Sunday, June 29, 2008

Me Am Too Stupid...

...to appreciate Final Crisis.

At least, that seems to be the meme floating around of the blogs this weekend, where daring to disagree with the hagiography of Grant Morrison's latest opus will get you labeled as stupid.

Sims suggests that, if you aren't all jazzed by Final Crisis, "then comics just might not be for you."

Church opines, "I honestly wonder if these people bitching about the pacing in Final Crisis have ever read a non-tie-in novel or seen a film that didn’t feature talking robots."

Sterling dismisses those who question the storytelling and pacing of FC as "the usual suspects," a non-flattering reference to those who don't "get" Grant Morrison.

Can we call bullshit on this, please?

There's a lot of people who have legitimate gripes about FC, and to dismiss the people making them as somehow intellectually unworthy to scale the intellectual heights that Morrison aspires to is childish elitism. It's bad for everybody...it's bad for the blogs, it's bad for the comics, bad for my blood pressure, and probably bad for Grant Morrison, too.

For the record, I'm not thrilled with FC. And before the cult of Morrison comes out with their pithy one-liner attacks on the size of my brain or my appreciation of comics, let me point out they're idiots, too.

Sims says that FC is "the antithesis of decompression," which has got to be the silliest damn thing I've ever read. FC #2 starts with an 8-page sequence, the point of which is to have Shlioh Norman recruit Sonny Sumo. 8 pages, over 1/4 of the book. That's not the antithesis of decompression, that's decompression pure and simple. Sure, he fills it up with pretty, shiny details to distract us, but none of those have a thing to do with what's going on. We're stuck reading about characters we'll never see again, while he hammers us with a trite point ("heroes today ain't like they was back in my day, you punks") that could have been made in 5 panels, not five pages. Ask yourself this--would Jack Kirby have wasted 8 pages doing the same set-up?

It's extra-ironic, because we spend far more time with our oh-so-subtle parody of those crazy Japanese than we do with, say, mourning J'onn J'onzz. But say what you will about Grant Morrison, he's never been comfortable with portraying actual characters and actual emotions. The last few years of his output has become more and more like scholarly treatises from Vulcan about superheroes. The Martian Manhunter is one of the founding fathers of the modern DC universe, and it's treated like just another crime statistic in the local paper. It's an emotionless shrug. And it's damned hard to get us to care about this colossal impending war, when the creators can't even muster up more than a shrug when a hero dies. Hell, DC even admits that, by having to publish Final Crisis: Requiem separately...isn't that an acknowledgement that Morrison's ignoring the very real, human (or Martian) facet of the story? That they have to do damage control and publish a stand-alone to show that people actually cared about J'onn? But Morrison couldn't be bothered with that, because it might get in the way of 8 pages of an irrelevant Japanese superhero club, or 3 dialogue-less pages of a meaningless caveman fight.

So when we complain about the pacing, we're called unsophisticated morons. When we complain that it's drier than the driest emotionless police procedural, we just "don't get it." When some of the storytelling borders on the incomprehensible (page 18 in FC #2, anybody?), well, that's our fault.

So here's the deal...stop the name-calling. Either answer the specific critiques, or just say "I disagree" without the name-calling and derision. And in return, I won't call anyone stupid for like a plodding, padded out. passionless exercise in name-dropping.

20 comments:

Benjamin Birdie said...

"We're stuck reading about characters we'll never see again,"

You honestly think the Super Young Team, who ACTUALLY SAY "SOMETHING will happen to put Super Young Team on the map," will never be seen again?

I say this with no derision or name calling at all. Does this count as answering a specific critique? Or, better, as Atomic Lantern Boy put it so well, "Wowww...does THIS count as another time?"

Chris Sims said...

To be fair, the full quote was:

It’s not rocket science to figure out what’s going on, and if super-powered tough-guys rallying to battle cosmic evil doesn’t give you enough reason to care, then comics just might not be for you.

And considering that "super-powered tough-guys rallying to battle cosmic evil" is the plot of Infinity Gauntlet, Cosmic Odyssey, Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Sinestro Corps War, Invasion! (both Secret and fairly obvious), I think that's a pretty valid point.

Ask yourself this--would Jack Kirby have wasted 8 pages doing the same set-up?

Probably. Buddy Blank gets an eight-page origin sequence in OMAC #1 that has a lot less action than Sonny Sumo punching a hole in a robot sumo wrestler, instead showing armchair psychoanalysis and the unsatisfying life of a corporate drone.

Now if you asked if he'd do eight pages that didn't have dinosaur fighting in the pages of Devil Dinosaur, you'd be onto something.

Benjamin Birdie said...

Oh yeah! He punched the dude's heart out! I loved that bit. And Jones' "cinematography" was so great. It's a really good comic.

Kevin Church said...

You said:
It's extra-ironic, because we spend far more time with our oh-so-subtle parody of those crazy Japanese than we do with, say, mourning J'onn J'onzz. But say what you will about Grant Morrison, he's never been comfortable with portraying actual characters and actual emotions.

I respond:
Did you honestly think the Japanese material read as parody? I thought it was a pretty enthusiastic appreciation for the culture and how it would treat superheroes, and I'm practically a concern troll when it comes to Asian portrayals in western culture, and as Birdie said, I'm pretty sure it's not a toss-off idea that he's not going to touch on again.

We3 and Seaguy prove that Morrison is more than capable of portraying emotion in his books. With the JLA, and I noted this when I read his original run on the title, he tends to focus on them as a team doing a job versus showing them in mourning. In fact, they go straight from J'onn's funeral to the laboratory, something that makes sense when they need to stop the murders as quickly as possible. Personally, I prefer it that way, but for those that want to see moping superheroes tearing at their sackcloth, Peter Tomasi and crew will be helping you out, but I'm glad we're not going the Identity Crisis route all over again.

Most of the complaints I've seen about Final Crisis are along the lines of "Nothing's happening," compared to Secret Invasion, which is ludicrous and shows a complete lack of awareness when it comes to how a story is constructed. I'm going to presume that, like with his other limited events, Morrison is dropping hints and threads in the first act that will be tied up and exploited in the second and third acts. I'd not be surprised if issues three or four see a complete tonal and pacing shift in the book.

So, I guess I'm a snob for my disdain against those who want no mystery, no discovery, and no surprises from their superhero comics. Alas, alack, etc.

snell said...

Chris,

And considering that "super-powered tough-guys rallying to battle cosmic evil" is the plot of Infinity Gauntlet, Cosmic Odyssey, Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Sinestro Corps War, Invasion! (both Secret and fairly obvious), I think that's a pretty valid point.

I think it's a fairly superficial point, one that assumes that all "super-powered tough guys rallying to battle cosmic evil" stories are created equal, when they're obviously not. Some of those you mention I liked, some I didn't, and I'll wager it was the same with you. You also neglect to mention the difference between concept and execution. Or are you seriously suggesting that someone who doesn't think Secret Invasion has been well executed doesn't like comics?

And the fact is, Final Crisis doesn't fit that description at all (at least, not yet). More than a quarter of the way through this epic, the Sonny Sumo scene is the only example of any super-powered tough guys cowboying up. That's it. For heaven's sake, all they've even done in response to J'onn's death is worry about not having a telepathic link anymore, and send one (yes, one) JLAer to investigate the scene of his death. Otherwise, all they've done is sit around JLA HQ and exposition dump. The sense of urgency endemic to "super-powered tough guys rallying to battle csomic evil" is non-existent.

Obviously, we're going to disagree on this. But my main point--that telling someone who doesn't like Final Crisis that "comics might not be for you" condescending, exclusionary, and frankly unworthy of someone who writes as well as you do--still stands.

Chris Sims said...

Again, you're taking what I said out of the pretty narrow context of it being a direct response to "Jordan D. White," who was asking why he should care about Sonny Sumo and Shiloh Norman and applying it to Final Crisis as a whole. The actual point was that there's no more--or less--reason to care about these characters than there is to care about any characters.

Now, do I think that an inability to understand what's going on in Final Crisis means that you shouldn't read comics and should instead find something easier to comprehend, like the wonderful works of Mercer Mayer?

Well... yeah, actually, and if that makes me condescending, well while I appreciate that you think I'm a skilled writer, that doesn't mean I can't be a dick about stuff. It just means that I'm better at it than most.

That said, I don't really want to be a dick about this in particular since we seem to have gotten along pretty well up to now, and if your problem is that you don't like what's going on in Final Crisis--which, again, was not the basis of any of my comments or of the section of my review that spoke directly of fan reaction--then, well, that's your business. My reviews are there to tell people what I thought about something, and in my case, that's only a secondary concern behind making fun of something.

My main problem here was that you seem to have quoted me out of context--and in your response, extrapolated from a point of "Many Comics Have This Plot" to "I Love All Of These Comics"--in what looks like an effort to take offense at something I said, which I've now clarified the living shit out of. And the other was the "would Jack Kirby do this," to which I've already responded.

If that's condescending or exclusionary, what can I say? Some of history's greatest writers are total d-bags.

Mikester said...

I wasn't referring to people who had actually read FC and found it not to their liking. I'm speaking of the people who, as a kneejerk reaction, always throw up the "too hard to read/too confusing" barrier whenever they encounter something written by Morrison, like all the text is in Linear A or something. (This is mostly an online phenomenon, I've noticed...people who actually pay money for comics at our store seem to dig him just fine.)

This is, by the way, more of a response than I usually give people who infer that I'm an idiot.

snell said...

Chris, I'm not trying to start any type of war here. I have too much respect for you to do that, and besides, it's way past my bedtime.

I apologize if you think I took you out of context, but I think I still answered your point. The snippet of Jordan D White's comment to which you were responding wasn't "I don't get it." It was "I got it. And I care why?" Since he said he understood it, and you specifically pulled that line, I don't think it was terribly out of context to infer that your response to him was based not on a lack of understanding, but on his not liking it, which made it apply to anybody who didn't like it.

And the point in your reply here in which you summarize your view: "The actual point was that there's no more--or less--reason to care about these characters than there is to care about any characters." I thought was answered fairly clearly. Good execution makes you care, poor execution doesn't.

In my defense on "extrapolation," it was you, after all, who listed all those series as an amplifier to your full paragraph. Your implied syllogism--Paragraph A: "tough guys/cosmic evil" must give you a reason to care, or comics aren't for you. Paragraph B: Here's a list of comics that use that formula. If the list in B wasn't to support the premise in A, what's the "valid point?"--didn't require any extrapolation on my part. If the point is NOT that these series rocked, therfore I should be excited about FC, what IS the point?

Again, I apologize for any out-of-contextedness. But I feel I captured your thoughts as you presented them. I guess that makes me a d-bag too.

snell said...

Kevin--

I certainly didn't mean to imply racism or cultural insensitivity so much as cliche in Morrison's Japanese bit. Good parody is usually at least somewhat affectionate. But taking American superhero names and tacking wacky discordant adjectives on them (Well Spoken Sonic Lightening Flash? Big Atomic Lantern Boy?) strikes me as fairly unoriginal, if not banal. As to whether we'll see them again, by comparison I think we're still waiting for the "Great Ten" from 52 to reappear.

As for stopping the murders, the JLA actually does nothing except defer to the Green Lanterns on Orion and, as I said, send one JLAer to investigate the scene of J'onn's murder, after the funeral. Nothing was accomplished in the lab. All the heroes in this story are portrayed as incredibly passive and detached (which might be part of Morrison's point, I'll concede). We don't need sackcloth, but how about a manhunt? How about a little righteous anger?

And I'll say in conclusion, it's certainly possibly to like mystery, discovery and surprises, but still think that FC has not done it very well or in an engaging manner. Assuming that anyone who isn't in love with FC doesn't like those things, and is therefore a cretin, that's where being a snob comes in.

snell said...

Mikester--

I neither infer (nor imply) that you're an idiot.

In my defense, I assumed that you were referring to customers, because aside from myself, a commenter at the ISB, and a qulaified WTF on another site (I won't drag him into this), I hadn't seen any negative reaction online (which doesn't mean there wasn't any--I obviously just wasn't looking in the right places). But until I wrote this post, I had actually seen more attacks on people who disliked FC than I had actually seen people who disliked FC.

If it helps, I like most Morrison, mine is no knee-jerk reaction, and I did pay money for it.

Siskoid said...

And you should see what the guys at Sequart.com had to say about you! --I mean It!

Actually, I think Thought Balloonists did a good job of putting the finger on just what is so unaffecting about FC. Check it out.

Scott said...

Okay, I haven't been reading "Final Crisis" so I can't tell if Morrison's writing is confusing or not. But I do know that the storyarc of "JLA" that everyone always said was confusing -- "Rock of Ages" -- didn't confuse me one thin bit. I'm sure I'd be able to understand most of what was going on.

That having been said: Morison is definitely a writer who benefits from having a reader's guide to accompany a story. There were many parts of "Seven Soldiers" that I had to hunt down some online wikis to catch all the references and in-jokes.

And really, the most confusing thing about "Final Crisis" is why we needed it at all. It's strictly a marketing/Didio-generated story. There's nothing organic about it at all. Does anyone believe that Grant Morrison woke up one morning and said, "Wow, I've got such a perfect idea for a story, and it can only be told as yet another sequel to DC's first big crossover from over 20 years ago!"

No, Didio/marketing came to him and said, "We're gonna publish another 'Crisis' sequel. We got no plot ideas, so as long as we kill a couple minor characters and have no serious change to our profitable corporate-owned status quo, we'll be good with it. Wanna write it? Otherwise, we'll ask Johns or Winick to do it."

The main thing that confuses me is why Morrison decided to say he'd write it. The fat paycheck must come as small compensation for signing on as DC marketing's rent boy.

Siskoid said...

Scott: Without looking at any interviews etc., it's entire possible that Morrison WAS interested in doing a Crisis. His first original work, Zenith, featured a Crisis parody, and Animal Man (which IS an emotional work) had what is known as Crisis II.

Possibly, he's had plans since his contributions to 52.

awb said...

The guys at Sequart nailed it. This is a Morrison Book. Even more it is a Morrison JLA book. This is pretty similar to his first arc involving the white martians in my opinion. There was not a lot of teeth gnashing or "characterization" in that book but it didn't need it. He has always written them as a strikeforce as opposed to a "family". The characterization is usually found in the way an individual character handled a crisis, their different styles of kung fu.

I don't see how this book is an example of decompression either. You said yourself that there is not too much time spent on J'onn's death. They had a funeral on Mars for chrissakes. What do you want? Eight pages of "I remember when I first met J'onn..." In just two books we get a dead Orion, dead J'onn, the return of Barry Allen, Batman kidnapped, Crazy "The Brood" anti-life equation kids, an introduction to a new super team. I guess decompression can be a relative term.
I guess ultimately some writer's just don't do it for some people, nothing wrong with that, but I honestly can't see how this book is anymore confusing than any other comic book, crossover or otherwise. I mean, you don't even have to buy any tie in books to follow it.

Ken Lowery said...

It's strictly a marketing/Didio-generated story. There's nothing organic about it at all.

Congratulations, you have successfully defined the reason all corporate comics exist.

Mark Hale said...

"The main thing that confuses me is why Morrison decided to say he'd write it. The fat paycheck must come as small compensation for signing on as DC marketing's rent boy."

I'm sure he is paralyzed with shame and unable to find the strength to roll around on his piles of cash.

Alex said...

This has been the best Post/Commentary I've ever read. Man, I love comic blogs.

Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying Final Crisis, and my knowledge of DC history is virtually nil.

It's not the greatest thing I've ever read, but I think I'm getting my money's worth do far. I don't plan on following the assorted tie-ins, and I certainly hope this doesn't screw up the current Flash title too much...

Mark Engblom said...

Wow....looks like you opened a can of worms there, Snell! I think I'm enjoying Final Crisis more than you are, but I can still see your point. There's something about Morrison's work that leaves me cold, and also a vague narcissism to it as well...AND I've gone on record many times saying I'm just not hip to the New Gods jive.....so maybe it's just the return of Barry Allen that's got my good will working overtime.

Nate Winchester said...

Rereading this, I wonder now if you'll ever tackle Multiversity, which seems to be FC on steroids...