Friday, November 23, 2007

let's Play Monday-Morning Editor

Who can tell me what is wrong in this two-panel sequence from Punisher War Journal #13? It's not a hard question. Winner gets a Kewpie Doll.

Along these lines there's another, not quite so obvious but still glaring error involving the same general idea a few pages earlier (extra credit if you can figure out what that error is). Once you figure out the problem (or see it in the comments) you may think one of two things: one, you may think it's not an important error at all; or two, you may think it's rather important and impacts your enjoyment of the story. Considering this is a book written not by some stereotypical committee hack but Matt Fraction, thought by many to be one of the most promising talents in mainstream adventure comics, it's rather interesting that this kind of error would sneak through. He's got a reputation for writing smart action-adventure stories. It seems, from my perspective, a very basic error of the kind that brings a long-time reader out of the story almost immediately. Does the fact that I see this error and it immediately takes me out of the story make me one of those old doddering fanboys who sit around their basement apartments in Cheeto-stained sweatpants theorizing about the taste of women, like magical pomegranates in Greek myth? Or can I make a genuine criticism based on the fact that this was a rather elementary error that seems to imply a shaky grasp of the fundamentals required to write a superhero story in this context?

I don't think a comic called Punisher War Journal ever had the chance to be high art, but given that it's a corporate superhero book there are certain expectations of how things will work. You don't order a Big Mac and expect to receive just any old thing in return -- you get two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun, with that weird pseudo-bun thing in the middle. Similarly, you expect that someone writing a Spider-Man comic (or a comic with Spider-Man in it) will have, if not an encyclopedic mastery, at least a firm grasp of what Spider-Man does and doesn't do. Is it wrong to think that something like this implies a level of contempt for the audience, or is that simply fanboy entitlement in another guise? U decide.

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