Friday, June 30, 2017

The Disenchantment

One of the things frustrating about DC's New 52 was the attempt to have it both ways. DC wanted throw out all the old continuity - unless they wanted to keep parts of it, as with the Green Lantern books - but then they would rely on the readers' affection or connection to the discarded version to sell us on a book. So Metamorpho might appear in a comic, and fans were supposed to go, "Hey, Metamorpho, I love that guy!" Except this may be an entirely different character who just has the same name as that character we loved previously. In which case, why should we care? All too often, the creative teams failed to give us any reasons of their own to care.

I'm finding I have a similar issue with DC Rebirth. They reset things to something kinda sorta pre-Flashpoint, but not really. Which isn't bad of itself, but it still feels like they're banking on the readers having that same, "Oooh, that character!", without it really being that character. Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain, two favorite of mine, are both in Detective Comics, but neither is the version I was fond of. They've been started from different points, sent on different paths, wound up at different places. It's putting a fish between bread and telling me its a hamburger. I can eat it, but it isn't what I ordered. So there's a repeated sensation where I see something in the solicitations involving a character I like, have a momentary flash of interest, and then I remember, and it fades.

I've been reading comics, especially Marvel comics, since I was a kid. At some point, I developed the notion, or maybe the expectation, that a given title was one big story of a character or characters, and maybe even that the Marvel Universe was one giant story with hundreds of writers and artists building something together, albeit in a haphazard fashion. That the next creative team would pick up where the last one left off, building on a new framework. Or writers would revisit stories in one book they began in another. There was at least the appearance of coordination between books, or at least an effort to be aware of what other books were doing (as well as an acknowledgment the readers might be aware of those other books instead).

I was certainly missing multiple occasions where this wouldn't have proven to be true, but it seemed as though even when a writer undid something established previously, they at least tried to provide an explanation. John Byrne brought Iron Fist back from the dead and explained it with sentient plant imposters.

Marvel currently is a different story. There are the nearly constant universe-spanning big event that are meant to involve everyone. At the same time, they pretty much let each book do its own thing. During the Big Events, characters will pop in two different books in places that directly contradict each other, with no apparent explanation other than nobody bothered to put any kind of planning into things ahead of time. The end result being I don't look at books as being part of a larger narrative. They're more like separate entries in a short story anthology. They occupy space in the same book, they may have some similar subject matter (superheroes), but there's no connection otherwise.

Which has some positive results for me. I don't get as angry about things happening in the comics, especially ones I'm not even reading. Civil War II did something stupid, or is simply yet another badly paced and plotted event comic written by Brian Michael Bendis? Glad I didn't spend money on it. There'll be another event in five minutes to wipe it off the board. If that one is stupid - hello, Secret Empire! - I'll ignore it, too. I don't stick with books through creative team changes I don't like, figuring it'll get better (which is how I had Chuck Austen's entire Uncanny X-Men run), or the new team will pick up something I liked from the previous one. I'm not buying 5 Spider-Man books each month out of some compulsive need to follow everything going on with Spider-Man. All of that's to the good. Saves me money, saves on irritation.

But I miss when I cared enough to look at continuity errors and try and cobble together some explanation. I'm not keyed in to enough of Marvel's titles to make a go of it any more, and even if I were, it's painfully obvious I'd be exerting far more effort on it than anyone at Marvel is (with the possible exception of Al Ewing). It's a little harder to care about the stakes in a book, because even the illusion of permanence of major changes is pretty worn. The next writer will, after all, probably just ignore the change if they don't like it. Daredevil's in San Francisco and trying to openly be Matt Murdock? Not no more, he ain't! It's still possible to care while I'm reading the comics; I'm not completely deadened. But there is a little something extra missing.


SallyP said...

I would like to nominate you for an award of some sort. This is EXACTLY why I have been finding comics a bit of a chore to read lately. Sure, I can go with complete suspension of disbelief... to a degree... and that degree has certainly been reached.

You can't bring back a beloved character that is...a completely different character! Of if yoyo do, then make he or she a legacy character. Throwing out decades of admittedly convoluted continuity because you're bored... is painfully insulting to those legions of faithful fans who spent a lot of time and money... learning that continuity. The comic book companies cheerfully pocket our cash and then pull the rug out from under us.

So... kudos.

CalvinPitt said...

Thanks Sally, I appreciate that.