DC Comics -- The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

by Chris

With all the talk of DC comics in the news lately, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at what they're doing well and what they're not doing so well. Most of the press recently has been negative, what with Chuck Dixon leaving, Warren Ellis making comments on his Bad Signal e-mail, and other creators complaining in general in regards to the editorial direction or lack thereof. After Doug's article last week about the company, I figured I'd throw in my $0.02. Are DC's comics these days really that bad? Does this reader have anything good to say about the company? Read on and find out!

The Good:

Batman -- Sometimes, I have no idea what Grant Morrison is doing with a story, but then, a few issues down the road in a different story arc, he'll pull stuff in that he introduced six months ago and make it awesome. He did it with New X-Men and he's doing it now with Batman. Combine that with Tony Daniel putting in the work of his career and you've got an awesome book.

Detective Comics -- Paul Dini's one and done (sometimes two and done) stories are refreshing in these days of story arcs that take six months to get to the payoff. Then there's Dustin Nguyen's moody and gorgeous artwork. Put them together and you've got something stellar. Month in and month out, these
guys put together an engaging, well drawn story.

Justice Society of America -- Okay, I have no idea whose legacy half these new characters are carrying on, but I'm still enjoying this book immensely. The passion that Johns (and Ross) have for these characters just bleeds onto the page, which translates into some amazing stories. With so many characters, there's just a ton of stuff going on in each issue, which is so much the opposite of a lot of books these days. Dale Eaglesham doesn't get a lot of mention when talking about this book, but his artwork is very good.

Action Comics -- While I was pretty underwhelmed by Richard Donner's run on the book, Johns has really taken the bull by the horns, so to speak. No one has ever gotten me interested in the Legion of Superheroes, but that arc was amazing. Johns really made me care about them and really got me emotionally attached to their relationship to Superman. Now I'm really looking forward to the Brainiac story.

Sinestro Corps War -- Now THAT is how you do a crossover. I didn't even buy the Green Lantern Corps issues and still was able to follow the story and enjoy it thoroughly. Great character moments, plenty of action, and engaging storytelling, much unlike the rest of Johns' run on the book (see below).

The Bad:

Green Lantern -- Aside from the Sinestro Corps War storyline, this book is pretty boring. Why do they feel it's necessary to take six issues to re-tell Hal Jordan's origin? I can maybe see three with all the seeds they're planting for upcoming storylines, but six seems excessive, especially when nothing's
really happening. And don't get me started on the arc early in Johns' run with Hal getting shot down in Chechnya. Put me right to sleep. The one redeeming quality in all of this is Ivan Reis' gorgeous artwork.

Kurt Busiek's Superman run -- I love me some Kurt Busiek. He's one of my favorite writers. How does he turn out almost two years' worth of boring Superman stories? I wasn't engaged by any of it. I enjoyed the Carlos Pacheco artwork on the few issues he was on, but aside from that, I can't believe Busiek wrote these issues. I'm looking forward to seeing what James Robinson will do with the book.

Wonder Woman -- When Greg Rucka took over this book before Infinite Crisis, it was the first time I'd bought more than three issues of the book. Rucka had such brilliant ideas and such a grasp on the character that it was an amazing read each and every month. Then Infinite Crisis came along and the book sunk right down into mediocrity and it hasn't pulled itself out yet. Allan Heinberg's run was a train wreck from the start. Jodi Picoult's arc was unbelievably cheesy and felt like it was written in the 70s. Now Gail Simone is writing it and I'm surprised at how un-engaging the stories are. I have faith in her storytelling abilities and Aaron Lopresti is doing an excellent job, so I'll stick around for a while, but how hard is it to get this book right?

Flash -- This book had been awesome for 10 years. Mark Waid, Mark Millar, Grant Morrison, and Geoff Johns had elevated this book to one of the best superhero books on the stands. As soon as Johns left, it died. The last few issues before it ended was painful to read. The series with Bart was mediocre at best. Even Waid couldn't re-ignite the magic he had. Now Peyer has come on and we're again at mediocre. I think DC has had problems relaunching a lot of their books post-OYL in general, which points to bad editorial planning.

The Ugly:

Supergirl -- Okay, the first year and a half of this book were usually a bit confusing as to what exactly was going on, but it was crystal clear compared to what the new creative team is doing. I dropped the book after two issues because I had absolutely no idea what was going on. The story wasn't explained, it was just Superman sending Kara after some aliens into another galaxy or some such and then all of a sudden she was back on Earth. There would be panels with no dialogue and no narration and the artist didn't help us understand what was going on. I gave up. I'm still upset they canceled Peter David's version of the book. The new creative team of writer Sterling Gates and penciller Jamal Igle takes over in October. It will be tied in quite closely with Robinson's and Johns' books. Hopefully, they can make the book interesting and relevant.

Crisis of Infinite Mini-Series Tie-Ins When you have to read three or four different mini-series to understand what's going on in an additional crossover or even your favorite monthly book, there's something wrong. Teen Titans, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman all became unreadable during the Amazons Attack story unless you were buying the mini series. Ditto Superman and Action Comics at times during Countdown. If you didn't read the four tie-in mini-series, Infinite Crisis was difficult to follow. And now I've seen at least six mini-series tying into Final Crisis. I'll tell you this: I won't be buying any of them.

the whole Chuck Dixon thing -- So we don't know the whole story behind this, but when the guy who made Robin readable again and was doing a very good job on Batman and the Outsiders suddenly leaves the company, something isn't quite right. The man was a major force in the Batman family of books throughout the 90s, wrote Robin, Nightwing, and Birds of Prey for years, and has a fairly large fan base. I figure you would find any way possible to keep a guy like that working for you.

Late books and fill-in creators -- I was going to write something about how bad it is to have to have a fill-in artist on the second issue of Titans, but I was informed that Ian Churchill injured his hand and physically couldn't do the work. However, there are plenty of other places where DC has dropped the ball, with Action Comics and Wonder Woman post-OYL being the worst offenders. Then we've got fill-in art on Final Crisis, entire fill-in creative teams on Batman and Detective Comics last year, and don't get me started on yanking Tony Bedard off of Batman and the Outsiders before it even got started. They seem to be getting better with this type of thing, though.

So, while there are some areas where DC could improve, there are definitely some good books begin put out, too. I haven't been reading Countdown, so I can't comment on that book as far as editorial direction goes. I also haven't been following the whole thing with Grant Morrison and his complaints about how the editorial team has handled some of the stuff for Final Crisis. They do have a handful of books that are extremely good right now and a few that could become
very good once they find a solid direction. I'll be sticking around for the foreseeable future.


KACH said...

Great article, Chris. I agree with almost every point, except for Green Lantern. IMO, Geoff Johns is doing kind of an "NYPD Blue"-In-Space thing with his stories.
But, yeah, Busiek's Superman, the Flash Relaunch, & the new Wonder Woman series have been complete poo.

I don't think ALL of DC's editorial is a mess; it's just that they seem to focus on a very small amount of titles, & everything else has to fall in to line, & badly. Marvel seems to have a similar problem, especially with the Ultimate line.


Chris Ware said...

Kach, I will probably do one of these for Marvel in the next week or two, just to be fair. ;)