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Thursday, December 17, 2020 

Polygon recommends some of the worst post-2000 comics

Polygon's presenting a list of what they believe moviegoers seeing the DC/Marvel movies should check out. There actually are 2 examples cited that are good, from pre-2000, but they're outweighed by the bad. At the start, it says:
You’ll find no judgement here. DC and Marvel Comics have over 80 years of canon to explore, but this list is here to help. Each of these curated superhero suggestions was picked to be a great introduction to one of the biggest superheroes in Hollywood today.
I'm afraid, based on the era the majority of picks here debuted in, that they have judged, so to speak. Take, for instance, this Aquaman brief:
He’s long been maligned as the man who can talk to fish. But this 2005 series reimagined Arthur Curry and his adventures through a horror comics lens. Gleason channeled some big Mike Mignola on early Hellboy energy here as Arthur investigated a devastating earthquake that sank the city of San Diego into the ocean — and turned all its human inhabitants into water-breathers who couldn’t survive on land. Not only is this an immediately engaging tale with exhilarating art and a central mystery you’ll get sucked into, but it’s also a great jumping on point. As Aquaman fans know, Arthur is a hero of both land and sea, and new readers even get introduced to a new Aquagirl with the brilliant and brave Lorena Marquez.
Pure DiDio-spawned mentality alright. We so badly need that horror movie vibe, don't we, in order to be engrossed in a DC superhero's adventures, right? I've said it before, and will again - the influence of darkness is just sickening. Also, why does this 2005 tale specifically count as a jumping on point, but not the Golden/Silver/Bronze/Iron Age tales? And then, what have we here but a brief about Grant Morrison's Batman run:
Sure, this might not be the Batman and Robin that we expect but that doesn’t make it any less fun. Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison are one of comics’ greatest creative teams, and they showcase why here with a Batman story that is missing one thing: Bruce Wayne. Their Batman is actually Dick Grayson, and his Robin is Bruce’s son, Damian — with their mentor nowhere to be seen.

This book balances the severe nature of modern superhero comics with a level of silliness and jest that feels more like the ‘66 TV series. Morrison and Quitely have lots of fun with the inversion of a lighthearted, sweet Batman and a scowling, cynical Robin. This is an easy pick up for any reader, new or old, but kids will likely get a kick out of how central Damian is to this story. That said, the story isn’t the lightest read — so maybe save this for the teens and older.
And here's where an irritating double-standard comes in: pretensions aside, Morrison gets to do what he likes with a lighter tone, but US writers either aren't allowed by contrast, or, if they are, they refuse. Hence, the aforementioned horror-themed take on Aquaman. As dismayed as I've become with overabundance of Bat-connected items these days, it's still just as dismaying Bruce was kicked to the curb at the time, though nothing compared to the hypocrisy in putting Damian - who was later killed towards the end of Morrison's run on the books - in a role not unlike Jason Todd's rendition in the 80s, and suddenly, it's acceptable? When I realized what kind of double-standard was going on here, I thought it insulting to the intellect: when the writers of the 80s like Doug Moench made the mistake of rendering Todd cynical, that was wrong, but when Morrison did it in the late 2000s, criticism is all gone? Still, even that's nothing compared to the site's next horror in itself - their fawning take on Marvel's The Truth: Red, White & Black:
If Steve Rogers was a real person, this is the Captain America book he’d tell you to read. We all know the story of the Super Soldier Serum that turned Steve Rogers into the hero known as Captain America. This brutal and brilliant comic asks the reader to reconsider that legend, and delve deeper into the nature of people who would want to create a super soldier in the first place. Using the real life horrors of the Tuskegee Experiment as a basis, Truth: Red, White & Black centers on Isiah Bradley, the American government’s guinea pig in its attempts to replicate the serum that created Captain America. Just as in the atrocity that inspired Truth, the US government are torturing and killing unconsenting Black people to achieve it.

This is the kind of bold, moving, and visionary cartooning that often never makes it through the big two machine, and Robert Moralez and Kyle Baker’s seven issues that are as powerful today as they were in 2003 It’s the kind of book that will make you reconsider everything that you know about Captain America, and realigns the way you read any other comics about him. For a new reader, it opens a door to a more realistic and historically accurate introduction to the character. And for all of us, it adds a realness, depth, and gravitas that the mantle of Captain America deserves.
"Cartooning"? And here I thought this was supposed to be a serious topic in focus. But they made it abundantly clear it's not when they blatantly lectured us with the hypothesis of Steve Rogers as a real person. A very insulting to the intellect hypothetical take on a story involving a fictional character indeed. The miniseries was built on some very flimsy grounds, pretending the Tuskagee experiments were being practiced everywhere, in every way, shape and form, without any solid proof to back them up, and it's disgusting already. I'm convinced these are not superhero fans writings these putrid pieces. Otherwise, they'd recognize the art style was inappropriate, as were the stealth assaults on fandom. Of all the most contemptible commentaries I've seen on Polygon to date, this is easily the worst, and one of the sickest. It does not make me "reconsider", given that Steve Rogers is a fictional character to begin with, and there's no concrete proof the US military was practicing the tactics used in the Tuskagee experiment during WW2, even as they did practice racial segregation in the military outfits themselves. What Truth did was make it look like the US literally no different from Nazi Germany. What's irritating is that these propagandists, intentionally or otherwise, overlook more valid accusations like the experiments that were conducted on prison inmates in past decades, with a most notable case being in Philadelphia's prisons. It's possible Luke Cage's origins drew from those cases when he was first created in 1972. Yet all propagandists like Polygon's care about is fudging the exact historical details involving WW2. It's pure disgust, doing a horrible disfavor to the memory of Kirby/Simon, whom they didn't even see fit to mention here.

Next up, wouldn't you know it, is a brief about Carol Danvers' transformation into a dumbed-down, pale shadow of what she'd been up until a decade ago:
It’s hard to overstate the impact of this reinvention of both Carol Danvers and the mantle of Captain Marvel. The series launched an entirely new generation of comic book fandom. In Pursuit of Flight is the first time the heroine took on the mantle, so it’s a perfect jumping on point for new readers. And even if you aren’t already a fan of Carol this is an interesting take on superhero storytelling, that grounds the hero in her humanity.

Make no mistake though, this is also a no holds barred action-adventure comic as Carol Danvers — under her new moniker — interrogated her own past and what the mantle of Captain Marvel truly meant to her. Deconnick often spoke of the series imagining Carol as Chuck Yeager, so it’s not only a superhero story but also one about an ambitious test pilot. Dexter Soy and Emma Rios offer up unconventional and emotive art which only adds to the experimental feel of the story. Just as Carol is a Captain Marvel like no other, this is a superhero comic that aims to reinvent our idea of a hero and who gets to be one in the Marvel Universe.
And as the character design for Carol became more masculine, did this alleged fandom remain for long? How well did sales fare? This is where the remain elusive in their lecture. Eventually, when it became clear this SJW-themed direction wasn't working, the writers and editors tried to contain the damage by restoring some of Carol's femininity around the time C.B. Cebulski became EIC, but even then, stories remained dismal, including one where Carol was turned evil for the sake of it, and her personality rendition remained otherwise unlikable. Some "humanity" alright. They practically admit another problem with DeConnick's writing: it's "experimental", which conflicts with entertainment. Which could explain why they later went out of their way to separate between the original stories tying Carol's origins to Mar-Vell of the Kree, and made her out to be of alien descent instead. There's also this brief about the direction taken by the Flash:
Getting to know the Flash can be as hard as keeping up with him. But during DC’s line-wide Rebirth event, the publisher took him back to basics. Joshua Williamson and Carmine Di Giandomenico began by unleashing the Speed Force on Central City, endowing dozens of citizens with their very own speed powers. It was up to Barry to show them the ropes, and that makes this book a perfect place to start your Flash education. Readers are served all of the ins and outs of the power that Barry wields, while getting a potted history of the chaos he’s wrought with it at the same time.
This sounds little different from Spider-Man's Spider-Island, and if, in the nearly 12 years since Geoff Johns revived Barry (at Wally West's expense, by the way), making his history grimier in the process, the Silver Ager remains devoid of personality despite all that's told, then it's clear all those complaints about lack of personality and the wish they'd improve on that were all made by phony infiltrators. Oh, and where are all the so-called fans who asked when Barry'd be coming back at conventions in the 90s? Now that DC could be on their last legs, it's clear after a decade even they weren't interested in a revival. That part about the Flash causing chaos with his powers simultaneously sounds like an attempt to turn him into an unintentional troublemaker for political correctness. Certainly there may have been a time or three when Flash was seen screwing up with his power in past stories, but the above makes it sound like it was worse. In any case, curious why this is the umpteenth example of a modern story promoted as a jumping on point, but not older stories.

Now, here's where, surprisingly enough, they recommended an Iron Man story from a time where superhero fare had value - the Armor Wars story from the 80s:
Bob Layton and David Michelinie are behind some of Iron Man’s most iconic outings, but this one is the easiest to pick up and dive into with little to no knowledge of Tony and his escapades. Also, it was just announced as an upcoming Disney Plus series!

Like the best stories about Tony Stark, this one deals with personal accountability and reconciliation with the harm his own creations cause. But it’s still a comic about a man who builds iron armor that can fly. The problem is that someone has stolen his plans and has made armor for the bad guys! MD Bright and Layton deliver those chunky ‘80s Iron Man suits that you crave, and this classic comic will make any new reader feel like a totally seasoned pro.
Wow, isn't that honest coming from such an otherwise dishonest entertainment site! Yes, this is a tale to cherish, produced by guys with real talent and respect like Layton and Michelinie. But I'd decidedly think twice about watching a Disney TV series based on it, and stick with the comics it adapts, and I have a pretty sizable number of IM comics from those times to enjoy these days. The article turns back to pretensions, however, with a brief about a modern Spider-Man run:
There are plenty of great Spider-Man stories. But like so many of the biggest names in superhero comics, they’re often tied up in ongoing storylines, massive events, and wider conflicts that mean a deep wiki dive — or just diving right in without any context — neither situation is ideal.

Spidey is a stand alone series that still captures the magic of Peter Parker and his street level superheroics. There’s everything you could want from a Spider-Man comic: Otto Octavius, Gwen Stacy, Flash Thompson, and Norman Osbourne all appear just in issue #1. It’s the building blocks of Spidey-lore: recognizable without being derivative and informative without being boring.
Unfortunately, Marvel's track record under Alonso/Cebulski is far from Olympian. Nothing against Gwen, but I do find it fishy we're being sold a tale where Mary Jane Watson likely has no clear presence. And when they speak of great Spidey stories, do they mean what we've had shoved down our throats this past decade, a time when crossovers galore replaced stand-alone scripting at almost every turn? How can they be great when they're bogged down by something that became detrimental to shared universes in the long run? And why don't the columnists unambiguously insist Marvel cut it out? They also bring up Gene Luen Yang's Superman tale:
The nature of the Golden Age of comics means there is a lot of anti-Nazi sentiment. At its best, this manifested as (often uneven) anti-racist messaging, some of it incredibly forward thinking for their time. In Superman Smashes the Klan, writer Gene Luen Yang channels one of those moments, a 1946 radio play called Superman: The Clan of the Fiery Cross, in which the Last Son of Krypton overthrew an actual Ku Klux Klan cell over a series of 16 serialized episodes. Yang and Gurihiru loosley adapt the story, creating a revitalized version of the tale of an inexperienced Superman teaming up with a young boy to take on the violent white supremacist group in the ‘40s.

Beautiful and timely, this is an educational and engaging read for all ages, and is the kind of book you can hand to any reader, especially if you tell them the true story behind it. The artist team known as Gurihiru bring an easy charm to a tough topic that makes Superman Smashes the Klan even more accessible. This is great for fans of historical comics, superheroes, or introducing a tough topic to a young reader in an easy to digest way. Superman might be the hero we know, but the real power comes from standing up for what’s right and speaking out against what’s wrong.
In that case, are they willing to acknowledge the darkest passages in the Koran, and why Islamic terrorism is a serious danger? If not, I don't see the point of lauding a book dealing with an issue that's already long been dealt with far clearer. This reminds me that in the Golden Age, there were a few early Superman stories (along with several other comics of the times) where Islamists were depicted as baddies. Today, these very people praising books like the above wouldn't want it allowed, even if Siegel and Shuster were still alive and penned them. And the higher echelons at DC agree with them.

Now, here's the 2nd of the briefs citing a superior tale from better times, Walt Simonson's Thor run:
When it comes to getting to know the god of Thunder, there is only one man to turn to. Though most of our picks skew contemporary, Walt Simonson is the master of Thor’s most wacky and wonderful stories. Simonson’s arc started with a smash as he introduced Beta Ray Bill, a badass alien warrior who was somehow wielding Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer! It’s a cosmic start to one of the greatest runs in comic book history.

Sci-fi lovers will enjoy every single second of this radical romp, which takes the reader from the depths of space to the sunny parks of Earth. Simonson is a legend for the reason, and the immersive art in this stunning fantasy epic is a great example. You’ll feel like you’re falling into the stars as you turn page after page of this seminal and silly series, It’s some of the most fun you can have with a comic book.
On this, I absolutely agree. Simonson's run was very entertaining, but that's mainly because he respected the creations he was dealing with, in contrast to modern ideologues like Jason Aaron, who're just exploiting the properties as drainpipes for their political agendas like putting Jane Foster into Thor's role, complete with the same male character name. Something they don't see fit to admit. Last in line is a recent Legend of Wonder Woman special:
Being a princess ain’t easy. For Princess Diana of Themyscira, growing up on the Amazonian island makes it even tougher. This stunning series reimagines the origins of the heroine — and just so happens to be one of the loveliest looking books of recent years. There’s character and color galore as Diana grows up and tries to find her way in two worlds. Fans of the classic Wonder Woman comics could just as easily enjoy this as someone who’s only ever watched the movies. And if you’ve never read a comic before but love pretty things and kickass women, then this will also satisfy all of your reading needs!
On this, I've long known better than to take these statements about a modern product at face value. If it's meant to cash in on the movies, I think that's a problem, because there's already too many stories like those around, which insult the audience's intellect by assuming they really don't have what it takes to appreciate what differences the original material could have from the films.

And in the end, all these shameless takes on modern stories decidedly ruin any ability to appreciate their citation of older ones like the Layton/Michelinie/Simonson runs on Iron Man and Thor. Especially that loathsome brief about The Truth miniseries. There's bound to be a lot of "3rd tier" stories well worth citing from pre-2000 as well they could've written about instead, like early Moon Knight tales, and all we get here is scrap whose main problem is that it was ostensibly written so moviegoers could allegedly get into them, not for general escapism purposes, and moviegoers haven't cared for these faux-entertainment products no matter what the quality. Anybody who really appreciates Capt. America would do well to avoid not only the Truth miniseries, but also writers like Polygon's, since such choices make clear they're not fans at all.

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If you read the Superman v The Klan mini-series, you would like it. It is exactly the kind of thing you cry out for in your columns; bright, fun, inspiring, and gives a new sense of wonder to a long-established character. It is one of the best pos-2000 superhero comics.

And that should definitey been post, not pos!

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