Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Mind Is At DoomWar With Itself

I treat Marvel the same way I treat a Republican friend who blogs; I'll see them at social functions and offer my (unwarranted) opinion on their projects and ideas, and although I might pretend to have read what they've written as a sign of tact and etiquette, the fact is stooping to read their nonsense would only drive me insane with rage, and I don't care how immature admitting that makes me.

I've seen all the movies, played all the video games, and even bought into that Heroclix trend that was all the rage (but quit after someone beat my entire team with just a Nimrod piece. Say what you will about Magic, but that kind of shenanigan wouldn't fly at their tournament). It's a decent product. I simply refuse to read their crossovers.

Because I fell for it once, with Civil War. We were promised an epic story of betrayal and injustice that would tear the Marvel universe apart. Instead we were treated to propaganda dressed in spandex onesies, with each writer having his own political axe to grind onto the readership's face. I don't need comic books to give me the 411 on socio-political issues. I have cable television and an inbox full of junk mail from the Green Party to do that for me.

On top of that, Civil War marked one of the first instances in comic history where the audience was told they had backed the wrong horse. When the majority of readers made it clear that they were taking the side of Captain America's resistance, Marvel went ahead and told us that we were supposed be rooting for Iron Man the whole time. You could read this one of two ways: either 1) Marvel was so embarrassed at their colossal failure that they only way they could save face was to make us look stupid by telling us that we "just didn't get it", or 2) Marvel has become so inept over time that they can no longer establish protagonist and antagonist, which is not only a fundamental element of comic books, but of ALL FICTION. Take your pick. Either way, it will end in tears.

And ultimately, what has Civil War changed? Tony Stark? Still an asshole. Punisher? Still an asshole. Captain America? Still selling as many comics as when he was alive. These massive changes that Marvel said the Civil War would bring about will be undone an retconned in the next couple of years. Nothing matters in Marvel. Nothing changes. Everyone comes back from the dead. Nobody stays "evil" for long. It's all about keeping the franchises in suspended animation, living off their inertia, and selling special edition DVDs. And this is why I stopped reading Marvel.

Buuuuuuuuuut I might have to make an exception for DoomWar.

A little exposition for those lucky enough to have a life outside of CBR: DoomWar is a five issue mini-series featuring writer John Maberry and artists Will Conrad and Ken Lashley. Set to release in February 2010, the series will feature the original super villain, Victor Von Doom, repel an invasion force of heroes he's laid out and screwed over in the past. And Deadpool.

Taking off where Dark Reign and *eye twitch* Civil War left off, the series will give Black Panther a chance to get even with Doom for trying to kill him in a previous issue (is this is the line to get my revenge on Victor? Oh, gotta take a number), rescue his old lady, and possibly earn himself a supporting role in a future Avengers live-action film. The "all star army of heroes" includes Reed Richards, The Thing, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and if you have to ask if Wolverine is involved, you probably drink your Code Red Mountain Dew out of a sippie cup. While the lineup of "Team Latveria" hasn't been discussed or released yet, Maberry has mentioned that Doom's right hand man, The Broker, will have ties to the cause of *baby punch* Civil War and that we can expect several upgraded villains to come to the aid of the metal-clad dictator.

Maberry has been quick to play the "never assume" card and play it off like Doom might actually have a chance to win. I think by now we can all agree that this is bullshit. Doom will most likely put up a really good fight for the first four issue but then be defeated. Probably by Wolverine, using one of Reed Richard's inventions or whatever. There's no way Marvel is going to change its tune this late in the game, especially now that they're being assimilated into Disney. Whoever Joe Quesadilla decides is the villain will lose.

But I'm going to read it anyway.

Because I think DoomWar has the potential to capture the pure essence of Doom, that is, the perpetual cocktease. Doom is always one deus ex machina away from escaping and leaving Reed Richards with stretchy blue balls. It's not really a victory if you can't put the bad guy in jail. And Doom is awesome for prison. Fuck, he's too awesome for Marvel. No matter what atrocities Marvel's writers make him commit, they simply can't shake his fanbase off. We love Doom because he succeeds where all the other villains fail. Because in the end, by making him waste his time in pursuing half-assed victories, Doom will succeed, at least metaphorically, in killing Reed Richards.

Also I am a shameless Deadpool fangirl and will buy anything with him in it because I have no self-control as a consumer. And having Storm as a damsel in distress is nice because then at least I know I'm not the only person who's imagined her in such a predicament. Don't judge me.

Will this restore my faith in Marvel and get me back to filling out subscription forms? Probably not, though I'm keeping an open mind. Maberry seems to genuinely care for the source material (in his interview he compares his real life experiences to that of Deadpool) and at five issues I won't be at too much a loss if it starts to suck midway through part 3. The industry has left me a little burned out on multi-issue crossovers, but fuck, Deadpool and Doom? You drive a hard bargain, Marvel. I'll bite.

But I'm still not commenting on your post about how gays threaten the sanctity of your fourth marriage. There's simply no font size large enough to express my disdain.

6 betches:

Jason said...

I actually liked the Civil War arc. More in hindsight than in the actual moment of reading them. But I thought that Marvel shines in the universe's moral ambiguity. Good people pushed by inhuman circumstances to do unconscionable things.

Was the writing and language surrounding Cap's movement more compelling than the Pro-Registration side? Maybe. But then again, Comic fans tend to not be the straight-laced corporate drones and go against the grain a bit. They are in fact... adults who are comic book fans. There's an inherent amount of rebellion in that.

And I don't think Marvel was sending a "FU" to all their readership who backed Cap's side. I personally like it when things end badly. When the pieces that have been juggled fall apart and you have to deal with the consequences. I recently saw the Tony-Award winning musical, Next To Normal... and i was terribly afraid it would end happily. But it didn't. It was messy and incomplete and left you asking questions.

But that's what art and media are supposed to do right? Make you ask questions?

Some say that comic books shouldn't comment on real world politics, but if you don't comment on them... then what's the point of what you're doing?

DC is too cookie-cutter for me. The Good guys are really good and the bad guys are really bad. Superman is indelible in his 1950's uppity righteousness and Doomsday will always be... well... Doomsday.

But I loved how in Marvel and Civil War we get character shifts. Mr. Fantastic won't be so Fantastic. And Invisible Woman will take a very visible stand. Mystique and Emma Frost will jump the hero/anti-hero/villain line so frequently its hard to keep track... but that's more in line with how the world actually operates in my view...

Kuhnsy said...

If anything, Civil War is a great conversation starter!

That said, I hated it. Or rather, I hated how Marvel prioritized the conflict over the characters. The Fantastic Four may have been executed well, with both sides sticking up for what they believe in without sacrificing their family ties (E.g., Sue and Reed didn't divorce, their central characters didn't change), but none of the other characters were treated with half as much respect, IMO!

Most instead followed the (irredeemable) Iron Man model and turned into raging supervillains. After reading the fascist rhetoric of Pro-Reg Tony Stark, I don't think I can ever think of him as a hero again. And maybe it's that sense of betrayal that Civil War's proponents can revel in and appreciate, maybe Civil War's power is in its ability to make you feel disgusted by your heroes. But I for one am too close to the material to appreciate that. In the end I can't seperate the story from the canon. In the end I lost a lot more heroes than Cap.

Jason said...

I dunno, maybe that's my problem... i like reading about heroes acting unheroicly. It's more interesting to me.

Far too often i find comic villains being these extra-dimensional forces that plow into our reality with hellfire and primstone... or more and more tired alien invasion *cough* secret invasion *cough*. I frankly have had enough skrull, kree, and shi'ar for my lifetime.

Civil War was the first in a larger series of dark days in the Marvel universe (well... House of M was kind of the precursor to that... i miss my muties). But I find a dark world with a complex web of loyalties and moralities much more interesting.

It seems to me that comic books along with sci fi in general is moving towards a Battlestar Galactica kind of world view.

Morality is relative. Heroism is relative. When Helo disobeys his superiors and stops a neuro-biological attack on the Cylons, he is being heroic. When Laura Roslin screams bloody murder and airlocks a toaster, she's being heroic.

I've never been a particularly big fan of Iron Man, but Civil War seems the natural headway for the Marvel Universe and comics in general. We've seen this idea of registration pop up many times in comic history... (Watchmen, Uncanny X-men, etc.) and each of these registration attempts where heroes are logged and eliminated results with horrible consequences. But Civil War takes this notion on a different level. By institutionalizing heroes, Millar perhaps finds a more livable conclusion to this continued undercurrent of public distrust of the capes.

How many times has Times Square been blown up by some evil doer? Think about America's reaction to having two skyscrapers being blown up. We BLEW UP A COUNTRY. With all the haphazard ways the heroes have ambled through life, it's a wonder there hasn't been more public outrage. I actually like how it seems like baseline humans seem to be a more active and realistic force than in the past.

Kuhnsy said...

"Morality is relative. Heroism is relative."

I concur! But that's where I think Civil War failed. My complaint isn't with the concept itself but with its execution and, most specifically, with its writing of key characters. I felt that the whole story was decidedly ANTI-registration, which was not the fair and balanced nihilism I expect from my morality-queering literature!

See, I don't want Tony Stark to go evil and then seek redemption from a resurrected, untarnished Captain America. That story is as old as dirt. I want Captain America to kill Hank Pym, thereby balancing Stark's team killing Goliath. I want my heroes to be dirty grey, whether or not they're bad guys, not the simplistic black and white of "mean" and "nice".

Also, to get back to the post that started it all, all of Marvel's big heroes are tied to their powers through either genetics or some kind of science experiment gone awry. DC heroes, on the other hand, are defined more by their costumes than their abilities. This makes DC heroes more iconic, but it also means that any Tom, Dick, or Sally can take up the mantle or don the cowl and still keep "the franchises in suspended animation."

E.g., though Dick Grayson can seamlessly take over Bruce Wayne's secret identity, Kitty Pryde will always make a very strange Spider-Man. So you can Omega-beam Batman to keep the stories fresh, but you can't kill Peter Parker to get MJ a new romantic interest. Instead you have to turn to tired soap scenerios like Brand New Day.

Jason said...

although... didn't they kill Peter Parker to give MJ a new love interest? I thought that's what like peter did to save aunt may's life or something... like he agreed to relinquish his history with MJ to save Aunt May or something... and now MJ is dating someone else...

Plus, there is some archetypal superheroness... like Captain America for example... There are a whole slew of Super-Soldier-y dudes. Bucky took up Cap's costume eh? And who's to say Patriot couldn't grow into cap's boots? Plus I loved the whole "who's going to be the new sorcerer supreme" thing in New Avengers... mostly because of the Billy cameo.

Kuhnsy said...

Yup. They killed Aunt May and then had Peter make a deal with the devil that if he sacrificed his marriage to MJ the devil would restore Aunt May to life. That "tired soap scenerio" (i.e., trumped up amnesia) was called "Brand New Day."

And yeah, Marvel does have the Caps and the Iron Fists and the Sorcerer Supremes, but those characters don't have the four monthly titles like the Superman or Batman or Green Lantern. I know that Cap is a staple and sells a lot of books, but he's not in the same league as Spidey and the X-Men. Marvel does kill off it's rotatable characters like Cap, but it's bigger names - Peter Parker, Reed and Sue, any of the X-Men - can't be killed because they're famous for who they are, not what code name they choose.

My point is that Marvel's relationship with it's heroes is different than DC's. I'm not saying it's not problematic or that it doesn't make for boring storylines with no real threat of permanency, but i am saying that the difference in the dynamic isn't the fault of the current editor-in-cheif. The characters themselves are what keeps them resurrecting. See, it's all Stan Lee's fault.

Post a Comment