Partially due to my shock at the amount of stuff I had to box up and transport to Australia, and partially out of budgetary measures, I joined the library shortly after landing in Brisbane.
The city-wide system is pretty well-stocked with graphic novels and trade paperbacks, so I've been able to continue following some characters and teams that wouldn't have been quite worth buying the monthlies of. I've also been able to dive into a few series that I've heard a bit about, but never got around to reading. I've concentrated on books from the Big Two because there's a lot of stuff there that I haven't read.
Some of these books I'm only reading because they are part of the 'grand narratives' of their respective universes, and a lot of their deficiencies jump out at me. See if you can spot when I get to those...
1 call number:YA GRAPHICNOV ID:34000066490616
Alec : the King Canute crowd / Eddie Campbell.
It took me a while to start using the ordering system, so at first I was happy to pick up whatever was on the shelf that took my fancy. Campbell is a creator I have huge respect for, even though I haven't shelled out too much of my dosh buying his stuff. The last book of his I got was called The Dance of Lifey Death and one story was about a particular round-the world trip he made at one point to push his books. I was amused to see that at the end he comes gratefully back to a little Queenslander style house in Brisbane and his Australian wife, so I have that much in common with him at least.
Anyway, The King Canute Crowd is a semi-autobiographical collection of anecdotes about Cambell's time amongst the colourful characters of the King Canute pub, outside the centre of London.
I found it fascinating, because Campbell was trying to do something that I've wondered about for a while. How do you convert the experience of living and socialising into a comicbook? People come and go from the story without much artistic 'sense' and the fact that these are mostly drinking stories mean that the actual characters and dialogue often don't make much sense. Most of my own happiest times have been in the pub or 'enjoying a few' with friends, so it brought back a lot of memories. Alcohol can add a lot of 'significance' to the most mundane of encounters and Campbell captures that too.
Then there is the fact that it is very autobiographical. Campbell calls the main character Alec, but everything else seems pretty close to what happened. This does mean that he has to respect the privacy and dignity of the characters in the story, so we see that some events with certain people are shown as important but we only have a sketchy idea of what is going on. There is a woman that Alec becomes fascinated by, but she seems to have some kind of tragedy in her past that isn't expanded on. Alec's best friend in the book, a highly intelligent charismatic working class forklift driver, has some kind of bust-up with Alec at the end, but again Campbell is too respectful of the real-life person to flesh it all out.
If you can stand a meandering slice of life that doesn't really go anywhere, this is a great book. Campbell really pushes how far you can go to make a period of your life into some kind of shape that the feel of it can be translated into 'art'.
I think the sequel to this - the further adventures of Alec is contained in the collection 3-piece Suite. I'll have to get my hands on it someday.
Bendis's rhythms used to work for me pretty well, actually. It could just be a matter of his dialogue synching up better with some people's inner voices than others'. But like I said, it's been a few years since I've read his stuff.
Oh fer sure. It works a lot better with say, Goldfish and Jinx lying in bed talking about movies, than say Norman Osborne and Sentry devising some scheme together.
Geoff Johns' Green Lantern.
Well, I started this thread to just mark off the books that I got out of the library, because the geek in me wanted to record reading books that I didn't have the actual books on my shelves to mark my experience of them. I have kept a list of the ones I read, but I haven't been very good at giving an opinion on them here.
With Johns' poor old GL, another thing that was stopping me writing about them was that it seemed mean to write about something about which I didn't have much good to say! Ah well, Geoff is a big boy, and I'm sure he can take it, assuming he ever joins the Captain's Club and decides to peruse Figserello's library check-outs.
1 call number:GRAPHICNOV ID:34000079209532
Green Lantern. No fear / Geoff Johns, writer; Darwyn Cook ... [et al.],
Johns, Geoff, 1973-
Ah, here we go! This is the first issues of Johns' ongoing series. This has two of Johns' more annoying writerly habits. One of the issues here is the very first Johns Lantern story I read, as I got it in floppy form cheap somewhere. It's the one where he is shown beating up crippled, quadraplegic Hector Hammond, just because old Big Head Hector manages to get under his skin, psychologically.
I guess there's nothing original about pointing out how integral violence has to be to so much US entertainment. Westerns and superheroes are their big contribution to the world's store of shared stories. Still, Johns takes it a little further, by constantly showing us that someone who just can't control their violent urges like Hal is also somehow a paragon of virtue that everyone looks up to. I don't mind seeing a superhero community composed of all sorts of personality types, including the emotionally and philosophically stunted like Hal, but the slavering hero-worship complicates it. What's Johns telling us here?
As I've said elsewhere, that good people can do bad things and still be good people seems to be a central plank of Johns' moral philosophy. It's a position that I'm extremely uncomfortable with, and is probably at the root of much of my distaste towards Johns' Green Lantern.
Another writerly habit of Johns' that doesn't set my world alight is shown up by his use of minor old villain, the Shark in this collection. Maybe it's unfair to compare Johns to someone like Alan Moore, but here goes...
Moore loved to show us that not everything might be just as it seems. Depending on the contingies of the situation, Batman might actually be the villain of a story, enforcing a narrow interpretation of the law on the Swamp Thing, or in another story, a microscopic virus might be not just a sentient lifeform, but actually a benevolent and respected member of the Green Lantern Corps.
In Johns writing in this collection, the Shark is a villain who swims around in the sea and kills people by biting chunks out of them, in the manner of a ... well.. a shark! Obvious much, Geoff?
In the later Sinestro Corps War, Johns runs with Moore's fine concept of the sentient virus, by presenting us with a microscopic virus that, get this: kills people by infecting them and causing them to die of disease!
That's quite an imaginative leap!
2 call number:GRAPHICNOV ID:34000079165338
Green Lantern. Wanted: Hal Jordan / Geoff Johns, writer ; Ivan Reis,
penciller ; Oclair Albert, inker.
Johns, Geoff, 1973-
This one hit another duff note for me. Basically, I’m not at all comfortable with a superhero flying warplanes for the US Airforce, which is what Johns has Hal doing before having him banished to outer space for the rest of the run! To fly in combat situations, or as in this story ‘counter-terrorist’ operations, is to have to occasionally kill innocent people. It’s just what you have to be prepared to do. Intelligence isn’t good enough to know that you are always hitting the right target, especially in the murky wars the US is currently involved in. To give just one example, when Hamid Karzai was virtually the US’ only hope of being someone who might be able to rule Afghanistan in the future, the US still bombed him and his party in 2001. He was the last person they wanted to kill and yet they almost did.
War is war and there’ll always be soldiers, and they can be heroes, but having superheroes, especially ones that go back to the clean-cut Silver Age wading around in this moral quagmire isn’t something that I liked seeing. I’m all for having any moral dilemmas explored in superhero comics, up to and including what really goes on in modern warzones, but Johns’ handling of Hal as military man just blithely ignored all the pertinent facts of being a US airforce pilot in the 21st century.
It never occurs to Hal that the central pillar of superhero morality that he lived for decades – not killing your enemies – might be worth considering. Well, that rule is an unwritten one, and perhaps metafictional, but the proscription on killing was a daily reality for Hal while he was a Green Lantern in-story for years. Hal seems to just thing that proscription is just another small inexplicable detail that goes with being a Green Lantern, like wearing that dinky little mask out in space.
Didn't Hal consign himself to the wilderness for years because of how he killed some people while fighting for what he thought at the time was a greater good? Is it somehow different if you are sitting in the cockpit of a ridiculously expensive piece of military hardware?
Just to ensure that Hal maximises the chance of killing the wrong people during one of these notoriously indefinite operations, Johns has Hal decide to leave his ring behind. So he’ll be flying just as blind in the fog of war as your typical USAF pilot, and with just as much chance of hitting innocent people.
Leaving the ring off because he is not doing ‘superhero’ stuff doesn’t make sense either when you consider the foes they are up against. They are supposed to be just some terrorist outfit, but they almost have super-powers themselves. Not only can they pick USAF planes out of the sky at will – something ridiculously hard to do, I’m sure - but they hit the same pilots 3 months later! That’s some shooting. I’m pretty sure that in the real world, in warzones where the US loses aircraft against insurgent bandits, it’s because the insurgents keep popping up everywhere initiating small attacks that cause the air support to be so overstretched. Thus planes eventually start malfunctioning due to exhaustion which affects things like flying skill and ongoing repairs and maintenance.
So really, the baddies here don’t resemble what the USAF normally fights at all, and are really an outfit like SPECTRE or KOBRA, with huge resources and technology and fully deserving of being taken on in superhero mode. Hal still insists on endangering himself and his comrades by pretending that this is the kind of thing a real USAF pilot has to face in the course of their work.
My beef isn’t so much that we see Hal as a USAF pilot, but that Johns tries to pass off what he’s writing as some kind of tribute to the USAF. How is completely misrepresenting the realities of their lives and work a tribute? If Johns is going to use real-world politics and conflicts in his stories he has to show them fully, and not just this comicbook version, which looks to me like an insult to what real peolpe have to live with every day. Otherwise its best to just let superheroes be superheroes.
The over-rendered artwork and some aspects of Hal’s ongoing psychological wretchedness seem to argue that this is a superhero story for grown-ups. However, the way Johns completely ignores the realities of the how modern conflicts play out, so that he can present Hal as a straightforward hero, makes this just a kids story with more violence, tantrums and sexual innuendo.
Oh, and Johns has Hal launch himself at Cowgirl at a completely inappropriate moment during this story. Just when she's busted up from a plane crash and emotionally distraught from her torture and everything. Hal really is a little boy with no self control. He doesn’t even deserve to stand in the same room as grown-ups like Superman and Batman, let alone get to somehow prove his superiority to them all the time, as Johns has him do in this series.
I've been thinking about your post, Figs, for most of the day. True, I was at work but no matter!
I find it hard to defend Geoff Johns' Green Lantern especially since your link begins with a quote from me! But I feel I must try to stand up for Hal Jordan as he is supposed to be one of the anchors of this new DCU. Granted, I'm of the opinion that Hal being corrupted into Parallex, killing, thinking he's God, getting killed, forced to become the Spectre to stay involved with the heroes and finally coming back, for real, taught him nothing! He said it wasn't really him (it was!), he was never evil (not that he ever thought so!) and the people he killed came back, too (rather iffy logic!). The weird part is that everyone, from the Justice League to the Green Lantern Corps, was so happy to see him back as a "Hero of the Universe!" that they forgot and forgive what he had done. He never sought understanding or strove to regain their trust, because they gave it freely. Even Batman eventually accepted his return, though he kept that yellow batarang, just in case!
Since he did not have to Evolve from this experience, it was easy for him to Devolve! Rage, Lust, Greed, Fear and Death were all represented in him even before The Rainbow Lanterns showed up. Confidence became cockiness, pride became arrogance, enjoying the fairer sex became using them and giving in to temptation most of the times. See Justice League: Cry For Justice and Brave & Bold #2. Worse, fearlessness became follhardiness.
Hal had no business rejoining the Air Force! He was supposed to answer a higher calling! Not to kill but to prevent killing! If he wanted to be a soldier, then let Kyle be Green Lantern. He can't have it both ways but unfortunately Hal thought he could!
I feel I must try to stand up for Hal Jordan as he is supposed to be one of the anchors of this new DCU.
Well, you didn't do a very good job of it! :-)
Seriously, I can see we are on the sme page here.
I think if you look at these stories with a view to what they are actually saying, and the philosophical underpinnings that they are evincing, there's not much to argue about.
Sure, maybe people love these stories because Hal now has all the surface trappings of the Green Lantern of their childhood - but none of the true heroism or innocence of that character, I'd contend. In this subject as in so many others, comics readers fall back on the argument: "Well, I love Johns Green Lantern, so don't need to discuss it further/ I hate Johns Green Lantern, so don't need to discuss it further".
I think those approaches sell short just how much in the way of values and meaning superhero comics are capable of conveying. With Hal, how the latest incarnation stands relative to "what has gone before" ie continuity, is also part of the picture.
I really wanted to like Green Lantern from Johns' reboot. It's clear the company was behind it all the way, and Johns was committed to a long term plan for the character, with definite ideas about how he wanted to handle him. Those are great things for a character/ongoing comic to have going for them at the outset. Johns' commitment to restoring some of the Silver Age Green Lantern's simplicity (He's a space cop!) and focus on the core concepts that make the character unique is also clear.
So I wasn't hating on this from the outset. Hal's return coincided with my own return to DC in the run-up to Infinite Crisis. I wanted to like it, along with everyone else.
Having read all of Green Lantern through Blackest Night, I've just had to reach the conclusion that Johns' writing evinces an oversimple moral philosophy that actually descends into immaturity all too often. As I said elsewhere, Johns is more concerned with purveying comforting lies than difficult truths.
His GL stories reinforce the me-generation idea that it is enough to think yourself that you are a great person, and that your actual behaviour is incidental to this, and we see everyone eventually agrees with Hal that he is the bees knees.
People will argue that Hal containing all the qualities of the 'rainbow lanterns' - lust, rage, greed, death - is part of the thematic thrust of Johns' epic. I'm fine with that. Heroes don't have to be perfect. But for some reason Johns wanted everyone to love his hero (and thus, Johns own values too, perhaps?) from the outset. What greater vindication can there be, after all, than having Batman himself say you are alright? That's where any truthfulness goes out the window with this project.
I'd love to see more grand superhero epics of the scale of Johns' GL. It occurred to me recently that the great 70-issue creator-driven runs of the 90s on marginal characters like Sandman (both), Spectre and Starman, have been unexpectedly replicated with central mainstream characters in the last decade - Morrrison's Batman, Brubaker's Captain America and Johns' Green Lantern.
Johns' Green Lantern, however, is seriously flawed.
My main problem with Green Lantern was the lack of remorse. "It wasn't me." "I was possessed." "I'm the same hero I've always been." "That was then, this is now." Or my favorite, "Don't judge me!"
Instead of alpha-maling Hal, like when he socked Batman, as if that made him right, Johns should have had him grow a bit. "I was wrong. I wasn't strong enough to resist. Coast City unhinged me. I will be better! I will earn your trust again! I will atone for my actions! I will be the hero you deserve!
As flawed as Johns' rationalization was, Marvel duplicated it with Tony Stark! "I don't remember any Civil War, so I didn't really do it so I'm not responsible! Let's move on to the Heroic Age! Get with the program! I'm a movie star!"
Yeah. Johns just can't go far enough in having people inexplicably love Hal. Jordan even gets the white guys ultimate imprimatur of having a serious, ocasionally angry, politically aware black man like Stewart think he's the dog's bits!
Well, it looks like even Johns thought better of all that USAF nonsense and the rest of Hal's adventures are set in outer space, far from the nasty realities of 21st Century asymetric warfare.
1 Green Lantern : the Sinestro Corps war. [Volume one] / Geoff Johns, Dave
Gibbons, writers ; Ethan Van Sciver ... [et al.], pencillers, inkers.
call number:YA GRAPHICNOV copy:1
2 call number:YA GRAPHICNOV ID:34000077468189
Green Lantern : the Sinestro Corps war. Volume 2 / Geoff Johns ... [et.
al.], writers ; Patrick Gleason ... [et al.], pencillers ; Prentis
Rollins ...[et al.], inkers.
Johns, Geoff, 1973-
3 call number:YA GRAPHICNOV ID:34000077468148
Green Lantern : tales of the Sinestro Corps / Geoff Johns ... [et al.],
writers ; Dave Gibbons ... [et al.], pencillers, inkers ; Moose Baumann
... [et al.], colorists ; Pat Brosseau ... [et al.], letterers.
This is the storyline that cemented Johns' run as a modern classic. Standing back from it, it is self-contained, and doesn't leak into the rest of the DCU. It builds nicely on the plot-seeds that have been planted up to now and finally it sets the scene for an even bigger story a year or two down the line.
These are all good things and I'll give them that. The heaviness of the illustrative art, the grinding insistence on only using characters and plots from earlier GL stories and Hal's utter lack of charisma still work against it for me. It's hard to see any sense of fun. There's very little of the wonder and excitement at science fiction marvels here. What there is of that in the scenes on Oa are quickly overwhelmed by the sense of procedures and following orders that life in the Corps entails. Who knew it would be so like working for a major corporation?
Anyway, my biggest beef with the Sinestro War is how DC ended up packaging it for the trades. As DC realised they had a major seller on their hands they pumped out more tie-ins as the Sinestro War continued. By rights these should be interleaved with the various issues of the story as it ran in GL and GL Corps. In the issues collected in Green Lantern : tales of the Sinestro Corps we get extra background on some of the participants and some of the key moments are expanded out. This isn't a bad thing, as Johns plotting is pretty relentless and there is little time for more reflective moments.
Sadly, how these extra stories are presented in a completely seperate collection makes them virtually impossible to read in the order they were meant to be read in, and when you read them out of order, as I did, you either get the big moments in the story spoiled, or you are reading tie-ins about situations which have already been resolved.
Although the Sinestro War wasn't for me, it was an admirably author-driven one, and I'm pretty sure that in supplying the material for the tie-ins, Johns had to excise stuff from his main narrative that was supposed to be there and use them for these 'modular' add-ons and 'optional' tie-ins. (Things like Superboy-Prime's back-story, Kyles struggles while controled by Parallax and a pretty good epilogue) That's really watering down the integrity of the story he's telling. Either elements of a story should be included in the story or they should not, as far as I'm concerned.
It all just looks like artisitic integrity cut to bits for marketing purposes. Further, it's a problem for DC if it is still putting together what should be long-selling TPB collections based on the exigencies of the short-term monthly market. If DC are seriously trying to reach out to a readership beyond comics, they can't depend on every reader of the TPBs to know how to divide up the reading of 3 seperate collections so that they tell a single long satisfying story that makes sense.