Thursday, March 18, 2010

Siege #3 / Dark Avengers #15

Well I should probably announce a spoiler so I don't piss anyone off.



OK. On first read through that was an amazingly lame reveal - talk about the least interesting, most obvious revelation. Not that I was really expecting anything different, mind you. Bendis is nothing if not methodical, and it would have been against his M.O. to pluck in a random baddie from the pool without having laid some previous groundwork. And sure enough, skimming through the whole of his New Avengers run, it's pretty obvious in hindsight that he's been laying the building blocks for the Sentry's turn all along. Go back to the very beginning of the series and it's all there. But there's something else there as well, which is actually pretty clever: go back to New Avengers #2 and re-read the Sentry's battle with Csrnage. Or rather don't, because the battle is off-panel. You see Carnage tearing shit up in a hallway, the Sentry listens to Foggy Nelson and suddenly decides to intervene - and the next thing we see, the Sentry is flying Carnage up to the stratosphere to rip him in two. (Again: motif.) But now we can see what really happened all those years ago: the Carnage symbiote jumped ship from Cletus Cassidey to the Sentry. The Sentry was able to keep it in check some of the time, just like he was always able to keep the Void in check, until he just wasn't able to. So when Osborn assembles his Cabal and introduces the villains to his secret weapon, that's what Doom shits himself over: the Sentry possessed by the Carnage symbiote, complete with all the little swirling tentacles just like how David Finch drew Carnage in that very first New Avengers battle. Dunno what all the Old Testament stuff is, probably something else to be related later.

I have to admit, that's still a pretty impressive bit of plotting, and despite the general predictability of the storyline so far, it's still nice to see an unexpected twist like that. It's still not that great a book, but a moderately nice twist that I don't think I saw spoiled anywhere beforehand (if someone else guessed it, forgive me).

Justice League Shitburgers

Whaaa whaaa my city got demolished my granddaughter got murdered when a building fell on her tough shit suck it up Archer Boy can't go off an do anything crazy like tracking down the worst domestic terrorist in American history and killing him because God knows if any American actually ever tracked down Osama bin Laden they probably wouldn't feel any temptation at all to just shoot the bastard and be done with it and really if that did happen I can't imagine anyone would be particularly upset about the thing as much as we like to say oh gosh the villains have to be brought to justice but really isn't the whole thing about superhero morality predicated on the idea that people as powerful as Superman and Green Lantern should not abuse their power over anyone weaker than them because that is the kind of abuse that leads to corrupting overreach and God knows that Green Arrow is so insanely powerful he should understand that there is no way any man can ever hope to stand up against a normal human being with a bow and arrow because good Lord it's not like anyone has access to body armor or anything that could possibly withstand an arrow and good Lord how dumb does Prometheus have to be not to think it a distinct possibility that if he fucked with Green Arrow then Green Arrow might just shoot his ass since it's not like he hasn't murdered people before lots of damn people whenever he gets pissed and goes all dark and gritty he just goes around poking arrows in people's asses like they were going out of style but jeez Louise how could he possibly have anticipated that killing a whole bunch of people would have inspired such a devastating reaction the Joker does it all the time and Batman just lets him off with a little rub down in the showers afterwards "you complete me, Batman" and really I guess where Prometheus screwed up is that it's OK to kill a lot of people so long as you've established some kind of weird codependent homoerotic relationship with your arch nemesis first but no he had to pick on someone who has no real incentive to prolong the affair any longer than absolutely necessary and Jeez are they really carrying Prometheus' body around in a glowing green coffin so they can rub it in Ollie's face that is probably the most absurd thing I've ever heard in my life I mean srsly there was even a John Grisham movie about this very thing OK well I guess it was a book first but I'm not going to read that shit the movie has Samuel Jackson totally taking an assault rifle and killing the dude who killed his daughter and then getting off scot free because Matthew McConaughey makes an impassioned speech to the jury about how pretty much anyone if faced with the opportunity of enacting revenge on a man who killed their child would do the same and to pretend otherwise is just hypocrisy and the thing is that despite it's cheesy origins that story has always stuck with me because on a very basic level there is something profound in that kind of ethical fable: we cede (or rather, we are complicit with the legal fiction that we have ever signed onto an imaginary "social contract") the ability to use force in all but the most pressing extenuating circumstances to the state and it is this monopoly of force that maintains the legitimacy of the state's authority and that's why he have things like Ruby Ridge and Waco simply because no matter how insignificant the threat the federal government can't allow any challenges to its authority to go unpunished but anyway back to A Time To Kill the whole point is that Jackson's character gets off because there is basically no way in hell anyone in that situation wouldn't do the same thing and as much as this idea of vengeance really threatens to undermine the foundations of society its as basic a human urge as can be imagined and I guess the idea is that as an avatar of the forces of justice a superhero can't take the law into his own hands in any circumstances except for oh yeah superheros take the law into their own hands every time they put the damn costume on and go fight crooks they are already undermining the authority of the state to reserve violence as its exclusive prerogative and I guess the reason they're really mad at Ollie is not because they're seriously upset that he killed someone with, what, ten or 100 times the body count as Timothy McVeigh it's because if they all started to take the law into their own hands then Amanda Waller wouldn't have any real reason not to sic the whole of the government on their asses speaking of which I was reading this week's R.E.B.E.L.S. and wondering to myself, has Vril Dox ever come face to face with Amanda Waller it seems as if that could be the coolest match up in recorded history and you know I kind of feel bad for R.E.B.E.L.S. because it's not a half bad little title and it's very obvious they're specifically trying to reverse-engineer the kind of consistent slow-burn success Marvel have had with their cosmic books - hell the plotline of the Starro war was even pretty much identical to that of the first Annihilation crossover, only substitute Annihilus for Starro - but I guess when you come down to is cosmic DC is just less inherently interesting than cosmic DC and if I had to put my finger on it I guess the reason why would be that cosmic Marvel is pretty wild and Darwinian with all sorts of huge cosmic monsters with unknowable agendas lurking out in the cosmic ether who can lay waste to your planet with a spare thought but cosmic DC is like, I dunno, some HBO original series and the Guardians are just like the administration down at the state franchise tax board they even wear those little mumus with the collars on them just like a real life bureaucrat whereas, say, the Celestials could probably just decide they were going to demolish Oa send Arishem down to pull his magic finger and then split the planet in two I'll put Kirby-spawned cosmic monsters like them or Galactus or Ditko's Eternity up against DC's very civilized space regents any day of the week because honestly all of DCs alien races are just kind of boring and I guess if you like Green Lantern you're really probably a Republican at heart because you believe in the ability of a central authority to dictate moral authority and maintain the cosmic status quo based simply on their say-so whereas if you like Marvel cosmic you're probably, well, not a Democrat because the Democratic party is pretty craven and worthless now but I guess if you were a "liberal-minded independent" or hell let's just say a pink leftist you're down with the Silver Surfer because he's all fuck you I won't do what you tell me when Galactus says you have to go kill a bunch of people because I am the cosmic military-industrial-media complex and I must devour the life-blood of entire ecosystems in order to be sated but then the Surfer's all like dude I just got my subscriptions to Adbusters and Mother Jones and I am totally not down with your South American secret wars or your Secret Wars II either for that matter and while we're on the subject I guess people who like Green Lantern probably just wish their dad was still alive so that he could tell them what to do and that everything was going to be OK but really once you hit 21 or 22 life's instruction manual just kind of runs out of pages no matter how well you think you have things figured out there reaches a point where you have to think for yourself and no matter how much you love or hate your parents you can't just live on their advice for the rest of your life because you don't want to make the same mistakes they did but then you wake up when you're thirty or thirty-five and realize that even if you didn't make the same mistakes they did you also managed to avoid doing all the good things they did regardless of your best intentions we all get kind of rudderless and wish we could depend on some rock-jawed daddy figure like Hal Jordan to tell us what to do but really Hal Jordan is and has always been a douchebag and his rebelliousness never struck me as particularly principled so much as just erratic and kind of willful at least Green Arrow supposedly has principle but the only thing that his character has ever convinced me of is that the majority of people who have ever written Green Arrow are actually kind of disgusted by "liberal" politics and think that the way to write a bleeding-heart is to make him a closet Republican who is just resentful of the fact that other people tell him what to do and who will, if given the opportunity, turn into an authoritarian asshole I mean I'm hardly trying to stick up for Green Arrow he's really a stupid character if you think about it and ironically my favorite Green Arrow run is the year or so right before Connor Hawk became Green Arrow which is partly written by Kelly Puckett and partly by Chuck DIxon and the reason is simple: Green Arrow is a silly character but he works pretty well in tight-paced low-powered stories and sure enough if you frame it kind of like a low rent John LeCarre book and give it to Jim Aparo to draw it really sings, but hell let's be honest the real reason those are such good comics is because Jim Aparo is drawing them and he was a really good action cartoonist when he wanted to be (which was every goddamn day he woke up, really) but anyway "Red Arrow?" there was a fucking hilarious panel in that same issue that I should just put up rather than trying to describe it for you because if you haven't read the book then you'd probably just think I was making it up:

The task of being Red Arrow - now if he has said, I dunno, the task of being President of the United States or General Manager of the Yankees I'd say OK there's a task with a lot of responsibility it might legitimately be something you'd have trouble fulfilling but Red Arrow? Red Arrow is a made up name that has been made up by a third-string former sidekick who is famous for three reasons, which overlap: 1) he was a heroin addict, 2) he has had some of the worst names in the history of superheros (Speedy, Arsenal, Red Arrow), and to tie it all together, 3) he was a drug addict whose name was Speedy and OK I guess he's not necessarily a meth addict but good God it's an unmixed blessing they didn't just name him Black Tar Boy - anyway what wasn't he ready for? what exactly were the special tasks Red Arrow had on his plate that he hadn't already had as Arsenal I mean jeez he got his arm ripped off by a supervillain that's not exactly a workplace accident you can easily plan for, I wonder if there's one of those signs on the wall of the Justice League satellite that says "X many days since a workplace dismemberment" and then when he got his arm ripped off Red Tornado had to go and write a big fat 0 on the board and he was smiling because for once it wasn;t him who had got dismembered but anyway that's what's wrong with DC comics today: we're supposed to care about someone named Red Arrow and think that just because he gives himself a different name he's somehow a different character than the same putz we've been reading about for Jesus Christ I just looked at Wikipedia and it says Roy Harper has been around since 19-motherfucking-41 making him like 70 years old and dear God you'd think that if they hadn't managed to do a single interesting thing with the character in all these years (other than making him a junky and a father, which is something moderately interesting I suppose but jeez you think they'd remember the fact that killing Aquaman's kid was pretty much the beginning of the end for that character because if you think being married ages a character, or having a kid ages a character, just kill his kid because then you know you just can't write a story with this guy without thinking in the back of your head wow this guy had his kid murdered and that has got to seriously change you in a permanent way that can't just be undone by getting a new costume or whatever) they might just have given up at this point but if there is one honestly good thing that will come of this whole sorry spectacle it's the thought that if there is one thing sadder than a one-armed superhero it's the mental image of a one-armed superhero trying to tap a vein and shoot up in his remaining arm I'm sure it can be done, and that's the story I want to see.

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