Sunday, May 4, 2008

Greater Love Hath No Man...

...than to seem to give his life for his fellow man, but he knows that he's going to be resurrected later, so really, how much love is that, anyway?

Woo hoo, I'm back.

Well, as everyone is all in a furor over the impending (?) return (?) of Barry Allen, I've a couple of thoughts on the matter, as well as DC Universe #0 (aka let's pretend Countdown never happened).

First things first: Despite press releases and much online angst, we actually don't have any real clue or info about how, when, or in what form Barry is returning in. So far, all that we've actually seen is a lightning bolt over a strip club--and what the hell was up with that, anyhow? (editor's note--If you'd been dead 22 years, isn't that the first place you'd head?) (snell's note--good point) Maybe he's going to be some kind of elder, like they did with Billy Batson, maybe he's just going to turn around and sacrifice himself again, maybe it's all one big tease.

So let's chill, and see what actually plays out, shall we?

Which advice I'm now going to completely ignore. Surprise.

Let me echo and amplify things a couple of others out there have said. Kevin said: "...I have to say I'm not crazy about characters like Wally West and Kyle Rayner getting sidelined because somebody wanted more stories with the original guys."

That is so true, because as much as DC wants to play up "legacy characters," current DC policy seems to outlaw more than one version being active at a time. We want Bart Allen to be the Flash? Wally has to be shuffled off to Limbo. We want Wally back? Bart has to die.

And look what's happened to poor Kyle Rayner ever since Hal Jordan was resurrected: lost his book, now he's Ion, now he's not, now he's Parallax, now he's not, now he's a minor supporting character in the Green Lantern Corps, now he's a "Challenger of the Unknown..."

If Barry Allen returns in full human form as the Flash, does anybody seriously believe that Wally West will receive better treatment? They'll slap some stupid costume and name on him (official prediction: Speedforce!) and be relegated to appearing in the Titans book. If he's lucky.

You see, that's the problem with some of these nostalgia-driven moves lately in the DC Universe: these writers want us to respect the glories of the Silver Age, which is fine, but then they turn around and show NO respect for the comics other people grew up with. It's a zero-sum game for them. Geoff Johns wants to bring back Hal Jordan? Fine. But because he and DC editorial didn't give a rat's ass about Kyle Rayner, a character a lot of people loved, has been reduced to the equivalent of a bench-warming utility infielder.

And if they want to bring back Barry Allen? I don't agree with that (more below), but I can be one board for that without too much crying. But I fear that said resurrection, under the current regime, just means they're just going to flush away 20 years of character growth and supporting cast of Wally. Wally will lose his mag, lose his JLA position, lose his supporting cast, and be relegated to appearing in the Titans and an occasional Mark Waid written Brave and the Bold.

Check back in a year and tell me I was wrong.

Meanwhile, there's the whole issue of resurrection itself. Val, as usual, puts it better than I could when she says "It's just that every time you bring these characters back, you undermine the emotional resonance of those original stories surrounding the hero's tragic demise."

Let me add to that, in response to some things others have said (including Morrison himself).

Yes, it is "only" a comic book. Yes, characters in that medium come back from the dead "all the time."

But if EVERY character comes back, EVERY time? If no death is permanent? If the apparent death a characters is used again and again and again as a plot device(hello, Judd Winick), doesn't that drain ANY tension, any suspense, out of a story? Why care if the hero or sidekick is in a jam, if we know any death is just temporary? Doesn't that say there are no consequences to any actions? That therefore, no sacrifice is truly heroic, since there's no real sacrifice?

And doesn't it say something about the unwavering stupidity of comic characters if they don't notice and react to this phenomenon of their universe? "Gee, Lois, every person I've ever known who has died has come back, including me! So I'm not going to bother to rescue you. You'll be back." Go ahead, Grant Morrison, put that line into All-Star Superman, if you really believe that death is too "cruel" too inflict on comic readers.

And as to the idea that "they don't have to die, because they're fictional creations," well, sure. No literature ever has fictional creations die. The Comedian and Rorshach, after all, came back to life in Watchmen. Shakespeare immediately gave us the follow up Hamlet 2.

Oops, bad examples. I had always thought Morrison aspired to make comics, at least in part, a more mature medium. Instead, he aspires to have us wake up to find Bobby Ewing in the shower.

So welcome back, Barry. We've missed you. Too bad your return is going devalue your sacrifice, screw up Wally's career, and render an entire universe to the level of a child's wish to "make it not have happened." But, we're comic readers of the last 20 years, Barry--we'll sacrifice, so you don't have to. Now that's heroism in the 21st century.

Now paging Uncle Ben....


ShadowWing Tronix said...

Two words: Optimus Prime.

Transformer fans know what I'm talking about. Anyway, like I said in a different blog (not mine, if I had a comic blog it would be mostly Transformers), it would be one thing if the characters were coming back because the fans demanded it or the story called for it somehow. But this is all about publicity and money. They don't care about the stories they're telling. Look how many Marvel comics look like art books, but that could just be to pad out the arc to fit a future TPB. All they want is the all-mighty dollar. Except when they want to discuss politics or rewrite things they personally don't like despite being canon for decades. (Three new words: Brand New Day)

Then again, I wouldn't mind seeing the Simpsons grow like they do in For Better of For Worse, I'm still awaiting the day Bruce Wayne Jr takes over as Robin (although who would be Batman now? Nightwing? Drake?), and other stuff that might put me in the minority. I'm used to that.

Only one being ever did the return from a noble, heartbreaking death thing right, but being the Son of God has it's advantages.

Anonymous said...

Another take on legacy characters: The two most sucessful legacy characters were Hal Jordan and Barry Allen, and part of what made them sucessful was the fact that they have completely different origins from their predecessors (well, they used to).

Your "zero-sum game" is dead on, because the legacy characters today share the exact same powers as their predecessor, and in the Flash's case the exact same uniform.

DC's Flash problem is not going to be solved by bringing in Barry Allen. Flash is in a slump; they killed Bart Allen after 13 issues and brought back Wally West less thana year ago, none of which was well-recieved. Now the West Flash comic is already changing creative teams after Waid found out he couldn't go home again and make the series interesting, even with the West children (aka The Incredibles) to liven things up.

Nimbus said...

But... but... Barry already came back (briefly) in Infinite Crisis. So what's all the fuss about this time?