Monday, May 07, 2007


No, my keyboard has not thrown up - it just is the chance to talk about the care and feeding of a comic-book universe again. Previously I've talked about the Marvel Universe's recent Civil War. Quick Digression on that - is there ANY Marvel book that shows that the CW and the Initiative that followed it is a GOOD thing? The books that you'd think of as the pro-Initiative books show those in charge of the Initiative as Jerks, while those that would be anti-initiative books, well, they show those in charge to be Jerks, too. But, that's a digression - here's the past year of the DC Universe to look at.

When last we tuned into the DC Universe, its Infinity Crisis was screwing things up. In a nutshell, the original Superboy was pounding on the walls of reality, messing up the backstory of a lot of books and reminding us old-timers that it has been twenty years since the original Crisis on Infinite Earths. Following that, the next month's books were supposed to suddenly make the jump a year in the future (OYL = One Year Later), to allow things to shake up. Superman depowered! Batman abandons Gotham for a year! Wonder Woman, well, I got no clue, since her own book was criminally screwed up following the relaunched.

Filling in the "missing year" was a weekly comic books series called 52 (take THAT, 24!) which dealt with a lot of lesser lights in the DC Universe (The Question, Booster Gold, Black Adam from the Captain Marvel stories, the Elongated Man, The Metal Men, etc ...). That one wrapped up with World War III (WWIII), in which Black Adam went on a super-hero rampage for about a week, killing everyone in the super-villian country of Bialya and threatened to do the same in China.

So working backwards, WWIII was a wet squib, four issues for a Giant-size story which was torn in two directions - one to resolve the Black Adam arc from 52, and the other to explain all the "strange happenings" that OYL came in with. And in the process it reveals not only that most of these changes were not that major, but that they have pretty much been plowed under in the year since OYL. Internal comic-book history is a plastic thing at best, what with dead characters bouncing back to life regularly, but most of the big changes have been undone. Supes got his powers back, Bats returned to Gotham, and Wondey is still wrestling to escape horrible stories (case in point, the just-launched Amazons Attack book, where the Amazons, removed from continuity in Infinity Crisis, suddenly come back and, um, attack. Washington DC, to be exact, But its Black Adam who gets the WWIII monicker. Hrumph!

That's not to say that OYL was bad - there have been some really nice stories in the past year - Paul Dini's work on Detective Comics have been a string of nice done-in-one books that tour through the Batman's villain pantheon. But did we really need a year-long break of continuity to tell these tales? Superman regaining his powers - he had to be gone for a year (yeah, and the "lead-in" from missing year doesn't quite match the story at the beginning of the tale, but that's part of working in a dynamic universe). As attention-getter, OYL was OK, as story-telling mechanism, it wasn't taken advantage of.

The weekly comic 52 was also plagued by being pulled in multiple directions. I could not cover effectively things happening in books-as-yet unwritten, so the Big Three had a problem with representation. But also, the tales of the characters grew in the telling, such that Black Adam had to be exported out of the book wholesale for his own limited series. In the end, it gave more change that the OYL itself - a new Question, Elongated Man slain and reunited with his late wife (killed way back in Identity Crisis) as ghost detectives (moving from Thin Man to Topper), there's a new Batwoman, an alchemical reformulation of the Metal Men, and a lot of semi-interesting characters who were created only to be killed, but will come back now that they are part of the continuity.

Oh, and instead of Superboy punching reality to change the past, the Captain Marvel villain Mr. Mind goes from catepillar to dimension-eating moth to destroy universes, and we end up with 52 DC Earths, a supposedly manageable number.

Yeah, but it reminds me that one of the reasons that we had Crisis on Infinite Earths in the first place was the fact that there was a Superman on Earth One and a Superman on Earth two, and people couldn't keep the JLA (E-1) and JSA (E-2). Now we have a JSA on E-1 AND a slightly-different JSA on Earth-2, which will make for even more confusion. AND as the Marvel Universe has so aptly pointed out, once you open the door, you end up with "Large-But-Finite" number of earths, as everyone creates their own revised realities for their stories.

So the end result? Multiple earths are back, but both probably more limited and more confusing. Some really nice playing with the minor characters in 52. WWIII will be forgotten as the shortest war in history, up there with the Pig War of 1859. Amazons Attack is dead out of the gate, coming hard on the heels of WWIII. Explanations of why something doesn't line up with history are now blamed on Mr Mind-Moth, not Superboy. And the wheel turns to the Next Big Thing, in this case a weekly book called "Countdown" which leads inevitably to the next big crisis.

More later,