Monday, July 18, 2011

Wow, Nothing About This Sounds Good

The news has broken on post-Flashpoint Superman's status quo, and it's really taking a toll on my positivity. Let's just go point by point:
Clark Kent and Lois Lane [...] were never married in the first place: Okay, I saw this coming. It's a terrible idea, because that's a (wedding) bell you really only get to ring once. For fifty-eight years, their relationship was based around the "will they/won't they" question--a question that gets really frigging old quite quickly (see also: Scrubs, Bones, and every other show that has ever done it)--but once the knot was tied, any future untying puts them into the even less tenable "when will they" situation. There's a reason that the Spider-Man comics of late have basically written MJ out of Peter's life (again), and it's because her presence forces the question of when they will get back together. Once you've established two characters as true-love-meant-for-each-other, you really can't un-establish that in the minds of the audience.

Its presence post-Flashpoint underscores the other problem with this kind of retcon. We've seen stories over and over where [HERO] loses [TRUE LOVE] and moves Heaven and Earth to get [TRUE LOVE] back. It's what heroes do, from Orpheus to Dante to Wally West. "Flashpoint" as a series is exactly the same kind of story, where the world has gone wrong and Barry Allen is moving Heaven and Earth to put it back. So when those kinds of stories are used to rewrite history, we're left with the dangling question of why no one tries to set things exactly right, why the heroes are satisfied with "good enough." At least "One More Day" forced the hero to make an impossible decision; the post-Flashpoint DCU requires the heroes to not act. It's almost hilarious that the brunt of that inaction will be felt by the star of Action Comics.

But at least I understand the (superficial and wrong) reasoning behind this decision: Splitting up Clark and Lois allows for new stories to be told, new conflicts to be had, and removes the restraint of the marriage. It bothers the ever-living hell out of me that comic relationships still revolve around romantic fantasy notions of true love, but seem to abhor marriage. It's like there's no one in comics who's happily married and sees that marriage is a source of new conflicts and story opportunities.

Lois will have a new boyfriend, one whose identity is yet to be revealed but is said to be a Daily Planet colleague: Oh good, "Jimmy Olsen's Blues" is going to be canon.

Actually, it's more likely to be someone like Steve Lombard or Ron Troupe or Lex Luthor or something. That's not really a concern, just a distraction.

Superman's alien origins will be emphasized in a big way, with the character described as "more Kal-El from the planet Krypton than Clark Kent from Kansas": Because there aren't any other semi-detached aliens who are the last survivors of their homeworlds in the DCU. I know that this is basically the sticking point around which all debates about Superman's character hinge, and I hope that it's mostly just a clumsy statement of the "Superman 2000"/"All-Star Superman" notion of a Superman whose powers just put him beyond human comprehension.

Superman's deep connection to his Kryptonian heritage also explains his new costume, as seen on the cover of Superman #1. It's "ceremonial armor" from his home planet, with the traditional red trunks abandoned: Because Superman needs armor. Hopefully its "ceremonial" nature allows for its eventual shelving, much like Wonder Woman's "Kingdom Come" armor.

Jonathan and Martha Kent are both dead in DC's post-Flashpoint continuity: Ugh. What is it with DC and living parents? What is it with DC and happy, normal human relationships? What is it with DC and the past?

Action Comics, which focuses on Superman's early superhero career, depicts a "younger, more brooding" Man of Steel: Yay! More brooding Superman! It's good to see that DC is listening to the critics and fans, because we haven't seen nearly enough of Superman brooding in recent years!

His powers are still in development at this point, as he "can leap tall buildings but can't fly in space": At least they're undoing the power-creep, the steady pushing-back of Superman's power development since 1986. Of course, this also means that "Superman: Secret Origin" is largely, if not wholly, undone. Is 13 months a new record for "shortest canonical Superman origin story"?

Kal-El's present will be told in Superman, with a "new status quo at the Daily Planet" and a new gig at the paper for Lois Lane: I sincerely hope this means that the Daily Planet is no longer (just) a newspaper. Print media is having some serious troubles, and it'd be nice to see the Daily Planet get a 21st-century upgrade. Frankly, I wouldn't mind seeing Clark back as anchor of WGBS news.

I've heard rumors that Lois's new "gig" is Editor-in-Chief, which would be a very interesting change and source of conflict. It would give her a whole new interest into Clark's sudden disappearances and dodgy ethics, and would make her appear like less of a stalker for trying to investigate those concerns.

The series [...] will show that "there's a price to pay for being Superman": Why? I mean, I hope this is a conceptual/philosophical "I can't get close to people or they'll be in danger" thing, not a "Superman's powers have brand new drawbacks" forced-drama idiocy.

Debut a brand-new villain, one said to be more powerful than the Man of Steel: New villains = good. Superman needs an expanded Rogue's Gallery, and if they're going "One More Day"/"Brand New Day" in some part, then I'd really like to see them take this lesson from Slott & Co. Retire the old rogues for awhile, until you can do new and fresh things with them. Let Lex scheme behind the scenes and play master orchestrator. Leave the Phantom Zone alone.

As for "more powerful than the Man of Steel," well, that's solicit braggadocio.

Finally: I'm not a fan of the new cover. With this historic relaunch, you'd think DC would put more effort into making these covers--particularly Action and Detective--more iconic, the sorts of things that people might look to imitate in the future. The first Rags Morales teaser had a lot more of that than this one does.

I'll be interested in seeing how this all shakes out in September (and, in all likelihood, later today), but boy, this first volley of news is depressing.


Eric Garneau said...

Yeah, everything about this news sucks. Thanks for breaking it down and being sensible about it.

Tom Foss said...

I just have to keep telling myself that it's Grant Morrison, that Rags Morales is doing art, that George PĂ©rez has occasionally written Superman during some pretty good periods in the character's history. And frankly, the plot synopses that have come out later today--particularly the idea of a villain that only Superman can't see--are pretty intriguing. I have every hope that this is more of DC's usual foot-in-mouth PR, and not an accurate demonstration of what's actually going on in the books.

But hoo boy.

Devin Parker said...

It bothers the ever-living hell out of me that comic relationships still revolve around romantic fantasy notions of true love, but seem to abhor marriage. It's like there's no one in comics who's happily married and sees that marriage is a source of new conflicts and story opportunities.

AMEN. This has bugged me about superhero comics for ages. Heck, it bugs me about the vast majority of entertainment media. Why are married couples seen as some sort of narrative dead-end? You'd think everything was being created by children and bitter divorcees.

The Bitter Script Reader said...

Completely with you on this one, and as others have pointed out elsewhere, this history reboot again means that Legion history just got boned - just barely after they sorted it out again.

The Snappy Sneezer said...

I hope this fails miserably and a lot of people behind the scenes at DC will be unemployed for Christmas.

Tom Foss said...

@Devin: I think part of that is the fairy tale effect. We don't want to hear what happens after "happily ever after." The other part of it, I'm sure, is wish fulfillment; most of the writers are married men, and I imagine most of them, for whatever reason, have these romantic fantasy notions about how great single life was.

Alternately, and perhaps less insidiously, they're nostalgic for a time when the characters weren't married, and want to write stories about that time. Time and time again, we've seen how writers would rather roll back the clock on character development than try to come up with new ideas and new stories and new conflicts to reflect new statuses.

@Bitter Script Reader: I suspect that's part of why Levitz is doing a Legion Secret Origins story in October. I'm not sure that all this negates a Clark Kent presence in the early Legion--Morrison's big on Superman's neverending legacy, after all--but it might mean that he relies more on the flight ring than he would have in the Silver Age.

@Snappy Sneezer: I can't agree with any of that, frankly. I hope this succeeds for DC, because a failure of that magnitude would have a large impact on the rest of the industry. If DC sinks, I think you'll see a lot of local shops and other companies sinking with it, if not the whole of comics. And in this economy, I can't endorse any action that puts more people out of work.

The Bitter Script Reader said...

@Tom - I was thinking more about how modern Legion continuity incorporates "Legion of 3 Worlds" into its history and if you rip out Superboy Prime (very likely) and Conner's death and resurrection (almost certain to be un-made based on what the solicits have hinted at for him) the heart of that story is gone.

I just dislike how every time a new team comes on to Superman, the solution seems to be to toss the baby and the bathwater out. Loeb never should have been allowed to get away with his attempted soft-reboot in 2000 because you can draw a straight line from the confusion that caused to the whole Birthright mess, and the muddled continuity post-IC that made Secret Origin a necessity.

If we're getting a Superman reboot this comprehensive, then what's the point of Earth One?

Tom Foss said...

There's a part of me that suspects that Geoff Johns would be hesitant to invalidate his own major story (and decent-selling trade), but then "Secret Origin."

I think Superboy Prime can/will probably stick around; Conner is trickier, but who knows? It's the problem with giving the Legion strong ties to present-day events or continuity. Whenever they do that, the problems become...well, legion.

As for "Earth One," I'm not questioning it. Anything that keeps J. Michael Straczynski away from mainstream continuity is fine with me.

LurkerWithout said...

Superboy is shown in the new Titans book, so how that will work with Action and so on I've no idea...