Another Contrived Conclusion

I was really enjoying Brightest Day.  I like ensemble titles.  I’m a big fan of many of the featured characters, like Firestorm and Martian Manhunter.  Geoff Johns told a strong story, introducing new characters and coming up with interesting conflicts.  Plus, he actually made me like Deadman for the first time.  But the ending was a big letdown.

It was even the same problem as 52- another great ensemble title with a disappointing conclusion.  The problem is that the climactic moment was about continuity not character.  In 52, it was the revelation that there were 52 worlds.  In Brightest Day, it was the revelation that Swamp Thing was back in the DC Universe, instead of segregated off in Vertigo land.  I’m sure that both of those developments made fanboys happy.  But they’re not actually conclusions to a story.  

It’s not that the return of a major character can’t be a significant story element.  The return of Giles was a huge moment at the end of Buffy season six.  But it wasn’t actually the conclusion.  It was the uplifting moment right before the conclusion that, in effect, made the conclusion possible.  

The return of Swamp Thing could have been the same thing.  He could have shown up on the last page of the penultimate issue- a big revelation that builds interest in the final showdown.  He could have been the deciding factor in defeating Blackstorm or uniting the various elementals.  But his arrival was the conclusion of the story, rather than the big build-up right before the end.

That left me feeling a little cold, and even a little cheated.  Geoff Johns sometimes gets a bad rap- he’s not nearly as continuity-conscious as his critics accuse him of being.  But he made the mistake here of writing a conclusion about continuity rather than character.  And it’s doubly disappointing because the series had done such a good job with underappreciated characters up to that point.

A New Role for Gambit

I like X-23’s solo title.  Marjorie Liu is doing some interesting things with X-23 as a lead character.  She’s having her struggle with the real problems of a teenage girl- such as the self-loathing that leads to cutting.  

Liu is also doing interesting things with guest characters.  She actually made Daken interesting in the X-23/Dark Wolverine crossover.  And Daken is a character I once compared to Poochy from the Simpsons.

Yet what I found most remarkable is her use of Gambit in recent issues.  Gambit started out as a rogue in his early appearances, a former thief who hung out with the X-Men for apparently selfish reasons (not unlike a certain Han Solo, a former smuggler who initially joined the Rebel Alliance for the money).  He transitioned to a Don Juan, romancing Rogue or any woman with two legs.  Then, in his solo series, he was cast as Romeo- not the modern definition of Romeo as a woman-chaser but the classic Shakespearean definition.  He had loved the daughter of his enemy and lost everything because of it.  

However, Liu has removed Gambit from the romantic entanglements that so often defined the character in the past.  He is now, to my surprise and delight, X-23’s mentor.  And it works.  It works really well.  Gambit is a sympathetic teacher because he’s well aware of his own failings.  But he’s also learned from them and is trying to help X-23 do the same thing.  

It reminds me of the old stories when Wolverine first took Kitty Pryde under his tutelage.  It’s a slightly different angle- as it should be.   But it’s been a lot of fun so far.

Kirby Cast-Offs Come to Life

Lately, I’ve been casting about for new series to read, follow and enjoy.  So far, I’ve been underwhelmed by a number of titles that have captured the interests of other fans, such as Shinku, Super-Dinosaur and Xombi.  But one new title has struck the right chord for me so far- Kirby Genesis.  

I’m not the biggest Kirby fan in the world.  I’m bothered when people imitate his style, rather than his energy.  I really don’t need Steve Epting or Butch Guice drawing Kirbyesque square faces in FF or Captain America.  I’d much rather see them work in their own more naturalistic styles.  

But Kirby was the king of imagination.  In the right hands, his ideas can be fascinating.  That’s true even of his weird cast-offs.   

Kurt Busiek has worked on Kirby characters before.  He resurrected Silver Star for Topps Comics.  And he wrote a great editorial describing the differences between Captain Victory, Captain Glory and Silver Star.  So he has a pretty good idea of what he’s doing.  

I also appreciate the freedom that Busiek and Ross have given themselves.  They’re not only working on established characters like Captain Victory and Silver Star, who appeared in the ‘80s for companies like Pacific Comics.  They’re also building concepts around one-off sketches, coming up with back-stories and code names for characters who were never more than a flicker in Kirby’s mind’s eye.  

It’s an interesting exercise.  It has a stronger internal unity than Ross’ SuperPowers work.  And it might just be the newest series to capture my imagination.

Views: 26

Comment by Jason Marconnet (Pint sized mod) on July 8, 2011 at 9:05am

I was let down by the ending of Brightest Day but not for the same reason as you. At some point during the series the white light said it was making way for Earth's new protector. Which ended up being Swamp Thing/Alec Holland. The splash page of Black Lantern Swamp Thing vs White Lantern Swamp Thing was cool. To me though it was a "who cares?" moment. I have no attachment to the character and and not all that familiar with him. So all the build up left me cold.

 

Haven't really read anything much with X-23. However, I do like Gambit. I follow X-men off and on but the premise of him being her mentor is interesting.

Comment by Jeff of Earth-J on July 8, 2011 at 9:16am
Welcome back, Chris! I hope you and the family enjoyed your trip.

I didn’t read Brightest Day, but I did read the final two issue which reintroduced Swamp Thing, and I can see where you’re coming from. I’m kind of looking forward to seeing what DC will do with Swampy’s return to the DCU proper (or “DCnU,” if you prefer). What I’m not looking forward to is the three-issue lead-in I’ve seen advertized in recent DC comics. Get on with it, already!

I started a discussion of Kirby: Genesis on the main forum but it hasn’t seen much activity yet, so I’m glad to read your thoughts here. I also hope that you, like me, enjoyed the second issue of Rocketeer Adventures as much as the first. Unfortunately it won’t be a new series for either of us to “read, follow and enjoy”… at least not for very long. Maybe if it sells IDW will extend its run or bring it back.
Comment by Lumbering Jack (M'odd-R8-Tr) on July 8, 2011 at 9:35am

I picked up issue one and two of Shinku. So far I have only read No. 1 though, and found the story a bit blah. It doesn't help that I don't find vampires even remotely interesting. Still, I love Lee Moder's art, so it got the second-issue buy from me.

I only found out about Kirby: Genesis a day or so ago. I'm not much of a Kirby fan, but I love seeing new super-characters that I don't know anything about, so I will probably pick that up.

As for your analysis of "52" (which I did read) and "Brightest Day" (which I didn't), I think you raise an excellent point about when the reveal needed to happen for a satisfying conclusion. I hope the DC brass is paying attention.

Comment by Philip Portelli on July 8, 2011 at 9:43am
Swamp Thing's involvement in Brightest Day did come out of left field with no build-up or even a hint, unless you count Death's appearance in Action. But then he may have been the biggest name DC had to use as an impact player, being that he also appeared in the movies as well as John Constantine. And we all know the movies and TV shows influence the comics!
Comment by Wandering Sensei: Moderator Man on July 9, 2011 at 12:59am

I feel the exact same way about Brightest Day, which led to me dropping the Green Lantern titles, right in the middle of the War of the Green Lanterns. The new Swamp Thing title looks very interesting, but there was nothing that led any of us to believe that he was the White Lantern.

 

As for Kirby Genesis, I would love to read that book. I need to pick up those first couple of issues. I think the art is AMAZING. Looks like Brian Bolland drew it. For some reason, though, I just haven't picked it up.

Comment by Captain Comics on July 9, 2011 at 5:23pm

I was exchanging tweets with Ron Marz about the concept-vs.-character argument just last night. (No, I'm not name-dropping! It really happened! OK, maybe I'm name-dropping just a little.) Anyway, we both agreed that both make for a better comic, but without interesting or sympathetic characters, not even the biggest concept really works. He said something to the effect that without interesting characters, big-concept stories are just "pushing chess pieces around on a board. Who cares?" And I agreed.

 

Seriously! Happened! Right there on Twitter! :)

Comment by Emerkeith Davyjack on July 15, 2011 at 6:11pm
...Maybe I should put this in my " Funnystuff/Kidstuff " line , but I bought the last issue of SIMPSONS SUPER-SPECTACULAR which has a booklength story parodying WATCHMEN with various Simp-characters as the Wattch characters . Remember when in the 90s there were all these instantly issued , upon the issue of a new character/concet/title , parodies that realy , in some cases , had to've been put together from the advance publicity about the comic that was the object of the parody rather than the comic itself , as they were coming out so soon after the announcement of the object of parody ???

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