Friday, July 17, 2009

Negra Linterna

Usually, I pride myself on confining myself to discussing the inane (e.g., Dazzler), the irrelevant (Aqualad), and the unpopular (e.g., Vibe). But even I cannot resist the urge to discuss, well, the only thing anyone's discussing: Blackest Night.

I should hate it. I mean, really: zombies? [Of course, they're actually revenants, not zombies in the classical voodoo sense, but thanks to all those movies, everyone calls revenants 'zombies' nowadays.]

Yet I do not hate it. I love it. Why?

1. The proper groundwork has been laid. Lordy, the roots of this story are deep within the DCU's history (including elements that I can't mention because they would be spoilers for some inevitable reveals about the Black Lantern). Plus, writers (well, Johns) have built this story brick by brick out of recent year's developments and intentional additions (the death of the Dibnys and many others, the Spectre's punishment of Black Hand, Parallax, the 'emotional color spectrum', the Sinestro War, "Engine City", Xanshi, JLI, the trouble between the Hawks... really, just about everything). This doesn't feel like some external "event'' imposed upon the DCU by editorial fiat that doesn't jibe with anything else. Quite the opposite; it pulls together many loose threads in the DCU and puts them in a overall context that helps it all make more sense and seem more cohesive.

2. The metatextual element. I appreciate when DC takes advantage of an 'event' to do more than simply tell a story. Legends, for example, made complex points about heroism. Blackest Night is a commentary (criticism?) of comic books' Revolving Door of Death. As longtime readers may remember, I am an admirer of the Ivory Soap Method of marketing. "Blackest Night" is an astonishingly bold example. DC has said, "Let's take out two most damning criticisms == that we violently kill off our characters with foolish abandon and that we keep bringing people back from the dead == and make those the central issues in our coolest company-wide story of all time." That's sheer genius.

3. It's not zombies; it's zombies with power rings. Which is, um, totally different. Somehow. It makes you wonder: what side is Driq on?

4. The possibly of fixing, well, almost everything. Ever since 1985, I've been waiting for DC to "fix everything". Crisis on Infinite Earths was the first time DC told me they were going to give themselves a chance to fix everything that needed fixing. I remember being very excited by the idea that DC would "fix everything" by eliminating everything dumb (which is to say, Things That Didn't Make Me Happy in My Comics) and reorganizing and reemphasizing everthing cool. They didn't, of course. Like any legislative body (such as Congress), DC's editors focused too much on changing the situation they didn't like (accumulated Bronze Age continuity) and too little on the new situation they'd be replacing it with (post-Crisis continuity). They gave themselves another chance during Zero Hour (but didn't really fix everything). They gave themselves yet another chance with Infinite Crisis (other than bringing back Barry and Bart Allen, no one has any idea what happened there).

Now, in Blackest Night they have a chance to fix, well, not everything, but almost everything (since most things that "needed fixed" are the pointlessly sensational killings off of characters). I continue to hope that DC will use this opportunity to fix things, much as a battered wife returns to her abusive husband confident that he's sorry, he's changed, and this time it's going to be different. However, this time, I have some evidence on my side: certain things pretty much have to be fixed. Specifically, the currently-dead status of Bruce Wayne and Arthur Curry.

I'm not going to get into an argument here about whether these characters should remain dead and whether DC heroes are really legacies, blah blah blah, and neither are you. Because, frankly, our chatter doesn't really matter. It's just a fact: Bruce Wayne and Arthur Curry aren't going to remain dead, and anyone who thinks otherwise is just being naive. Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Green Arrow didn't stay dead and neither will their two colleagues (J'onn Jonnz? Him I'm not so sure about...).

So, some characters are going to come back from the dead as a result of Blackest Night. That means, in theory, that ANYONE can. Which means, of course...

5. Vibe is comin' back, meng!


You really think they might leave J'onn in the grave?

Ugh, I hope not. :( Why is he not good enough to bring back? Humph. J'onn J'onnz is the Rodney Dangerfield of the DC universe.
I don't get it--wasn't Bruce simply sent back in time? If he's not dead, how will he come back from the dead?
Why is he not good enough to bring back?

I guess you're either too old or too young to remember that J'Onn was almost completely absent from the DC Universe for 15 years (you can literally count on one hand the number of new stories he appeared in from 1969-1984; heck, your old shop teacher probably can), and nobody really noticed.
I wonder why it took me so long to notice that all the original JLAers have died at some point now.
That's right, Laplace. Once this is done, they ALL will have died and returned, which will, we hope, put an end to that device. I suspect that's part of the meta-point of Blackest Night.

I honestly don't know. People are vaguely fond of him, but no one really considers him essential. Unlike the others, he's never been able to sustain own book, writers can't make up their mind what to do with him, his origins and powerset and problematic for plot, he has no Golden Age roots...

J'onn's membership among the Big Seven has also been tenuous at best. I can easily imagine the DCU soldiering on quite normally without him; the same cannot be said of, say, Batman or Aquaman.
I seem to recall Johns saying something to the effect of he "never got Aquaman". After the Mera-Garth exchange in Blackest Night, I'm now convinced that's a total mislead. Now convinced we're getting the real Arthur back, and hopefully without all the King business which I agree always held the character down.

I loved Kingdom Come, but that whole "I was never comfortable being your 'Aquaman'" kind of ruined the character. The cartoon has it right - Arthur should LOVE being a super-hero, love helping people -- and he was raised on LAND, with his dad, in the USA, probably reading about the JSA growing up.

Also convinced the first few pages of Blackest Night teases all who return: Beetle, Batman, Aquaman, J'onn, and um... probably the Hawks like 2 pages into #2.
I agree with with all your points Scipio (though I like Martian Manhunter quite a bit, even if you're not wrong about him).

I also agree with Brushwood; like I said on my blog last Wednesday the king thing was always a mistake and the Peter David "Aquaman" was a travesty.

Still, I think when you (Scipio) say "no one has any idea what happened there" you actually meant Final Crisis and not Infinite Crisis. I thought Infinite Crisis was pretty straight forward...
I'd say that Morrison, Ostrader, and Giffen/ DeMatteis all had great ideas about what to do with J'onn-- and that Ostrander in particular showed that he's a complicated enough guy that there's no necessary conflict among them! He was rendered unusuable post-OYL by being turned into a boring Skrull, but that's a reflection on OYL, not on J'onn.

Yes, his powerset is problematic. But the lack of the Golden Age roots is a good thing. Even in Geoff Johns' DCU, there should be room for *somebody* who's not a legacy hero, and someone who stands for the difference between the Silver Age and the Golden Age. The space-age makeovers of the Golden Agers (the space cop, the cops from outer space, the little guy who carries around a chunk of a star, etc) are good for that, but the green-skinned man from mars who isn't a Golden Age makeover is even better.

Yes, J'onn was missing for the Bronze Age-- the more fools they, since he would have made great sense on a satellite. It wa s a great virtue of the post-Crisis retcons that J'onn was a member of the JLA from its founding onward. The JSA has always had a bunch of members whose primary adventures were with the JSA. Any Big-7-or-more version of the JLA is always at risk of getting pulled apart by the importance of the separate players-- it plausibly *needs* someone who devotes his heart and soul to the League, year after year, to keep it together.

Look-- J'onn is so important ot the League that, *even though he wasn't a member at the time*, his death is immediately followed by Superman leaving for New Krypton, Batman dying, Wonder Woman apparently leaving for yet-to-be-announced reasons, and the remaining League splitting into two for announced-and-stupid reasons! He could have held the place together, man!
Considering how big a deal DC made in advance that Zero Hour was going to clean up continuity once and for all, it's kind of shocking how little they ended up changing because of it. Killing off JSAers doesn't fix continuity. Turning Hawkman from "complicated" into "completely %^&$ing incomprehensible" doesn't fix continuity. Taking away Joe Chill doesn't fix continuity.

The only fundamental continuity changes were to the 30th century. Otherwise, Zero Hour was just a chance to make the DCU more 90s-ish in ways good (Starman) and bad (Fate), in the name of launching forward-looking series that weren't bound up with old fogey days.
Unless I'm wrong, the Bruce Wayne thing is a feint? Why wouldn't they make the return of Batman it's own event?
I don't know exactly where Blackest Night is going to go, but I have to agree that it has been crafted with painstaking care for quite some time. If you have been reading Rebirth, and Sinestro Corps War, and all the Green Lantern books inbetween, not to mention a plethora of OTHER books, you can see the threads of the tapestry being woven.

Will we end up with dead heroes returned? Gosh darn it, I hope so. Other than for momentary shock value, I've never seen the point of killing off rich and wonderful characters on some temporary writer's whim.

So, I'm fearful and hopeful...which means I should have a yellow AND blue ring.
rainbow Raider needs to be granted all 7 rings, the most fearsome rainbow lantern in the galaxy, he'll finally get that respect he deserves!
Roy G Bivolo PWNS all the Lantern Corps in next year's, "Rainbowingest Night" be on the lookout
Red Bee, dammit!
I still say the whole "emotional color spectrum" thing is a hippy-dippy idea better suited to a Jefferson Airplane concept album.

That said, I think I can guess where it's going. Black isn't really a color, per se; it's the absence of color. So the Black Lanterns are devoid of emotions. The opposite of that is white, which is all colors combined. Hal has been trying on every ring in the spectrum, right? At least, that's what I glean from seeing the covers and previews. Eventually he'll become the White Lantern, embracing all emotions to become the ultimate Lantern.
Wow, David. I know you were just goofin', but that Rainbow Raider idea sounds pretty awesome. Sure, it's a little like the Infinity Gauntlet or that guy Iron Man fights, but with Roy G. Bivilo at the helm, I'm sure it'd be its own beast.

Personally, I don't find J'onn's superpowers to be problematic. Look, you've got two options, either give him a limited range of powers like he used to have: invisibility, super strength, invulnerablity to all but flame, shape-shifting, telepathy and mind manipulation or, and this could be more fun, you give him the undefinable range of abilities we've seen in Scipio's posts (or the book, if you're fortunate enough to own it). Ice cream cones from the void? Martian twirling? Reading the newspaper with his fingertips? Whatever. He can be the superhero whose power is to have any power he can think of. But there's a catch there even. He's got to think it up, and he's still highly vulnerable to flame, so it isn't like he's unstoppable. He'd be sort of like Johnny's Thunderbolt from the Justice Society. A Martian genie or djinn, if you will.

If Beetle is brought back, it would explain why Johns couldn't bring him back in Booster Gold, despite the clamboring for it and, from the remarks of his I read, he did appear sincerely sympathetic, but that the reason why was hush-hush. If the Black Lanterns have Ted on their side, I'd say the heroes of the DCU are in for some serious trouble. I wonder if he'd fly around in the shell of some giant undead alien bug?

As usual, I find myself in agreement with Scipio's sentiments and inspired by his insights. And I would also love to see Vibe back in action, though I hope not as the butt of some writer's idea of a funny joke.

-Citizen Scribbler
TotalToyz, I've seen that speculation before, and I counter as always that the original Green Lantern wields the Green Flame of Life. I think the Green Lantern Corps will marshal all under Will to drive back the Blackest Night.

But isn't it cool to have an event that's actually sparking speculation about what's gonna happen, and not in a pessimistic, "how badly can they screw this up" way?

-- Jack of Spades
Marshal under Will? I knew some kinky stuff went on in the Land of the Lost...
The fact that so many people are independently coming to the "all colors = white lantern" conclusion is interesting - if it's so obvious, is it a red herring?

Of course, my pet theory is that Eclipso is the hidden figure pulling Black Hand's strings and powering the black battery (absence of life / light?). If Bruce Gordon is so much as mentioned at some point, then the jig is up. But again, that's just a pet theory.
Tim, the answer is more intrinsic to the Green Lantern mythos.

Oh, and for the record, VIBE should NOT be in Hal's Diorama of Death ...
Vibe died before Barry did.
Uh, Scipio, Vibe died during the events of Legends, which came after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, when Barry died.
"Vibe died before Barry did."

I know you know your Vibe better than anyone, but ... Vibe participated in "Crisis on Infinite Earths" and did not die in it, so doesn't that mean he outlived Barry? Even if Vibe happened to die at some point in the twelve month period in which CoIE was being published, it just means his death was published first, not that Barry outlived him.
Ah, you're right, my error; Vibe was, of course, in COIE, and so died after Barry.
Hmm, the only GL heavy I can think of not yet used in John's run is Krona. But he was never foreshadowed here, I'd bet he'll return only after Blackest Night.
Well, of course, someone more intrinsic to GL lore would be better, but as Brushwood said, who's left? Krona? I mean, the Anti-Monitor wasn't exactly intrinsic to the GL mythos when he was revealed during the Sinestro storyline... but then, I'm nowhere near the GL maven some probably are, so I'm probably overlooking an obvious choice.
To those who are looking for a GL villain who would fit the mold, here is the answer you have been looking for:
Count me among the people who think that Batman won't be coming back just yet. Next year, maybe the year after that even. (My precise guess is that he'll stay dead exactly one month longer Steve Rogers did)

Aquaman, maybe. Although maybe not. He's the guy who demonstrably cannot sell a monthly book, after all, and who doesn't do much for the vast majority of league stories. I'd rather see Ralph,Sue, and J'onn back before him.

But with our luck, the final returnees are going to be Steel, Azrael, and Terry Long.
Don't spoil it, DR!!!
I still think Tom Kalmaku is behind it all....
"Aquaman, maybe. Although maybe not. He's the guy who demonstrably cannot sell a monthly book, after all, and who doesn't do much for the vast majority of league stories. I'd rather see Ralph,Sue, and J'onn back before him."

Aquaman had one run of his own title that lasted nine years and another than lasted seven years.

Ralph, Sue, and J'onn... did not.
Oh, I'm calling it: it's Itty the space-starfish-flower-thing.
Aquaman had one run of his own title that lasted nine years

To be fair, Scipio, that nine years was during a time when the Challengers of the Unknown, the Sea Devils, and the original Teen Titans could also sustain their own titles. The market was different.
TotalToyz, that was during a time when Lois Lane could support her own title. For even longer.

And the other run was from a leaner time, certainly, but I really don't think that anyone wants the character going back to being writen by Peter Alan David, cracking wise and losing limbs any time soon. Or that it would sell today.

I mean 'in today's market', of course. And I'd bet that "I can't believe it's not the Justice League" and "Definitely not the Justice League" outsold the last couple attempts at an Aquaman book. (Which of the three (E-M, J'onn, or Aquaman) does better, sales-wise, in Showcases I don't know, though...)
OK, it was stupid of me to click the link, because that is so totally the answer.

Still, I like Eclipso. What's he been up to lately?
TotalToyz, that was during a time when Lois Lane could support her own title. For even longer.

Ah, yes, how I could I forget that popular feminist icon, Superman's Girl Friend? The living hybrid of Nancy Drew and Penelope Pittstop.
Aquaman, maybe. Although maybe not. He's the guy who demonstrably cannot sell a monthly book, after all

I don't know that he can't, though, even in today's market. If done right, I think he can. Brushwood may have put his finger on it; Aquaman should be done like he is on The Brave and the Bold. Well, maybe not quite so boisterous, and not interested in adventure for adventure's sake; the Aquaman of the "Mystery In Space" episode, a tad more humble but still ready and eager to face impossible odds, is about right.
"I like Eclipso. What's he been up to lately?"

Hmm... getting some sun?
Oh, that was BAD.
Didn't we already have an "Eclipso Menaces the Entire DC Universe" crossover event? So I doubt it's him.
AQUAMAN is one of only five DC characters to be published continuously from the Golden Age till about 1980. Green Arrow made it till about 1985 or so. (The other three were Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman of course.)

Aquaman is like a pro athlete who isn't quite a starter but is too good a performer to be just a backup.

DC simply has no strategy for publishing such characters. A smart strategy would be "planned cancellation." That is, give him an "unlimited" series that you know will end in 2-3 years, and structure its storylines to build and conclude in that time frame. Then end the title for another 2-3 years and start it all over again.

Most of DC's characters should be treated this way, rather than undergo endless pointless revamps.
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