... doesn't that just make Daredevil look like a wimp? His arch-enemy gets his ass handed to him on a regular basis -- where does that put Daredevil as far as skill goes? Can Yo-Yo or American Eagle beat up Daredevil?

Not beyond the book, but going back to my New Avengers review... why doesn't Daisy use her powers to kill Osborn here? She clearly has the abilities and the right attitude... I hate comics sometimes. Norman Osborn (and most other characters) should be dead many times over.

Otherwise, this issue just didn't click for me. Still better than most of what's published.

Rated R Reviews: Detective Comics #858

Detective Comics #858: Jog did it already.

Rated R Reviews: New Avengers #58

New Avengers #58: Yeah, here's the thing: not killing bad guys doesn't make you better than them, it makes you a fucking pussy. It makes you responsible for everything negative they do after that point. No grey areas, no moral questions, no debates about what's heroic and what's not. You see a person who will make the world a worse place by simply existing, someone who will actively prevent you from making it better, and you've got the chance to take them out, you do it. This coming from a pacifist. I hate superhero comics for pretending that letting villains live is somehow the morally superior thing to do, because it's not. You know what the morally superior thing is? Knowing when killing is the moral thing to do. In their lifestyle, just killing is immoral and never killing is immoral. They're both extremes, neither of which actually attempt to fit into the reality of the situation. Should they kill every mugger ala the Punisher? No. Should they kill Norman Osborn when the chance arises? Um, yeah. Even it means Peter Parker whines like an infant for two weeks.

I don't blame Bendis, but that's how things are. Fighting against the slippery slope, making tough, nuanced decisions, and sticking to them... that's heroism. Giving a guy a fucking spanking and then acting like that will stop him from hurting hundreds of people in six months again and again... that's the definition of insanity.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

CBR Review: Ignition City #5

I recently reviewed Ignition City #5 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Why was Mary Raven’s father, a famous space hero living in Ignition City, murdered? That’s what it all comes down in the conclusion of Warren Ellis’ mini-series that has mid-twentieth century sci-fi heroes living on an island near the equator, grounded once and for all as humanity shuns space travel because it’s not worth the hassle. The secret of Rock Raven’s murder comes out and it’s a biggie, one that shakes up things in Ignition City."

You can read the rest HERE!

Over at Comics Should be Good...

I began a daily feature for this month called Nostalgia November with a post on Punisher 2099 #1 and a reread review on The Death of Superman. Basically, each day in November, I will read and then write about one comic from a shortbox of comics I acquired at various times in my childhood/teenagedom (more childhood, honestly). It's a pretty random batch of books. To go along with this, for the five Sundays of November, I will be doing reread reviews on the death and return of Superman (that will take up four Sundays -- Reign of the Supermen getting two weeks) and the Marvel 2099 crossover "Fall of the Hammer." Do enjoy.

The Splash Page: Final Crisis Aftermath Aftermath Part 2

[In the newest Splash Page, Tim Callahan and I discuss the end of the "Final Crisis Aftermath" mini-series and that leads to other topics... The first part can be read over at Tim's blog.]

Chad Nevett: Yeah, Dance works, because they finally found someone who can follow-up a Grant Morrison idea: Joe Casey. I've been saying for years that Casey is one of the few writers who has the right sensibilities to do Morrison characters justice and here's the proof.

Escape began in a way that seemed like a great continuation of Morrison's ideas... albeit ideas from stuff like The Filth, which seemed more an inspiration than Final Crisis. And I was fine with that, because why not take one Morrison idea of the Question heading up the GPA and throw in the style and storytelling of another, non-superhero, Morrison series? Cool idea. Except it didn't go anywhere, it didn't say anything, and it didn't even really provide a solid framework. Say what you will about The Filth, it does those things: it has a clear point and purpose. I got to the end of Escape and just kind of put it down and went, "Okay, that was a nice read, but what was the point?" It was too much style, not enough substance. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the series quite a bit and loved that DC was willing to publish a book that was experimental and did not read like anything else they publish... but it just didn't come together like I wanted. I don't need the big explanation where everything is spelled out, but this book really felt like the first chapter of a bigger story rather than a story in its own right. Whereas Dance can also lead to further stories, but was a complete story, too. Of course, I'm still wondering how Greg Rucka's "Question" co-feature in Detective Comics fits in with the idea of the Question heading up the GPA as established in Final Crisis, and, if she isn't, why do their agents wear the blank face masks? I walked out of Escape with far too many questions -- questions that won't be answered by rereading the comic or working at understanding it like you sometimes need to do with Morrison.

But, were any of these books necessary? Will they be referenced again? I was amused to note that on the sales chart, they all sold relatively similar low numbers, but the numbers decreased over the course of the month -- so Run! sold more than Escape, which sold more than Dance, which sold more than Ink. Weird.

Tim Callahan: Too much of a good thing, I suppose. Or too much of a not very good thing at all.

The Question point is a good one, because it seems pretty clear that she's NOT the head of the GPA in DC continuity and probably never was. It just didn't happen, at least as far as Rucka's story is concerned. So it raises the question: Nine months after Final Crisis, what has stuck?

The Super Young Team is still around.

The Fourth World characters have taken a break.

....and that's about it.

Even Martian Manhunter is back! (Sort of.)

CN: Then why let Morrison make any of those changes? I get so frustrated when companies bring in well-known, critically acclaimed writers to do revamps or events and then ignore everything they did. I don't blame the writers who follow them, I blame editorial. I recently made that point regarding Warren Ellis's Iron Man story where he introduced the Extremis armor, which essentially made Iron Man the Engineer in terms of abilities... and everyone after him wrote Iron Man as Iron Man has always been. THEN WHY HAVE WARREN ELLIS REVAMP AND CHANGE THE CHARACTER, MARVEL? Some blame Ellis for only doing the one story, but that's all he was hired to do and had no obligation to do more -- but, the company had an obligation to follow up on a big change like that. Just as DC has a certain obligation to continue with ideas and characters that were introduced in their big event of the year. How are we to think they matter if, when they're over, nothing actually changes? They seem to want it both ways: they want the prestige of having the Grant Morrisons and Warren Ellises of the world doing their books, but they also want to control everything when those are writers that don't work under strict editorial mandates well and are at the point where they don't have to. When you hire those writers, you either take what they do and treat it with the respect it deserves or don't hire them. What's the point of hiring them and then pretending like it never happened? That doesn't make people want to read what comes next, that just leads to geeky fellows like myself bitching about it online at random times. Why allow Morrison to put the Question as the head of GPA if you're not going to follow through on it? Why not just tell the guy 'no' and when people bitch say that you didn't want it to happen and shut up, because when you own the Question you can make her do whatever you want?

I'm sure there was a point in there somewhere.

TC: Let me distill your point down to its essence: You want the continuity changes made by good writers to stick, and the ones by bad writers not to stick.

I don't see you complaining because Ray Palmer and Jason Todd aren't patrolling the multiverse as they were supposed to do at the end of Countdown. And you're right not to complain. Countdown SHOULD be ignored.

But it is insanely annoying when Marvel and DC are built on super-long saga storytelling in which the little bits matter, but then they ignore the little bits. You can't build a storytelling system out of an interwoven universe if the threads are pulled out seemingly at random every month or two. The whole tapestry falls apart then. All you're left with is little bits of fabric that don't bind together anymore.

Yet you and I both prefer writers to give their own takes on whatever characters they write, so maybe we're complete hypocrites when we complain about lesser writers not following what the best writers have done? Maybe our rule is: If you're good, make changes, ignore stupid things from past continuity. If you're not so good, just follow the lead of the people who know what they're doing.

With all that in mind, what did you think of Jason Aaron's use of Morrison's characters and concepts in the Wolverine: The List issue that just came out?

CN: My point is more: don't hire writers who bring in readers because they are critically well-regarded and then ignore every new idea they bring to the table, especially since you approved of each of those new ideas. But, yeah, screw the bad writers.

As for Dark Reign: The List -- Wolverine, I dug it, as I stated in my CBR review of the issue. It was a fun little action adventure story where Jason Aaron used those Morrison characters well. I don't think he really added anything new or even produced any of those fantastic Morrison lines of dialogue that define each character -- but, most importantly, he didn't do anything wrong. At this point, not completely screwing up a Morrison character is a victory in my book. Are my standards too low?

But, I dug it. Especially Esad Ribic's art, which was absolutely lovely and energetic, obviously influenced by guys like Moebius and Janjetov... I was reminded again and again of The Incal while reading this issue. Even a few panels had Noh-Varr reminding me of John Difool. And since Fantomex comes out of that Franco-Belgiun tradition, I loved that visual style also being represented. How come Ribic doesn't do more interiors? He's great!

TC: I enjoyed Ribic's line art as well, more than his painted work, actually.

I do agree that not screwing up a Morrison character is a victory, but Aaron also followed in the footsteps of what came after Morrison. So he's writing the Morrisonian version of the Bendis version of Marvel Boy, and that's kind of interesting. He didn't just ignore what came before. It's that "include and transcend" philosophy, used wisely, and maybe it doesn't actually get to the "transcend" part, but it's "include and do it right" and that's a hell of a lot better than many Marvel and DC comics these days. Though last week was a particularly strong week for superhero stuff (the newest Detective Comics alone was enough to make it a stellar week), the mass of mainstream superhero comics is floundering in the second half of 2009.

CN: Hmm, I'm not sure I agree with that, but why not save that idea for a future column, leaving our faithful readers hanging? That's right, for the first time ever, the Splash Page has a cliffhanger ending! Oooooh! Lovely.