Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Comics: Blackest, Darkest, Night Siege

Major Star Trek flashback - there's an old episode of the original series, "I, Mudd", where the crew has to confuse a whole bunch of androids in order to burn out their circuits. So Spock goes up to a pair of beautiful androids (played by twins), and says to one. "I love you." and to the other "But I hate you". The second beautiful android says "But I am identical in every way to the other android." "And that is why I hate you," says Spock, and the beautiful androids burn out their circuits dealing with the contradiction.

So that's how I feel about the two major comic book company "events", which have recently resolved - the "Dark Reign/Seige" sequence from Marvel, and the "Blackest Night" event over at DC. I've been trying to figure out why I like the former when those same reasons also apply to the latter, which left me frustrated and cranky.

For those who don't follow comics on a weekly basis, here is the short form. Over in the Marvel Universe, at the end of the Skrull Invasion (don't ask), Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin) emerges as a hero, and is given Nick Fury's old job of defending the free world. He then proceeds to hire every other villain in creation with the intention of creating a "permanent super-powered majority" that lets them be villainous (within limits) and keep the heroes from making a comeback. Meanwhile, over in the DC universe, a dark cosmic entity, Nekron, raises the dead to confront the living heroes, allowing DC to literally resurrect old deceased characters.

And from these bases, they spool out pretty darn similar. There are titanic battles. There are a plethora of tie-ins, which vary from intriguing to lame. There are more titanic battles. There are forgotten villains which suddenly see a lot of screen time (I swear the Griffon, a minor-league Spidey villain, has gotten more work in the past year than in the previous thirty). There are heroes returning from the dead (Steve Rogers is back, Aquaman is back, Batman appears as a skull, but HE's coming back as well). There are heroes engaged in redemption (Hal Jordan blew up the Green Lantern corps, Tony Stark wandered deep into supervillain territory - both are back on the side of angels (Tony reloaded a back-up personality, which creates interesting legal problems). There are way too many superteams involved (Rainbow Lanterns for DC, all the flavors of Avengers in Marvel). The core books feel like a lot of "coming attraction" trailers for other books that spin off. And both end with a sense of redemption - a Brightest Day which leads to a Heroic Age.

And yet it works for me on the Marvel side, and not on the DC side. So much so that I am looking forward to the next step of the Marvel ongoing story (Heroic Age), but not the DC (Brightest Day)(Note that the DC Brightest Day already cheesed me off through the gratuitous slaying of a Next Generation Hero (the Ryan Choi version of the Atom) - but that's a rant for another day). And given all the similarities, that contradiction should burn out my circuits.

I guess what it all boils down to is this - I grokked the Marvel characters and enjoyed the stories more than the DC version. Given my own background in the MU, I recognized most of the D-listers that filled up the panels (Mandrill, anyone?) and felt the whole Dark Reign/Siege was an event that let all the characters react according to their natures (a Marvel strength). Blackest Night, on the other hand, sort of put all the heroes in the same box, with identical reactions to the threat du jour. In the end, the various heroic factions coming together made a lot more sense in the Marvel end than on the DC side.

Heck, Marvel even made its Sentry character, the latest in their sequence of Superman clones, interesting.

But I'm still trying to parse out the difference between the two - megaevents that sprawl through multiple books. Both were big events that should have had personal resolutions, yet only Marvel seems to have pulled that off.

Excuse me, I smell burning circuits. More later.