Sunday, November 13, 2011

New 52: For Nerds Only

I buy my comics once every couple of months. I have mostly given up the hobby, but I have a complete run of Hellblazer, so every few months I clean out my pull list. I just love the mutant Archetype that is John Constantine, and title generally has good writers.

But I was in the nerd shop looking at 4e Dungeons and Dragons stuff the weekend before last, and got sucked into looking at DC's new 52, their reboot of all their titles. I wasn't interested in all of the titles. I'd seen the list, and all I was really interested in were the titles I thought of as "non-standard" super hero titles, the supernatural/mythology based ones: Swamp Thing, Frankenstein: Agent of Shade, Justice League Dark. I loved Swamp Thing when I was in college, when Alan Moore was writing it. JLD has Constantine as a character, and Frankenstein has a picture of Frankenstein's Monster carrying a Gatling gun on the cover of one of the issues. Also, the Bride has four arm. It seemed like a calculated risk tilted in the direction of awesome. So I picked up the first two titles of each, and the three issues that led up to the re-launch of Swamp Thing, and with my regular Hellblazer issues, that was 40 bucks of comics.

I must say, I was pretty universally unimpressed. My first major complaint is fan boy haggis: They guys who wrote Constantine's dialog in Search for Swamp Thing and JLD made him sound like a peevish Oliver Twist as played by a sulky Ron Weasly. He was not a convincing John Constantine.

Beyond that, the stories were pretty blase. They all seemed to be reaching for Grant Morrison territory, piling crazy on top of crazy. Frankenstein's secret hideout is a 3 inch sphere designed by The Atom: EVEN KEWLER than the JLA's satelite, right? Eh. When the villain is as urgent and faceless as a venereal disease, the context becomes a little facile. And every villain in the three series I picked up were WORLD THREATENING, with a capital WORLD. Frankenstein was facing an army of elder gods kept at bay by children of the corn hicks. JLD was an insane, disembodied ex-super villain, whose name is the closest you get to a personality or goal. Swamp Thing was facing a knockoff of the end-game boss from Alan Moore's run. Pretty much pure insecty evil.

Meh. Meh. Meh. No personality, straightforward plot, poor writing in general. JLD was full of emo wheezing about how "broken" all the characters were. Swamp Thing was closest to good, but I was put off by the fact that they totally turned Alan Moore's brilliant run inside out: Instead of Alec Holland being the basis for the rather tender character that Swamp Thing became, he really is the necessary component, and the original Swamp Thing was a kind of mistake. That immediately lessened my interest in the story, and actually made me want to go back and re-read Moore's run.

In contrast, the current Hellblazer story-lines are just great, pitting the character of Constantine's niece, psychologically damaged when his lifetime of dabbling in the arcane arts finally bites her in the ass, against Constantine's wife: a much younger alchemist, daughter of a mob boss, who somehow thinks that a Middle Aged, scarred, half talented wizard is the cat's meow because he's tough as nails and has a heart of gold. Well... gold plated anyway. There's gold in there somewheres. Maybe his fillings. Oh, yeah, I think the story has some demons or ghost in there somewhere. But who needs monsters when you got characters?

So, luckily, I was saved from entanglement in an expensive habit by the poor quality of the product. And I still have my first comic book love, John. *sigh* He's so dreamy. I want to be him when I grow up. Except not in JLA Dark.

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