I think about a world to come where the books were found by the golden ones, written in pain, written in awe by a puzzled man who questioned, "What are we here for?" All the strangers came today and it looks as though they're here to stay.

-David Bowie "Oh! You Pretty Things"

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The New DCU: September 7, 2011 - A Simulblog

The following is a simulblog with Chad P. of Political Jesus, Josh Toulouse of Fat Train, and Arthur of Arthur the Lesser. You ought to be forewarned: there will be spoilers.

Chad's article, "Savage Nerdery: Week One of DCU's New 52: Simulblog Reviews" can be found here.

Josh's article, "The New DCU: Sept 7, 2011 A Simulblog," can be found here.

As for Arthur, he is satisfied with leaving comments here and there.



This week's "The New DCU" post is a little late compared to last week. Whereas one new comic came out last week (Justice League #1), thirteen comics came out this week (Action Comics #1, Animal Man #1, Batgirl #1, Batwing #1, Detective Comics #1, Green Arrow #1, Hawk and Dove #1, Justice League International #1, Men of War #1, O.M.A.C. #1, Static Shock #1, Stormwatch #1, and Swamp Thing #1). Instead of doing an individual review of each comic book (remember how long my review of Justice League #1 was?), I have decided to do an overview of the construction of the new DCU as witnessed by these thirteen comics followed by a rundown of which comics I intend to continue reading. If you have a question or want to discuss one of the comics or interesting moments that I didn't have time to address, leave me a comment. We'll turn this into a forum if need be.

Since last week's article focused on the Justice League as the center of the new DCU, I think perhaps it would be wise to spiral out from that center. While Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's book takes place five years before the establishment, several comics this week give short testimonial to the shape of the Justice League in the present (or nearer to the present). Stormwatch is a predecessor of the Justice League that has been "protecting the world from alien threats for centuries." Martian Manhunter is cited as a member of the Justice League. He even says, "I am known in some quarters as a hero. I can wear that shape. But when I need to be a warrior I do it with Stormwatch" (Stormwatch #1). When Animal Man leaves his house to negotiate a hostage crisis, his son asks if he can come along and film his father's heroism. He says that he will send it to the Justice League as an audition tape (Animal Man #1). The Justice League International is created as a United Nations controlled version of the Justice League, and it features Green Arrow as a Justice League contact and Batman as a Justice League connection (JLI #1). Finally, Batwing references a group of heroes known as The Kingdom who seem to be something of an African Justice League (Batwing #1). From these citations, the Justice League is understood as a very public organization whose members are heroes working for the sake of the greater good.

Since Justice League #2 is supposed to feature a battle between Batman and Superman, I thought it wise also to gather some information about who these heroes are. Action Comics #1 appears to take place before the events of Justice League #1. It features a Superman who is not nearly invincible, who is not as powerful as a speeding train. Lex Luthor muses that the "'Superman' who appeared six months ago could hurdle skyscrapers and toss trucks around" but that he is now faster and stronger and soon will be unstoppable. By the time of Justice League #1, Lex's prediction may have come true. Superman seems to be a fully formed "blur" capable of easily defeating Green Lantern, a character armed with the most powerful force in the universe, a green power ring. The Superman of Action Comics #1 is the people's Superman, a Superman who does not believe that the law works for the rich and poor alike. As such, Superman is illegal, the enemy of the city of Metropolis, not its favorite hero. (The issue is titled "Superman Versus the City of Tomorrow.') Superman creates of himself a cautionary tale, saying, "You know the deal, Metropolis. Treat people right or expect a visit from me." This is the first time that I've met a Superman that I really think I can relate to. In a time of idealism in American values, Superman was a patriot, but his patriotism slowly seemed to be a fault. In the 1980s, Alan Moore's The Watchmen spoke of the problems that happen when one nation has a superman and others don't. Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns shows what happens when you insert the Superman of the 1940s into a post-Nixon America. He becomes a dog for the federal government, serving the corruption of the powerful. In many ways, Morrison's Superman is the anti-Frank-Miller-Superman. He is the Superman who should be, not the Superman who could have been. (I know Chad will be a fan of this discussion because of his love for Superman and hatred for Miller and Moore's pessimism.)

Batman appears in Batgirl #1 (He doesn't actually appear, but Batgirl is described as his star pupil), Batwing #1, Detective Comics #1, Justice League International #1, and Swamp Thing #1, but none of these seem to date nearly as far back as Superman's appearance in Action Comics #1. Detective Comics #1 features a solo Batman and possibly Harvey Dent as district attorney (unless the Harvey they referred to was Harvey Bullock...), so it is potentially pre-Justice League and potentially similar to the era of Justice League #1. The Batman of Detective Comics #1 is pretty similar to the Batman we have known and loved for years. As Bruce Wayne, he is a playboy. As Batman he is hated by the corrupt Gotham police, romancing "a certain cat" that Alfred does not agree with, and most importantly, he is engaged in a strange dialogue with arch-villain The Joker. All of these projections suggest that the Batman of Justice League #1 is almost indiscernible from the Batman we know and love, except insofar as he is potentially younger and slightly more green. My guess is that he is not the experienced Batman who was capable of defeating Superman in stories like The Dark Knight Returns and Hush. The question of who will win in a battle between Batman and Superman may come down to a much more simple question, "Is the new DCU's Batman enough like our Batman? Does he always have kryptonite?"

I suppose we'll find out on October 19.

The concept of time in the new DCU is really interesting. Action Comics takes place a long time ago, but references events that happened six months ago. Animal Man takes place more recently, but references how things were "over the last three years." Batgirl reflects upon what happened in the past, how the Joker shot Barbara Gordon, she was paralyzed for three years, and then she recovered. Stormwatch #1 takes place after the events of Superman #1, which hasn't even been released yet, and reflects on centuries of history. There are a couple of really cool things that happen when every comic is taking place at a different time. First, it makes it easier for creators to explain what is canon and what is not canon from previous comics. Second, there is a sense of history that can be denied if fifty-two comic books started either "at the beginning" or "now." Third, the timeline resists what I call "The Wolverine Paradox" (a paradox that applies just as readily to Marvel's Spider-man and DC's Batman and Superman, as well as plenty of others). Sometimes over the last few decades it has seemed like Wolverine pops up in every single Marvel comic book every single month. If one presumes that each story is happening concurrently and that each feature Wolverine in a different place, then there is a problem. But if the presumption is removed that all comics happen at the same time, like in the new DCU, then Batman or Superman can appear in every single issue of every single DC comic book without a problem. The downside of every comic taking place at a different time, however, is that the timeline becomes incredibly confusing. I'm having trouble figuring out when events happen in reference to one another, and what exactly would be defined as "the present," if such a thing even exists in the new DCU. Right now, it's not as big of a problem, but in the weeks and months ahead I can see this turning into serious confusion.

Before I go on to my recommendations, I want to reflect for a moment on something that Arthur said in his previous post, "Why I Can't Simulblog," which can be read here. I have entered into the new DCU wide-eyed and excited, mostly because of my lack of knowledge concerning the old DCU. This new DCU gives me a chance to really talk about DC comics without feeling like a total noob. I felt this way until I encountered what I will call "Arthur's Prophecy." Arthur, who has read his fair share of DC comics and really knows his stuff, wrote, "And when subtle jokes about the previous continuity seep in, we’ll talk about them… and then someone will appear from the old universe. And then little pockets will come in. And the second there is a crack on the dam that is right now new and fresh and hip eventually the DCnU will be flooded out by the old stuff, and then I’ll add Flashpoint (2011) to the gradual death of the medium." I went into this week with my eyes open to possible cracks. Batgirl directly references the events of Alan Moore's The Killing Joke. Batwing seems to presume the events of Morrison's Batman run have taken place. Those don't seem to be terribly problematic. It is just another way of populating the universe. Hawk and Dove, however, refers to the possible existence of a crisis. Whether it's Crisis on Infinite Earths, Zero Hour: Crisis in Time, or Infinite Crisis, or some other crisis altogether, we potentially have our first crack. A crisis could potentially welcome another world in which the events of the old DCU were still canon, and it could potentially allow for travel between universes. Fearing Arthur's Prophecy, it is my express wish that DC explains this crisis as something as simple as Darkseid or Brainiac trying to take over the world rather than time bullets and Superboy punching reality.

As for my picks, I intend to keep reading Action Comics, Animal Man, Batwing, Detective Comics, Stormwatch and Swamp Thing. Animal Man was the comic that really surprised me this week. Blending the horror of Alan Moore and Darren Aronofsky, Jeff Lemire delivered a surprisingly frightening vision of Buddy Baker and family. I am still on the edge about Batgirl and Justice League International. Batgirl seemed more interested in editing than telling its own story, but I will probably continue reading simply because she is a part of the bat family and I'm intrigued by this villain who is targeting her. As for Justice League International, I think I'll keep reading it because of its Justice League and Batman tie-ins, and also because I have a strange love/hate relationship with Booster Gold. But the art isn't all that great, there are too many characters, and there is no apparent interesting story. I expect that I am going to abandon Green Arrow, Hawk and Dove, Men of War, O.M.A.C., and Static Shock. I love the person of Green Arrow, but like Hawk and Dove, O.M.A.C., and Static Shock, this comic seemed like too much of a 90s callback/reject. I am interested to know if we saw Captain Marvel and Black Adam battling in Men of War or someone else like Superman and Zod, but not interested enough to keep reading. And I'd really love to know more about this crisis that killed the original Dove, but I'll read more about it on the message boards. None of these decisions are set in stone, however, and I would love to hear which ones you Must Read, Maybe Read, Won't Read and whether or not you think I should change my mind.

Tune in next week for Batman and Robin #1, Batwoman #1, Deathstroke #1, Demon Knights #1, Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 (I've wanted to see more of him ever since Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory!), Green Lantern #1 (with Geoff Johns!), Grifter #1, Legion Lost #1, Mister Terrific #1, Red Lanterns #1, Resurrection Man #1, Suicide Squad #1, and Superboy #1. Until next week, read Chad P.'s article, "Savage Nerdery: Week One of DCU's New 52: Simulblog Reviews" and Josh Toulouse's article, "The New DCU: Sept 7, 2011 A Simulblog." And don't be shy. Let's start a really great discussion in the comments section about the stuff we didn't get a chance to discuss. Here's a possible prompt:


To paraphrase the great poet, "Can't read my, can't read my, no, he can't read-a-my Joker face."

11 comments:

  1. Was I the only one who got scared that Alfred is a computer program?

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  2. I couldn't tell if he was just a computer program or if that was just a Star Wars-style projection of him. I am suddenly more interested in whatever story is behind that than by a lot of the stuff in Detective Comics.

    Wasn't it awesome seeing The Joker in action? Josh mentioned the problems with the writing, but Detective presented pictorially a Joker that I would be afraid of, almost a mix of Joker and Zsasz.

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  3. If Alfred is a computer program, it's kind of like Jarvis in the Iron Man movies. Incidentally, Jarvis was made into a computer program in that film so that he could be easily differentiated from Alfred. And now Alfred, too, may be a computer program. That's funny.

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  4. I can honestly say that I didn't expect a Lady Gaga reference in a DC discussion, but shouldn't say that I'm too surprised since she did save Spider-Man's life earlier this year in Amazing Spider-Man (#650), but seeing that that was in a Marvel comic and this is a DC discussion, I suppose we can leave that for later.

    I think you make a great point when you talk about the books that felt like "to much of a 90s callback/reject)." The way I might have put it is that as #1s, there weren't a lot of "HOLY SH!^-BALL"(TM) moments.

    The exceptions of course being the obvious, the last panel from Detective Comics (which you have at the end of your post) and the end of Animal Man and Batwing. Action Comics had that as well to a lesser extent (although Supes in chains doesn't worry me too much, unless they are made out of Kryptonite).

    The others didn't feel like number 1s though, and they really should have.

    Good post.

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  5. @Chad, I totally assumed that he was a holographic projection of Alfred who in his actual human form was in the mansion.

    If he was in fact a computer program I will be pissed.

    Didn't like it in Ultimate Iron Man (or the movies for that matter, especially since in the comics Jarvis and Aunt May were dating at the time and something about a character that Aunt May had dated just being a program struck me as wrong) and I would hate it even more if DC followed suit with that idea for Alfred (one of the best characters in comics history).

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  6. Supes in chains doesn't worry me as much either. Mostly because he doesn't seem all that chained later in Justice League #1. Unless the Superman who battles Batman is Lex Luthor's dog... That would concern me.

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  7. Also, you know what we should bring up next week, or at least on the last week, is that pink hooded chick that is showing up everywhere. Time Trapper? Also, there was some part of me that saw her in one of the books and though immediately of the Crimson Avenger for some reason. I think she was wearing a suit in one of the pics...

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  8. I didn't notice her. I wonder what the deal is with her.

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  9. I really liked Action Comics #2 and Animal Man #2. Batwing, Detective Comics, Red Lanterns and Swamp Thing slid on by. I'll be reading number three, but none of them have completely proven themselves. I've abandoned Justice League International and Stormwatch, which I was only interested in to find out more about Johns's Justice League. To replace those two, though, I have the Huntress limited series and Penguin: Pain and Prejudice limited series, both of which were pretty good.

    Batgirl, Huntress, and Penguin: Pride and Prejudice have been moved to the second week of the month. Any comments I have on later issues will be posted on the week two blog.

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