Thursday, October 23, 2008
Nina Stone has a thoughtful, outsider's p.o.v.-style review of two recent super-hero comics - Punisher #63 and Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #2. Her take on Legion is that it is busy, messy, and impenetrable. It got me thinking: even though I think Geoff Johns is one of the best contemporary super-hero writers, I can't think of anything he's done that I could recommend to someone who wasn't already really invested in super-hero comics. He doesn't do "entry level" super-hero comics.
Johns gives his super hero stories their narrative and thematic oomph by positioning and re-positioning various elements of the DC Mythos. But if you haven't already invested a fairly substantial amount of time reading DC super hero comics, most of what he's doing is going to look meaningless (at best).
And, as much as I like his work, I'm not sure that it would be worth doing the "grunt work" necessary to grok it for anyone who isn't still a teenager. For example, Green Lantern: Rebirth sounds like it should be a good jumping-on point for a newcomer to Green Lantern - especially since Johns intended it to be a lead-in to a continuing Green Lantern series which would focus more on the core elements of the Green Lantern Mythos*. However, Rebirth starts very far away from those core elements and Johns' attempt to straighten out Hal Jordan's extremely convoluted storyline won't resonate with people who don't know and/or care** about that storyline.
For me, that's not really a negative. I'm glad that he's writing these super-hero comics for hardcore super-hero fans. As I've said before, I think there's something unique about DC's mythos-centric stories that you don't find anywhere else, and while "unique" doesn't necessarily equal "good", when these stories are done well by someone like Johns, "unique" is definitely an added value.
And because I do place value on their uniqueness, attacking these kinds of comics because they don't work like other kinds of arts and culture stuff rings hollow to me.*** Part of what I enjoy about Final Crisis and other Mythos-centric super-hero comics is that it is a lot harder to get into by picking up a random mid-series issue than it would be to get into, say, House by watching a random episode from the middle of season 4. I don't think that every super-hero comic should work like Final Crisis, but I don't see it as a strike against them when they do.
*This is an excellent series, by the way. If you twisted my arm, it would be the one Johns comic that I'd recommend to non-hardcore super-hero fans.
**I'd note that a lot of the caring would come from people who think the whole Parallax/Spectre story was a completely awful idea and needs to be undone.
***This isn't what Nina is doing in her post, but I'm directing that last paragraph towards people who are making those kinds of arguments.