Tuesday, November 8, 2011

So, "Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth" worked almost exactly like a DC Event Comic

I take it all of you are familiar with Axe Cop?

If not, you should be.

Axe Cop was a happy accident which occurred when a 29 year old comic artist, Ethan Nicolle, went to visit his family for the holidays, and whilst hanging out with his 5 year-old brother, Malachi, created a quick comic strip in which Ethan illustrated the stories which Malachi dreamed up.

Malachi's vision comes mostly from understanding the world in the manner of a 5-year-old, by way of TV, movies, video games, 5 year old perceptions of the world on everything from how police recruitment works to headier things like one's mortality or morality.

All in all, its an amazingly fun read, at least in part because it taps into the world of play and unfettered imagination all of us who lived to grow up and become boring 'ol adults now filter out before an idea has time to percolate.  Most five-year-olds don't have talented cartoonist brothers willing to draw the stories they reel off.

That said, part of what's fun is also that five-year-olds are not terribly responsible story-tellers, and there's a lot of free-association, randomness, odd handling of cause-and-effect, etc...

Usually Axe Cop is read in small chunks, in a sort of webstrip format, and even if a story goes on, its in these tiny chunks.  But Bad Guy Earth was an Axe Cop opus, a three-issue comic series 

What struck me as I was wrapping up the read (one I highly recommend, by the way) is that the series was 99.9% plot development with not even a nod to character development, featured a string of events that didn't really push one into another but still fit, somewhat loosely, with plot threads that kind of start and then do nothing, while kind of random things happen to draw the series to its conclusion.

Sort of like most of DC's "event comics" since Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Look, I love me some DC, but there's always a point in the middle of a read like Infinite Crisis where I'm convinced I missed an issue, or that I suffered transient global amnesia while reading the comic because a lot of stuff is occurring, but nothing is happening that pushes the story forward.  I don't know why DC thinks this is okay, but... have you tried to go back and actually read COIE?  It's like hop-scotching through DC non sequiturs and winding up with an ending in which nobody wins.

And that's kind of been the pattern.

And, really, while the ending is peculiar to Bad Guy Earth, I have to give credit to Malachi for at least ending on a high note for Axe Cop.

For a five year old throwing dinosaurs with machinegun arms at the wall, and characters with socks for arms and magical uni-babies...  this is all cool.  But I honestly sometimes wonder if the process DC goes through in scripting your typical, oh... Blackest Night, isn't a bit like this.  "Oh, and then the Anti-Monitor shows up, but he's dumb, so he goes away.  And then all the heroes die and they become bad guys because the zombies ate their hearts.  And then there's a huge battle and the good-guys win, but then more zombies appear, and..."

I think you can see where I'm going with this.

On the internet the Identity Crisis series takes a lot of guff (maybe rightfully so) for including the rape of a minor DC character.  But what gets lost in the shuffle is that Identity Crisis was one of the only cross-over events from DC that featured characters with clear motivations acting upon them, and not just motivations that included "save the world from an abstract menace like 'the anti-destructo wave'" or whatever.  For once we saw a the DC pantheon as characters concerned about something close to home, about their loved ones.  And while the series had its flaws, it was trying something a bit different, and managing to still work within the confines of the DCU.  And, of course, the internet hated it.

The truth is, I kind of dread big events at DC anymore, and I quit reading Marvel titles largely because I didn't read enough Marvel to care about what happened during something like Civil War (which, yes, of course you can't have masked people running around blowing things up in a major metropolitan area with no reporting authority.  Just asking the question sort of answered it and revealed the genre for its logical inconsistency), and they, frankly, didn't handle themselves much better and have been in an event of some sort since roughly 2006.  But I had no plans to read Flashpoint until I started figuring out it actually might be slightly important (its not, in the end.  Just the last three or four pages).

DC has always struggled with an overabundance of plot versus character in its titles (and, no, Batman sitting of a gargoyle in the rain with text boxes is not character development).  When it comes to events, that really goes out the window.  Its an interesting inversion of the problem I think DC used to have, which was that if you took a story like a typical Sgt. Rock comic, it was using the backdrop of WWII to show how war can bring out different sides of a man.  But that was also the lesson every single issue.  For years.

Something about Final Crisis seemed to handle the plot and even the character development potential slightly better.  Batman got a whole bunch of story miles out of it, and I think if Superman had been handles more responsibly during the Final Crisis era, there was potential there that wouldn't have boiled away with the end of the series.  But it is largely plot driven, and is saved mostly through becoming a bit akin to Malachi's storm of mad ideas.

So if DC is taking a break from events for a while, I'm all right with that.  As much as I enjoy the ecstatic energy of the mad-cap world of Axe Cop, and I appreciate the DCU's ability to have ideas just as kooky at times, it'd be nice to see a bit more thought and basic writing go into those long, expensive series in order to make me feel like its worth keeping up.  And to give me faith that the Geoff Johnses of the world can try to be as creative as a 5 year old on too much sugar cereal, but that he has the story-sense of his better equipped peers to look inside the machinations of the story and understand why everything is happening (and not just because someone wants to end the Earth - because... what?).


Anonymous said...

I think Crisis on Infinite Earths holds up pretty well.

Infinite Crisis was trash.

Identity Crisis was trash.

Blackest Night was trash because you had to freaking buy GL issues just to make sense of what's happening in the Blackest Night miniseries.

I don't think Final Crisis holds up very well either.


The League said...

Well, I have pie-graphs and charts to demonstrate how and why you're wrong, but to each their own.

COIE could have been told in at least half the pages, and that's usually the case with all of these series.

I literally couldn't tell you what the major threat of Infinite Crisis was, because I can only remember bits of it, as if in a fever dream.

I'll still take Identity Crisis as a legitimate thriller over an exercise in editorial management as story. I understand the problems of the comic, but it actually works as a story, which is not something I think you can say about most of the other "events" we're discussing.

And, yeah, clearly the Blackest Night event just got out of control.

I have a post percolating about how Final Crisis should have been the final event that shut down the DCU, and that Didio has been trying to get to his point of reboot for years. But that's for another day.