Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day 12 of 30 - Blogger's Choice

Another rant, this time about comics. Apologies in advance.

So I read Wolverine: Old Man Logan on the recommendation of the Alter Ego Comics podcast. Most of the time, their recommendations are pretty solid, but this book is the personification of everything I dislike about current super hero comics.

Specifically, I did not like the following:

The In-Jokey Nature of the Entire Story

To put it blintly, the over-dependence on backstory is ridiculous.

So many of current comics reward and praise their extremely core audience (or, as I call them, The Super Fans!) often at the expense of the new reader. So many moments of this story make no sense unless you have been actively reading Marvel comics for the past ten? twenty? years. You have to come to the story with an encyclopedic knowledge of the characters and the relationships for the story to have any emotional impact whatsoever. The story itself does not draw in you in, but instead expects you to bring your own emotional baggage to the table to be manipulated.

One of the exchanges that leaps to mind is the exchange between Emma Frost and Old Man Logan. Unless you have been reading X-Men comics and know about Emma Frost, Logan, and their relationship, the drama of the moment makes no sense.

If this were a movie, this is the point where every casual viewer leans over to the hardcore fan and whispers, "Who is that lady and why is she so mad?" The book needs annotations for the uninitiated, and when the narrative drive and emotional context exists only in the footnotes and annotations, that spells real trouble for a storyteller.

The Rampant Mysogony

During the course of the story we see the following female characters (and the story's attitude towards them).

Maureen, Logan's hard-working sturdy pioneer woman/wife (Saint) who's main purpose seems to be becoming a martyr so Logan breaks his vow of pacifism. She is such an underdeveloped character, she barely merits a name. I am sure most people who read this won't remember her name is Maureen, just that she is Logan's wife.

Hawkeye's damsel-in-distress daughter who desperately needs to be rescued (Saint)...

...but then turns out to be a major villian (Whore).

Emma Frost, a traitor who everyone hates (Whore).

And, uh... that seems to be it. Three women, no real characterization, and the attitude towards them is either one of extreme idealistic love or extreme hate. Plus, they are all defined by their relationship to men. Even Emma Frost, who was a fairly independent character in other comics, is now primarily defined by her marriage to Dr. Doom.

The Non-Conclusion Conclusion

The story ends with Logan walking off into the sunset, wandering the earth looking for adventures. This is not a satisfactory ending, but instead a set-up for an ongoing story. This is the ending of a television pilot, not a satisfactory ending of a solid book. So you have a story without a real beginning (because the beginning is really the backstory) and without a real ending (because this is just a set-up for another story).

Yep. This is not enjoyable or satisfying at all.

The Over-Reliance on Cultural Stereotypes
Comics are not realistic; they simplify and streamline. They also traffic in stereotypes to convey a meaning. Great comic creators are aware of this and use this aspect of the medium to their advantage.

However, in the hands of a reckless artist, this can be incredibly offensive. I am thinking of the conclusion where Wolverine confronts the most horrible evil ever known to man, the cousin-screwing redneck.

My personal convictions don't favor a grand concluding statement expressing that the best way to approach the poor and uneducated is with a good ass-whoopin'. Seriously? This is heroic? I was disappointed to see that the story concludes with the violent smackdown of a one-dimensional idiot and his even more one-dimensional inbred idiot children.

I just didn't care.


The ultimate praise I can give a comic is that I pass it along to someone else, telling them, "Oh man, you GOTTA read this!" This is one of those comics I am afraid to show someone else, because the inevitable response will be "You... like this?"

This is not my desired response.


Having said all of that, I will say the comic gave me some rare and fleeting moments of pure nerd joy. I am talking specifically about this panel:

This is a picture of dinosaur with alien skin.

I repeat.

A dinosaur with alien skin.

Oh my inner thirteen-year-old's brain just goggled at the possibilities of that sentence. That is freakin' cool. Not cool enough for me to recommend this comic, but still, pretty freakin' cool.

There is a time and place for certain types of entertainment. I honestly wish I was in a place where artists were creating stories that I found engaging and I would, in turn, shower them with money. Right now, the super-hero comic market and I are in different places.

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