July 1, 2007

The Writer is the Villain Of His Story

"It’s astonishing that this comic is DC’s best-selling comic. The only reason I can think of that is that people simply are desperate to see their favorite characters in a book together. That’s a terrible reason to buy a comic book." - Greg Burgas
I know, Greg, Ragnell, and the Absorbascon have all weighed into how bad this book is, but I would like to place the emphasis where it belongs - the writers, Brad Meltzer and Geoff Johns.

(Note - I am not a regular JLA reader, and only picked this up because I enjoy the old JLA/JSA team-ups. A friend lent me this issue...and they are a friend no more. But I digress)

Anyway, as I read this whole saga, something bothered me which I couldn't figure out...and then, once I read the "ending", as it were, it occurred to me - Meltzer and Johns essentially wrote what Roger Ebert termed "the idiot plot". In a way, it makes sense - these five issues are full of nice, little moments that don't really hang together, including
  • Wildfire being made of Red Tornado technology? (You'd think android technology would improve in 2,000 years...)
  • Dawnstar a lesbian? (Maybe I missed something, but I don't remember the groundwork being laid for this - can anyone clarify?)
  • The surprise appearance of Degaton, Despero, and the Anti-Humanite (I actually thought there was a link to the birth of the white ape, but this went nowhere - this reminds me of the old Ibsen quote which states, "If you have a pistol on the mantle in act one, it better be fired in act two")
  • Superman's fond remembrance of the Legion (OK, I liked this. I admit it. I'm a Legion fanboy)
  • The nods to past continuity (OK, if you're trying to distract a group which has one of your former colleagues as a member, do you really reenact the death of a teammate? Or do you, say, conjure up the Fatal Five or Starfinger or someone else?)
  • The cliche "surprise" ending? (Does anyone care who Braniac 5 "really wanted"?)
Let's compare this to the first JLA/JSA/LSH crossover in the first series of Justice League of America (which is conveniently reprinted in this trade) In this, we experience the following things happening
  • The JLA and JSA are summoned to the 30th century
  • They help the LSH fight Mordru, and prevent him from summoning the evil demons Snap, Crackle, and Pop*
  • Thanks to magic, several members of all teams are under mind control
  • Snap, Crackle and Pop are summoned, decide that they have their own agenda, and all three teams work to stop them
Now, you can easily accuse me of nostalgia for a 30 year old story - however, this story follows the basic rules of fiction as per your high school English class. There's an introduction of characters, a conflict, and resolution. Even this 30 year old story - with a cool fan-type moment - understands the principles of good storytelling. Unfortunately, Meltzer and Johns failed (and I'll lay more blame on Meltzer - his two series for DC had out-of-nowhere endings. Johns, at least, understands slightly the needs of narrative).

There's nothing wrong with having cool fan nods...but not at the expense of story. It's ironic that JLA # 10 received attention mostly for Michael Turner's cover than its content. My main concern is that, in bringing back the multiverse, DC will use it as an excuse for sloppy writing, rather than as a creative tool. In short, this kind of proves what I was trying to say awhile ago - that rather than appeal to readers, the Big Two are acting more out of their own fannish impulses.

Nothing wrong with fannish impulses - but used in a good story, they can add. However, Brad Meltzer has pretty much messed this story up, and demonstrated that he's more interested in his own fannish desires than, say, good storytelling. Comic readers deserve better.

However, as long as one person keeps drinking the Kool-Aid, we're never gonna get it.

*I know they're really the Demons Three, or Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast. Call it my snark of the day

1 comment:

RAB said...

It's hard to make any comment on this because you've summed up the problem so neatly...but I will add I'm very pleased not to be the only person who thinks of those three demons as Snap, Crackle, and Pop.