Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One Year later, Stuck On Earth-Q

It strikes me, as we approach the final two single issues of the first year of the nu52 (both written by Geoff Johns, both late...maybe we should stop blaming the artists?), one thought strikes me: Geoff Johns is the last person who should be in charge of universe-building.

That's not to say he's a bad writer. And that's not an attack on any of his predilections for ultra-violence, overuse of splash pages, and glacially-paced stories. That's more a matter of taste, and it sure doesn't seem to stop his books from selling.

No, the problem is, Johns is the wrong person for universe-building because he seems not to care one whit for what's actually going on in the shared fictional universe. He's just not interested in the project.

And now that a second Justice League title, Justice League Of America (ooh, how creative) has been announced, this first anniversary is an appropriate time to look at how JL fails at its stated task.

When DC announced JL as the lead-off title of the nu52, they said it was going to be the lynchpin of the new, rebooted universe. Written by DC's Chief Creative Officer, and drawn by DC's Co-Publisher, it was widely expected that this book was going to be integral to the new post-Flushpoint DC Universe.

Except, of course, the first 6 issues were going to be set five years in the past. Well, OK, fine. That seems a funny way to set up a new universe, but fine.

But as the title continued, the story and characters continued to be completely isolated from the rest of the nu52. I ask this only semi-rhetorically: has anything that has happened in the pages of Justice League been referred to in any of the solo titles of the teams' members? Or vice versa?

Don't get me wrong--I'm not talking about niggling miniscule continuity points like "how can Flash be in this story when in his own mag he's..." (Although, I must admit that I would really love to see Geoff Johns explain how Hal Jordan's current escapades in his own mag allow him time to participate in JL's adventures).

But somewhere, somehow, shouldn't there be some acknowledgement over how the heroes' experience with the JL impacts their lives, their own adventures? And, of course, vice versa? Some tiny sense that these are the same characters who are appearing in other DC titles? That this is a shared universe, and not loosely connected fan fictions?

Take, for example, Wonder Woman. In Justice League, Johns has given us a lot of hints and teases about how Steve Trevor met Diana, how they had a relationship but it failed, Etta Candy, etc. The only problem with that? Not one single syllable of that has appeared in Wonder Woman's own comic. Meanwhile, in her own comic, Diana has faced a year-long quest against (some of) the gods, discovered her origin was a lie, found out some unsavory truths about the Amazons, died, almost married Hades...and yet again, not one nano-particle of this was deemed worthy of mention in JL. It's as if they're supposed to be two different characters.

If it were just Wonder Woman, we could dismiss it as just another DC writer who didn't get Diana--hardly a unique problem. But it's all the other characters, too.

Superman and Batman surprise the rest of the JL by announcing that they've been working together on cases outside the League. Of course, not a scintilla of a hint of that in any of their books. In JL, Batman badmouths the JLI, and demands they be disbanded, while in JLI itself, Batman works with the team, praises them, encourages them, and even funds them! In his own mag, Flash has made discoveries about the nature of the Speed Force that might limit the use of his powers, and Barry Allen is believed dead; in JL, not a mention, as the character remains just a comic foil for Green Lantern. (And nothing the other way, either. As cops and the press in Central City rail against the Flash, not a line about his famous public allies also drawing ire...)

And speaking of Hal, JL has seen not a mention of Sinestro, or Hal's ring not being his own, or color wars, or...nope, Hal is just the team's mouthy clown boy, Hawkeye with a ring.

So when Johns says the new Kal-El/Wonder Woman hook-up will have "seismic" effects on rest of the DCU, based on what we've seen so far, it's 50/50 that the romance won't even be mentioned outside of Justice League, even in their own books.

In and of itself, none of this is wrong. If Johns and Jim Lee want to present the Justice League as some sort of ur-version of all of these heroes, not tied to anything else, that's fine. Grant Morrison did that, and yet, even though he's got a reputation of not playing well with others' continuities, he didn't ignore Electric Blue Superman, for example.

But the series was presented to the public as the focus of the all-new, all-different DCU, and even though two of the top dogs are in charge of the strip...so far, it bears so little resemblance to that universe it might as well be set on Earth-Q. There's zero evidence Johns & Lee have even read any of the other nu52 titles, or that they care about consistency in the universe.

Again, there's nothing inherently wrong with that--Justice League titles have often been not too tightly tied to the rest of the shared universe. It's just odd that DC's most popular writer, the one they promoted to push their universe, seems to be so little interested in that universe...

Now Johns is leaving Aquaman to write Justice League Of America. If things run to form, fans of Green Arrow, Katana, Martian Manhunter, the new Green Lantern, Stargirl, Vibe, Hawkman and Catwoman need not worry about missing anything that impacts their favorites characters--Johns will be writing different, Earth-Q versions of those characters.


Martin Gray said...

Very fair comments - there was that JL scene in Action, but that doesn't moot-ise your points as it wasn't one comic referencing anything occurring in another.

I'm vaguely recalling some Night of the Owls reference in JL - or was it the other way around?

Basically, though, JL is the modern Super Friends - potentially connected to the DCU, but it could be years before we find out for sure - but without the charm.

Siskoid said...

I find it more and more ridiculous that there are so many relatively unconnected Justice Leagues in the DCU. It's like none of the heroes have any imagination.

If this were Stan Lee's Marvel Universe, the Avengers would have been the Fantastic Six, and the X-Men the FantastiX, etc.

I have been consistently disappointed with Johns' work on the new 52, and not just as a world-builder either. But if JL is any indication of his ability to write team books, JLoA will be dreary.

Gary said...

The League was mentioned a few times in Justice League International but only ever in passing.

You're right about Johns's League - it's completely divorced from the rest of the DCU and while I mostly like Johns's writing (I'm thoroughly enjoying his Green Lantern stuff for example) the news of the new title was a little underwhelming.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Sorry I'm late to the party. What I thought to be odd was that it took three issues for anyone--even Batman--to figure out Graves was Martin Graves, the guy who wrote the damn book we see in JL#6. If it had come out back then, well, I'd have trouble recalling the name of an author from 2007. But, come on, I'm not Batman.

I read very few of the new 52. Batman was in RESURRECTION MAN this month, and I love that every character from the original series are back. But it was a surprise to me that this whole thing where Graves has Steve Trevor chained was never addressed in the WW book...I assumed the entire romance/break-up was already covered in her book.

snell, I look forward to your review of Vibe#1 in the next six months or so...