I went to the cinema this afternoon to see Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn) expecting to come back and write one of my ‘Uncollected Thoughts’ about it. But I won’t. Don’t go to this film expecting a stiory because it deliberately rejects the idea of story, preferring to racket around in explosions and slow-motion violence that is colourful and cartoony Two of its pricipal five characters bear little or no resemblance to their comic book originals and the film drops a considerable number of F-Bombs and MotherF-Bombs (there’s one of the latter on the soundtrack). Sure, it’s vigorous, and you can liberally scatter the Z-word all over it (zany, you numbskulls) and a lot of people will enjoy its complete rejection of conventional story-telling. I’m not telling you too not go to see it, just to not blame me if you do.
So I was right when I predicted, maybe six months ago, that I’d see Heroes in Crisis 9 before Doomsday Clock 12, for here is the former appearing the same week as issue 10 of the latter, with the penultimate issue due in another three months time and the final issue in sight of no published schedule at all. Let’s put the two together and talk about which is the biggest bust.
For me, it’s got to be Heroes in Crisis. I was expecting something interesting, thought-provoking, original and ground-breaking. I was expecting it to enslave me. I was expecting it to be good. Doomsday Clock has done nothing but live down to my expectations.
Last issue, Heroes in Crisis revealed that its villain was neither Booster Gold nor Harley Quinn, as had been trailed from the start, but instead Wally West, the series’ most controversial and unwelcome victim. What was so bad, as well as just dumbfuck stupid, about it was that whilst the multiple deaths were a tragic accident, Wally’s actions in covering up, concealing and fabricating evidence and framing innocents, placed him at or below the level of the most evil of supervillains.
Worse still than that, was the choice of Wally as the villain: Wally West, the victim of the New52, the wellspring of Rebirth in 2016, the character whose reappearance was a deliberate beacon, a symbol of hope, and who less than three years later has been trashed beyond recovery. And in choosing to make Wally such a manipulator of evidence, Tom King destroyed his own story: literally everything in issues 1-7 has been a fake, a red herring, a lie. None of it meant anything, except seven months’ waste of paper, ink and colour. Did nobody at DC realise this in advance?
The series has made Wally West irredeemable. The character is poisoned beyond any hope, except as a villin or a madman, for at least two decades: that was how long in took to bring Hal Jordan back after Emerald Twilight, and that only tenuously possible by having him be possessed by Parallax, the Fear-Demon. In the late 2030’s, assuming the comic book industry hasn’t disappeared up its own backside at last, someone can try to rehabilitate Wally. It would be nice if someone could come up with something that isn’t as cheap and casuall, or as blatant a rip-off, as having him be possessed, and not in his right mind.
Was this what Tom King planned all along? There’s been rumour, and circumstantial evidence, of editorial interference by Interferer in Chief Dan Didio. Who is known to dislike Wally West almost as much as he does Dick Grayson. Who was the force behind the conceptual approaches of the New52, which was rejected by Geoff Johns in Rebirth. Who has come out on top in a power-strugle with Johns, who made wlly the Hope of Rebirth.
Would DiDio be so petty? Are you kidding? He works in comics, doesn’t he? The industry is littered with the petty, the obsessive, the maladjusted.
You may by now be wondering why I am going on at such length on what is essentially a reprise of my comments on issue 8, but this is the bar that the last issue has to overcome when it tries to present the Redemption of Wally West, by doing more or less the same thing issue 8 did, that is, to wipe out what has gone before, and render the worst parts of issue 8 non-existent. It doesn’t work, not even for a second.
What happens is that, amongst another slew of single panel trauma investigations at Sanctuary, which we later learn is the new, repaired, publicly-known Sanctuary, the Booster-Beetle-Harley-Batgirl team catches up with Wally five days in the future where/when he’s about to strangle Wally West for his crime and take him back to Day Zero for his body to be found. Wally has decided against using time travel to, you know, like, stop himself from killing all those people in the first place, because of Flashpoint.
So, in the least convincing of manners and most cheap of reverses, Wally and Wally talk Wally out of it, Booster scoots into the future to grab a clone of Wally + 5 so that can be dumped at Day Zero, everybody hightails it out of Day + 5 before the Justice League get there, and Wally can go back to Day Zero and confess his crime and get therapy, and go on to his bright and bountiful future in the DC Universe. The fact that in doing so he has now changed time in contravention of his principles in not changing time is not allowed to cross the mind of anyone except awkward readers.
It’s bullshit, pure bullshit from start to finish. Worse than bullshit, it’s pathetic. The series has been dull, static and uninvolving, and it has undercut itself over and over to the point where it holds no reality whatsoever. And to prove this yet further, Poison Ivy is returned to life is issue 9.
That leaves Roy Harper as the only prominent dead character, along with a bunch of neverwases, and that isn’t going to last.
I really had hopes for Heroes in Crisis but it disappointed from the outset. According to one of the spoilers that I’ve avoided until now, King, as the writer, submitted his outline story and had the characters to use dictated to him, but I’m still not going to let him off. That’s stupid nonsense. Look for a complete set on eBay from Sunday afternoon onwards.
As for Doomsday Clock 10, this armpit of a story has dragged on for so long that I no longer have the energy for any truly visceral commentary. At this late stage, on this attenuated schedule, you’d think that Johns and Frank would be making at least some effort to move the story towards its glacial conclusion, especially given that Doomsday Clock is meant to be the future of the DC Universe and nobody as yet has any idea what they have to do to get there, and that it supposed to be the springboard for the long overdue returns of The Justice Society of America and The Legion of Super-Heroes.
Issue 10 has been trailed for longer than prehistoric beasts have existed as heralding the return of the Justice Society, and it is true that we have some new dialogue from their first meeting, but in which version of reality that takes place is beyond determining. Essentially, Johns has decided to spend this issue in the head of Dr Manhattan, who does not perceive time in linear fashion, and using this to summarise what the Doc has been doing since departing the Watchmen Universe and arriving in DC’s.
It basically wanders about haphazardly whilst the Doc adjusts to the idea of being in a Multiverse in which time shifts at periodic intervals, until he realises that the DC Earth is actually not a Multiversal construct but a metaverse, whose history is constantly shifting.
I mean, ho-hum or what, so very rose by any other name. In the end, we get back to the same old conundrum we’ve had waved under our noses for about a year of real time, that Manhattan’s perception of the future ends with Superman throwing a punch at him, meaning that either Superman destroys him., or Manhattan destroys the metaverse. And aside from all other considerations, the odds of Manhattan destroying something Johns has only just named/defined this week are non-existent.
This latest instalment essentially writes the series off as a crossover series, as well as its already pronounced failure as a Watchmen fuck-with. We haven’t had any of that for an issue or two, so in one sense it’s cheering to see Johns flash back to Manhattan’s last conversation with Ozymandias in Watchmen 12, but really it’s not since Johns has to lie through his teeth about what Alan Moore had these two talk about, and invent something that never happened and which demeans the good Doctor yet more.
With Tom King’s run on Batman suddenly announced as ending twenty issues prior than we’d been led to believe, and the only other DC title I’m getting being The Terrifics, I foresee discarding the contents of each of these series asbeing beyond easy. I doubt I’ll even have to read anything in which they have consequences.
Will someone put this thing out of its misery? Before August and issue 11.
How much of this story has been a waste of space? How many of the pages of this issue are pointless, an abuse of the audience by getting them to read a lazy, needless fight between Harley Quinn and Booster Gold, observed in couch potato fashion by Batgirl and Blue Beetle, until the four decide to pool their approaches? How many pages are wasted by Batman and The Flash using very different approaches to locating Blue and Gold, The Flash dashing off for microsecond searches of areas of the world where they’re not to be found, and Batman sitting in his Batcave chair, watching his alarms, which are hidden in every safehouse either of the pair have ever had, knowing that sooner or later, being Beetle and Booster, one of them will do something stupid and trigger their alarm? How many pages are given over to the Watchmen grid of Wally West talking to Sanctuary, updating himself on the number of weeks he’s been there and his evidently false belief that he’s been improving?
The answers to these questions are 11, 3 and 4 respectively. That leaves 6 pages (including a double page spread) that might, we hope, actually advance the story, although not in any way that makes sense up to the end of issue 7. These involve Wally and Poison Ivy and a field of beautifully drawn and brilliantly coloured flowers that are a genuine aesthetic delight, and they seem to be leading towards the suggestion, which has been suspected by a lot of people for quite some time already, that the Sanctuary killer is Wally himself.
I really hope that this is still red-herringing.
Art this time around is split between three artists, twelve pages drawn by series artist Clay Mann, nine by Travis Moore and the remaining three by Jorge Fornes, whose more primitive style stands out like a sore thumb against the other two.
I mean, there’s not really that much else I can say about this issue. The main cover, an exasperated Superman shouting ‘Enough!’ and thrusting Booster and Harley out of the picture has nothing to do with this episode. The only thing I can applaud is that it’s coming out on time, and as Doomsday Clock 10 has now been pushed back into May, my prediction that I’d get to the end of Heroes in Crisis before DC’s premier fuck-up crossover is going to come true in spades.
Given that Tom King’s current arc in Batman, ‘Knightmares’, is as boring as fuck and seeming interminable, this is not a period in which I am favourably inclined towards him. I’d like that to improve.
Six of nine. It’s a sad commentary on mainstream comics publishing today that the much-trailed Heroes in Crisis mini-series is slowly developing its own mini-version of the logical disasters that have most thrillingly contributed to the miserable buffoonery of Doomsday Clock. First, it was supposed to be a seven issue series drawn by Clay Mann but, once Dan DiDio, still pining for the misery of The New 52, managed to claw back sole control, it spouted two extra issues drawn by another artist, and all but officially designated as fillers, extra pages had to be shoehorned in to issue 2 by another artist to ram home the unconvincing death of Wally West, and now all we have of series artist Mann in issue 6 are a first and last page with all the stuff in between drawn by Mitch Gerads.
Still, at least the trains run on time. The consistent monthly schedule means we can put this turgid disappointment behind us in three months, whereas Doomsday Clock will still be with us when the sun has gone nova and all that is left of the Solar System is one cubic inch of charred Charonic rock.
I’m in two minds about this issue. Once again, we don’t move an inch forward. The story stops dead, if such a phrase can be applied to a things that has never once been alive. What we get are Mann’s two pages, showing heroes being questioned about how many people they’ve saved and giving different answers, whilst in between we’re treated to Sanctuary at work, in virtual reality settings, in the form of the sessions relating to Wally West, Poison Ivy joined by Harley Quinn, and Gnarrk, who is a thawed-out caveboy associated with the Titans, Teen or otherwise, a holdover from the very early Seventies. Despite the intelligence with which he is treated herein, he really is a case of scraping the barrrel.
It’s just more, more, more relentlessly slow and inert ‘insight’, and at the two-thirds mark another entire issue of it is amateurish story-telling and dire pacing.
Yet I have a smidgeon of respect for parts of this story, or rather one part, being Wally West. King reruns the DC Universe Rebirth moment when Wally finally gets Barry to remember him, to break him out of the Speed Force, and to reset the Universe to the tune of Hope that was Geoff Johns’ rationale both for Rebirth and the egregious Doomsday Clock. Typically, King reverses this completely. Wally is greeted by everybody as not just the symbol of hope but as Hope itself, but he cannot accept himself in this role, feels massively pressurised by it, because he has no Hope. He’s returned alone, without the love of the family that has been inttegral to him, with Linda Park, his lightning rod, without Jai and Iris, his children.
This part is good, is seriously good, and it holds within it something of the structure that could have underpinned Heroes in Crisis and made it work. If you had started from this, if you had made this the basis upon which the series was founded, if you had focussed on it and not diffused it with dozens of heoes undergoing trauma counselling that, even two-thirds of the way through, we are not seeing at work. All we get are gnomic utterances by superheroes, cryptic soundbites with very often the depth of a puddle, because King is using too many people to have the space for anything but shallowness, and because he’s still not leaving enough space for an actual story to clad itself upon these bones.
Simultaneously with this issue, I also picked up the four-part crossover story, ‘The Price’, running between Batman and The Flash, written by Joshua Williamson, which gets far more out of Tom King’s story than King has managed to do by concentrating upon living characters affected by these deaths and their implications, where King is concentrating upon characters who we are being told, unconvincingly, are dead, meaning that their issues and traumas haave ceased to have any meaning. Like the victims, the problems are dead. If anyone really is.
Do we have any answers appearing in the murk? I mean, we’ve already been shown Wally’s moment of death at the hands of Harley Quinn and now we see it at the hands of Booster Gold but for it to be either of them would be lame. One major news and gossip site still reckons it’s Wally himself, which at least has the merit of being stupid, but in that case why has Wally’s death had to be so blatantly inserted by DiDio’s decree?
I repeat, three months from now, the complete set, first editions, mint condition, will be going on eBay, unless you want to make a private bid in the comments? Exorbitant offers will be listened to most carefully.
What else can I say? I find it difficult to believe this story is being written by the same Tom King who’s got me buying Batman comics for the first time since probably the landmark Steve Engelhart run pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths. The concept is fascinating, the execution abysmal, the pace non-existent and the psychological insight as deep as a street puddle.
There isn’t a plot to issue 5, which at least is the midpoint of the series. Essentially, Booster and Beetle waste time hanging out drinking Bud befor invading The Flash’s laboratory, because he’s a better detective than both of them puttogether, Batgirl and Harley Quinn team-up to torture the robot Skeets to get Booster’s whereabouts and Superman gives a Press Comnference at which he explains the purpose of Sanctuary and the downside of superheroing at a length that is simultaneously heartfelt and, after four issues of Show, completely redundant in Tell.
Add to this the usual four pages of Watchmen grid, showing various heroes explain what bugs them. Booster plays Out, Damned Spot with his perfectly clear visor, The Protector (is he seriously in DC continuity?) boasts about being pilled out of his bonce all through his Don’t Do It anti-drugs campaign, Commander Steel actually makes a real point about being brought back to life so many times that you can never believe be ing alive will stick, and Harley Quinn tells the same ‘Knock Knock’ joke my mate Ken told us all whilst out for dinner last night, before confessing that the Joker used to hit her.
One worthwhile page out of four, but all are totally static. Throw in a two-page spread (seriously) of Blue and Gold watching TV whilst having their beers on the couch and that’s nearly a third of the issue taken up with nothing whatsoever.
As I said, the concept of Sanctuary is fascinating but the execution is a bust. These confessional pages are detached from the ‘story’. They’re visually dull and deliberately so, the level of insight is minimal (or am I simply too old, too experienced in both life and comics to see these pages as merely sophomoric, whereas for contemporary audiences they are full of new ideas?), to the point where even a genuinely intriguing condition, like that of Commander Steel, fails to have the appropriate impact, because it is weighted down too heavily by the dross surrounding it?
This failure is made more obvious by the latest issue of The Terrifics, no 12, which I bought at the same time. Rex Mason is Rex again, not Metamorpho. He’s having difficulrty to adjusting, even though he’s got everything he ever wanted: he’s human again, he has his beloved Sapphire with him, free of Simon Stagg’s influence at last, and he can’t settle to it. Some is that he wants to work, not be kept, but he has no transferrable skills nor relevant qualifications after years of heroing, but the big problem is, as he admits to himself, that he can’t believe he’s truly escaped from being Metamorpho, and he cannot live his lifeas aanything but an interlude until it happens to him again.
It’s same same problem as Steel (can we drop this ‘Commander’ crap, please?), but this is led up to organically, its woven into the story, we see it for ourselves and Rex’s confession follows on our experience and leads into the great denouement where he betrayss Sapphire and himself and deliberatelly chooses to be Metamorpho again. All of which is a ton more effective, and affecting, that the antiseptic account by Steel that’s ninety percent an outline of his continuity.
Only one thing in issue 5 justifies its printing and that’s the one thing about the series that I could never get into. There’s been something unreal about the deaths we’ve seen of characters like Roy Harper, Poison Ivy and especially Wally West, and despite their unfunny footling about, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle discover something that has the potential to undermine that aspect: it appears that at his death, Wally West was five days older than he should be.
So, time travel, a wriggle out shows its head. Whether or not this sophisticated future people dater is taking into account the ten years Wally spent living in the Speed Force, and whether those years still exist, given what’s going on in the ever-increasingly-delayed Doomsday Clock, I would once have known, and once would have wanted to find out, but I couldn’t care. Once it’s done, Heroes in Crisis is going on eBay, and I will be dismissing it from continuity.
Fourth issue. There’s a lot of typographical swearing in this one, including the title, the way you get it in mainstream comics. Can’t have everyone seeing the Black Canary saying ‘Fuck it,’ can we?
Once again, it’s too damned little and too damned slowly. Wonder Girl/Donna Troy/Troia/whoever the hell she is, hauls a pissed Tempest out of a bar, then has the first of three full pages of superheroine confessions. Donna muses about whether Paradise Island actually exists (just ask Diana, you clown). Batgirl says nothing, just pulls down her tights far enough to see the entry and exit wounds, sufficiently re-positioned from Killing Joke so that it didn’t actually sever her spine. Black Canary lasts three panels of a Watchmen nine-panel grid before saying whatever she says and walking, leaving six panels of an empty chair.
Batman and The Flash, the two best detectives, complete their investigation and proclaim the killer: Booster (Flash), Harley (Batman). The Flash swears (yes, even though he’s Barry Allen). Maybe he says ‘Shit.’
Lois Lane slinks round the bedroom in Superman t-shirt, tiny red knickers and very bare and very long legs, giving at least one page a reason for existing, exchanging cryptic remarks about what she’s to do with these ‘Puddlers’ revelations.
Green Arrow threatens to pop an arrow into both heads and let the afterlife’s greatest detective work it out: a decent line, at last.
Batgirl catches up to Harley and has to prevent her now cowl-less head being smashed in until, one cat-fight later, she persuades Harley to jointly investigate the crime with her, to prove to Batman that they’re not both broken, scared, scarred girls, leading to one very Poison Ivy-esque full body hug.
Booster reveals he’s passed the lasso of truth test, only that’s now no longer infallible, as apparently it can only tell that you think you’re telling the truth. He’s telling all this to Blue Beetle, the Ted Kord one (how long’s he been alive again? Do I care? You can answer that one yourself.)
And Superman pulls off a very blatant Ozymandias rip-off from Watchmen 11, letting Batman and Wonder Woman know about these videos Lois has been getting and that she’s going to print on them. Batty snarls, Wondy asks when, and Supes replies “35 seconds ago”.
This nonsense is now hard on Doomsday Clock‘s heels for most fucking awful piece of garbage going: I’d almost rather re-read ‘Gadgetman and Gimmick-Kid’. I’d better make a profit selling this on eBay when no 9 finally appears.
I’ve been waiting a few months for DC’s latest crossover series, both for the concept and the fact it’s being written by Tom King, a writer who has brought me back into reading Batman comics again – Batman! – for the first time since, probably, the Seventies.
Heroes in Crisis was originally billed as a seven-issue mini-series, drawn by Clay Mann, though at a late stage it was bumped up to nine issues, with issues 3 and 7 to be drawn by a second artist, which is mildly worrying. nevertheless, the concept is fascinating, and well within King’s capabilities and experience as a former CIA analyst.
The idea is that there is a place known as Sanctuary, set up and managed by the Trinity, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. It’s a refuge, a psychological refuge where traumatised superheroes can receive counselling over their experiences. Superheroes in counselling? It sounds ridiculous, but given the experiences they face on a daily basis, it’s not just logical but inevitable.
The set-up is that the series begins with a murder taking place at Sanctuary: not just a murder, but a massacre. I’ve been avoiding spoilers, especially about who dies, for weeks now.
So issue 1 is now to hand. To be honest, it’s a bit of a disappointment. What I’ve described above is, basically, about the whole of what we get. Nor is there any excessive amount of additional detail. There are dead bodies, including a number of no-marks, though the corpses include that of Citizen Steel, as in the one who’s been in Legends of Tomorrow this past two seasons.
But, and these are thrown away in a single panel without fanfare or follow-up in this issue, there are a couple of more substantial names: Roy (Arsenal) Harper… and Wally (Flash) West.
And the issue is plumped out by a running fight scene between Booster Gold and Harley Quinn, with the latter trying to stab the former, ending in a last page accusation that instead of it being Harley trying to complete her murder spree, as you would normally anticipate, she’s trying to bring in Booster because he killed everyone. She saw him.
I think we can safely assume there will be a few more twists along the way, but in terms of content, this is actually pretty thin stuff. I will be very surprised if Wally West is, or stays dead – he was ‘my’ Flash for a decade or more, through Bill Messner-Loebs and especially Mark Waid – and I will be equally surprised if Booster’s apparent culpability is the real deal, even under hypnosis, mental control, possession or any similar excuse.
It’s here, it’s begun, but given how it was sold to us, I don’t think Heroes in Crisis has travelled more than six inches yet. Roll on issue 2, and if King et al can actually keep a monthly schedule, I for one will be exceedingly grateful.
They warned me, but I had to see for myself, and now I have and they were right. DC’s Suicide Squad movie is crap, for all the reasons everybody has already said, but at least it’s not Batman vs Superman crap, though it wouldn’t have to cross a very wide street to be so.
I’m not going to go into expansive detail, which makes a change from the film. Actually, the film doesn’t so much go into infinite detail, dragging things out at every possible turn, as to slide very slowly across the surface of things, dragging it out at every possible turn.
This is the third time out of four DC Universe films (the fourth of which I have not seen and will not see) that I have been checking my watch inside the first thirty minutes (18 minutes and 23 seconds here, a new personal best). This was because the film was doing everything it could to avoid actually portraying a story, and boring the arse off me.
When the ‘story’ actually began, the film had forfeited all goodwill by being so clunky. It then went to to be not so much clunky in its development of the story as non-existent. There isn’t a story, just a series of events, through which we move at a funereal pace, occasionally upping the tempo for ill-directed, confusing fight scenes, in which you can barely see anything anyway because this is all taking place at night (DC films don’t do daylight, it’s far too light-hearted and Marvel).
I recall that a lot of reshooting took place before release in order to add a more light-hearted and comedic tone, but I assume all that stuff got left out of the final print, because I didn’t see any of it. Sure, Harley Quinn is constantly quipping, and snarking, and being generally absurd, but despite a vigorous performance by Margot Robbie, she isn’t actually funny.
Ms Robbie is, indeed, the highlight of the film, but only because her body gets flaunted over and over again, and it’s a nice body. Then again, Cara Delivingne, as June Moone/The Enchantress, also has a nice body, most of which is largely uncovered for 90% of her screen-time, and the film manages to make her look thoroughly unattractive.
I’ll say no more, as others have already said all of this, in more detail, and i am merely recording that they’re right.
I grew up on DC Comics. By temperament, I always preferred their less-frenetic, less-hysterical approach to superheroes. I have a half century’s emotional investment in these characters. I would just like to go and see a film about such characters that is at least half as enjoyable as those featuring Marvel characters for whom I don’t have anything like the innate sympathy. I’m beginning to suspect that I should stick to my boxset of the Christopher Reeve Superman films (maybe not no. 4…)