Thursday, March 5, 2009

On Two Bizarros and a 186,000,000 mile commute

OK, so this week in comics, Bizarro shows up in both Solomon Grundy #1 and Strange Adventures #1. And somehow, people can't handle it.

"How can he be in two places at once?" they cry. Obvious Firesign Theatre joke aside, this is not that hard a concept to explain.

All comic books do not happen at once.

Even books released the same week do not all take place at the same time.

One book happened at this time, and the other book happened at that time.

That's it. You don't need more.

If two adventures feature events that would directly affect the second one (new costume, new powers, death), OK, maybe it needs a moment or two of shuffling to make sure it's clear which came first. But honestly, if Superman flies off to New Krypton in the first issue of World of New Krypton (which was wonderful - more on that later), and he shows up in Example-Man two weeks later, do you really need an editorial box making it clear this happened before he left?

This is just people looking for things to complain about. How about noticing that for the last couple of years, Jim Starlin has been single handedly rehabilitating the spacefaring characters of the DC Universe, to the point that the Omega Men are suddenly happening and the L.E.G.I.O.N. have their own book again (under the title R.E.B.E.L.S., but who's counting)? How about noticing that like Greg Rucka in his series of books with Batwoman and the Question, Starlin has been telling one long story in those books, one that if they needed to, could be promoted to Event status in a fortnight? The man has made CAPTAIN COMET a viable and interesting character again. And not just by giving him a talking dog. Though that helped.

Don't just complain about the fact that two guys chose to use the same character. I mean, Wolverine shows up in more comic books in a month than Jude Law showed up in movies in a year, and nobody makes a peep. Bizarro shows up in TWO, and people's heads explode. C'moooonnnnn...

Now, as for New Krypton...

When they presented the idea of bringing back Kandor (the real one, thank you very much, not the assorted Kandor-manias we've had in the last couple of decades) and enlarging it upon earth, the first thought I had was "This is way too good an idea to be crammed into an eight-week event". I thought that from a political point of view, this was an idea that could be mined for a year, easy. but I figured since they had to get it out of the way before Final Crisis "started", it was going to be a quick in and out story, short and exciting but few leftover damage.

You see, THIS is an example of a case where knowing which story happened when is rather important. The conceit while FC was running was that ALL stories we were reading in the regular monthlies were happening in the proveribial "week before" Final Crisis. But if that was so, then where did the 100,000 Kryptonians go? Surely if they were around they could have been talked into helping out against Darkseid, no? Surely, the story was going to end with them sent Far Away, or placed in the Phantom Zone, or some other place that would render them no longer available for plot complication or resolution in the near future.

Imagine my surprise.

Now that it's all over, it seems clear (to me at least) that this story was happening AFTER Final Crisis, but they simply couldn't tell us that for fear of "spoiling" the end of final Crisis (the good guys won and Superman saved us all - I'm shocked, shocked!). So they had the freedom to not load the high-potential storyline into a low-result package.

For those of you not following the Super-titles, SHAME on you... Superman recently fought Brainiac and liberated the bottle citiy of Kandor. Yes, this is a story we've heard before, but this is the definitive (until the next one comes along) post Crisis version of the classic Superman story. In a big change from the Silver-Age version, Kandor gets enlarged right away. On Earth. Near the North pole, a crystal's throw from the Fortress.

Sounds great, right? No, listen again.

100,000 people with the potential to be as strong as Superman are released from a prison they've been trapped in for an unspecified number of decades.

100,000 people from a formerly militaristic planet are released from a prison they've been trapped in for an unspecified number of decades, and given the powers of Superman.

And shortly after they are released, they rip the city from its moorings, fly to the far side of the sun and set up their own planet made out of Kryptonian magic sun crystals, free Zod from the Phantom Zone, and put him in charge of their military.

Can you see why I thought there might be more that eight weeks of story here?

Phase 2 all starts here in World of new Krypton #1. After the events of the New Krypton story in the Super-books (super-summarized above), Superman is invited to go to New Krypton to live. After a Mag-god-damnned-Nificent Superman #685 where he makes his decision, he takes off for his "new home".

The issue is mainly set up to show the culture of Kandor, and the differences the harsh dichotomy between it and Earth, or at least of Superman's Middle-American upbringing. We learn that Krypton (both new and old) is a strict caste society, complete with labor class, who are functionally well-cared-for slaves. Told to choose a caste (politely called "guilds") by Alura, Superman demurs, saying he's against the whole idea. Ain't here a day, and he's already trying to fix things.

Alura calmly states that if he won't choose, it will be chosen for him, and faster than you can say "Captains Courageous", he's made a Commander in the Military Guild, working directly under General Zod.

Now here's the thing. It's too easy to assume that Zod is the bad guy here. After all, as Kal calmly points out, he did try to take over the Earth. But here, and in a recent issue of Action, Zod makes the point that he simply doesn't NEED the Earth now, he has his people back, a people who remember him as a hero, and a people that desperately want him back.

MAYBE he's serious.

James Robinson is quite good at turning comic cliches on their ear. He's got a year to work this story out. There's every chance we'll start to see Zod played as a positive character, and it'll be Kal-El who can't let go of the past. It'd be an interesting move.

The Super-books are just slopping over with potential right now. We'll see the chance for intriugue as the recently revealed as alive General Sam Lane moves forward with his plans to get rid of the Kryptonian Threat.

We'll see the identities of Nightwing and Flamebird revealed next week in Action Comics. Which will take an important piece of drmatic tension off the table, and require Greg Rucka to wow us right out of the box, or run the risk of people getting Laura Palmer syndrome, and saying "Oh, that's who it is, I can stop reading now". I ain't terribly worried.

Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle are taking the exact opposite tack in Supergirl, turning the "Who is Superwoman" question into a multi-issue story. He's got the same risk of people walking away after the reveal, but he's playing the angle of making people CARE enough about the character (not to mention the rest of the characters in the book, including Supergirl herself) that when the reveal happens, it'll almost be ancillary. So far, he's doing a great job.

Superman (the title) will be suffering from false advertising for a few months, as Superman will be featured in World of New Krypton. The title will be featuring Mon-El, Guardian, the Science Police, and generally, the city of Metropolis. And if you think the book's going to be lacking without its titular character, I'm betting you haven't read a lot of James Robinson's work.

Ironically, of all the characters in the Super-books, the one I'm most keen on seeing what happens to is Lex Luthor. Consider - he's suddenly got what he says he's always wanted - a world without Superman, and a world deathly afraid of Kryptonians. What is he going to do now?

And will Zod be drawn to look like Ian McShane again?

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