Tuesday, June 1, 2010

After the Blackest Night....?

Well, I've been a really bad comics blogger lately.  I haven't felt much like writing about comics, nor do I know exactly what to write about comics.  I sit here and scratch my head and try to think of something to write about but nothing's coming to mind.  I'm going to consider this recent lassitude to be all Geoff Johns's fault and call it Post-Blackest Night Ennui.

The end of Blackest Night was, in my opinion, a huge letdown, and killed a lot of my comics enthusiasm.  Add reading Watchmen into the mix, which showed me that yes, comics can be written in a literary way, and I'm finding the current offerings lacking something.  What that something is, I don't know what.

I had very high hopes for Blackest Night.  Thinking back a year ago when it first launched, I was all over it.  I wanted to know how it ended, and I had an idea in my mind of how it was going to end.  Considering all those meta-textual comments the creators kept throwing out ("We're looking at the revolving door of death in comics," etc.), I thought this was going to be a world-changing reboot of the entire DC Universe.  Well, I was wrong, and that's why I'm annoyed.

Much like the ending of Lost (don't get me started), the ending of Blackest Night sucked all the joy-inducing helium out of my Comics Make Me Happy balloon.  Let me tell you something about how I read books, and watch TV shows and movies: I believe certain stories should end a certain way, and if they don't, I consider it breaking a law of storytelling, and I get really pissed.  Mysteries end with answers.  Action movies end with the bad guys getting defeated.  Tragedies end with, well, tragedy.  This is why Lost pissed me off royally, because it didn't answer anything, and when you promote a show as a mystery and promote its final season as the season when "all questions will be answered," then, dammit, you better deliver.  Likewise, if you set out to write a comics crossover which will metatextually examine the revolving door of death in the comics world, then, dammit, you better do just that.  Or I will get angry, and you won't like me when I'm angry.

Blackest Night, I'm discovering, wasn't a metatextual examination of death in comics, nor was it the shiny let's-go-back-to-the-good-ol'-days-everyone's-back-to-being-alive reboot I was hoping for.  I would've been happy with one or the other, but instead I got neither.  Now, I didn't care too much about plot holes or the (some would say) silly rainbow emotion corps like some people do.  That didn't bother me.  It was the promise that wasn't delivered that bothered me.  I expected everyone to come back to life and the DC Universe to be rebooted with some new rules on how death is handled in comics, and I expected a brighter, DC Universe filled with fun, engaging stories.  Instead I got two year-long maxiseries which feature mis-characterization of fan favorites and random soccer moms bashing in their children's heads with Rockband toy guitars.  I have no problem with dark plots or disturbing elements, but just don't put those kinds of things in a comic named Brighest Day!  Find somewhere else for them to go (like the Batman titles where they belong), or, better yet, learn how to tell a mainstream superhero story without shock value mindscrews.  And let's not even mention the fallout on Green Arrow and Arsenal and all that.  Brightest Day?  Yeah, right.  It only taught me that in comics, like in life, promises are rarely delivered on.  I don't know about you, but I read comics to get away from real life.

And even if the premise of Blackest Night couldn't be delivered on, couldn't we at least get a break from year-long crossovers and have some shorter story arcs for a change?  A year is an awful long time to wait for find out how something ends (I devoted six years to Lost so that disappointment was off the charts.)  I'm feeling a bit fatigued looking ahead at the coming year of comics, and that's not how I want to feel when reading a comic book.  I'd rather be happy.

I'm going to go read a Johnny DC title now and pretend that unicorns are real.


Tom Hartley said...

Comics publishers have learned to sell books by promoting them as "required reading". This "event" will "forever change the DC/Marvel Universe as we know it". All your favorite characters will be in it. Someone will die. You HAVE to buy it. This began in the mid '80s with CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS and SECRET WARS -- a quarter of a century ago! -- and comics fans still haven't wised up.

Buy only the titles you like, the ones that entertain you. Don't buy anything because you're told you "have" to buy it, because it's "important". No "event" is required reading. No "event" will ever solve anything. It's not supposed to. All it does is set you up for the next "event" -- and take a lot of your money. If you want to be a happy comics reader, don't buy crossovers. Don't be a sucker.

Diabolu Frank said...

Liss, speaking as a long time comic book reader, I can state with some authority that your disappointment is the natural state of the comic book universe. You've been lucky enough to read a lot of good, isolated stuff that was allowed to have an ending. In-continuity super-hero comics are never allowed any such thing. Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth once defended his Eros Comix porn line by saying each of those books allows immediate satisfaction, where mainstream comics are nothing but decades of distressing tease. I think that's why I like so many obscure characters that no one ever bothers with. Sometimes, I think the Idol-Head is self-defeating, because why should I help the visibility of a character like Prof. Arnold Hugo if it means someone will just bring him back as another deviant creep?

DC Comics has been promising an end to their cancerous darkness since Infinite Crisis, but it won't happen. Ever. Marvel might, but only because Disney will inevitably exert influence over their line. Neither will ever offer closure. I fought that truth for ages, across several publishers. If it isn't a standalone or creator-owned, it's only a promise waiting to be broken.

The One True GL said...

Amen to a lot of what Frank and Tom said.

It even goes double if you read a lot (like yourself) or have written stories of your own. Then those "but they didn't deliver this element or that element" really sting. OVER. AND. OVER. AND...

LissBirds said...

Good comments, all. I wish I could add something more substantial to the conversation!

Tom, I think I'm just going to start treating comics like Hollywood movies. Most of them aren't required viewing, but every now and then there's something I really enjoy. The trick is figuring that out before I have to put money down. But I'm glad you gave me "permission" not to be a completist.

Frank, I think I could live with the "neverending" aspect of in-continuity comics if DC could deliver on their promise to end the shock-value stunts and general darkness, or at least take a break from year-long story arcs. Also, I really doubt any comics creator in the '30s thought their characters would last this long. They'd probably think all this borders on the absurd. I'm waiting to see what happens to Marvel with baited breath...

OneTrueGL, I think I have to stop reading comics as novels. They really aren't structured that way, but I don't see any reason why they couldn't be.