Saturday, August 30, 2008

Going Negative: 10 Relentlessly Stupid Things about "DCU: Last Will and Testament"

I am not a Brad Meltzer-hater. I liked some of the things he did with his JLA, although not all of it. I liked Identity Crisis for the first few issues, although I didn't like the last issue's ridiculous ending and the "solution" to the mystery. I liked his Green Arrow run a lot.

And I like to try to stay positive on this blog, and talk about comics I like. Even my CBR reviews, even the ones with only a star or two, tend to focus on why things didn't work rather than just mocking the failures.

But the award for WORST COMIC OF THE WEEK goes to Brad Meltzer and Adam Kubert's DC Universe: Last Will and Testament.

The comic isn't even worth a review, so instead I will just list TEN RELENTLESSLY STUPID THINGS about the issue:

1. Geo-Force holds his hand over the flame on page one, and shows that not only doesn't it hurt him, but even "the scorch mark wipes away." Thing is, he's wearing gloves. So what's the point? His gloves are scorch proof? And that's supposed to symbolize how he's becoming insensitive? Stupid.

2. It's not even labelled as a Final Crisis book, even though the conceit of the issue is that the heroes are preparing for their final battle, supposedly from Final Crisis. If not, what's the point of this comic? Yet it doesn't even make sense as an FC tie-in, because Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are all still around, and in FC, they've been taken out of the action. Why does this comic exist, again? To show some theoretical time when the heroes might face some big challenge and feel sad about it? Stupid.

3. Girls are romantic saps. The final actions of Wonder Girl and Starfire: pining for Terry Long and Dick Grayson, respectively. Oh, if only them big strong mens was around to give you a hug. Life is so hard for a lady on her own. Stupid.

4. Joe Kubert inks a handful of pages, and they look awesome (well, the Starfire page looks odd, but the others: fantastic). John Dell inks the rest. Putting Joe Kubert's inks in the same book as John Dell's accomplishes one thing: it makes John Dell look like a hack, and makes the comic look like a mess. Stupid.

5. Rocky, of the Challengers of the Unknown, is all-of-a-sudden, a priest. Why? Just 'cause Meltzer needed someone to be a priest for this story. Stupid.

6. Explicit use of Judeo-Christian rituals and customs in DC superhero comics in general is ridiculous. These characters meet angels and devils all the time. What does faith matter in a universe in which some of these beliefs can be proven as fact? If you want to play with religion in the DCU, it should bear no resemblance to any of our religions. Meltzer doesn't seem to understand that, with his confessing characters and his lack of imagination about how religion might exist in the DCU. Stupid.

7. Captain Cold leaves a note for the cops that reads, and I quote: "From your friendly $@#&'n Captain Cold." That's right, he goes to the trouble of leaving a note, and instead of actually swearing in his note, which is clearly his intent, he writes all of the comics code censored version of a swear. I would see it as a joke on Cold's part, but he doesn't strike me as a guy who would bother to mock the conventions of the comic book medium. Stupid.

8. Pa Kent is depicted as some 1950s parody of a hayseed, with a straw of wheat in his mouth as he dispenses corn-pone wisdom. It's a silly, cliche moment, from a completely different version of Superman than we've seen for the past 30 years. Stupid.

9. Geo-Force slices his own throat as a way to "defeat" Deathstroke. Stupid.

10. He does defeat Deathstroke, even as he's dying from the blood squirting out of his neck. And then Geo-Force survives. (And, since nobody seems upset that he killed Deathstroke, apparently Deathstroke survives as well.) So all his dramatic self-mutilation and whining and crying didn't even accomplish anything, but yet Black Lightning somehow thinks he's a "hero." Stupid.

This was one awful, awful comic book, folks.


Dean Trippe said...

Man, I knew I was right to skip this...but now I almost HAVE to read it.

Vanja said...

I also had problems with most of the things that you've listed. They took me out of the story.

Brad Meltzer is a great example of the strange process Marvel and DC use to pick new writers. He was clearly a fan 20 years ago, and had the fortune to both get to know Judd Winick in college and subsequently become a famous novelist. So DC pretty much lets him do what he wants.

And he's technically a capable writer, but so far his stories have consisted of love letters to the comics of his youth, retold in a slightly darker way.

He does not really seem to care about today's DCU, and the result is Last will and testament. I think that it's a safe bet that any amateur writer that is also knowledgable of the superhero lore could've put together something in this vein.

And it's not just that DC was clearly so bedazzled that Meltzer found time in his busy schedule to write a 32-page comicbook. It seems that DC gave him carte blanche to do anything he wants with it, even going so far as to let him go to the distance and feature a GeoForce/Deathstroke showdown (such as it was).

I highly doubt that any current writer of Outsiders would have such freedom to craft the story as he saw fit. In fact, I believe that's the very same reason Chuck Dixon was forced to leave Robin, and in tow, the Outsiders.

Arturo Ulises said...

"Explicit use of Judeo-Christian rituals and customs in DC superhero comics in general is ridiculous."

I agree. And to think that Grant Morrison already had written the definitive superhero religious moment: "And we pray for resurrection."

Thanks for the heads up, Tim. I won't be picking this up.

Marc Caputo said...

Oh, man. Not a good sign. I liked "Archer's Quest" well enough, although I thought the plotline was a little contrived; I really enjoyed "Identity Crisis", despite the fact that it was the bellwether for 3-4 years of "OK, folks, NOW we're going to start getting to something" - something that we really haven't gotten to as yet.

Finally, I liked his JLA in places, but structurally, not in other ways, though.

In general, I'm not a big fan of comics (or any artistic media, that is) that want me to call my dad or hug my kids when I'm done. I mean, I love to do both, but I hate feeling like I have to.

And that looks like what we have here.

But I'm with Dean - now I can't WAIT to read this.

Of course, my brother is a Meltzer-phile, so he's going to love this.

And he's getting this article 5 minutes later.

Chad Nevett said...

I skipped over this because of the reference to the "final battle," which we haven't seen. In Final Crisis, things skipped ahead and evil won, so showing the last night before that battle seems... stupid? Yeah, stupid.

Matt Jacobson said...

Meltzer doesn't seem to take Comic Books seriously. All of his comics seem to use cliche's and out-of-date, simplistic characterizations as shorthand for "comic book". It's like someone who has fond memories of fun, simple comics he read as a child, but hasn;t actually read a comic in 30 years, trying to write one today with absolutely no modern context.

Anonymous said...

You know Meltzer roomed with Judd Winnick in college. nuff said.

Timothy Callahan said...

I think he can write a fine comic, he just has really, really bad taste. That's the big problem.

Timothy Callahan said...

That goes for Winick too.

pibegardel said...

I thought the comic was going to focus on a couple of different superheroes, not just GeoForce. Seriously, who cares?

David Uzumeri said...

Brad Meltzer is a technically fine scripter - his dialogue, though sometimes maudlin, is good - but I've had huge problems with basically all of his plots. From Identity "The woman did it because she's a crazy woman and Ray Palmer was conveniently 30 minutes late to the meeting to give her time to kill Jean Loring" Crisis to JL "Two extensively trained superheroes, one an ex-secret agent, spend 18 pages discerning they are upside down" of America.

And his Terra/Geo-Force fetish/fascination is just creepy. (For more on that:

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I'm no Meltzer apologist (I thought his JLA run was absolute tripe) but there are enough flaws with your criticisms that I have to address them.

1) I think it's clear from his fingernails that he's NOT wearing gloves but that's his bare hands. That's the colorist's fault though and not Meltzer's. Geoforce never said he was insensitive either because of his new powers. He said that he could feel no pain, and that was why Black Lightning assumed he was becoming insensitive. Still kind of a silly assumption but much different from your interpretation.

2) it's not labelled as a Final crisis tie-in because it doesn't tie-in. I know you could make the argument that there have been other tie-ins that have less to do with the crossover propers than this one does, but that isn't the point of this story. The point is how the DCU reacts to a crisis. Meltzer isn't mentioning Final Crisis at all because it's not germane to the story he wants to tell. That doesn't mean Final Crisis isn't happening. Supes, Wondy and such are all still around because if you recall even as early as FC #1, there were already tell-tale signs of the coming crisis such as the red skies. This isn't happening right after the Anti-Life Equation hit the net, but way before then.

3) Wonder Girl isn't just longing for husband but showing Diana that hope must come in all forms and circumstances. Starfire is a bit too lost puppy for my tastes too but that's Meltzer trying to expand on her and Nightwing's relationship as established in Identity Crisis. For the most part though I don't agree with Meltzer's characterization of females in general and understand your point.

4) I agree that having two inkers makes the thing look like a mess but seriously I think Joe Kubert's style is way outdated here. Maybe if this comic was Skaar or Warlord or something but his style does not fit the modern DCU landscape that Meltzer is using. Joe Dell on the other hand turns Adam Kubert's sketchy style into more streamlined and clean images.

5) Rocky isn't a priest, it's obvious from his attire and dialogue with Grace. He's a religious advisor, and Meltzer explained his rationale in an interview: when you've been in the situations the Challengers have and are time after time again basically living on borrowed time, finding religion is plausible outcome.

6) Meltzer isn't the first writer to dabble heavily in established religion in the DCU. Look at the Spectre. A more modern example is in Infinite Crisis, how a bunch of heroes gathered in a church for one last congregation. Sure Meltzer is stupid but then so is every other DC writer, huh?

7) I think this is more a problem of censorship than Meltzer actually intending for Cold to write that. He couldn't have put "fucking" of course and fricking would've sounded stupid. A bar over the word would've looked just as ridiculous as a bunch of symbols. The best method would've been an officer reading the note aloud, which would've made us assume that he actual put something more than symbols. Anyways my point is I don't think meltzer realized the obstacle of censorship, and that bit ended up that way. I definitely don't think Meltzer intended Cold to write a bunch of random symbols instead of actually swearing.

8) I don't really disagree here.

9) This is where I don't think you read the comic closely. Geoforce didn't attempt suicide as a tactic to defeat Deathstroke. he did it because he felt hopeless and actually wanted to die and ruin Deathstroke's calculated plans involving him. That's why when Deathstroke rushes to him he states in his caption: "...I see unexpected opportunity." and stabs him.

10)It's obvious that deathstroke is alive because Black Lightning keeps mentioning it in the hospital. Again, you make it sound like you missed quite a few details. And Black Lightning thinks he's a hero because Geoforce DIDN'T kill Deathstroke (though we as readers know he meant to). And it wasn't pointless, Meltzer was trying to build a layer of tradegy unto GF and the fact that he almost killed Deathstroke but didn't will give him another interesting character point to develop in future stories. Plus, DC would never let Meltzer kill off Deathstroke and at the same time it would be ridiculous if GF never did attempt revenge for his sister consider his personality and nature.

Timothy Callahan said...

Trust me, I completely understood the comic. Geo-Force did slit his throat to "defeat" Deathstroke, 100%. That was his strategy, and it was meant as a moral victory of some kind, and then he turned it into a tactical one.

But it's a terrible comic no matter how much you try to justify any of its parts.

And if you think John Dell is a better inker than Joe Kubert, you are a crazy person. Kubert is one of the greatest artists to ever work in comics. John Dell. He can make stuff look tight, and completely average.

Unknown said...


Tim Callahan has left me speachless. I'm not saying I agree or disagree with any points -- I haven't read the issue. But... just...


David Uzumeri said...

John Dell managed to make Adam Kubert look like Ed Benes. I wonder how much of the harshness of the art on Morrison's JLA run comes down to him and not Porter.

Also, preston, you're crazy, the Joe Kubert pages were the best parts of the comic.

Anonymous said...

Hello Timothy,

I liked your book about Morrison and your blog, but your reaction to Preston is really disappointing.
I think critics should not be insulting to people with different opinions.

Joe Kubert inks are SO terrible, I can't believe that you or anyone liked them if you didn't know that they are from him. It's just for his name or his sons that such a sloppily work is published.

So now for you I'm a crazy person,too.
What a pity!

Timothy Callahan said...

Actually, I didn't even look at the credits when I was reading. I thought, "wait, this stuff looks like Joe Kubert! He's involved with this???" and then I checked the credits, to see his name on the inks. So, yeah, I liked it based on how it looks, not based on any preconceived notion.

It's okay to be a crazy person, don't worry. If I really wanted to insult someone, you'd know it.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't trying to justify anything, I just wanted to point out what i believed were flaws in your criticism. And you respond by reiterated that it's a terrible comic witout any further justification or argument for your original justifications. And it's fine to personally think that the Joe Kubert pages are better based on personal taste. Art is quite subjective. But a convincing argument that does not make.

marcwrz said...

I thought the comic was rather weak overall but I will admit, seeing c-list hero Geo-Force thinking he has some bad-ass plan to take down Deathstroke...only to realize its been tried and has failed before worked for me.

Slitting his throat is not his strategy, its Geo-Force giving up. He knows he can't win, and he's just a pawn so he takes a coward's way out and to spite Deathstroke, hence "I see unexpected opportunity" and he impales Slade, as the assassin rushes in without thinking.

So when Black Lightning calls him a hero for bringing down deathstroke, without killing the villian, its pure irony since Geo went for the kill and was taking the coward's way out.

So basically, here's how this should have been.

a Geo-Force one-shot or an issue of Justice League as a stand-alone and cut out the rest of the DCU.

It'd go from a 4/10 to at least a 6.5 if it had to be honest.

Timothy Callahan said...

That's cool, preston, I totally respect your opinion. I was just teasing a bit.

I completely disagree with you, of course, but that's fine.

I'm not going to defend my description of what's "stupid" about the comic. That would be like explaining why a joke is supposed to be funny.

James said...

I flicked through this in the store; what the hell is happening in that page where he swings at Deathstroke, but misses, and Deathstroke spits on his sword, or something? Is it just that Geo-Guy is as big a loser as I think he is?

Anonymous said...

I'm not trying to start anything either Timothy. And it's not like I didn't think it was a mediocre story, it was kind of stupid to focus on Geo-Force of all people as the world is theoretically ending. And I understand your analogy, different people find different jokes funny in different ways.