Thursday, April 30, 2009

This Post Is Dedicated To My Mother*

She likes cows; she likes Wolverine. Connect the dots.

*The alternate title for this post was:
Wow, Bully sure grew up fast!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Things I Like Which No One Else Does

Part Two

Let's speak some truth to the youth of America, shall we? Comic Sans is a font. A font. The fact that the mere existence of such an innocuous device as a font has caused so much incredible gnashing of teeth across the wide world is, frankly, bizarre.

I'm not going to lie to you and say I have some great love for Comic Sans. But you know what? I don't think it's possible to love a font, anymore than it is possible to hate a font. Unless you appeared in this movie, I don't really think you should probably get so attached to fonts, or fetishize your hatred of same. Yes, even you professional or semi-professional web designers and publishers in the audience - I can feel you firing up your keyboards with fierce anti-Comic Sans jeremiads. Would you like to know a secret? How to ensure that you never have to worry about Comic Sans? Delete it from the fonts file in Microsoft Word. Then you won't feel the horrible temptation.

But the thing is, lots of people do use it - just as I'm sure there are even weirdos out there who use Wingdings (probably eight-year-olds, but I digress). If you're one of the many anti-Comic Sans agitators, take heart: some people just aren't as advanced a specimen of the human race as you, with all the brainpower devoted to the history and application of fotns and typefaces as yourself. That's so awesome that you know the names of the guys who invented Helvetica (Max Miedinger with Eduard Hoffmann). Really, the knowledge that Carolingian minuscule grew to prominence in Northern European scriptoriums following the Carolingian Renaissance, and that it serves as the basis for many modern typefaces, is just unbelievably great. You're a better person than me. Really. And obsessing over a typeface isn't just another way of reifying a self-justified sense of superiority over less fortunate, design-challenged peons. It's not just another way for nerds to justify smug feelings of condescension, with an added patina of veiled classism, really, it isn't. I promise.

I use Comic Sans - I used to use it for my comics remixes, back in the day when I did such things. Hell, I use to love the fuck out of Cooper, and you can't tell me that's not an ugly font. Because, you know, I don't really care. Maybe it speaks ill of me, bad breeding or whatever, but I just can't be motivated to care. You know what my favorite font is? Courier New, because the even spacing and legibility looks good on my eyes when I'm staring at the computer screen for hours on end. I hear you about to say: "well, the font you choose says something about you and the information you are trying to present to the world, much like wearing a Big Johnson T-shirt to your interview might jeopardize your chances of getting a job at Sun Microsystems". But hey, have you looked at this website lately? I'm using the same gaudy orange Blogger template I've been using since day one (save for a month where I switched to a black template out of respect for Sleater-Kinney's break-up); half of the links in my sidebar are dead or to sites I don't read anymore; hell, I've still got a link to the "Al Gore in '08" grass-roots organization website, and some ad toolbars that I don't even know what they are.

Really, in 2009, sloppy design and useless clutter is an aesthetic choice as much as anything else. So I celebrate my right to use Comic Sans, if for no other reason that it is the one sure-fire way to piss off all the elitist assholes who have this taped to their cubicle walls.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Doom Is Always Right

And sometimes even moreso than others:

Doom forwards his apologies to the good
folks at the the Comic Empire of Tulsa.

(Speaking of which, I just stumbled across this interview here. By far the best thing about my too-long self-imposed exile in Tulsa was the Comic Empire. I spent quite a bit of time there over the years. This interview was conducted a few years ago, but it was a few years after I left the area and it's weird to see he had changed some of the moth-eaten old retail posters on the walls - although I can't see if he had changed the early 90s Legionnaires poster that hung above the boxes of old Warren / Savage Sword of Conan / Mad magazines - my personal favorite store anachronism. If you pop in on the right day you might catch him listening to DJ Shadow, my particular contribution to the store's furniture, along with a strange doodle of Charlie Brown holding a gun next to the bathroom wall, which was probably taken down years ago.)
Things I Like Which No One Else Does

Part One of what is sure to be another extremely infrequent series

The Thing's Spiky Look

Although nowadays characters change costumes and powers at the drop of the proverbial hat, back in the mid-to-late 80s when Marvel decided (either by design or sheer coincidence) to give almost all of their top-tier properties significant makeovers, it was slightly shocking. Suddenly, Spider-Man was a black creature of the night; Captain America was out of the red-white-and-blue; the Hulk was gray and pissed; Thor was sporting a full-beard and armor; Iron Man had ditched the red and gold for red and silver; Storm got a mohawk. The Fantastic Four changed, too. She-Hulk joined the team for a brief period following the first Secret Wars - but this was nowhere near as jarring an inclusion as it could have been, considering that Byrne's She-Hulk made a copacetic fit with the FF's longstanding family dynamic. Soon after issue #300, however, they upended the series premise entirely, booting Reed and Sue into semi-retirement in Connecticut, and leaving Ben and Johnny to forge ahead with Sharon Ventura - Ms. Marvel - and Crystal. To make matters even weirder, the Thing's appearance was transformed radically - from his traditional craggy form into something spiky and far more intimidating.

Obviously it was a temporary change. Looking back, it lasted a scant year-and-a-half, although he didn't immediately revert to hie previous form, but spent the next couple years as just plain Ben Grimm. The funny thing is, for whatever reason, while most of the 80s revamps were generally well-received and are similarly well-remembered, the Thing's brief change is almost never mentioned. Obviously, no one believed at the time that Spider-Man would stay in his black costume forever, but it is an extremely striking design and remains popular whenever it shows up. (It was a big mistake to change Venom's design to whatever purple Scorpion-esque monstrosity it was in Thunderbolts - seriously, the black costume is one of the best costumes in comics, regardless of who's wearing it. Similarly, the third Spider-Man film completely failed in this regard, not actually using the black costume but merely a dirty version of the standard togs. But then, Sam Raimi had no real interest in using the costume to begin with, so it's not surprising he failed to grasp the appeal.) Cap's black costume lives on in a slightly modified form with USAgent; the Hulk reverts to gray for the odd storyline every few years; you could even make an argument that Thor's current look owes a lot to Simonson's armor design, although that would depend entirely on whether or not Oliver Coipel has ever read Simonson's run (which is hardly a given). But no one ever talks about the Thing.

Which strikes me as odd, because the spiky Thing kicked ass. It wasn't merely a cosmetic change: the new look brought with it a significant power-boost, so that for the first time the Thing was actually on par with Thor and Hulk in terms of strength. It might seem like a small issue, but think about how many great Thing moments depend on his underdog status: he's incredibly strong, but never the strongest. He has to work that much harder. It might seem on first glance that upping his power level would be a mistake, then, in terms of the character's established appeal. And certainly, if the change had been permanent, it would have been a mistake. But as far as the story went, it was really interesting to see the Thing in a more confident, assured, and even cocky role. Playing against type, so to speak.

There's a great - one of the best - Hulk / Thing battles, in the middle of the storyline, with the spiky Thing tackling the canny gray Hulk. In the first part of the battle (in the pages of Fantastic Four, 'natch), the Hulk and Thing wail on each other like usual, with the difference being that for the first time ever the Thing actually manages to beat the Hulk in a contest of pure strength. It's a great moment for longtime Thing fans, even if it is the weakened gray Hulk - the Hulk still knows he's been beaten by someone he had always dismissed as a lightweight. Then, in the second part of the crossover (in the pages of Incredible Hulk), Peter David presents another clever inversion of the traditional dynamic. Continuing their battle, the Hulk realizes he just can't win in a straight fight with the new Thing, so he uses his wits to out-think and exhaust his overconfident opponent - in much the same way that the Thing had used his wiles to stay competitive with the Hulk for all those years when he was the weaker party. it's a great two-part story because it uses the opportunities presented by the shifting status quo to give both characters a great moment.

On a purely mechanical level, I can't help but wonder whether or not the look's lack of staying power has anything to do with the fact that it's probably a bitch to draw. Regardless, I wouldn't mind seeing the look return, as it added an interesting wrinkle to a property that had become fairly predictable.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Not Dead Yet

So . . . yeah. In my defense, I've got a good excuse: in the time since my last post I had to make an emergency trip to California by way of the Indianapolis Marriot, my last surviving grandparent is in the hospital dying / not dying yet, and I just ran headlong into the last few weeks of classes without a lot of prep time. So . . . yeah.


Stuff I Read

Amazing Spider-Man #592

Well, that's something I didn't think I ever needed to see. Wheatcakes. WHEATCAKES.

Hellblazer #254

I used to love Hellblazer - there was a stretch when it was my favorite title, through Garth Ennis and Paul Jenkins' runs. (I'm serious - as bad as Jenkins is now - and regardless of whatever hijinks he got up to with Big Numbers that I know some of you might still hold against him - his run on Hellblazer really is remarkable, subtle and melancholy and downright hilarious in places.) But then Warren Ellis' run was just repulsive; Ennis' periodic returns were grotesquely bad; Brian Azzarello actually got me to drop a book I had been reading for almost ten years; and whenever I checked in on successive writers - Mike Carey, Denise Mina, Andy Diggle - the results were so monotonously, stupefyingly banal that I basically stopped paying attention. If there is a Vertigo "house style" - defined by putrid browns, "understated" but actually quite tawdry sensationalism, "gritty" sub-Paul Pope urban atmospherics - well, this last decade or so of Hellblazer certainly appears to have exemplified such a style.

But on a lark I flipped through this issue, and what did I find? Something I never thought I'd see again: an issue of Hellblazer that actually felt like something from the book's first decade, and not just a portfolio piece for Random Splatterpunk Urban Horror Setpiece Monthly. Here was Jamie Delano's John Constantine, back in the saddle again, walking through the same kind of pre-Vertigo British mainstream house style defined by John Ridgeway, David Lloyd, Steve Pugh, etc. You can tell the classic Hellblazer stories by the fact that they all look like BBC dramas, shot on lousy film but making a virtue of the watery color and dodgy lighting - hell, right down to exterior and interior shots being filmed on different stock. You could criticize the issue for being such a conscious throwback but then you'd have to argue that the last decade of the book wasn't absolute garbage, and in my opinion you'd have a tough road to hoe on that score.

Reading a good story with an old favorite who's been so mishandled in recent years you'd practically forgotten about him really is an awesome sensation. Rats off to you, Peter Milligan and Goran Sudzuka.

Detective Comics #853

The first part of Neil Gaiman's "Death of Batman" riff really wasn't very good at all, and from what I heard the second part was no improvement. But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding is in the eating - this actually was really good. It's funny - I used to think Gaiman had a problem with endings. Look back at Sandman and you see a whole bunch of great stories with some not-so-great endings - until, by the end of the series, the paucity of endings became an integral theme. (For all of Gaiman's shortcomings in comics, his sure-footed ability to account for his own weaknesses as a writer is pretty enviable.) But his last significant comics work, that Eternals series, had a pretty meandering beginning and middle which was effectively saved by an extremely strong final chapter. When I finally got around to actually finishing the damn thing, I thought 1602 actually ended fairly well - a good capper to a mostly mediocre exercise in wheel-spinning.

Again, here, we had a first chapter that didn't seem like much, and a final chapter that somehow pulls it all together. Yeah, it's not a patch on Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? - but was anyone expecting it to be? It's different. Back in 1986 Alan Moore saw that the default mode for Superman stories was still early 60's Camelot-era optimism, so his story tapped that vein mercilessly. The problem with Batman in 2009 is that there is no default style - if any one trait defines Batman the character and Batman the corporate property it is his ruthlessly chameleonic endurance. There is no one Batman - there are not even any dozen Batmen. There is a multiplicity of Batmen, all equally valid and all shedding light on different facets of the idea. So Gaiman gives us a story about just that: there are an infinite number of Batmen, and even though all the stories end the same way the best part is that they always begin again. You're either going to think that the ending is the cheesiest bit of cheap sentimentality you've ever seen or sheer brilliance - I tend to err on the side of risk-takers, so the rather ballsy conceit worked for me. (I wouldn't dream of spoiling it for you.) In what should really be a tired exercise in corporate nostalgia, Gaiman actually manages a poignant gesture: no matter how different all the Batmen are - from Frank Miller's urban Oedipus to Neal Adams' swashbuckling romantic to Dick Sprang's pre-atomic Caped Crusader - they're all, every single one of them, a kid trying to get back something he's lost, striving against impossible odds - the most cynical of all super-heroes, nevertheless driven by blind, childish hope. Nice one.

However, the art leaves something to be desired. And I don't know if I can lay the blame at Andy Kubert's feet. Sure, he's nowhere near the stylistic magpie he really needed to be to pull of these effects - were JH Williams and Gene Ha not answering their phones? - but looking at some of the actually-pretty-nice pencil art in the back of the book, it really seems as if Scott Williams is responsible for sapping a lot of the life out of these pages. Bad show, that.

Marvel Zombies 4 #1

I will modify my initial negative reaction to the announcement that this series would focus on the Midnight Sons, since the series really isn't about the Midnight Sons. I had a massive 90s flashback, and was dreading all the old shit - Zarathos and the Nightstalkers and Vengeance and Blaze with his hellfire shotgun - but thankfully this is just Werewolf By Night, Son of Satan, Jennifer Kale, Simon Garth and >ugh< Morbius. But Morbius is balanced by the inclusion of Zombie Deadpool - or rather, the decapitated head of Zombie Deadpool. Good fun for the whole family.

I mean, it's OK, right? Everyone is pretty much out of the closet on the whole loving Deadpool thing, right?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I Am About to BLOW Your MIND

I don't know the exact days and months, but as of this year Joe Quesada has been Editor-in-Chief at Marvel for as long as Jim Shooter. Discuss.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Fight the Future

Kingdom Come is an extremely conservative work, predicated on the superiority of values inherited from halcyon "Golden" and "Silver" ages, in both figurative and literal senses. The legitimacy of the present time was contingent only on its acceptance of and adherence to the virtues of its predecessors.

On first glance, Earth X would appear to be a retread of Kingdom Come. In actuality, it was: following the runaway success of the latter series, Wizard commissioned Ross to do the concept work for a Marvel version of the same. Although the result was fairly predictable, it was nevertheless enough of a success in fan circles that Marvel felt confident actually producing the book. (In retrospect, it was something of a fait accompli: although his star may have faded substantially as of this writing, there was no bigger draw in the late 90s than Alex Ross, and probably any series he wished to produce would have been seen as roughly analogous to printing money.) But there was one crucial difference between Kingdom Come and Earth X, and that can best be described as a function of the differences between the DC and Marvel universes.

Who runs the DC universe? It's a verifiably Judeo-Christian cosmos, despite the occasional feint in the direction of multi-culturalism. The Spectre is the embodiment of God's wrath. In Kingdom Come, the powers-that-be in the universe are revealed to be the Phantom Stranger, the wizard Shazam, Highfather, Ganthet and Zeus - more or less a bunch of old white dudes roughly corresponding to the image of heavenly wisdom and authority promulgated by Christian mythology. (Ganthet is blue, yes, but essentially still very, very white.)

Who runs the Marvel universe? Well, the origin of the human race in Marvel is that a group of ancient, unknowable and mysterious space gods came to Earth and tinkered with primate DNA in order to create certain subspecies and mutant strains of humanity - for their own never-revealed purposes. In addition to the Celestials, there are also any number of other strange beings - dispassionate embodiments of abstract forces such as Eternity, Death, Order, Chaos - whose attitude to humanity could best be described as "not giving a flying fuck". And then there's Galactus. And then there's folks like the Kree and the Skrulls who see Earth as a proxy battleground similar to the ways in which the United States and the Soviet Union used Southeast Asia, Africa and Central America as proxy battlegrounds during the cold war. And then there's the Living Tribunal, who actually does take an interest in humanity, albeit for the sole purposes of threatening to destroy the Earth if we get out of line. Etc, etc.

Regardless of whether or not Kirby intended for The Eternals to actually be a part of Marvel continuity or no - chances are he didn't - the end result was that Marvel's cosmology became an extremely crowded and extremely weird place. Steve Ditko's abstract mystical entities are in and of themselves pretty damn bizarre, but added to Lee & Kirby's Fantastic Four and Thor, with some heaping spoonfuls of Jim Starlin, Steve Englehart and a few others thrown in the mix, and the overwhelming effect was that the Marvel universe became more or less wholly materialistic in conception, an ethically-neutral environment with Darwin's laws in effect on a vastly incomprehensible scale. Despite a very few nods towards the general concept of God (or, heh, the "One Above All"), the Marvel Universe is basically atheistic. For me, at least, this makes Marvel a much more attractive fictional context in which to spend one's time.

So, if Kingdom Come is about the reassertion of classically Juedo-Christian concepts of morality as filtered through fifty-and-sixty-year-old superhero comics, what's the take-away for Earth X? Essentially, the story is about what happens when the superheroes begin to realize just how much their lives have been influenced by the interference of amoral space gods - down to the very ideas of morality and ethicality. The story begins, in Earth X #0, with Uatu the Watcher narrating Earth's history to a pissed-off Machine Man - essentially putting all the bits and bobs of the Marvel universe's disparate cosmology into one overarching narrative. Although Uatu comes across as self-serving and, frankly, juvenile, the vision of the world he illustrates is strikingly similar to that extrapolated by Nietzsche, particularly in his Genealogy of Morals. The only rational basis for morality is slave morality developed as an inoculation against the self-evident superiority of the supremely powerful Overmen. Through strength of will, unadulterated by bastard notions of compassion, humility and charity, the Overman can take his rightful place as the ruler over the masses of undifferentiated, ethically sick humanity.

In Earth X, all of humanity is sick. All of humanity is infected by the germ of morality, purposefully infected as a means of forwarding the designs of unguessed agents of cosmic significance. The superheroes themselves have been designed as a means of reinforcing the Celestials' agenda in regards to Galactus. On one level, it's all very nerdy and the living definition of "inside baseball": comic-book cosmology barely reaches the level of half-baked, and the Marvel universe, constructed on the fly from dozens of contradictory and willfully strange ingredients, is perhaps the oddest and most half-baked fictional universe in existence. And yet it remains fascinating, for me at least. I admit that since I was a young squirt I have been inordinately fascinated by the cosmic stories, those superhero stories that flirted with epistemological and eschatological significance. Stuff like Daredevil and the Punisher is all well and good, but really, the Silver Surfer and Thor are far more fascinating to me.

As someone who has identified himself as an atheist for as long as I can remember even being able to understand the concept of theism, the idea of imagined cosmology has always fascinated me. And it's something that really only exists in the realm of superhero comics and prose genre fiction. (I'm discounting actual myth, which was not conceived of as fiction and to which it would be doing a great disrespect to refer to as an intentional fiction.) My favorite Tolkien is The Silmarillion. My favorite fantasy writer is Lovecraft. Even though he's not a very good writer by most measurements, I even retain a fondness for Larry Niven's cosmological novels. Urban crime fiction and men's adventure stuff has to be really good to get my attention - but even the worst cosmic fantasy will usually pique my interest.

Perhaps Alex Ross and his collaborator, Jim Krueger weren't quite aware of what they were doing at the time, but in essence they created a vision of the Marvel universe that owed less to the Old Testament and more to the aforementioned Nietzsche. By extrapolating outwards from all the strange fantasy and sci-fi stories that compose the background for the universe, they emphasized the absence of God, and the existence of a post-Enlightenment rationality that supercedes morality. The question for anyone living in our post-Enlightenment world is: how do you create ethics in a universe held together by materialistic determinacy, and furthermore, a society given over to the comforts and delusions of late-stage industrial capitalism? Entertainment is consolation, and capitalistic entertainment (and, let's be frank, all present entertainment is by definition dictated by capitalism) is predicated on repetition and formula. Few genres in our contemporary world replicate the straitened, industrial nature of machine-age production than superhero comics, which are officially produced according to the tenets of atomized assembly-line production. The proclivity of certain social sub-groups to cluster around kinds of genre entertainment which makes a virtue of repetition and similarity to previously defined models - Nerd culture - is a phenomenon that could not exist in any era before the present, an era where industrialized society and the diminishment of want has created surplus leisure time among a sufficiently educated segment of the population. No one for whom daily sustenance is a pressing need can afford to care about Luke Skywalker or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

So what meaning, if any, do these stories have? What meaning can they have? What do all these elaborate, baroque cosmologies and fictional histories have to say in regards to the accident of their own creation? How do you create meaning in a universe with no contingency for meaning - an empty episteme that can only be approached on purely rationalistic grounds? That is the essential conflict of Earth X: what do heroes do when they understand the very nature of their existence to be empty repetition, ethically meaningless and contingent on commercialistic factors beyond their control or even comprehension? (That's the primary question for people who produce and consume superhero comics, as well.) Well, they set out to do the only thing possible: change the system. Rewrite the rules of reality. There's a reason why the story focuses around a disillusioned Captain America traveling across the country in order to murder a small child . . . and that's also why the book ends with Reed Richards becoming God, a cosmic mutiny in response to the hostility and incomprehension of a mechanistic universe.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

It's Been One of those Weeks

And it's only Wednesday! So here's a blast from
the past for all you hep cats and kittens.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Stuff I Read

Flash: Rebirth #1

Here's some math: Barry Allen died in 1986. It is now 2009. Barry Allen has been dead in real time for 23 years. Now, true, superhero comics have an aging fanbase, but as a point of fact, the only people old enough to remember a time when Barry Allen was the Flash are over thirty years old. Even a thirty-year-old would still only have been seven when Barry Allen died. Let's not forget that one of the main reasons the character was on the chopping block to begin with was that it was quite unpopular, snaking through a series of poorly-received storylines that culminated in the title's cancellation with issue #350.

And how many of those 246 issues were any good, really? (The series began in the late 50s with issue #105, picking up numbering from the first Golden Age iteration.) Discount the first fifty or so issues of the great Silver Age run - as era-defining for DC's Silver Age as Fantastic Four was for Marvel. After that, into the late sixties and seventies and eighties, who talks about Barry Allen? Seriously, in all my years on this blogosphere I have never - ever - seen anyone willing to wax rhapsodic about any issue of Flash produced in the twenty years between 1965 and 1985. I'm sure they're out there, somewhere - but just look, for comparisons sake, how much keyboard time is spent lionizing relatively bad comics such as the Mod-era Wonder Woman and Bob Haney's The Brave and the Bold. If there was anything interesting to be found in those twenty years of continuous publication, I have never seen anyone on the internet mention them, which is about as telling a barometer of fan interest as any I can imagine. If people cared, people would talk about Barry Allen - but no one does. Ever. For better or for worse, people did care about Hal Jordan - there was a whole extremely motivated fan community dedicated to his return, for God's sake - raise your hands if you remember the days of H.E.A.T. taking out full page ads in Wizard.

The only people old enough to actually have any kind of relationship with the character of Barry Allen are over thirty-five. So, for many people, the nostalgia for Barry Allen isn't just nostalgia, it's nostalgia for someone else's nostalgia. There is no franchise in comics more susceptible to nostalgia than The Flash - it's all about legacies, and the continuity of the title, and giving respect to forebears, and family, and blah blah blah.

The Flash is a character that almost screams "square" - I'm sorry, it's true. Wally West is a responsible family man concerned with living up to the example of his figurative father figures. Barry Allen is a friggin' cop with a friggin' high-and-tight haircut. Barry's been out of the loop for over twenty years, brought into a bold new world. Ronald Reagan is no longer in the White House, it's some sort of Negro. Children talk back to their elders. Why, I'll bet a man can even be arrested for striking his wife.

On paper, the Flash could be interesting. I stress, "could" - but the fact is that for almost two-decades the Flash has been the repository for successive writer's mid-life crises and family issues. Perhaps that's not fair - I like Mark Waid well enough, he's produced as many comics I like as comics I don't like, which is a good batting average in today's market. He probably doesn't deserve those kinds of ad hominem attacks, even if I tremendously enjoy making them. But still: his Wally West is the most boring superhero alive. What is the point of having a superhero whose one power is that he runs fast, if you fill the book and the character's entire mythos, with other people who run just as fast? Who have bland personalities and blander motivations and blather on saying things like "Barry would be proud of you, son" and "you're the father I wish I had"? How many times was Wally's unsurpassed love for Linda some kind of plot-point - how many times did he come back from the dead for her love or beat the devil for her love? I mean, it's one thing to actually have a successfully married super-hero, that's novel enough, but I have never read an issue of The Flash that didn't make me want them to have a messy, ugly divorce, preferably involving Linda sleeping around with Max Mercury or Johnny Quick, some angry old man who drinks a lot but "still knows how to treat a woman like a woman". And, as if that wasn't incestuous enough, Geoff Johns' run had its own father issues in regards to Waid's run on the book - Johns was Wally West to Waid's Barry Allen, and oh boy haven't these people ever read any Sophocles?

Maybe it's that I don't have enough father issues. I mean, I love my dad an awful lot, but I'm not nostalgic about his life. I don't think things were "better" when he was my age - just different. The best thing a son can do for his father in my family is to live an independent, happy, fulfilling life. Barry Allen comes back from the dead and suddenly Wally's character has no purpose than to say, "waaaaaugh will daddy be proud of me". Get a diaper, crybaby. Live your own life. Seriously, now you've got three people with an equal right to the name Flash, with identical powers and similar dishwater personalities - plus a Kid Flash and Reverse Flash thrown in for good measure. Green Lantern gets a pass from me because it's got a much different, cosmic scope than other books - I don't mind the fact that there are 7,200 Green Lanterns because writers have a free hand to make them all interesting and different (even when the book stinks, they can still get mileage out of creating new and novel iterations on the idea of "intergalactic alien policemen"). All the Flashes are identical. All white, all conservative, all genial. Even Bart Allen is still, despite his "rebellious" teenage thing, still obsessed with family and legacy. Oh my God I want to scream just thinking about it. It's like the book for people who still think that The Simpsons is too anti-family values.

So have fun, Barry Allen. Ethan van Sciver is a good match for you, you should be right at home talking about how Joe McCarthy got a raw deal. Don't be too scared by all the black people and Puerto Ricans walking around your neighborhood, it's still not illegal to harass ethnic peoples.

Seaguy: Slave of Mickey Eye #1

For anyone who thought I was a mite vituperative against Final Crisis - well, deal. I thought the book was a mess, and the fact that Morrison had the gall to insult people who "didn't get it" still makes me see red. The series was nothing but a giant blueprint of how to produce the most incredibly unpleasant shrill "momentist" superhero comics known to man. Hey, do you like your comics to have anything but the most awesome money shots lined up in a row like some kind of fanboy bukkake? Well, sorry. At least Mark Millar is honest about his pandering - the worst part is that I think that Morrison is trying to pander, but is going about it in such an ass-backwards way that it's almost adorable. Almost.

But the problem is not that Morrison is incapable of writing a better comic than Final Crisis, it's that he most certainly is. Seaguy is such a comic. All the stuff that he was trying to say in Final Crisis gets said much better in and much less space in these pages. This is really "The Day Evil Won". This is all the stuff about surveillance in a corporatist media environment that he was getting at with The Filth and tried to wedge into the sidelines of Final Crisis. This is an ostensible superhero book about the triumph of casual fascism that actually does seem to exist on a continuum with Foucault. This is chilling, gripping, hilarious and sad in equal measure. It's simply wonderful, and it's a reminder that for every comic be produces that pisses me off, he is still capable of something like All-Star Superman. If only he didn't have to be such a pissant.