Sunday, July 29, 2012

The New 52 Is the Death of Mainstream Comics

I meant to do it a long time ago, but I finally sat down and read the first six issues of the new Justice League comic. I only read the first two issues before I had to give up on comics again, but with the collection out, I was able to finish it.

It's shit.

There's just no nice way to put it: it's utter shit.

It's just... contemptible. There's no redeeming value here.

Let's start with the characters: mostly, they're completely unlikable. Batman is a smug dick. Superman is impressed with himself. Aquaman is an asshole. Green Lantern is a jerk. Geoff Johns also seems to think Batman is some sort of trickster god capable of doing anything just because he wants to do it, goddammit. Sorry, but I still don't buy the whole "Batman is the bestest and most specialist hero there is because he's got no powers" fantard worship. Batman is possibly the worst part of this story, if only because he's the biggest asshole in a whole cluster of them.

The only character who's ultimately likable here is the Flash, and that's just because Barry is only trying to help and tries consciously not to break any laws or take any action against the military or police. Because of that, he comes across like the only one here who isn't saying "Fuck the judgement of society and their law, I know better, and because I'm superior it's my duty to ignore their laws for their own good." When did superheroes become so consciously Randian? There's a moment here when Superman actually convinces the Flash to take out government helicopters because they're firing... at a guy impervious to bullets and a guy so fast he can outmaneuver them. Really?

Cyborg is much more likable before he becomes a cyborg; after that, he's just a plot device to introduce--and then dispose of--the alien threat in the most expedient way possible. Wonder Woman is almost likable; she's written in the way writers tend to write Vikings, as a battle-loving funster, but her naivete of the outside world tends to come across like adorable stupidity, especially with Steve Trevor chasing after her like a lovesick puppy.

And then there's the plot... When I earlier used the word "story," what I really meant was "extended scene." It's not a story; a story has structure. This is an extended scene of a bunch of swaggering assholes yelling at each other to prove each of them has the biggest, loudest, most capable, most menacing, most leaderly dick. There's barely a mystery to solve, no villain to fight, and no real stakes at all. It's just a scene that gives us the briefest of introductions to what are apparently the seven major hard-ons of the DC Universe, a bunch of aliens pop out of Cyborg the Magical Plot Device, Darkseid briefly appears and is given no character and an arbitrarily half-mentioned motivation, and then the aliens disappear via Cyborg the Exact Same Magical Plot Device But in Reverse. And then there's a Justice League in the world. Yay?

This all could have been covered in a single, well-written, double-sized issue. Instead, we get six issues of ever-diminishing returns with no pay-off whatsoever.

As for the art, well, it is what it is. I know lots of people disagree with me, but I'll say it again: Jim Lee's artwork is massively overrated. There's nothing special about it; he just comes from the era when more lines and excessive, pointless details became synonymous to the comic-buying public with "higher quality." His compositions are terrible and crowded; there's no draftsmanship, which I guess is fine since Geoff Johns' script has no foundation.

It's all just trying to be big and cool without any real investment in who these people are or what's going on. What's the point?

Congratulations, DC, on bringing back the aesthetics of the worst era in comic book history: the 90s.

Bad comics. Just bad comics, plain and simple. And this is the flagship title of one of the two major comic book publishers. I saw a lot of fanboys at the time defending these comics as "not that bad." But yes, they really are that bad. They've replaced storytelling with slick cynicism and a self-satisfied cool that is totally unearned. Defending that just encourages them. You're allowed to stand up and say something is bad if you think it's bad. Trying to find the good in the bad just so you can convince yourself they haven't made a massive mistake only rewards everything they've done to destroy DC Comics.

Seriously, if this is what mainstream comics have to offer as their best, then mainstream comics aren't worth saving; they're already dead.


William Mercado said...

MNy friend and I earlier in the week were talking about the changes DC made to their whole line up. How this was 90s Marvel, and we keep expecting a new her who wears his cap backwards and rides a skate board to appear. Of course the Simpsons episode where Poochie is added to Itchy * Scratchy came up as well

Lee said...

I'm not sure why they don't feel that they should be doing better work.

One of my big problems with the new 52 is that they didn't relaunch at all, there are whole storylines and backstory that have been jarringly dragged into the world.

I will say though that the Green Lantern books are actually pretty good and I'm enjoying those characters for the first time ever. But nothing stands out as ground breaking.

I still maintain that their treatment of woman is terrible.

Ben Sttor said...

My reaction to it was more just a disappointed "Meh." But I can't say I disagree with anything you've said. All I can think is that DC's strategy is to say "Keep buying and reading in the hope that it gets better!" But I decided to just jump off after JL #6.
Still picking up GL and Resurrection Man, but RM ends soon and I might just switch to trades for GL, if not just give up on DC completely.
The nu52: a convenient jumping off point.