Sunday, November 01, 2009

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.