Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reason #347 for why I'm not buying that many new comics these days: Stop With the "Death of" Stories Already

The most refreshing thing about the recent Death of Batman storyline was, of course, the crazy good story Grant Morrison wove across months and months of Batman comics.  But the second most refreshing thing was that within a few dozen pages of Batman "dying" in Final Crisis, we saw Batmas was actually and okay and doing landscape paintings or some such in a cave at the dawn of humanity.

It wasn't even particularly shocking in 1992 when DC "killed" Superman for a few months, as part of the meta-narrative all along was that the story was more of an exploration of what would happen if Superman died (your mileage will vary on the success of that mission), but we all knew DC wasn't actually killing off Big Blue.

The only deaths that were taken as "permanent" in comics, until a few years ago, were Uncle Ben in Spider-Man, Bucky in Captain America and Jason Todd in Batman comics.  Of those, only 1/3rd remain stone-cold chilling beneath the earth.  And I guarantee its a matter of time before some "edgy" writer and editor cook up a plan to bring back Uncle Ben, revealing that he didn't really die, but went to Europe where he plotted his revenge against Spider-Man.*  Or, if they're really edgy, he'll be resurrected as an undead cyborg thing that terrorizes Peter Parker and becomes a hot, hot property for intellectually challenged comic fans.

But...  hey, comic sales are slumping.  That "The Punisher is now a Frankenstein monster!" bit didn't pull you out of the hole.  Why not kill off both Spider-Man and 1/4 of the Fantastic Four in the same news cycle?

Le sigh.

Spider-Man is getting dead, at least in the parallel Ultimate universe.  (I so gave up on the Ultimate titles about four years ago.)

And I guess Marvel is going to kill Sue Storm, because, you know, emotional impact, yadda yadda.  At least that's what Vegas odds-makers are guessing.

I know I'm DC centric, but one small part of that is that I think DC is often a little quicker to stop running a particular idea into the ground, whereas the Quesada-era Marvel seems to think that you must beat a concept into the ground until someone begs for mercy.**

Word is that Didio and Co. kind of decided the Death of Batman thing was kind of it for them, and Blackest Night certainly indicated that they don't want to go any further with deaths and resurrections. And I hope that's true for a good, long while.

And while its possible the death of Spidey in the Ultimate Line could, in fact, be permanent, scientific polls suggest that absolutely nobody cares.  And absolutely nobody believes that any of the FF is actually off the board.  (And I'd argue that Marvel handles this stuff a lot more clumsily than DC.  I liked the Captain America stuff okay, but....  that return of Cap story was some pretty awkward stuff from Brubaker.  It felt far more deus ex machina than Morrison's extended albeit similar plot for Bats).

But:  Its done.  Its played out.  I can't even pretend this could be good anymore.

*because this is exactly what Marvel did with the Green Goblin after he'd been dead a good, long while
**Your shame-centers have to have been surgically removed to approve as many Deadpool titles as I see on the shelves these days, and...  really?  There's that kind of demand for Thor?  I'm not buying it.


Simon MacDonald said...

I'm not really following the Ultimate Spidey line. I do pick up the trades from the library when they are available but it seems like the steam ran out on that series a long time ago even back before the Ultimatum storyline. If anyone read that piece of garbage you might remember that Spider-Man died there as well.

Anyway, like you I'm fed up with these shock deaths that only last for a few issues. The only notable writer who handled "death" well in my recent memory has been Ed Brubaker. I was really pessimistic about Bucky coming back but it was handled incredibly well by Bru and it is some of the best comics I've read in the past 5 years. The "Death of Cap" storyline was amazing and like you I think the return of Steve Rodgers was pretty rushed and a bit of a miss for Bru. However, I'm more inclined to blame an editorial mandate to bring Cap back than crappy writing.

If I was scoring things:
Return of Bucky: Hit
Return of Cap: Miss
Return of Batman: Miss, even with the cool pirate issue
Return of Jason Todd: Red Hood storyline: Hit, Superboy punching the wall: Big Miss
Return of Normal Osborn: Miss, sullying one of the best single issues of all time.

The League said...

I actually stopped picking up the Ultimate Spidey stuff about a year prior to Ultimatum, so I missed out on that whole mess (and I had no idea Spidey had already "died" once).

IMHO, Brubaker defied the odds with the return of Bucky. But he did it by very slowly and logically unravelling the story in a way that made complete sense in the same world where Cap could be frozen in an iceflow for several decades.

Likely Cap's return was a bit of pressure. I've been reading the collections, and I was a bit surprised (and let down) that was how they went about it.

Mostly, after two huge "Death of" storylines, no matter how they want to do it, jumping right back on the concept again just stinks of institutionalized creative bankruptcy. In some ways its not just maddening, its kind of freaky.

Is this it? Is this all the combined might of the Marvel and DC creative bullpens have for us? Another "Death of" storyline?

If I was JoeyQ I would be flat out embarrassed. If I were Dan Buckley, I'd be down in JoeyQ's office asking what the hell was going on down there.

If I was scoring things:
Return of Bucky: Hit
Return of Cap: Miss
Return of Batman: Here I disagree, but I think the actual return in the issues worked okay.
Return of Jason Todd: I am going to have to completely disagree. Nothing about this worked for me at all, and continues not to work. Frankly, when I see Jason Todd and/ or Hush these days, I try to avoid the comic. The only smart use I've seen of Todd was in Morrison's run.
Return of Norman Osborn: I like the concept of Peter Parker having an arch nemesis as Osborn is occasionally portrayed, but... man, that was a pretty awful way to get to that point. I wasn't reading Spidey at the time, but I've seen the comics since, and... man. The 90's.

Simon MacDonald said...

Yeah, Bru really did defy the odds when brought Bucky back. He was able to avoid getting caught up in the mega-Marvel cross overs for a few years which allowed him to tell his story and pace it properly. Sadly that all ended with the mandate that Captain America be more in the Marvel universe.

I guess the problem I had with Batman's return is that there was never any doubt he'd be back, I would have like to have seen more issues of Dick Grayson as the only Batman as that Batman & Robin series was just great. Also, the proliferation of mini-series and one-shots for his return was pretty sickening. I know you've discussed that before. However you can't argue with it's ability to rake in money as they pulled in something like $3.5M that month in Batman family sales.

Jason Todd just needs to go away Period

I have to agree Spider-Man needs an arch nemesis. First it was Green Goblin, then Hobgoblin then Venom. There is no reason why it can't be someone else they didn't need to bring Osborn back.

The League said...

I think I actually LIKED the fact that there was never any doubt that Batman would be back. Selling the idea that Bruce Wayne is gone from the DCU forever is just laughable, and DC wasn't going to insult me by pretending it was otherwise.

I will also say: yes, there were too many mini-series, main titles, etc... I never read Red Robin, one or two issues of Gotham Sirens, and pretty much gave up on everything but the stuff Morrison was writing. So I didn't read that "here's what person X thinks of Batman coming back" mini-series, as I've been down the DC-super-fillers path way too many times.

I was planning to limit my Batman reading in the wake of RoBW, but now I think I'll read Snyder's Detective, Dark Knight, B&R and Batman Inc.. I just can't get behind Tony Daniel's scripts, so somebody tell me if Batman is any good...

Simon MacDonald said...

I hear good things about Red Robin and I'll probably check it out someday as I like the Tim Drake character. The other Bat spin off that I hear good things about is Batgirl surprisingly enough. I guess Bryan Q Miller is just crushing it on that book.

I'm interested in Synder's Detective with Jock and Francesco Francavilla. That sounds like it will be a winner. Batman & Robin has been a good ride whenever I check it out and how can you not love the idea of Batman Inc? I read the first issue where he takes on Lord Death Man who I though was hilarious in Chip Kid's Bat-Manga collection.

The League said...

I tried Batgirl twice and wasn't really into it either time (and one featured 16 Draculas and Supergirl... I literally figured "how could I miss?". I think it has a certain charm, and I think there's an audience for it, but I didn't really see why folks are getting all excited about the series. There are and have been many, many books just like this on the shelf.