August 30th, 2009
I’ll let you in on a secret.
Every time a Geoff Jeans’ (his new name*) mega-event comes around, I know, just know, that this time, forget all the other times, I’m going to enjoy it. See, I understand the allure of holidaying in the DCU. There’s all those superpeople with all their superpowers, the tangled web of all those relationships and history. There’s The supernatural, outer-space, the far future… It sounds great on paper doesn’t it? Well that’s just it, IT’S NOT GREAT ON PAPER. IT’S SHIT ON PAPER.
But I forgot about that last Saturday night. Last Saturday night I was well broke, worn out after a hectic week full of work, birthdays, gardenfests (a weird one, that), friends visiting from Norwich and fuck all time to myself, and I was looking forward to nothing so much as curling up with the complete story-so-far of Blackest NICE (*and this is the story’s new name), and oh. how. wrong. can. you. be. POODLE.
It didn’t take much to push me over the edge, just Alfred phoning up the JLEmbassy in Washington to let his superchums know Bruce Wayne’s grave had been desecrated. Just that. A little thing. Why should that bother me? Because it was yet another bloody reminder of what it was that I was reading. You see, fuck all that stuff about tangled relationships, I hate that shit. I hate the fact that everyone in the DCU knows everyone else. I can forget about it when reading Final Crisis (tho’ not entirely) because Morrison gives you other stuff to thrill to, but not with Jeans.
‘Cause that’s what his comics are about.
And Blackest NICE has to be the truest articulation of his vision. By resurrecting fucking EVERYONE in the DCU he gets to work all his favourite hangups into the equation: his overdeveloped reverence for DC history and continuity, erecting bloody statues, monuments and super-tombs on every other page, his desire to mine even the most inconsequential characters and cul-de-sacs of the universe for story potential, to enliven – what was it that other blogging bloke called it? – all of those ‘blobs of colour in the corner of the crowd scene’, and, most importantly, have everyone hang out with each other.
The guy wants the DCU to breathe, he wants us to feel we could live there – heck, he wants to live there – and that’s all he wants, that’s all this whole thing is for, and that’s just a bit dark. In this case it’s tantamount to necromancy.
Seriously, if you think Blackest NICE is about anything other than the continuity fucking itself then just read the comic again. Everything, all the ‘dramatic’ stuff, centres around some bullshit that happened in a comic (I hope) you didn’t read: Hawkman and Hawkgirl’s relationship, the return of Martian Manhunter, Ralph and Sue Dibny… It ends on bloody Ralph and Sue Dibny because that’s, you know, definitely the most dramatic thing ever. Only it’s not. Not unless you give a shit. And I don’t. The Flash cries about it or something, but I didn’t.
Jesus, you couldn’t ask for a better metaphor, could you? Let’s resurrect all those corpses, all those dead stories, all the C listers, and have them interact with everything else all over again. This comic is living on recycled air, totally ingrown. Nothing from the outside will ever penetrate it, I guarantee you that.
So that’s my main bugbear with what I’ve read. That to someone like me who doesn’t know anything about the Atom’s ex it’s impenetrable and boring and that, judging by how fetishistic and self-referential the whole exercise is, the guy writing it hasn’t read anything other than comic books in the last 10 years.
Ah, but there are other things that confirm that. I’m not going to list all the hideous, clunking sentences that litter these comics (oh, fuck, go on then – my fave, from the Spectre: ‘Deadman’s body is now as wandering as his soul…’ *!* Urgh!), it would just be a bloody chore, but I would like to point out just a few of Jeans’ choicest character moments. I mean to begin with, what’s with that scene with all the old JLEers around Blue Beetle’s grave hectoring each other about getting on with their eulogies, or telling them they’re not allowed to speak. I mean, WTF?!? Fuck off Fire, if Guy wants to dedicate a few words to his friend, I think, in this uncharacteristic moment of sensitivity, it might be okay to let him, and, Canary, Booster might be a bit too choked up to say his piece, so why not FUCKING LEAVE HIM ALONE. Maybe Jeans wants these people to look like bickering cocks – the JLE do have a history of it – but it just looks so completely inhuman. This isn’t how grieving people talk.
I hope. Whatever, this isn’t a triumph for psychological realism.
And just what does the Flash mean when he responds to Hal’s assertion that no-one’s found the Rogues’ secret cemetery with a deadpan ‘I will’? Does he intend to go and piss on their graves? Disintern the bodies and skullfuck them?
And as for the Flash falling apart over the Dibny death: SHUT UP! Look, Geoff, if you care so much about the demise of these inconsequential characters, if the Flash cares enough to ‘sit down for the first time since he got back’, it has to be because of what Ralph and Sue represented – fun, silliness, childishness, goodness – everything that makes comics good for kids and puppies – so then why oh why do you not understand the irony of turning them into rotting zombie people who like nothing better than to impale their mates with big spears [Editor's note: ah, but that's the point, Poodle: it's about the tragedy of innocence lost!]? Personally I don’t mind what you do with them, but, if all this means so much to you, YOU SHOULD!
And another thing. I’ve noticed this trend for you to patronise scientists by having them waffle on about the really, real supernatural side of life and the transcendent power of emotions (which we have you on record as saying you believe are somehow super-physical, just like the lantern’s spectrum) and the ability of these things, and only these things, to invest life with meaning, and you know what: bollocks. Try reading a book by Dan Dennet, Susan Blackmore, Richard Dawkins or any one of a million scientists and you’ll find this question dealt with very abruptly indeed, sometimes in the first chapter. Scientists are just as moral and capable of finding just as much ‘meaning’ in the cosmos as anyone else – this idea that they’re somehow mistaken, that if only they could really connect with their spiritual dimension they’d realise the truth of things, that only then would they be truly whole, is specious nonsense, easily refuted, and an argument that’s as common as muck to boot.
Speaking of bad ideas: this emotional spectrum hogwash really gets me. Avarice! Eh? Why not depression? Boredom? Excitement? Grumpiness? It’s all so arbitrary! Can you imagine hanging round with someone who’s angry or jealous every day, or, more ridiculous still, being that person? It’s just so silly! Death, an emotion? The what now?
And what about….
I’ll shut up now. I’m not going to read this comic again. There’s not enough time.
But I am going to start my own rival summer event entitled Lantern Sex War Night! where we cut straight to the chase and all the DC properties get down to it, roman style. And I do mean all the properties, priapic super-mice and sentient planets included. MASSIVE SPOILER: at the height of the sexual carnage, all will begin to weep and howl uncontrollably for the Dibnys, with Superman wailing ‘why did they kill you? why did they kill you, INNOCENCE?!?’ before spaffing the sun in two and everyone dying.
And then getting resurrected and it all starting again.
Brilliant. And waaaay more honest.
But Blackest NICE didn’t come out this week, did it? No, it did not.
Check back on Tuesday for a review of something that did. Can you guess what?
[Editor's note the second: Poodle is concerned that this post could be construed as an ad hominem attack. Just for the record, Poodle is of the opinion that Geoff Johns is probably a nice guy, it's just that he writes comics which never fail to cause the yapping ponce great distress]