Monday, March 15, 2010

The Funnies Business, Part Two

Really it looks like I'm following io9 but some of this was written before the appearance of their recent piece Superhero Tragedy Porn Is Bad for Comics. And the cause was the same - the stupefyingly cynical and completely artless last issue of Justice League: Cry for Justice where Roy Harper's daughter (age around nine or ten) is killed purely for shock value. I guess we should be grateful they didn't find her in a refrigerator but this shows just how little thought is going into so many recent comics and how far they'll go to bump sales on a wave of controversy. Because the main problem isn't just that this happened but that it was completely unnecessary - writer James Robinson with the approval of DC editors had decided to chop off Roy's arm and kill tens of thousands of people in Star City. Killing a harmless girl who hadn't even appeared in the story was just a bad move. If nothing else it's a disruption to the story that reveals how shoddy the whole business is. As the io9 writer puts it, "when superheroes have 'adult' problems, the childishness of their pursuits waxes large."

But I suppose they were working from the end backwards and the end is that they wanted to have Green Arrow become a killer. ("Executioner" isn't correct because that means state power and Oliver is acting completely on his own.) So they arranged for this trio of events to push him to the edge and then the bad guy going free to tip him over. Guess we'll find out why they wanted Oliver in this position in Robinson's run on the regular Justice League series but no matter how that plays out, Cry for Justice will still be a monumental misjudgement.

On a less offensive level, the mini-series had several other problems. Robinson has never been a particularly efficient writer but his dialogue here is often clumsy and overbearing. He's also trying to hard for the fan service - a passing reference to Claw the Unconquered works because it makes no difference whether you get it or not but Ray Palmer remembering his stint in the Teen Titans just puts you to a stop with a "what?". (I had to look it up - apparently he was turned into a teenager a few years back.) Supergirl is a main character but is portrayed pretty much as a porn star with a costume that looks airbrushed onto her. Robinson does have her figure out the big bad guy's secret but she doesn't do anything about it. That's right: doesn't do anything about it. It's not until Roy's off bleeding on the satellite floor and the city killing machinery is underway that Supergirl starts her monologue about hey you slipped up here and that thing you said revealed this. All done when everybody else has already very definitely discovered the truth so whatever she might have figured out doesn't matter in the least. And really what was the point of a completely gratuitous scene with Starfire and Donna Troy in bikinis? It just feels creepy.