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Sunday, July 08, 2012 

CBG's sugarcoated take on the New 52

Comics Buyer's Guide has a fluff-coated column for next August's edition about the New Time-wasting 52 and it sounds more like it's just style over substance:
[...] What has raised the eyebrow of this old reader are all the names and concepts — some of them fairly obscure or from non-super-hero titles — that have been recycled without fanfare in “The New 52.” Nowhere is this more evident than “The Second Wave” that launched in May.

First, I should point out some of the places I noticed this trend in the “First Wave” of “The New 52.” (You at home can play along with your own examples, since I’m not trying to be comprehensive.)

For example, in Justice League #4 (Feb 12), Cyborg’s origin takes place in the experimental “Red Room” of Detroit’s S.T.A.R. Labs branch and references a Mother Box (first appearance New Gods #1, Mar 71), Dr. Will Magnus and responsometer technology (Showcase #37, Apr 62, featuring the Metal Men), Professor Ivo and A-Maze technology (Brave and the Bold #33, Jul 60, featuring The Justice League vs. Amazo), graduate student Ryan Choi (DCU: Brave New World #1, Aug 06, as the all-new Atom), and Atom technology (by way of a “white dwarf stabilizer,” Showcase #34, Oct 61, featuring The Atom). Moreover, a text back-up in Justice League #3 (Jan 12) references Dane Dorrance of The Sea Devils (Showcase #27, Aug 60).

That’s a lot of Silver Age references in just a few pages, and that made me wonder what other Showcase characters were going to pop up. Rip Hunter? Cave Carson? Fireman Farrell?

But in addition, this “Red Room” concept gives a common origin to a lot of disparate super-technology from DC’s Silver Age, which made me wonder if that was the point. So I asked writer Geoff Johns exactly that — and I was right.

“That’s a big part of where Justice League is going,” Johns told CBG. “I think there’s a lot of cool things that grow out of this, like mentioning Professor Ivo and Will Magnus — having S.T.A.R. Labs be this place where a lot of these people once worked when all this stuff was going on, and crazy technology was being discovered and found and recovered and analyzed and used and tapped. That this invasion by Darkseid [in Justice League #1] really started this whole movement of high-tech stuff, with some of it used for good and some of it used for bad, and we’ll get into all that stuff.”

Which to this fanboy is pretty exciting. I mean, what’s next from The Red Room? The materioptikon? The original Brainstorm helmet? T.O. Morrow and The Red Tornado? The Weather Wizard wand? Amos Fortune’s stimoluck? The Phantom Zone? Not only can The Red Room (re-)introduce the wacky concepts of the Silver Age, it can make them plausible and coherent. Brilliant!
Yeah, sure it can. Not with Johns at the helm. None of this adds up to real character drama or human relations, and as Johns has demonstrated in the past, he's more interested in superficial cameos of older items and characters without really adding up to anything meaty. And seeing that Ryan Choi may have taken the place of Ray Palmer for real this time, that's one more reason why I'll be shunning this whole mess by now.
I’ll just say in passing that James Robinson — the guy who ranks with Mike W. Barr as the guy with the best Earth-2 stories under his belt — is writing Earth 2, and the first issue was as impressive as any I’ve ever seen. Paul Levitz of Legion of Super-Heroes fame is writing Worlds’ Finest, and, while I wasn’t quite as charmed with the new Power Girl and Huntress — the Earth-2 Supergirl and Robin, marooned on “our” Earth — I expect I will be.
Wow, I'll bet that skewering of the Wonder Woman of this new world was a really pleasing masterpiece, right? Ditto the end of the alternate world Superman and Batman, who unlike Diana, were spared from direct hits. Those shock tactics have become quite a cliche already, and it's not what I want to read superhero adventures like these for.
These little Easter eggs do little to affect the stories — but do make us older fans sit bolt upright in recognition. So it’s fun, imaginative, and harmless. Which is what comics ought to be!
Yeah, stabbing a woman to death through the back and turning a classic protagonist like Alan Scott gay is really, REALLY harmless, isn't it? What a load of bull. And all they've done is give a strong hint of what's wrong with how Johns and Robinson are cobbling this clumsily together: it's all just eye candy/nostalgia with no real substance behind it. And it leads to two problems: new readers whose entry point could be these new series wouldn't have a clue what to make of these cameos, while older fans like myself would only grow bored by how none of this adds up to anything meaningful. And that's just why there's little chance this will impress upon anyone after awhile.

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Too bad neither Johns nor Robinson have the talent or decency to create their own characters instead of constantly screwing up those created by so many others.

I agree, Thunumber6. It's true. They should create their own characters rather than butcher existing ones.

And also, why do they need to tie in every technological advancement to STAR Labs? That makes no sense, either.

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