Yes, this is a rant. You have been warned.
Look, I know that ranting is pointless. It isn’t like DC is going to read this and go “Ohmygod we offended some nobody in the Net, let’s change everything!” However, I’ve noticed that a lot of my posts on the Comics Book Resource forums tend to go back to this theme even when I don’t intend them to. Obviously I still have some unresolved issues to deal with -not that they’re unjustified, but really, I need to get them off my system. Besides I need to write something, my skills are getting rusty. So let’s hope that listing things will be cathartic. This is probably not going to be up to my usual writing quality, but again, it’s a rant so please excuse me.
Okay, let’s list these by year:
This was the year it all started. It was the same year Dan Didio took over DC comics, coming in from working in Hollywood I believe. He’s been blamed for the company’s moral decline, and while I do not know that for a fact, I’ve read some stuff he has written that doesn’t sound too good. Plus he IS the boss and if people beneath him are to blame then he’s still responsible for not dealing with them.
It all started with Identity Crisis a miniseries about a serial killer who targeted the loved ones of the members of the Justice League. Unlike previous comics, characters actually died AND REMAINED DEAD. And worst of all, one was revealed to have been RAPED and the rape was shown IN SEMI-GRAPHIC DETAIL. On top of that, the story uncovered a conspiracy by (some) members of the Justice League to try to reform villains by altering their minds. In other words, the very trustworthiness of DC’s greatest heroes was put in doubt. All of these events would have consequences for the next few years.
What possessed DC comics to do this? My personal belief is that Id Crisis was a way to test the waters to see if more “adult” stories (in their superhero comics I mean) would sell. Sadly, the series was a hit, so they apparently assumed it did.
Countdown (to Infinite Crisis) a one shot-book that showed Blue Beetle discovering a conspiracy against superheroes… but because he was such a “loser” hero (this is the second Beetle, Ted Kord) everybody ignored him, so he dealt with it on his own… and got his brains blown out, again in semi-graphic detail. On top of that, he was killed by Maxwell Lord, another character from the funnier days of the Justice League who was revealed as having been evil all along EVEN THOUGH WE KNOW FOR A FACT HE WASN’T (from reading his though balloons.) Again, we have cheap shock value and a darkening of DC’s characters. (Ted’s death might also have been part of DC’s efforts to give itself more “ethnic variety” since the next Beetle was Hispanic and several other characters were similarly replaced later.)
Not long after (in another Infinite Crisis prequel) Max himself was killed- by Wonder Woman, since he had mind-controlled Superman and made him attack her. Doesn’t sound THAT bad until you find out that Max had already been defeated, and Diana killed him because he MIGHT control Superman again someday. This was part of a WW storyline where she lost the trust of other superheroes (and the world) as a result. Now, the modern version of Diana had already killed several foes (monsters, mostly) so that isn’t the shocking part; it’s the way she just decided that it was up to her to choose whether this man lived or died on her own. This was supposedly justified by her being an Amazon Warrior- What, all her years on the modern world, alongside the most moral heroes ever created suddenly didn’t matter??
Oh, and other members of the so-called “Bwa Ha Ha” era of the League were also soon killed as well. Only the most popular, like Booster Gold and GuyGardner, survived. There’s no forkin’ way that was a coincidence- DC was intentionally killing its less serious heroes -never mind that they were still popular- in an apparent bid to show the world that WE ARE EDGY NOW DAMMIT!! Though Didio and company denied it.(Oh, the rape/murder victim in IDC was also related to the “Super Buddies” too.)
Finally, we get to Infinite Crisis itself. It begins with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman at odds with each other because of of these events (Batman had his memory altered by the League -so he would not stop what they were doing- in Identity Crisis and now was mad at them.) Diana for having killed Max and Superman was shocked about what his friends did plus he had his confidence shaken by being mind-controlled. Then, several characters who had survived the first Crisis on Infinite Earths (in 1985, which Infinite Crisis was a sequel to) suddenly reappeared, claiming they had come to revert reality to what it was before the Crisis so all these dark events would go away. This actually made many readers happy, BUT, it turned out to be a bait-and-switch- the returning heroes were actually behind ALL of the chaotic events that led to Infinite Crisis! On top of that, one of them, Superboy-Prime, went INSANE and started killing heroes with PLENTY of gorn, and this time not even bothering to partially hide it. In the end, history was literally changed in the DC Universe (yet again, this being the third time in two decades) and the Big Three heroes decided to… TAKE A YEAR OFF TO REEVALUATE THEIR LIVES!? Right, no time like this to quit and leave the other heroes to take care of things! (at least in Superman’s case he had lost his powers.) Once again, we have the goals of showing even more cheap shock value tactics and sowing distrust among heroes.
“52” was DC’s first year-long weekly limited series, and in general it was well received by fans. The basic idea was that it would tell the story of the DC Universe during their year without Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman.It sounded like a good idea at first, and it gave several lesser DC heroes (like Steel) a chance to shine. But just when you thought we might get a break from the forced tragedy and grossness from the preceding years, 52 began right away with Captain Marvel foe Black Adam being given the spotlight despite the fact that he TORE A MAN IN HALF IN PUBLIC as a warning for people not to mess with “his” new country. Don’t ask me why the Marvel Family (and indeed, every other decent hero in the world) didn’t attack him right then and there, unless you swallow that crap about “diplomatic immunity” that had never stopped them before (and if you do, how does it justify the Marvels attending his wedding later in the story???) In fact Adam’s whole plotline was to set him up with a new family just to kill them off (grossly of course) so he would then go on a rampage where he killed the population of an ENTIRE COUNTRY in revenge. Only THEN did the heroes swarm on him, and even then he escaped with only his powers gone (which he would later regain anyway.)
Most of the other plotlines in 52 weren’t that good either: The Question dies (from smoking) just so lesbian Detective Montoya could inherit his identity (see what I meant about PC replacements above?) Elongated Man, husband of the raped-and-murdered Sue Dibny, tried to find a way to resurrect her, only to die in the end (at least he took some bad guys down with him.) Luthor got away with killing a lot of people, a new villain who copied people by eating them was introduced… really, while in general 52 was well written and draw, in the end the themes of gorn and despair in the DC universe continued.
Countdown (to Final Crisis): DC decided to emulate 52’s success with ANOTHER year-long miniseries that followed directly from 52 (just as 52 followed directly from Infinite Crisis). Again the idea was to keep track of all the events in the DC Universe plus focus on obscure characters; by now Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman had returned and everything was OK now as if by magic (literally in Batman’s case, he meditated in a magical cave and came out “cleansed.”) Diana’s murder of Max was soon forgotten.
But what REALLY screwed up this series was the horrible mismanagement of characters this time around: in a rather absurd attempt to spotlight Wonder Woman again, DC produced the miniseries Amazons Attack! in which the Amazons, well, attack the United States. It was senseless, it enraged WW fans AND it failed to fit in well with Countdown to boot. Another what-the-hell-were-they-thinking case came about with another miniseries, Death of The New Gods, where DC tried to set up an important event in Final Crisis, but forgot to fact-check with that series’ writer (Grant Morrison) and as a result it contradicted rather than supplemented the later series (I could go on bashing Amazons Attack and Countdown, but really comics critic Linkara does a much more through job in his video blogsite, look it up.)
Finally, we come to Final Crisis, which apparently had been set up as far back as 2005, though as mentioned above it was all for nothing. The series itself isn’t bad; in fact it’s one of the best Darkseid stories ever. However in the end it changed little if anything; with the exception of Batman being killed (which no true comics fan believed of course, and indeed we’re in the middle of a storyline to bring him back.) Still, after all that setup, all that gorn and tragedy… it just doesn’t feel like it justified it all. Not to me anyway. At least it didn’t take a whole fuckin’ year to tell.
Blackest Night was another crossover that had been anticipated for years, ever since the “Sinestro Corps” storyline in Green Lantern comics proved to be a surprise hit. The actual story however… first, the basic concept was that ALL of DC’s dead characters (mostly those who had been killed in recent years) were resurected- as zombies, wearing Green Lantern-like rings. Ohh yeah, the damn Zombie Fad reaches DC! (Marvel Comics had already done it.) These zombies rip out people’s hearts to “feed” on their emotions (more gorn) and DC wasted no time using these gimmick to hit fans on the face with all the deaths in recent years (undead Max Lord attacked Wonder Woman, for example). Oh, and MORE characters get killed. The sad part is that the basic concept of the series (that there are other “colors” of “power ring light” besides Green, that combined they create a White Life-Force and that Blackness was a Death-Force) was interesting- but in the end, it was all a gimmick to bring some characters to life but not others. The reason why those particular heroes and villains were raised is being explored in the current Brightest Day series which follows immediately from BN - and will last half a year. Sound familiar? If you were hoping that DC had gotten over the one-crisis-leads-to-another thing they had with “Final” Crisis, think again. Oh, and “Brightest Day” ALREADY has had scenes of gorn. So much for the “bright” part.
Quite honestly, I’m sick of this. In fact, I quit buying DC Comics (at least the “main universe” ones) early during 52 because I caught on how the new administration simply had decided that gore and despair sold and now NO series of theirs was safe (example: the fourth Flash, formerly the funny hero Impulse, was given his own series, which wasn’t THAT bad- but it didn’t sell, so they ended it by having his enemies join forces and KILL him.) Look, I don’t mind if, say, Batman features the darker side of Life; it’s in its basic mission after all. But when you can’t even read Teen Titans -Teen F’kin’ Titans!- without having a monster suddenly eat one of the characters alive and on-panel, you simply cannot trust anything DC puts out anymore. (which is sad, because I hear some of their series HAVE been good, such as the Third Blue Beetle’s- though that’s canceled now. Maybe DC is right and most comics fans just want blood these days. (However, I still read Marvel Comics, because despite dumb ideas like the superhero Civil War, they haven’t given me the “don’t bother following our series because everything ends bad in the end” impression- yet.)