Thursday, March 26, 2009

Three Questions: JLA and Avengers Edition

So in this week's "Justice League of America" #31, Dwayne McDuffie gives us the fallout of Hal Jordan's decision to form a splinter team, taking some of the best and the brightest away from Black Canary's JLA because, basically, they haven't done a damned thing but help other superheroes out for 30 consecutive issues.

Jordan's new Justice League team has obviously had a huge impact on the DCU, and, oh wait... the part about the Hal Jordan Justice League hasn't actually happened yet.

And it won't for a few months.

So this week's JLA issue gives us a crossover with the James Robinson-written series that was promised when Robinson first returned to DC, except even in this JLA issue, it indicates that the series won't debut until this summer. And how that will mesh with the scheduled Blackest Night event remains to be seen. Though you'd think that whole all-the-dead-DC-guys-coming-back-from-the-dead-with-Evil-Lantern-powers would get in the way of Hal Jordan's ability to hang out with his old pals and make Black Canary feel bad about herself.

So here's Question #1: Do you care about any of this, and if so why? And is it really that hard to schedule comics so they kind of come out somewhere in the same season at least?

This week's "Mighty Avengers" #23 provides a twist ending that I won't spoil, but it's pretty clear that Dan Slott hasn't just cobbled together a random team of Avengers here. It's a team that's analogous to the original Avengers team, basically, and it breaks down something like this:

  • New Team = Old Team
  • Hulk = Hulk (who is around at the inception, then bounds off to smash stuff elsewhere)
  • Hank Pym = Wasp (because that's his new code name and will probably change costumes regularly)
  • Stature = Ant-Man/Giant-Man (she grows and shrinks real good)
  • Hercules = Thor (talk funny, punches hard, god-like)
  • U.S. Agent = Captain America (shield, flag, wings on head)
  • Jocasta + Vision = Iron Man (it takes two metallic characters to match the moustachioed egomania of Tony Stark)
Question #2, then: Do you think there's any reason to build a team based on analogues to the original team? Joe Casey did the same thing with the Last Defenders recently. Is it just cutesy archetypal goofing around, or is there some narrative benefit to filling a superhero team roster with specific, pre-determined "types"?

Also out this week, "New Avengers" #51, mostly drawn by Billy Tan, but with nine Chris Bachalo pages featuring the where-is-he-now of the CSBG upset hero of the year: Dr. Strange.

Question #3: Don't Billy Tan's pages look really bad when put next to Chris Bachalo's? I actually don't dislike Tan at all -- unlike my colleagues like Chad Nevett, who think that Billy Tan is the reason the world economy is in such disarray -- but putting him next to Bachalo? That's like sprinkling Bacos on your delicious ice cream sundae, right?


Greg said...

1. Not in the littlest little tiny bit. And yes, apparently it is. Does DC still wonder why they trail Marvel?

2. No. It's just cutesy.

3. Yes. I haven't even seen Tan's pages, but I still say yes.

Well, that was easy!

Bill Reed said...

Bachalo drawing Strange? Oh man... he was born to do that. If only I gave any semblance of a crap about New Avengers.

Chad Nevett said...

1. Oh god no.

2. There's no reason, especially since the Avengers were a random collection of heroes not tied to any other group. That it worked is counter-intuitive and not to replicated purposefully.

3. Yes. But, then again, some people actually like Tan's art, so it may be misguided rather than stupid.

Preston said...

1. Maybe if they actually moved this issue back to summertime? And got a better writer?

2. I think it's a neat idea that writers sometimes play with, just because fans as a whole are always interested in some type of legacy/substitution aspect of heroes. I mean Slott even pointed it out himself, by having Tony say "all I need is a super-soldier and a god", which are obvious references to Cap America and Thor, who along with Iron Man create the Avengers Trinity. I mean, we see faux legacies all the time, like the Defenders team you mentioned; Isis, Supernova and Batwoman representing the DC Trinity in 52; and especially in Bendis' Avengers runs. To me, Slott 's team is saying "Obviously I can't use all the big guns but my team is still a pretty big deal because of what they symbolize."

3. Read, didn't buy it, thank God. Tan's art really shouldn't be compared to another artist by being in the same book, it's just not fair to him at all.

Also, I'm somewhat annoyed at the Spider-Man scene (I'll try to avoid spoilers here), as a fan of the current Spidey run it's kinda a slap in the face and I hope the writers ignore it or completely repudiate it. I'm not trying to be an angry fanboy or anything, I just think it's silly that he can completely override what is currently a major plot thread in Spidey's regular series, sure it kinda makes sense but seriously, in Slott's Avengers books you've got him juggling the many continuities connected to his characters whereas Bendis just does whatever he wants. An it's somewhat ironic too considering that this team was against the Suerhuman Registration Act.

Bruce Castle said...

1. No. I dropped JLA after fifteen issues or so and I should have dropped it a lot sooner. God knows New Avengers isn't perfect, but it is miles better than JLA, which is too bad.

2. It's bad team writing. It's the exact same thing Bendis does. His characters say as much when they're assembling the team, for God's sake! "We need a Thor."

3. Yes. I just commented about this on Chad's blog. I feel bad for Tan. Two issues in a row he's has to compete with artists much better than he is.

I really do wish JLA was better. It reminds me of that recent conversation on here about Marvel's overall better quality. I guess Marvel has the better talent in general. Still, why can't they put someone like Rucka or Simone on JLA? And have someone like Frazer Irving or Amanda Conner on art (Depending on whether you want a dark or light book)? All of those people are working at DC and are only on good to mediocre projects. Move them on up!

David Uzumeri said...

Dwayne McDuffie: I wrote a scene set at their gravesite that I recently had to quickly rewrite into something not very good.

Matthew Murray: Do you actually enjoy writing JLA? It just seems to be constant editorial rewrites and bad art.

McDuffie: No, I don’t.

Matthew E said...

1. Some stipulations before I state my answer.

I stipulate that I buy and enjoy several different comics regularly, most DC but some not.
I stipulate that I can't see that changing for any reason.
And I stipulate that I'm looking forward to Robinson's Justice League.

But the only thing I want to hear from DC is that they've got the Legion of Super-Heroes straightened out and ready to appear in at least one monthly comic starting in the next five minutes. If they do that, I'm happy and I don't care about the rest of it; if they don't do that, I'm not happy and I don't care about the rest of it. I figure I'm about a year and a half away from being happy.

2. There are tactical reasons, which are generally fairly weak. There are potentially thematic reasons, but these seldom pay off.

slasherfan said...

#1: I don't care what happens in Justice League of America. It's a big house ad, and that's been obvious for a really long time.

#2: Well, that type of team has worked well in the past, I guess, and obviously the "Avengers" might be seen by some as needing certain types or a certain mission, at least. Narratively, it could figure into stories about time and generations, but those have been done to death.

#3: I did not see the issue--looking at other work from both artists through google images, they are very different, but I cannot say one is better than the other. One style is more overt than the other, though.

Matt Jacobson (formerly Ultimate Matt) said...

1) I couldn;t care less.
2) It can be a decent idea; I thought Slott handled it well. As far as the team knows, they are a happenstance, instinctive team. It's all in the execution.
3) I actually like Tan's art, when he's not rushing it, so sue me. The two styles are apples & oranges, though.

James said...

1. No sir!

2. "Do you think there's any reason to build a team based on analogues to the original team?" - Sure, it's a fun way to acknowledge the history. I like Morrison's thing of making analogues where the desired original is unavailable (Zauriel/Hawkman in JLA, White Queen/Iceman & Angel/Angel in New X-Men). "Is there some narrative benefit to filling a superhero team roster with specific, pre-determined types?" This is a seperate question, I think. I'd say you definitely want a rang of types in there, whether that matches with the original line-up or not.

3. Billy Tan's pages look bad in any given situation. Maybe that's unfair - and yes, being put next to Bachalo isn't doing him any favours - but no way was he ready for a book of New Avengers' stature. His swift departure seems to bear this out. I love Bachalo, though.

Matt said...

1.Oh man, with the current incarnation of JLA, nothing surprises me anymore. I hadn't heard about this particular snafu, though -- that's hilarious. No, I don't care at all.

2.It's both cutesy AND unoriginal -- it's not like the quality of those original Avengers books was that great, and to strive to replicate them with watered-down versions of the original characters means you're just going to be doing a mediocre version of mediocrity. (Also -- Hank Pym is called WASP now? I find that funny on a few different levels...)

3.An iconoclast like Bachalo will ALWAYS make whatever "house style" artist he's placed next to look bad. Put him next to the artist of pretty much any Marvel or DC book and it'll be pretty much the same effect, I think.

B. Woodworth said...

I think comic book fans have a certain nostalgia for retreads. It's cozy, safe and let's be honest, even with the same trappings, characters, relationships and superpowers, you can still find new ways to futz with the old (Geoff Johns Green Lantern does this better than any current comic I can think of). Then again, nostalgia can be a dangerous thing if it sours the product. How many different and badly concieved Claremont's X-Men can we get? But, hey, occasionally someone takes that lightning in a bottle and is able to make it work.

I'm kind of a sucker for shaking things up, even if we all know the status quo is waiting right around the corner. But, hey, what do I know? I still think there's gas in the tank of the Ghost Rider, Wolverine, Hulk and Spider-Man as Fantastic Four reunion.

Jim McD said...

How is it that JLA could crash so hard and no one editorially seems to note it? I just don't get it. The removal of the Big Three actually could be interesting -- Black Canary is a huge character that was made chair and then ignored; about time she got a chance to shine -- but I don't have much evidence to suggest that will happen. Some blame DC; frankly, I think McDuffie also made an ethnically diverse squad such a priority that he forgot about building character along the way. And he hastily "corrected" some points from Meltzer that could have been really interesting.

JLA -- sadly, pretty much a mess at this point.

Anonymous said...

1. Yeah, it bothers me. Justice League should be THE book you buy for DC, and instead it's been really terrible. I could go on and rant about everything I find fault with at DC, but I don't want to waste that much time. I'll just say that while I think DiDio knows what he's doing, what he's doing isn't very good.

2. It seems to be an authorial masturbatory exercise instead of something I'd actually like to read, but who knows? maybe the book will turn out ok. however, I doubt there's going to be any real exploration of said characters. It just feels like he wants to write the avengers that he read as a kid, but he can't--so instead he just substitutes them and writes it anyway.

3. Nah, it didn't bother me that much. I guess the whole "this avengers team was against the registration act but we want Spider-Man to unmask in front of us" is pretty poor writing, but that wasn't really the question, and Art only bothers me if it's really bad, and I don't think Tan's art is really bad.