Tag Archive | Damian Wayne

52 Pickup: Crisis of Infinite Negation

The Great DC Reboot is currently underway.

Don’t tell them it’s a reboot, though. They like to call it a “soft restart” because, according to the original press, “only some things are changing to give the characters a fresher start, but most of the DC Canon will remain unchanged.”

I know this whole “New 52” thing started at the beginning of September, but I had to really read into it before I reacted. I didn’t want to be one of those knee-jerkers who said that this was going to ruin everything before it even hit the newsstands. I wanted to have at least a semi-educated opinion based as little on speculation as possible.

In retrospect, my knee-jerk would have been the correct reaction. Maybe not reaction enough.

DC, for all its iconic majesty, has been largely on the wrong track for far too long.

For decades, their writers have employed what I believe to be the absolute worst technique in storytelling – the unreasonable retcon.
If you’re not up-to-date on your fictional terminology, retcon is short for retroactive continuity. This is basically a deus ex machina used by lazy writers to change the history of a given character and even sometimes an entire fictional universe. We’re not talking about a simple flashback here, we’re talking erasures of anything from one paragraph to books and books worth of material in order to fit an existing character into a different mold.

Retcons are nothing new to the comic book or sci-fi community. They happen nearly all the time in some of our favorite media, however, comic books have always shown the strongest example of the technique.

In the past, DC has retconned some of the most integral things from their universe in order to simplify the current continuity and bring in new readers. Their theory is that, through this simplification, they will attract new readers who have been fans of the movies and cartoons based on their characters. A new reader could pick up an issue of something as convoluted as Superman and the book would now seem much more approachable because the entire history of the book has simply been discounted and erased.

This, my friends, is the Mother of All Retcons. In the war against continuity, this is a pure scorched earth tactic.

Dan DiDio, one of the main architects of the New 52, has dropped official word that all Crisis events in the DC Universe have been abolished from the canon. This throws sand in the face of the last thirty years of the continuity and, given the shady and nebulous nature of the universe’s past as it stands, takes away the only static points left in the timeline.

Some of you may not speak Comic Book Geek. Allow me to translate by using another self-cannibalistic visionary who seems to enjoy rewriting his work and “fixing” stuff like it ain’t no thang: George Lucas.

Say Lucas really went off the deep end. Say Lucas suddenly said that all the events of The Empire Strike Back were null and void.
Let that marinate for a minute and think about how confusing things would be if you just jumped from A New Hope right on over to Return of the Jedi with nothing in between. No Vader reveal. No clue as to why Han is in Carbonite. No way of knowing who the hell Lando Calrissian or Boba Fett are. No Jedi training by Yoda on Dagobah. None of it. None of it was canon, none of it actually happened, but somehow we still arrived at Return of the Jedi. How mindboggling would that be?

That’s where we are without Crises in the DC Universe.

Without the Crises to explain things, there are people who are alive that should be dead. There are people who are dead that should be alive. There are people who were paralyzed that can suddenly walk again completely removing the main tragic and interesting element from their backstory and thereby negating the point of one of the greatest Batman/Joker stories of all time (I’m looking at you, Barbara Gordon). Suddenly, the DCU is an infinitely more confusing place than it had been to begin with.

A good 50% of all the DCU’s game-changing events have Crisis somewhere in the title. Crisis on Infinite Earths, Identity Crisis, Final Crisis, Infinite Crisis… the list goes on. There were also “countdown” build-ups to these crises as well as aftermath books detailing what happened in the wake of the crisis, most notably 52 after Infinite Crisis. 52 was one of the most defining moments for the large second-tier of heroes as the “Big Three” of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman took (essentially) a year-long sabbatical leaving a huge vacuum which was filled in some of the most interesting ways (such as Harvey Dent and the Riddler going straight and helping to take over for Batman and Lex Luthor granting superpowers to the entirety of Metropolis, himself included, to “cover” for Superman).

Also, as a Bat-Fan, I have to express this: The Batman comics have been the best they’ve been in a long time. Dick Grayson assumed the Mantle of the Bat with Damian Wayne, the psychotic 12-year-old son of Talia al’Ghul and Bruce Wayne as trained by the League of Assassins, serving as Robin. These books were absolutely stunning and it was great to see a different take on the Dark Knight without having to mess with the continuity of things.

Of course, both of these instances would not be possible if not for two separate crises.

Damian spins from a comic that wasn’t originally part of canon (Batman: Son of the Demon, originally thought to be an Elseworlds {alternate reality} story). This was rectified by Infinite Crisis in the most ridiculous way imaginable. Superboy-Prime (look him up, I don’t have space to explain) punching the walls of reality. The shockwaves caused things to suddenly become canon, albeit with a slightly tweaked origin.

Dick’s assuming of the mantle truly comes from the ending of Final Crisis, in which Darkseid removes Batman from the timestream via the Omega Sanction. Of course, Bruce eventually came back, but until the reboot, he was going to allow Dick to continue to operate as Batman in Gotham while Bruce put together an international initiative called Batman, Inc. which would put “Batmen” in all the major metro regions of the world.

This incredible storyline was, of course, rearranged by the New 52 as it was revealed that Bruce would return to the Bat-Mantle and Dick would go back to being Nightwing with Damian staying on as Robin under his father. Now, if none of the crises happened, that means Dick was never Batman and Damian shouldn’t even exist. Way to retcon yourself into a corner, DC.

If you negate the crises, you negate the precedent for many other events, characters, and character developments. Without some of the backstory laid down in both the crises and their supplemental titles, it pulls the entire spine out of the DCU and expects it to still walk on its own.

I wouldn’t have as much a problem with all of this if they would have called it what it should be: a straight reboot. The problem is that they’re trying to pick and choose the story elements they want to save and which they want to abolish.

If a reboot were to be done, it should have been done with a clean slate. The issue from what I can see was in the timing. DC just completed a few huge storyarcs which took the better part of a decade to complete and now they want to just wipe the slate clean and start from scratch.

I say again, it is the worst type of writing and the worst type of gamesmanship that necessitates an overhaul of this magnitude. DC takes too much advantage of geekdom. They know that most of their true devotees will not stop buying even though they’ve shredded thirty years of character history into a now unreadable mess. Geeks will keep buying and the “soft” reboot may help new readers get on board. DC saw the dollar signs and went for it. In a world where print is slowly dying, you can imagine the desire to cash in.

But, at what cost?

I’ll say this: Unless they retract this statement and put things back the way they were, I am through. I have lost what little respect I had left for the DC writing staff and editors.

Marvel may kill characters and bring them back to life, but at least they had the decency to reboot their universe in an entirely separate continuity. They didn’t piss on what they knew was working in order to get new readers. They just drummed up the Ultimate Marvel Universe as an aside and let both continuities survive. They did it the smart way by not driving a stake through the heart of their readers.

Until next time. Make Mine Marvel.

Excelsior!

—end transmission—

True Believers Don’t Fear the Reaper

The first time it drew any attention in the media was with a black polybag.

Emblazoned on said bag was the familiar red S logo, dripping with blood.

Inside, the grand conclusion to a comic book event which shattered records: The Death of Superman.

It was the first title-character death to be covered by the national media. It became as much an event as the death of any other celebrity. There were obits on the national news describing the life, career, and cause of death, profiles of his family and friends, and a rudimentary analysis of his killer.

I purchased a copy, but not the black polybagged version (I refused to line up all day for anything Superman related). I wanted to see the Man of Steel beaten to a pulp at the hands of Doomsday. I have the iconic final splash page of Lois Lane cradling the Supercorpse as she wept openly, his tattered cape, torn from his costume and attached to some random debris, flying like a flag in the background.

I was overjoyed. Superman; as much my own arch-nemesis as he is to Lex Luthor or Braniac, was dead. My problem with Superman was, at least temporarily, cured.
My hatred wasn’t just quelled because he had shuffled off this mortal coil to much fanfare. It wasn’t only healed by attempting to lick the tasty tears of anguish from the page as Lois cried a true love’s mourning. Those things both helped. But the root of the anger and issue I had with Superman was almost immediately repaired upon his demise.

Some may ask, why would anyone have a problem with Superman? I mean, he saves the day. He’s the ultimate white knight of comics. How could anyone argue with something as wholesome and all-American as Superman?

My response can be summed up in three words: Superman. Is. Boring. My reasoning for this is lengthy and logical and certainly for another rant at another time. I’m already going to keep you a while as it is, you don’t need me prattling on about why Superman’s books have sucked since before time began.

His death served to stem my bleeding rage, healing me as he crept closer to that inevitable scene alluded to by the black polybag.
Finally, something beat the absolute living shit out of Superman. The bony protrusions and relentless attacks of Doomsday cut him, forcing him to see his own blood in who knows how long. He gave Supes a puffy black eye, broken bones, and gashes through his invulnerable skin. By the time Lois cradled his head in her distress, he was like a Snickers bar left out in the sun; a bunch of lumpy mush loosely contained within a wrapper.
The race was quickly on to replace him, bringing Superboy back into the fray on a more hardcore level, and introducing Steel, Hank Henshaw (the Cyborg Superman), and the Eradicator. Great plot lines unraveled as the ripple of Superman’s death stretched to the farthest reaches of the DCU. It made the book relevant. What would the DCU be like without Superman around to save the day? We were on the verge of truly finding out.
Then, of course, within a year, they turn around and bring him back, putting an end to anything interesting that might have happened had the Corpse of Steel remained six-feet under. Welcome back to the doldrums.

The reason I’m waxing nostalgic about the Death of Superman storyline is that Marvel recently announced a similar event which reached the national media (if you count USA Today as a viable source, that is).

The Fantastic Four will soon become the Fantastic Three.

Shaking up the status quo of a comic which has been running since what seems like the beginning of time by killing off the cast isn’t really something groundbreaking. Even eliminating a main character is becoming passé. Without revealing any spoilers from the article, the fated character dies, essentially splitting up the team to make them free to do other things and pretty much ending the 500+ issue publication. The cover alone caught my attention, as it vaguely resembles the infamous black polybag; it is a simple black cover with the team’s logo front and center, using a 3 instead 4. Simple, ominous, and effective.
I was a fringe fan of the Fantastic Four, usually only coming back to the story when Doom was involved, but I still find it enthralling that one of them will bite it as well as the fact that Marvel has its plans in motion for the survivors. If things go well, this one may stay dead, which would be a truly ballsy coup and would have a lasting effect on Marvel’s First Family.
They were already blown apart once when their opinions were split on the Superhero Registration Act during Civil War, now the giant wedge of death may permanently cleave them apart. It will be interesting to see how things develop, especially since the remaining three have other things to keep them busy. Will they ever be a family again? Will there be resentment or buried rage over the death? To me, the emotional nuance of superhero comics has always been fascinating. Marvel usually does this better than DC.

Death in comics is usually taken about as seriously as death in soap operas. Characters will always find a way back into the plot. No character, no matter how brutally or poignantly they may have perished, is ever truly marked for permanent death.

One of the most notorious examples comes from Batman.
Jason Todd, the second Robin, replacing the outgoing and outgrowing Dick Grayson, who decided on a better career under the name Nightwing and running with the Teen Titans, was savagely beaten to death with a crowbar by the Joker. The incident provided the Dark Knight with anger, regret, fear, temptation… an entire gambit of emotions not normally reflected by the stalwart hero. It also helped the book transition into the modern age, the death of Jason Todd symbolizing the death of innocence within the Batman comics as a whole. It forever affected the partner relationship and heavily influenced Batman’s treatment of Tim Drake, the third Robin, and the development of their relationship. Granted, Todd really died as the result of a reader’s poll, but the writers thought it would be a horrible slight to the readers (who voted Todd dead) if they brought the character back shortly after.
It was believed since the 1989 death of Todd that he would never be reintroduced, as the death was far too significant for the comic.
Of course, Todd was resurrected (courtesy of “reality punching”, DC’s Infinite Crisis-based panacea for all ret-conning). Clayface, posing as Todd during the Hush storyline, offered fans the jaw-dropping moment in 2003, but it wouldn’t be until 2005 that the actual Todd rose from the grave to cause trouble. He also had a pretty big role during the Battle for the Cowl mini-series while Bruce Wayne was (ironically) “dead”.

Can anyone in comics stay dead? Is it simple popularity that brings them back to life?

Bruce Wayne, as mentioned, was killed via Darkseid’s Omega Sanction. Turns out he was just unstuck from time and sent back to the stone age. He had to crawl his whole way back to the present through the strangest means possible, all the while regaining his memories.
This had me, as a fan, worried because the new Batman and Robin, Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne (Bruce’s son via Talia al Ghul), were performing incredibly within the scope of the comic. It was a truly fresh look at the Dynamic Duo. Thankfully, when Bruce returned he immediately spun off into Batman, Inc. – a story about Bruce taking Batman global – leaving Dick and Damian in charge of Gotham while he’s fighting for the greater good. We can continue to watch Dick as he carves his path as the new Batman and Bruce can still be King High Bad Ass. Disaster averted.

Captain America was shot dead after being arrested for violation of the Superhuman Registration Act at the end of the Civil War storyline. James “Bucky” Buchanan, aka the Winter Soldier and Cap’s old sidekick, picked up the mantle and took things to the next level.
Of course, Cap was also simply unstuck from time, forced to battle his way back to the present through… wait, didn’t I write this sentence already? Well, Marvel did it first this time.
Anyway, Steve Rogers, the original Cap, makes it back and steps aside, much like Bruce, to become the new head of SHIELD, America’s “top cop” as it were, and is simply known as Captain Steve Rogers, leaving his patriotic moniker to Bucky.

Both instances marked permanent changes for the namesake heroes, changing the men behind the masks but without the actual carnage of leaving the original heroes buried and rotting. We achieve change without death, but what does this really mean for the characters involved?
Are we not allowed to see a mournful superhero? Would it jeopardize our concept of the traditional super hero comic to see an exhibition of emotion that wasn’t related to being a total crime-fighting, world-saving badass? Will the popularity of the originals versus the infusion of new blood only serve to briefly shake and reestablish the status quo? Can a hero ever stay dead, be mourned, be memorialized, and have the world move on?

If Marvel had any balls, they would test the waters with the F4 member who is about to bite it and mandate that he remain dead. I mean, Ares died in the Siege storyline when he was torn in half (literally) by the Sentry, who was then put down by Thor (lightning bolt to the head). Those two have been dead for a good six months or so now and I’m pretty sure they’re going to stay that way. I have hope that Marvel is learning it’s ok to kill. It’s ok to let some heroes reach their final rest (excluding Magneto and Jean Grey, of course). How long until other publishers follow suit?

In my story (that being Unlucky 7), when you’re dead, you stay dead. (just ask Wearing Hudsucker)

Any thoughts on this? Any answers to my queries? What’s your opinion? Just something to think about while you’re slowly being snowed in this winter.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—