Thursday, April 28, 2011
Narrative Check Kiting! (Spoilers Abound)
Brightest Day has solidified for me what I've long suspected - the problem with mainstream comics is that they've become entirely reliant on "event" books to remain solvent, and the "event" books amount to nothing more than narrative check kiting.
Marvel and DC are no longer in the story business. They are both illusionists at this point, with just enough rabbit coming out of the hat to sucker a couple of dissatisfied customers to the next show, which will certainly be thirty times more super, of course. But the magic isn't there.
Don't take my word for it, though. Take it from the experts, who are much less jaded and much more invested than I am.. Here's Doug Zawisza reviewing Brightest Day # 24 over at CBR:
"The shift in the last two issues to suddenly make this a book that featured Swamp Thing was dynamic and sudden, but also detracted from the wonderful stories being set up for the other characters who truly carried this book through."
How about this from George Marston from the Best Shots team over at newsarama:
"It was made clear early on that the series was building towards something, and sometimes felt like it was less a story, and more a tool being used to accomplish a task."
So the point of Brightest Day is not to tell a story, in case you were ever fooled. The headline is:
"SWAMP THING AND JOHN CONSTANTINE ARE BACK, MINI-SERIES AT 11"
But all that stuff with Hawk and Dove, and Hawkman, and Firestorm, and Deadman, and redemption...it's all bullshit. It's all just a ruse to divert your attention from the Swamp Thing gambit, so you spend the money on Aftermath: Search For Swamp Thing.
Zawisza says the Brightest Day epilogues for the would-be stars of the series are "...hollow without any indication of where to follow these characters from here, save for Swamp Thing."
Look, I'm fine with Swamp Thing and JC coming back, but why can't it make sense, and flow? Why does it have to be a bait and switch?
There's never any real money in these narrative accounts. The trick is to get the sucker invested in the next bad check. This is Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi we're talking about here, too. The problem isn't that the writers aren't up to snuff. The problem is that these things aren't even built as stories.
John Siuntres talk to Matt Fraction on Word Balloon about Fear Itself. It wasn't built on any place of inspiration, and it didn't develop from something vital in the characters or their history. It came from editorial approaching Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker with "we've got these movies coming out with Captain America and Thor, what can you give me on those characters that's big"?
I'm not suggesting that Fraction is doing hack work, and I'm not saying that nothing good can come from editorial prodding. I believe that Fraction is doing the best work he knows how on Fear Itself, but it's not a story he was dying to tell, and that kind of manufactured hype for hype's sake hasn't played well in the past.
I think we're likely to see a lot of magic hammers fall from the sky, a lot of characters will behave in odd and contradictory ways, somebody will "die" for about twelve minutes, and then it will end with everyone and everything back to the way it started but for some completely random and ill-fitting twist that will set up the next bad check they want to pass our way. Call me the Amazing Fucking Ryan, but I think it's safe to say that's how this is going to fall out. You'll have to let me know, because I'm not going to be buying any of it.
It's not about narrative. The point of Secret Invasion is to set up Dark Reign so you can set up Siege. It's an endless stream of narrative checks with insufficient funds, promising the next one will pay for it all. For some reason an incredible number of us are still buying.
Mike Carey calls it the most fun he's had at Marvel in the back matter. Well, I'm glad somebody had fun.
Flashpoint is coming out soon. Alternate reality, huh? They're not even pretending about the ephemeral nature of the bullshit any more. Are you still going to buy in? Probably.
As your attorney, I advise you to go read Savage Dragon and leave these rubber checks alone. Just sayin'.