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Wonder Woman is Pants

It’s telling that the closest Wonder Woman comes to making the news is a costume redesign that leaves her looking like some obscure X-Men character. Without a specific description, we’d have no idea whether we were looking at the new Wonder Woman or an old Kitty Pryde. The problem isn’t the pants, it’s that her costume is the only identifiable thing about Wonder Woman, which explains all the problems with making Wonder Woman relevant right here.

Or to put it another way, if you take away Superman’s costume, he still has his powers and backstory left, which people are marginally familiar with. What is Wonder Woman’s power and backstory? Her backstory just changed, which means her powers probably will too. Which is fine because hardly anyone cares about Amazonia, the invisible plane or her golden lasso of truth and bondage subtext. But it means that everything is changing, but no actually cares about those changes. Because Wonder Woman has no identity.

Wonder Woman is a visual brand, but there’s nothing like Superman or Batman’s great tragedies that define them. And that means a costume change is the last place to start. Not because Wonder Woman’s costume isn’t stupid. It is, but so is Superman’s. So are half the comic book characters anyone would care to name. The problem is that Wonder Woman has no identity anyone cares about. Any reboot has to start there, instead of making her visually unrecognizable too.

Grant Morrison and Batman

The 700 issue is out and it has its cool moments as Grant Morrison does what he does best by taking the story into one of his insanely weird Scifi futures, which unfortunately gets aborted when that just leads into Batman Beyond, which is a pretty stable and obvious chrome plated future. Mostly though the whole experience should be a reminder to DC not to let Grant Morrison do anything which requires following a complex plot. Because that isn’t what he does. All Star Superman, as wonderful as that was, still didn’t have a consistent plot that made much sense. It just had Grant Morrison showing you amazing things. The whole death of Batman thing was a confusing disaster. The return of Bruce Wayne makes even less sense. The latest has him traveling through time somehow to the end of the universe through serial lives lived from the beginning of time. This is the sort of thing Morrison rocks at, but it makes absolutely no sense as a story. And if you’re going to killsave Batman, it helps if readers have some clue of what’s happening.

Daniel Leister and Hack/Slash

Is it possible for bad art to ruin a comic? Daniel Leister on Hack/Slash is showing that it really is possible. Take the same grotesque artwork from Return to Wonderland, where every female character looks like a distorted plastic pinup, even when they just died horribly, and apply it to Hack/Slash and it completely undercuts the story. It’s not just the distorted female bodies or the plastic skin, it’s also how everyone seems to be grimacing or grinning all the time. It’s one thing to have that kind of art on Wonderland, whose only real point is to dress swimsuit models in fairy tale costumes and then have them die horrible deaths. But on Hack/Slash it really cuts against the grain. This is a comic that used to have a cool edgy art style, that now looks like Playboy threw up all over it. It’s not indie anymore, it’s a collection of Barbie dolls with gore.

Memo to DC, Please Don’t Kill Batman Ever Again

Hi DC, a small favor. I’ve bought a lot of your books over the years. And in return could you do me a small favor, please don’t kill Batman again. I know killing superheroes is trendy and everything, but you’re not any good at it. Remember the whole killing Superman thing. That was bad. But killing Batman was almost worse. Don’t get me wrong, promoting Nightwing to Batman made for an interesting story. I like Stephanie Brown as Batgirl.

But if you do kill Batman, please don’t put Grant Morrison in charge. I have trouble understanding how Batman died. I have even more trouble understanding how he’s making a comeback. The entire trip to the UK to resurrect him reads like some bizarre LSD trip (which I could almost blame Batwoman for, since that entire title reads like that) with bad teeth and British accents. Then there’s the entire Red Robin storyline, which is okay enough, but real short on explanations.

All of that though is topped by the entire ridiculous secret messages from Batman in the past thing that plays out like a bad Hardy Boys story. Is it really too much to ask of Morrison to make some kind of sense, or of DC to actually make sure that he’s making some kind of sense. Because right now the death of Batman is making me nostalgic for the death of Superman. And that’s not a good thing.

The Mixed Results for Dead Batman

Batman’s “death” has helped generate a lot of new comics, from Red Robin to a revitalized Batgirl, to a new Azrael and a bunch of others. So let’s try separating the wheat from the chaff.

First up, the worst Batman spinoff probably has to be a tie between Azarel and Batwoman. It’s a tough competition because both of them have horrendously incomprehensible art, which at least Batwoman tries to write in as the character’s hallucinations. Both focus on characters that few people could be paid to care about, and neither seem to fit too well into the ongoing events in Gotham. Batwoman is slightly likelier to survive, even though it’s just as stupid, because it has more comprehensible villains and artwork, and the big Bat in the name.

Second up, most improved, would be Batgirl, who is finally not a deaf mute wearing a costume that looks like it was done by Hannibal Lecter, but gets back to the classic idea of Batgirl, taking Stephanie Brown from Spoiler to death to Batgirl. And it works. The covers are nicely classic too and the writing is good. Not great, but this is Batgirl, not Watchmen anyway.

Then there’s Red Robin, which despite an annoying hero and an awkward premise and a dumb costume, saves the day by bringing in Ras Al Ghul for a touch of Donnie Brasco.

Streets of Gotham was fantastic when Paul Dini was writing it. Now the issue has tanked with the cliched priest, I guess DC confused Gotham with Hell’s Kitchen and decided to borrow from Daredevil, and inflicting Huntress on us was a little too much. Just when Dini had taken Zsasz to the max, we get the wacky antics of Huntress and Man-Bat for a sitcom no one wants.

World Without Superman is a Smart Move

At first the idea of Superman leaving earth and going out into space seemed like a terrible idea, but World of Krypton or World Without Superman is actually a smart idea. That’s not to say that it’s hugely entertaining, Kryptonians have never been all that interesting because they remain one of those generic smarty advanced civilizations with lots of crystals and robes no matter what the series does to try and flesh them out, but taking away Superman’s physical uniqueness, puts who he is into better contrast. Usually writers have done this by taking away Superman’s powers, but that basically leaves him weak and useless. World of Krypton instead surrounds Superman with a whole city-world full of people who share his powers and a society in which he has to play a role.

World of Krypton’s tack on it, particularly making General Zod something more than a one note villain, is interesting. The Kryptonians of Kandor are not ideal or monstrous, they are as uneven as humans are, with prejudices, fears and hopes. All that gooshy warm humany stuff. While the public embrace of Zod is not entirely plausible, he has come off as more of a sociopath than anything else, not really a team player, it does insert him into a real role in his society.

The Supergirl part of the story is weakest, not just the recycled War on Terror is bad stuff, or turning General Lane into a bigger monster than General Zod, but turning her into a confused pawn in everyone’s game who’s hopelessly indecisive and incapable of knowing what she wants. And I won’t even mention the Flamebird and Nightwing garbage that seems like nothing more than a sop to the kind of stories that Valerie D’Orazio would like DC to do. But World of Krypton itself is interesting, even if a bit slow moving.

Who Killed Comic Con?

The complaints are in and they’re vocal. Comic Con got too big and too crowded. The small comic book publishers are being squeezed out. The Twilight fans have taken over the place. So have the more annoying 501 and California Browncoats who aren’t even from comic book franchises. In other words like conventions before it, Comic Con just got too big for its own good. Comic book fans were happy enough when Hollywood began scooping up properties, well okay they mostly weren’t happy, but when Hollywood’s creative bankruptcy drove it to raid and pillage every single creative property on the planet, comic books got their share of the going over. And then Comic Con became another stop on the Hollywood promo tour, which brought in the TwiHards and a whole lot of other people who don’t care about the comics, but about the Hollywood stuff. The Twilight fans are getting a larger than fair share of the blame because sexism and ageism makes it easier to shut them out, as opposed to fans of the equally retarded Harry Potter books, which have a cross gender fanbase, and includes people older than 13. The bottom line is that success and watering down of a niche go hand in hand. Comic Con hasn’t just been watered down, it’s been flooded.

Well Batman’s Certainly Been Reborn

After the massive disasters of Final Crisis and Batman RIP, just about anything would be a palate cleanser, and since nothing could possibly be worse than that final issue of Batman RIP, when you realize that the whole thing makes absolutely no sense and never will, that it’s Attack of the Amazons all over again, the only way was up. And so with its bright colors and offbeat attitude that blends pop art with plenty of the traditional dark matter in Batman’s world with a Kurt Busiek style approach to telling the crimefighter’s story, I have to say Batman Reborn works. And Grant Morrison may be slumming, but it’s a lot better than the highminded senselessness of Batman RIP. Sure it doesn’t matter in the long run. Sooner or later, Bruce Wayne will be back, and Nightwing will make his own comeback. So will the regular Robin, no matter what happens in Red Robin. Comic continuity is fluid and brand is destiny. But for now it’s diverting. The real status quo can’t be changed because Batman isn’t X-Men. The big pieces have to go where you left them. The man in the red cape saves the day. The man in the blue cape is a tormented billionaire who’s made himself into a deadly weapon. But DC finally gives the Robins some limited upward mobility. Up, up, through the glass sidekick ceiling and away we go.

Buffy Season 8, So Umm What?

A few pages into Issue 26 of Buffy Season 8, I was rubbing my head as if I had a headache, or wanted one. Then I had to check if I had missed any issues, because the story seems to have jumped into third gear out of nowhere. We went from random blunderings and an issue dedicated to Dawn becoming a little wooden girl, to Buffy and the Slayers running around all over the place for no real reason while being hunted by armies of demons with tanks. A lot of Slayers seem to die, though that’s not clear either, and then everyone’s on a sub. While I welcome the story finally getting into gear, after wasting who knows how many issues on Fray, Buffy’s lesbian fling and Harmony, along with all the other junk, but it’s a little like someone waking up at the last minute, grabbing whatever’s handy and running off to school. Jane Espenson is occasionally funny, but it’s hard to buy the new revised world in which Keith Olbermann is discussing vampire slayers on his show, funny as the idea might be. Issue 26 seems like it should have been more than one issue, there’s too many things going on and too few of them make much sense.

Angel, Aftermath, What the Hell Happened?

Looking again at Angel Only Human and comparing it to the Angel Aftermath issues, I have to wonder, what the hell happened here? The Angel Season 4 or Angel After the Fall run was fantastic and you can still see that in the issue of Angel Only Human. You have the snappy writing, the characters are right, risky choices are made and yes people look like themselves. Then there’s Angel Aftermath, which looks like it was cobbled together by outsourced labor overseas or deranged fanboys. There’s the ugly art that actually makes George Jeanty’s work on Buffy look good. Everything looks ugly, cheap and poorly done, and you have to guess which character is supposed to be which. Then there’s a ridiculous story involving angels, even though angels and the classic heaven and hell model doesn’t seem to fit into the Buffyverse. All the great work and the positive energy built up by Brian Lynch’s work on After the Fall was squandered by Kelley Armstrong in Aftermath, discarding the usual characters and surrounding Angel with third rankers we don’t give a damn about, not to mention a jaguarwoman. Angel Only Human shows what Lynch and Urru can still do. IDW would be doing the series a favor by dumping Angel Aftermath and avoiding any disasters like that again.

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