Thursday, November 1, 2012

Reboots Were Made For Walking

And we're back!

After a three-month hiatus, I am bringing Comics Matter back to life, albeit with a slightly more relaxed schedule than before. I promise to put something up at least once a week, but that's as much as I can commit myself to right now. Still, I'm excited to get back at it. I haven't stopped reading and loving and overthinking comicbooks in the past three months, so hopefully I'll have a lot to say.
      Right now, though, what I want to say is this: I'm growing sick of superheroes. Not universally---there are still several incredible series about meta-human characters that I'm loving every month. And not conceptually, either---I have just as strong a belief in the potential of superhero stories as I always did. But in actuality, these days, the overall quality of the "mainstream superhero comic" feels like it's been sliding steadily downwards, and I find myself becoming disillusioned.
     Obviously this isn't the first time I've made this point, and countless others have made it before me, but a) things continue to decline, so I think this bears repeating and, b) I'd like to think and write through this frustration now with the hopes of making the next several posts focused on things I love. Sometimes you gotta clean out a bunch of dead spiders before you convert the basement into a game room. Or whatever, a stronger metaphor than that. Here we go.
     When DC's New 52 began last year, I decided to follow 13 series. It was a nice even 25%, and it represented a fairly varied array of titles, including at least one from each of the three big "families" of books: Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern. But man, there was just so much junk in there: Red Lanterns, Batman: The Dark Knight, Green Arrow, and the Dear-God-Why?!-inducing Justice League Dark, to name only the worst offenders. And even though I dropped several of them at the five or six month mark, when the "Second Wave" came out, I sampled almost all of those series as well. Admittedly, they included one of my still-favorite books, Dial H, but they also included G.I. Combat, which has the WORST version of one of my favorite characters, The Unknown Soldier, that I've ever had the displeasure of reading. It was disheartening. All told, I've taken a crack at following something like eighteen different New 52 books, and am currently down to six, with Birds of Prey, Earth 2, and Teen Titans all dangerously close to getting cut. Shit, Batman might well get dropped, too, if this Joker story isn't up to snuff. "Night of the Owls" hardly won me over, so if "Death of the Family" is similarly ridiculous or frustrating by the time it reaches its conclusion, I might just have Wonder Woman and Dial H left on the DC side of things. Both relatively solid series, but also books which have already had at least one gravely disappointing issue each, and which find their greatest strength in the unique voices of their respective writers, who are likely to be replaced at some point down the line. So it's a bleak landscape, and one that may well get bleaker before it gets better.
     As the DC titles began to fall off my list, I found myself being unexpectedly drawn to more and more Marvel books. It was a more gradual process, but eventually I was reading more than half of the X-Books, the entire Ultimates line, and a handful of other series, so that by the time Avengers vs. X-Men rolled around, it seemed silly to even try and avoid it. So I read all twelve issues of that damnable event, and all it did was reaffirm the pointlessness and aimlessness of events in general, and the Marvel Universe specifically. Because AvX was, largely, an exercise in having well-known characters act uncharacteristically, illogically, foolishly, and unsuccessfully. There were no good guys in a story where the cast was every major Marvel "hero." Plus with all the crossovers, it turned me off of all those X-Books I was reading, and nothing since then has made me reconsider any of them. Meanwhile, the Ultimate Universe went through its own shake-ups that did nothing to improve it overall and actually turned Ultimates from one of my favorite titles into one I couldn't run from quickly enough. All-in-all, a depressing state of affairs.
     And here were are rolling into Marvel NOW! which, based on what I've seen, does nothing at all to excite me (beginning with the IDIOTIC name). I'll likely read Thor: God of Thunder because Jason Aaron has not yet ruined himself entirely for me, and Esad Ribic is a perfect artist for a Thor book. And I plan on trying out both X-Force titles, mostly because of my love for the various versions of that team, historically speaking. Add Young Avengers in the maybe column, and that is it, y'all. Uncanny Avengers makes zero sense and can suck it, I've grown very weary of Matt Fraction's sprawling, high-concept writing overall (looking at you, Defenders) so for now I'll pass of the FF books, and literally everything else announced so far features either characters or creators that I just plain don't like. Even Secret Avengers, which I've been reading for some time now, is being handed to fucking Nick Spencer and Luke Ross. I can't imagine a less appealing creative team. Sincerely. So that'll be dropped the moment I finish Remender's last issue.
     I want to want to read more of the Big Two's titles, but nowadays they just don't cut the mustard. I don't trust them to deliver whatever enticing tidbits they might promise, and I do expect them to pull a bunch of stupid and confusing shit that makes no sense in-story but happens anyway because of editorial edicts and universe-spanning storylines. The priorities of these series and the people creating them have become skewed, but more than that, the characters themselves grow more and more unlikeable or unpredictable, and why would I want to invest my time with those kinds of people? All the darkness/grittiness/realism/whatever name you want to give it that has permeated the comicbook world is transforming a lot of noble, sensible men and women into self-righteous superpowered asshats who think that being capable of tremendous acts of violence is the same thing as violence being the answer. I guess mostly that's just another AvX criticism, but it applies across the board, too. And even in the titles where that isn't the problem, the problem tends to be something even more fundamental like, say, shitty writing, art, or both.
     I don't want to paint a picture of a world without hope. I've been consistently digging the two Valiant titles I read, Daredevil has still got its mojo (despite the most recent issue's cover ruining what could have been a strong surprise ending), and seriously, Dial H  and Wonder Woman both continue to be reliable, if wildly different, superhero tales. But you know what's been consistently better than every one of those books? Prophet, Rachel Rising, and Revival. It is in the genres of sci-fi and horror that I find the best, most enjoyable stories. And that's fine. Comicbooks shouldn't just be for superheroes. They shouldn't even be dominated by superheroes the way they are. But they're still the first, best home for superhero stories, and I wish the medium was being used to push the boundaries of that genre, rather than turning it into more and more examples of the same old dickheaded slugfests.

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