Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Issue #23: Zero respect for your market?

My last post gained a monumental amount of traffic due in no small part to my link to Top Shelf and the fantastic  "What Am I Going To Do Without You?"by Patt Kelley linking back to my humble blog in kind.  I loved this book so much it kind of made me look down my nose at the stuff I usually read to the point I didn’t really feel like writing about it.  Fuck you Secret Avengers!  Come back when you can make me cry!  Seriously though, the lack of emotional response from what I’ve read since (which has been quite a lot) did sap my motivation for writing reviews, and how exactly do I follow up my most popular post ever?  Well, perhaps by getting shitty about DC’s zero month.

For those not aware, DC has decided to postpone 52 issue #13s to release 52 issue #0s instead.  At first this seemed like an innocent enough gimmick aimed at collectors like myself, and I considered buying the lot as companion pieces to my entire 52 #1s, even if every single cover looked bland as shit.  What could possibly go wrong?

I ran this by Troy at All Star Comics.  “Are you sure?” was the response.  Here was a guy who knows all about my new DC love, and who stands to gain financially from this transaction, urging me to perhaps rethink my decision. 
I ran it past my bud Ty, who also went for all 52 of the 52, and who likewise responded as if I’d proposed streaking at a boxing match with, “really?”.
Sandwiched with doubt, week one of zero month arrived, and I was feeling regretful, but having ordered these titles didn’t want to put the store out by cancelling last minute…… um, unless that was okay?  I called All Star Comics to cancel Batwoman and Batwing anyway (long negative rant for another day), this time Mitch took my call and cancelled these two books for me, before chucking in something along the lines of, “you don’t really want every single zero issue, do you?”.  No Mitch, as I think back to shit like Legion Lost, Legion Of Superheroes and that fucking G.I. Combat thing I realise I really, REALLY FUCKING DON’T and if it’s all cool I’ll just stick with my regular titles please.  The universe thrice warned me to steer clear and it was good advice because as it turns out even my regular titles left me wanting for the most part.  So thanks guys, for pulling a madman back from the abyss.  Heroes all.

My problem with it is this: someone at DC sees a chance to slightly repackage their product after their huge repackaging last year, probably in another bid to win new readership.  Now I can't fault that concept, because the new 52 was a great avenue for me in to DC and now I'm hooked, but now that I count as a regular reader it's my balls in the top drawer.  Why?  Because for the most part every story arc has to wrap up right on issue #12 so they can release a bunch of one-shots and then start new arcs from #13.  Some creative teams are ending on #12 anyway, some are clever enough to juggle their stories so it will feel natural enough.  Others just get a huge veiny zeroey penis slapped right in the middle of their story just for the hell of it though, and the book suffers because of it.  They did not need zero issues for every single title in the 52.  At least it'll be done and dusted in a month's time.

Not that it's all horrible, it just feels a little soulless. I've read a few, and here's a few thoughts.

Superboy #0   A curious and potentially pointless story is presented here as two shady characters at N.O.W.H.E.R.E., toothy demon thing Lord Harvest and his constantly-bleeding-from-the-eyes buddy Omen observe Superboy’s rebooted origin from a slightly different perspective.  This actually leans so heavily on Superboy #1 to fill it’s pages, I’m left feeling like a sucker for thinking the whole zero month idea might be more than a cheap gimmick.  Lord Harvest reveals himself to be the true puppet master of the cloning project and peppers his observations with recountings of the history of Kryptonian cloning and the subsequent violent uprising (though how he manages to be such an expert in the history of an extinct alien culture is lazily glossed over), additionally revealing his own subconscious programming of Superboy towards violent tendencies.  While this issue is aiming to set something up for the next year in this title I can’t say I’m excited or even intrigued in any way, and I’m seriously considering dropping Superboy altogether.  The title screwed me over this year by aggressively attempting to get me to pick up Teen Titans, and all #0 has done is given me an insight into future stories to potentially render them predictable.  And I liked it so much at the start.  Boo.

Batman #0  Two stories make up this issue.  The first by regular Batman team Snyder and Capullo serves up a Year One style account of Batman pre-suit setting himself up for his battle against crime and getting in a little too deep for his own good, infiltrating bank robbing bad guys The Red Hood Gang and almost eating a lead salad for his efforts.  This is an entertaining enough take on early Bruce Wayne that cuts off as it gets good with the frustrating footnote “the story continues in 2013!”.  For the second time tonight I’m struck with the glaring reality that DC’s zero month is a weird idea with hurried and unrewarding execution.  So on to the second story on offer, set a year later, titled “Tomorrow”, written by James Tynion IV and drawn by Andy Clarke.  This actually worked a little better for me, as it’s a self contained one shot that doesn’t try to be an important chapter, instead looking in on a bunch of characters that will figure heavily in the Gotham in years to follow.  Jim Gordon explains to Barbara Gordon the importance of the symbol of Batman to Gotham before turning on the Bat signal for the first time.  A young Dick Grayson acrobatically thwarts a purse snatcher.  Jason Todd gets a reality check while committing a robbery that goes too far.  And school-aged Tim Drake steals the show when he uses his technical talents to get his school principal arrested for embezzlement.  Despite the ages of the various future Robins being squished together here, I like what this went for.

Action Comics #0   Superstar scribe Grant Morrison teams with personal favourite and ex-Batwing painty-style artist Ben Oliver for this offering, and as the retelling of Superman’s origin was already covered in Action Comics #5, this story is set as Clark Kent is getting himself set up in Metropolis.  We know all this stuff already though, except for the part about Jimmy Olsen photographing women for a living pre-Daily Planet gig (and complaining about it!  Fuck you Jim, you don’t whinge about that job!).  Morrison isn’t really bringing his A-game here, but that’s okay when Ben Oliver is making a Superman comic look this good.  There’s actually not that much of Superman to show off, but cleverly the colour scheme ensures that when we do see red and blue it pounces off the page.  Today’s research turns up nothing confirmed about Oliver being retained for this book.  A shame, because his work seems so suited to the tone of what new 52 Action Comics wants to be, and should be.  Oh, then there’s some nonsensical crap story on the end, featuring no characters I’ve ever heard of, followed by a page explaining who Superman actually is, in case I’ve been in a coma for 80 years.

Green Arrow #0   Young Oliver Queen does exactly what anyone that rich and that young would do when put in charge of an oil rig: turn the whole thing in to a huge party and fly your friends in by helicopter.  But when pirates take advantage of the increased air traffic to slip past security and steal the oil, Ollie decides to take matters into his own hands.  Trouble is young Ollie is all will and only average skill.  His archery is far from the honed talent he is destined to develop and decisions are cocky…. with devastating results.  It seems few survive this day, including Oliver’s friend Tommy Merlyn, who seemingly dies covered in scarring burns in the water…. until waking up years later in a convent from a coma, and pissed off!  The thing I like about this particular zero issue is that it’s setting up a major enemy for Green Arrow in a story that’s probably not too far away, and from what I’ve seen so far, the zero issues that have managed to feel relevant are the one’s that are working.

Thanks kids.  Don't forget you can join my very un-spammy Facebook group here: http://www.facebook.com/ComicBurger or follow me on Twitter @ComicBurger.

Back with more zeroes soon.  But not all of them.  That would be just fucking stupid.

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