Random Thought! “I guess that autumn / Gets you remembering / And the smallest things / Just make you cry.” It’s Random Thoughts time! Get excited!
Random Thought! It’s mean and probably shows that I’m a jerk, but the reviews that bring me most pleasure to write are the ones where I get to just beat on a shitty comic for 500 words. In that regard, last Thursday was a fun, FUN day. Not just because of the specific comics I got to review, but because the two that I really, really did not like also represented trends that I find myself growing more and more impatient with.
New Avengers #18 was a complete comic that showed us scenes that we didn’t need to see: Norman Osborn recruiting his new Dark Avengers. None of the scenes introduced the characters beyond their name and, maybe, their powers. Many of the characters are new characters and, if you haven’t read a comic featuring them before, any impact of who they are is lost here. The new ‘Dark Spider-Man’ for example: he’s a weird spider-creature that live in the jungle and is, now, a six-armed Spider-Man. That’s all I know about him. Maybe that’s all I need to know. Osborn’s therapist is on the team. He’s sleeping with her. I assume she has superpowers, but maybe she doesn’t? For a comic that supposedly introduced a team to readers, I know very little about them.
Nor did the scenes provide any information that we couldn’t assume from the fact that the various villains are on the team (namely that Osborn asked them to join and they said yes). The same thing could have been accomplished with a shot of the team and captions with their names. And, I know, the concept of ‘necessary’ is maleable and doesn’t always apply — but, here’s the thing, there’s ‘unnecessary’ where there’s character growth or entertainment and, then, there’s this, where it’s showing what happened for the sake of showing what happened even if there’s no point besides that. No character growth, no essential information — quite literally nothing that we couldn’t put together ourselves as I mentioned above. I’ve noticed a rise in these comics — entire comics devoted to showing us events that any reader who can read can piece together.
The Mighty Thor #7 was another good example. Part of the reason these comics exist is because readers demand them for whatever reason. It isn’t enough to heavily imply information through dialogue (like how the Serpent was such a horrible god that Odin beat his ass and imprisoned him — the specifics don’t really matter because they don’t add anything that the general explanation doesn’t contain — or, in this case, the specifics didn’t), we have to see these unimportant scenes happen. Combine that with modern storytelling and, suddenly, what once would have been a few throwaway panels is now a throwaway comic. In my review of New Avengers #18, I mentioned the Secret Invasion tie-ins of New Avengers and Mighty Avengers that Bendis wrote and how a lot of them offered little. Various comics where we got to see when a Skrull replaced someone. And then… um… yeah…
Yet, if Bendis hadn’t written those issues, there would be fans losing their shit, demanding to know exactly what happened and to have every story that took place after the Skrull replaced the character be retold with the hidden motivations revealed. Because they’re too lazy to go back and reread their comics and look for that sort of thing themselves.
This extends past comics. Rise of the Planet of the Apes struck me as a movie that served no real purpose. To me, how apes took over the planet was the boring part of the story. It’s the part you can fill in yourself: they got smart and took over. What’s interesting is seeing them rule the planet and how that changes things. It’s not interesting to see Norman Osborn ask half a dozen people to join his new evil Avengers team, it’s interesting to see that team fight the actual Avengers. It’s not interesting to see exactly how Odin imprisoned the Serpent (especially when it’s essentially he showed up and the Serpent was all “Oh, I have lost!” and Odin is like “Drown your sorrows for eternity, brother!” and it’s over), it’s interesting to see what happens when the Serpent comes back and everyone loses their shit (presumably). Especially when what happened in the past is all but laid out explicitly already. It’s like me saying that, last night, my girlfriend and I watched wrestling. And, then, I showed you a video of us watching wrestling. Guess what: how you imagined it happening is almost certainly exactly how it happened. The specifics may be illuminated (what we were wearing, what the room looks like, what either of us ate or drank), but do any of those make the experience better, more entertaining, or worth the extra time and effort to see it happen? I really wish that same standard was applied to comics before they were conceived. If the answer is no, then there are two choices: make the explanation more worthwhile or don’t do it. In the case of New Avengers #18, the easiest way to improve the comic would have been to actually introduce the new Dark Avengers in a manner that makes it completely unnecessary to have read a comic featuring them before. Then again, that that didn’t happen was a basic storytelling failure.
In some ways, this complaint relates to my problems with Fear Itself #7.2, which seems to embody the approach Marvel has had since Civil War of the big event leading to the new status quo that leads to the next event that leads to the new status quo and so on without a story every actually ending. Fear Itself #7.2 was 60% rehash of Fear Itself #7 and 40% showing us things that will matter to comics coming out soon. It was an infodumb in comic book form — a transition piece that didn’t end Fear Itself so much as begin what happens next… but only by introducing plot elements and characters. Not introducing them well, mind you. Introducing them in the literal sense of “This is Tanarus, he’s the God of Thunder” and, then… nothing. Yes, we now know that. Except, I also learned everything that happened in that comic in the first two pages of Journey into Mystery #631. It was a comic that provided such basic introductions of concepts that they will have to be recapped in other comics and the recaps do just as effective a job at presenting what happened as Fear Itself #7.2. Better, actually, because those comics will then go on to tell actual stories (presumably) and, quite possibly, not cost $3.99. But, hey, the next story will be awesome, so buy that.
Random Thought! Point One was a shitty comic. It utterly amazes me how Marvel went from a company who wasn’t perfect, but still had me excited much of the time to one where I find myself shaking my head at the things they do creatively.
Random Thought! Of course, this is the same company that publishes Deadpool MAX and Punishermax, so who knows…
Random Thought! While I’m ‘hating’ on things, I’ll add a brief one: the continual need for everything to be part of a legacy or continuum. Ghost Rider isn’t just a cool flaming skull guy on a motorcycle, he’s just the latest Spirit of Vengeance. Animal Man isn’t some random superhero, he’s just a temporary replacement for the avatar of the Red, the next one being his daughter. In opposition to the Green and the Red is the Black. There’s a rainbow of magical wishing ring Corps. Hell, is there a DC hero left who isn’t part of a longer line of heroes in some way? Can nothing stand alone? Coming soon: the Punisher is revealed to be the Spirit of Righteous Vengeance with each avatar coming out of war or something dumb like that.
Random Thought! Oh, and ‘secret threat from the past that was never mentioned until now’ is pretty lame, too.
Random Thought! I did like some of the Bendis-penned Secret Invasion Avengers comics. The Nick Fury trio of issues were pretty good. Actually, the recruiting of the caterpillars makes for a good comparison to New Avengers #18 since both are recruiting issues — and, yet, the caterpillars one is so much more effective. The characters are (pretty much) all new, so their introductions are handled better. The characters show personality and you gain a little insight. Then again, I’ve come to realise that the motives of villains in comics are usually the same, while the motives of heroes set them apart from one another. The different reactions from the caterpillars were great and told you something about who they were.
Random Thought! Man, I don’t give a fuck what Frank Miller thinks about the Occupy protestors. I care about him writing and/or drawing comics (and maybe doing movies). I haven’t care about his thoughts on politics yet, why start now?
Random Thought! When I did that Fear Itself edition of Random Thoughts, it was originally going to be a Holy Terror edition. Then, I changed my mind.
Random Thought! Tonight, we make tacos.
Random Thought! On the weekends, I work twelve-hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday (8am-8pm) and, usually, they aren’t bad. They honestly don’t feel much longer than regular eight-hour shifts. Sunday, though, was the day that would not end. It felt like twelve hours… maybe longer. First time that’s happened in a while.
Random Thought! Aside from Batwoman, last week was a week of good to shit comics. Plenty of good comics, just not many that blew my mind. Batwoman did a pretty good job of that.
Random Thought! The current Punishermax story isn’t connecting like the previous three. I like it, but don’t love it.
Random Thought! I finished 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami yesterday. I really enjoyed it. Surprisingly, one of his most straight forward novels. As always, certain mysteries (or, riddles, as he likes to call them sometimes) are left unsolved, but it felt much more cohesive as a whole than some of his other ‘major’ works like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore. I do find it interesting that his two longest, ‘major’ works, this and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle were both written in two parts, were supposedly done, and, then, he returned to write a third part for each. I do think that 1Q84 benefits from the third part — although the addition of a third narrative focus is a little odd at first. Not sure where it ranks for me personally amongst his work just yet. That takes a little time and reflection — it needs to sit in the back of my head and get reread — and so do the rest of the books. Not that I’m doing that right now or anything.
Random Thought! I don’t like how, when I go to the bank, they call me by my first name. There’s something about that lack of formality that bugs me. I may not want to be ‘just a number,’ but that doesn’t mean I want to be friends either.
Random Thought! Part of the fun of reviews is that, in writing them, I figure out what I really think.
Random Thought! Retailer Tim expressed surprise at me adding Prophet to my pull list when it returns. Heh.
Random Thought! I find Drinkify rather amusing. You plug in the name of the musician or band you’re listening to and they’ll give you a drink to drink. Now, all I need is a large quantity of alcohol and I’ll begin seeing what my favourite musicians as drinks are like…
Random Thought! Dean White is a pretty awesome colourist.
Random Thought! I’m sad about the possibility of albums not being released on CD.
Random Thought! I’m obviously preparing for my career in 30 years as Andy Rooney’s replacement…
No Random Comments this week. Thanks for reading. Later.
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