Monday, January 23, 2012

Wonder Woman #1 – 4, More


Later, on the beach, the Amazons burn their dead, or the first batch, anyway. It’s night. Many surviving Amazons look on. So does Zola. Hermes. Wonder Woman.

And Strife!

Strife?!

She’s human size now—she was gigantic, before, during the massacre—and she’s hangin’ out with the crowd to watch the funeral pyres burn.

What?!

She caused all these deaths!

Is it me? Or is it friggin’ inexplicable why she’s standing right there and no one who is watching the flames consume the body of their sister, mother, daughter, friend or comrade is doing anything?! Not any of the mighty Amazon warriors, not Queen Hippolyta…

…and not Wonder Woman!
You might say what can they do? She’s a god!

Well, seems to me I just saw a single arrow do some serious damage to her fellow-god Hermes.

Maybe that was a special, magical arrow, pooped by Hera herself. But, if so, nobody let me know. There is so much the creators of this thing don’t let you know. But, it doesn’t matter. If one of those burning corpses was my sister, I sure as hell would plant an arrow or two in that Strife bitch, consequences be damned.

And I’m not a mighty warrior. I’m a peaceful guy. But I’d be an enraged berserker right about then.

And I cannot believe that Wonder Woman, the Wonder Woman I know, who is noble and surpassingly courageous, would be deterred from action by any odds.

This is someone wearing a costume somewhat reminiscent of Wonder Woman’s. This cannot be Wonder Woman.

The real Wonder Woman kicks Strife’s heinous ass and brings her to justice. Or dies in the attempt. And don’t bet on her dying.

But, this impostor and her fellow Amazons seem to have a pretty laid back attitude about the massacre.

Dialogue for the Amazons I wish to contribute:

“Boy, Strife sure fooled us!”

“Yep, we were killing each other!”

“Because of her. But technically, she didn’t actually kill anyone.”

“Nope, it was all our fault. Silly us.”

“The gods are always pranking us, those scamps! But, that’s the way it goes.”

“You’re right. I’m a little miffed, but…hey, do you think her dress is made of electrical tape?”

Alone, on her knees in the city square, Hippolyta laments: “Diana…my child…I will spend a lifetime…to take back this day.”

What? She’s sad, I get that, but…what the hell does that mean? I don’t know.

The next day. More funeral pyres are being built.

Aleka blames WW-impostor for the many Amazon dead. She’s the one who brought the “musk,” Hermes, and the mortal, Zola, to Paradise Island.

What exactly do the musk and the mortal have to do with the massacre? And how is it WW-impostor’s fault?

Hmm….

Well, I suppose WW-impostor thought that Paradise Island would be a good place to hide Zola from Hera, and a good place for Hermes to recuperate. So…I guess…if it wasn’t for the musk and the mortal, WW-impostor wouldn’t have come home, and therefore, Strife might have gone to London for her stated purpose: “…to embrace my little sister.” Therefore, Strife’s explosive arrival and the ensuing massacre are little sister WW-impostor’s fault. Sort of. You think that’s what dimbulb Aleka meant?

I think Aleka is just annoyed by the fact that WW-impostor bested her with effortless ease three times by my count.

Aleka calls WW-impostor “Clay.”

Strife, who is gigantic again, is lounging on the beach where more funeral pyres are being built and bunches more bodies are being gathered for burning. Being gigantic is apparently a thing Strife can do, and Wikipedia confirms that Eris/Strife “…is only a little thing at first, but thereafter strides on the earth with her head striking heaven.” Strife laughs at WW-impostor being called Clay.

Aleka and other Amazons whine a little to Strife about causing the slaughter and now, mocking them. They whine. That’s all.
Looming Strife, quick with the quips, laughs at them and makes a snarky reply.

Pause.

I keep wondering about Paradise Island. Per Hera: “That cockless coop, improperly named….” Good line! Paradise Island is populated only by women, the Amazons. The Amazons live as if in ancient Greek times. They practice combat a lot. They are in constant preparation for war. With swords, bows, spears, axes, etc.

War against whom?!

Couldn’t one B-2 erase Paradise Island easily? Couldn’t a SEAL team with a Marine amphibious assault force behind them wipe out these classical age woman warriors without breaking a sweat? Who are they training to fight? Jason and the Argonauts?

Another thing: WW-impostor’s alleged creation from clay seems to be a one-off, so presumably they need male input in one way or another to make more Amazons….

…but males are “musk,” which is despised.

Okay. Can’t wait to find out how making new little Amazons works. But I’m not holding my breath waiting for the info.

We are expected to simply accept whatever we are shown about Paradise Island. I guess anything we’re not shown is none of our business.

Anyway….

Later, in Amazon Town, WW-impostor chats with still-giant Strife. It’s all cool. Polite. Friendly enough.

At first. Then, WW-impostor, Hermes, Zola and Strife get into some strife about how people can be cruel. Like, oh, say, Strife.

Strife reveals that daddy Zeus, when drunk once, let her in on the fact that he was WW-impostor’s father.

Hippolyta and entourage show up. Hippolyta admits that she had a tryst with Zeus, got pregnant and bore WW-impostor. She made up a story about WW-impostor being made from clay and animated by the gods as part of a cover up to keep Hera from finding out.
WW-impostor is shocked and angry. I’m not quite sure why. Her thought process, I suppose, goes like this: “Let’s see…my father was the king of the gods, I was conceived and born in the normal way, and I’m not actually a glob of clay brought to life. My mother and some co-conspirators lied to me about the whole deal. Made from clay. That seemed reasonable. I bought it. But it’s a lie! I’m so upset.”

Anyway….

WW-impostor is angry and storms away.
She smashes a lot of trees and stuff on the way to the beach. Comic book characters who are angry or upset usually smash stuff. Crushing bricks is popular. It was cool the first time Stan and Steve’s Spider-Man did it.

It’s dark by now.

On the beach, Aleka and a horde of Amazons who have, one would guess, spent the day building pyres and stacking corpses on them see WW-impostor arriving.

Why is she going to the beach? Is she going to swim to London?

Aleka accuses WW-impostor of bringing shame to their island. WW-impostor slugs her. Fourth time she’s humbled Aleka, the big, stupid, punching-bag chump who never learns.

WW-impostor ignites the funeral pyres by blowing flames from a torch to all the pyres with super-breath like Superman of the 1960’s.

She says, “The only shame on this island is mine.” She’s leaving and never coming back, taking the shame with her, as it were. And she is no longer “Diana,” the oddly Roman name Hippolyta gave her, nor is she “Clay,” because she wasn’t/isn’t—she is Wonder Woman, she says. There is significance to this pronouncement that escapes me.

At some unspecified time, Bright-eyes strides through a stupidly unlikely firefight in Darfur, unconcerned, apparently unnoticed by the combatants. He enters a stupidly unlikely bar. The only living being there is an elderly guy called “War.” At some point earlier, I forget where, Ares was mentioned, and in the same balloon, called War. So, it’s Ares, or War. A god.

Makes sense, I suppose, that Bright-eyes would find War hanging around in Darfur. Drinking heavily. I guess presiding over humans slaughtering each other troubles even War. Bright-eyes and War talk.
Cut to a nightclub in London. WW-impostor is there, in civvies, listening to the band with a seltzer and grapefruit juice in hand. She looks, grim, serious.

Hermes and Zola are there, too. Oh, my gods, Strife is also there!
Why not? On Paradise Island, this pithless pretender, WW-impostor, was willing to hang around and chat with Strife, who was responsible for the deaths of many Amazons. Why not go clubbing with her?

No one notices that Hermes is blue, or has bird feet. No one in this comic book would notice winged monkeys flying out of his butt. Strife is flesh-colored in the first panel of this sequence, thereafter, for a while, she’s blue. No one notices. No one would notice flaming hippos leaping out of her nose.

WW-impostor is cold and snotty to Strife. Well, that’s a step in the right direction. Strife is unctuously snide. WW-impostor is annoyed.
Cut to Paradise Island. There’s a nasty storm going on. Hippolyta knows what it means. Hera has come.

Pause.

Let me get this straight. Hippolyta knew that Hera was somehow aware—nobody told me how—that Zola and the embryo she carries were on Paradise Island. She didn’t think it was worth mentioning to WW-impostor or anyone except Dessa, Hippolyta’s assistant. She didn’t say, “Hey, you know, Diana, it really isn’t safe here, why don’t you give your buddy Batman a ring and see if you can hang out in the Batcave for a while. Maybe that nice Green Lantern fellow will whip up a cloaking thingamadoodle to keep you from being scryed upon.”

No one wondered why Strife, Hera’s legitimate daughter, just happened to turn up when she did. And wouldn’t it at least occur to someone that she might have her mother’s interests at heart?

Nah.

Momma Hera heard Strife’s revelation about WW-impostor being Zeus’s bastard child over the scryer! I wonder if Hera is pissed that Strife had been withholding that tidbit of information from her?

If so, it’s not mentioned.

Strife is aware that Hera is tuned in, but either confident that mommy won’t spank her or willing to risk it for some reason.

And why did Strife bring it up when she did? She likes to cause trouble, yes, got it. But, presumably she’d known this info for a while. Why then, at that particular moment? Maybe there’s a reason.

There’s probably a reason.

There are very few reasons set forth for anything in this book.

We readers will probably never know why Strife felt that was just the right time to play that card. It came at a good time for the creators to stir their little stew pot, though. That’s the reason, I bet.

Again, I marvel at the fact that scryer-equipped Hera knows only what the creators need her to know. She found out about Zola. But not WW-impostor. Surely she knew of Hippolyta and her daughter. Did she buy the made-of-clay story? Did it ever occur to her to wonder just which gods animated the clay baby? Can they even do that?

Everyone in this book knows only what the creators need them to know. WW-impostor and even Hermes apparently don’t know Hera can scry. Or else they’d be in the Batcave under a glowing, green cloaking thingamadoodle.

They know Hera has ways of finding things out, like about Zeus knocking up some skinny girl in rural Virginia. How do they suppose Hera did that?

They don’t suppose. Nobody in this book thinks. They just dance when the creators pull their strings.

Anyway….

Hera takes a big axe and goes out in the rain to confront Hera. Hera is wearing only her peacock feather cape again. Uh-oh.

Back to the nightclub in London.

WW-impostor continues being cold to Strife. The subject of Hera comes up. Strife puts her hand on Zola’s tummy and makes a remark about extracting “it,” the child in the making. She’s kidding, I think. Maybe.

WW-impostor takes it seriously enough to pin Strife’s offending hand to a table using a jagged, broken champagne flute.

Looks like I was right that arrows could have done her some damage. Strife leaves bleeding and in a snit.
Back to Paradise Island. Hera is furious with Hippolyta. Hippolyta gives Hera the axe. She brought it for Hera to use to cut her, Hippolyta’s head off.

The Amazons come to the defense of their Queen.
Oh, so now they’re ready to try firing some arrows at a god.

Hera relents a little. She decides not to cut Hippolyta’s head off. But….
Back to London, in WW-impostor’s home, Zola and WW-impostor talk about their troubles. Zola can’t go home again. WW-impostor can’t let her. Because of Hera? I guess WW-impostor thinks it’s safer here in London, out clubbing with gods, including Hera’s legitimate daughter who she has just royally pissed off. Then again, WW-impostor thought Paradise Island would be safe. Not so much, as it turns out, but WW-impostor doesn’t know that yet.

Talk of home and family makes WW-impostor decide to go back to Paradise Island. Right now.
Remember, the big, emotional exit, taking with her “the shame?”

Guess it wasn’t that big a deal after all.

False drama. Never mind.

She trades Hermes her sword and shield for his kerykeion, the staff with the snakes thing. He didn’t have it with him when we first saw him, he didn’t have it when he was brought to the Paradise Island, but later, there it was, conveniently serving as a crutch. Oh, these gods are tricky.

The kerykeion works like the key Hermes gave Zola. It teleports WW-impostor back to Paradise Island.

Hera has, apparently, turned Hippolyta to stone and all the Amazons to snakes. WW-impostor apologizes to her stone mother for leaving in a huff. No reaction whatsoever to the Amazons’ being snaked or Mom’s being stoned.
In Darfur, Bright-eyes and War finish their chat. Either it was a looong chat or the creators arbitrarily broke it in two and stuck it at either end of the rest of the stuff.
Despite his ad hoc oracles’ warning that there is trouble ahead that will not end “good” for him, Bright-eyes is apparently interested in trying to usurp his father’s throne. War doesn’t want to be a player. He’ll “sit this one out.”

That’s it for #1 – 4.


Conclusions

Well, I made it through all four and didn’t throw any of them away in disgust, so there’s that.

I think I nailed it yesterday. I said,”…the creators are going for “moments” rather than story, sound and fury rather than substance…and some puerile titillation.”

They succeed pretty well at those things. Nice moments and clever bits happen along regularly. The occasional good line is said. Intense emotions, battles, and drama abound. Then there’s the T&A. It’s not too over the top, though.

The art is appealing and usually conveys information well, including subtleties. When it doesn’t show something clearly, it seems to be unwisely on purpose.

However….

This collection of events makes no sense. The behavior of the characters makes no sense. Very little justification of anything is offered, not that the events and the behavior of the characters could be justified.

And it’s not Wonder Woman. Carol A. Strickland likened it to Xena. Not a bad call, but Xena: Warrior Princess makes a lot more sense.

I don’t like New 52 Wonder Woman, the comic book. The moments and such aren’t enough to overcome the irrationality and occasional stupidity of the characters and the ill-conceived, logic-free situations they muddle through.

And of course, creators Azzarello and Chiang make not the slightest nod to the fact that this collection of events is being published in a periodical format. Issues just start right into the latest batch of events.
I tried that myself today. Anybody notice? I just picked up the review from where I left it and pressed on.

If anyone tunes in to this blog for the first time today, I wonder if they’ll be confused. Think they’ll have the patience to check out previous posts?


NEXT: Who Are These Guys?

No, not Azzarello and Chiang

157 comments:

Anonymous said...

The bird guy in the bar, unnoticed, reminds me of a Punisher comic from a few years back (not written by Ennis)

Punisher is buying a hotdog from a street vendor, or a newspaper, or something - and he's wearing the big black shirt with the giant white skull on it - and nobody notices!!

Anonymous said...

I just read issue # 5 from last week and I hate to tell you it doesn't get any better. I'm grateful for your review. I read all four issues (well, five now) and was thoroughly confused by the plot, character motivations, etc. All the things you mentioned. I thought it was just me and my relaxed brain so I'm glad to see it's not. By the way Jim, you should definitely read and review the new Daredevil run that Mark Waid is doing. This is the best comic book being published right now and this is the first time in years I've actually been excited for a new issue to come out. I would love to see your take!

Anonymous said...

Writing for the "wow" and "kewl" moments is definitely in vogue right now. Many of the most-celebrated writers are doing it

Marvelman said...

"Is it me? Or is it friggin’ inexplicable why she’s standing right there and no one who is watching the flames consume the body of their sister, mother, daughter, friend or comrade is doing anything?! Not any of the mighty Amazon warriors, not Queen Hippolyta…"

Y'know, Jim, that is a really good point. I think I noticed this in passing but didn't stop to ponder it perhaps because I have grown too accustomed to comic book stories not making sense. But really Diana and them Amazons' behavior makes no sense given that Strife finished slaughtering a whole bunch of Amazons.

Defiant1 said...

Jim,

This update on your blog was tough to read because I lost interest in the comic when you started reviewing #4. The samples of art and dialogue were the turn off, not anything critical you said.

I don't see anything about this story that warrants or requires a visual element. I see nothing that justifies the time and expense of coloring the story.

I wouldn't look for this comic in a quarter bin let alone pay $2.99.

cesare said...

Hi Jim,

well, I think we get the point here, there are some bad / lazy attempts at storytelling going on in our funnies. I am really frustrated because my favourite characters are in books that are not worth reading. Spiderman, the Avengers (who are the Avengers now anyway?) FF, the list is long. But there IS some great stuff out there. So, how about walking us through a well written, beautifully illustrated comic?

I vote for Ultimates - vol 1 or 2. Maybe the best stuff I've read since Dark Knight. (All Star Superman is a close second). You want to go more recent? Invincible NEVER disappoints, Boom studios Planet of the Apes is great, but maybe just because I love P of A. ANyone else have a suggestion?

I'll say it again, I LOVE this blog.

Anonymous said...

Sigh.

Anyway.

Nah.

Good Grief.

Anonymous said...

cesare - Omega the Unknown (2007) and Winter Men were both brilliant. As far as superhero stuff - whew, Maybe Cooke's 6-issue run on Superman Confidential, or Richard Morgan's 2 Black Widow minis

Marvelman said...

Sigh. Yeah. Jim, I doubt very much that you wound enjoy Millar's Ultimates. But, if you want to reade something fun, read the first trade of Geoff John's "Stars and Stripe." I'm not suggesting you review it. But is a lot of fun, and it is extremely clear. Nothing edgy or cynical about it, just good old fashioned story-telling. It's the most fun I have had reading a comic book since Louise Simonson left Power Pack.

jimshooter said...

RE: "...you should definitely read and review the new Daredevil run that Mark Waid is doing. This is the best comic book being published right now and this is the first time in years I've actually been excited for a new issue to come out. I would love to see your take!"

I gave the first issue of Waid's Daredevil a brief but heartfelt rave a while back. You're right, I should check it out again. I'll pick up a copy soon.

buddy said...

Was just gonna say Wintermen and Omega the Unknown! Those plus All-Star Superman are my faves of the last few years. Only book I'm collecting now is Spaceman; I don't see Azzarello doing the sorts of things there he's getting grilled here for WW. I care about the characters, the concept is interesting, the stylized dialogue suits the concept and I find myself going over the art just for sheer enjoyment. Not mindblowing, but solid. Just read the 1st Planet of the Apes trade, yeah it's great, even for a non-Ape nut. Daredevil is good, a little too self-consciously hip for my taste. The art has some nice dynamics but not my cup of tea for characterization.

Cerebus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cerebus said...

The new Wonder Woman was on my dwindling DC "New 52" list but the last two posts really put it into perspective for me as to why I stopped reading the title with issue #2 even though the art is lovely; I just do not care one whit about the characters! I'll stick with OMAC and Frankenstein till the bloody end of those titles, and Animal Man and Swamp Thing are still holding my interest, but that's it.

And all of this talk about the new Daredevil! Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be available digitally and I'm NOT going to go to a comic store to buy something else to clutter up my shelves. Your loss, Marvel.

buddy said...

Jim, do you remember whenabouts that Daredevil rave was? Can't seem to find it here.

Anonymous said...

Definitely digging Spaceman so far. Risso is one of the best pencillers in the biz. As you said, I find myself looking at panels repeatedly - which I think is a sign of good storytelling with pencils

I'm still digging Scalped and Butcher Baker (Image) - but those are on the profane side for superhero fans

Anonymous said...

buddy - it is here

http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/09/letter-column-rant-and-few-observations.html


it is very brief

Anonymous said...

keeping each individual issue accessible was important back when new readers picked up random issues off spinner racks. now comics are published as periodicals by dint of tradition and novelty. new readers dont wander into comic shops, which is only place comics are sold in periodical form. vertigo offers the first issue of most of their series online for free. that is how new readers are discovering comics. those are the jumping on points.

and most blogs have side bars that link to important posts that help bring new readers up to speed. they dont treat each new post as a potential jumping on post for new readers.

i know nostalgia is a very important thing in the comics industry in a america, but this fetish about entry points is getting out of hand.

buddy said...

Anon 10:52, thanks!

peter said...

The best single issue of any comic to come out in the past year was the Batman Inc. issue about Man-of-Bats on the reservation, #7 I think it was. If you've ever been kind of bothered by the fact that Batman is a rich man who gets his jollies punching up the poors, then this issue is for you.

Every so often Grant Morrison is firing on all cylinders with a great artist and just puts out a perfect issue of Batman. It more than makes up for the occasional misstep and the frequently difficult to follow long term plot.

The best current series is Mike Carey's Unwritten. I can't recommend it highly enough. Comics just don't get any better. The series synthesizes comics, classics and popular children's literature into a really unique take on the metafictional genre of Sandman and Fables. It's an extremely well written and drawn long form serial whose unfolding central mystery gradually unveils more of the intended theme of the book. Just amazing work.

It'd be interesting to see Jim review some genuinely good work, but I've found his discussion of things that don't work to be pretty interesting.

Dusty said...

I'd love for Jim to review modern critically acclaimed stuff from Marvel, like Brubaker and Epting's Winter Soldier story in Captain America, featuring Bucky's return, or Millar and Hitch's Ultimates. (at least the first 6-7 issues of the 1st volume)

cesare said...

Anonymous - what, seriously, the Ultimates don't rate? C'mon, it was gorgeous, and a great romp with well defined characters.

Wintermen? Really? I will have to re-read, and I will look for your other mentions.

Daniel K said...

Clearly DC is desperate for new readers, hence the whole relaunch with massive publicity thing. They are therefore not content to rely on the dwindling, ageing audience that goes into comic book shops, pace all those who seem to be claiming that they are & so should not worry about attracting new readers into those shops.

And yet having done their big relaunch, they do little to keep readers coming back, and nothing to keep attracting yet more new readers. Entry points are not nostalgia, as has been stated repeatedly by other commentators and Mr. Shooter himself THEY ARE ABSOLUTELY STANDARD in every medium bar comics.

But it's not just sloppy story telling or poor editing to omit entry points. It also displays appalling business sense. "Explain things to new readers? Hell no... let 'em figure it out for themselves. Or they can pay $20-30 for this 120 page TPB and catch up that way. But which TPB? Dunno... can't be bothered explaining it. Let them figure it out! Hey, buy my totally confusing crossover mega series!"

I am amazed & appalled, given the huge success of superhero movies in the last decade or so, at the continued failure of DC and Marvel to attract new readers. They are the Astonishing Anti-business Men, the Uncanny Ineptitudes, etc, etc.

'Nuff said.

Phil Bloom said...

Perhaps I am alone, but I just (days ago, in fact) finished reading The Ultimates for the first time, and I didn't like it. It took nearly 10 issues for anything to really happen. I also was very confused on characters and who they were, finding myself turning to the web for answers.

Also, I had a difficult time distinguishing (not visually) the differences between the characters. They all had smart, pop cultural, 'hip' quips. Even Cap, who just awoke from a decades long slumber, was up on the current lingo.

In addition, every issue ended with the 'big reveal'. Problem is, they weren't revealing in anything other than a glamour shot "seen" coming pages before.

Anonymous said...

"So, how about walking us through a well written, beautifully illustrated comic?"

[MikeAnon:] OH MY GOD HOW ABOUT NOT???

You know what this is starting to remind me of? This reminds me of both times I saw Stan Lee in person. I'm sitting there in the audience listening to people ask him question after question about the MOVIES soon to come out. And I'm sitting there thinking, "Are you fucking kidding me? This man has written literally thousands of comics over the last 50 years, and you're asking him questions about things he DIDN'T EVEN WORK ON?"

Does anybody want to hear the rest of the story of how VALIANT got stolen away? Or how DEFIANT's zero issues got turned into trading card sets? Or what was in the works for BROADWAY's first big crossover event? Or any of the myriad other things that only Jim Shooter knows but can't tell us because he's reviewing shit other people are doing?

Mr. Shooter, if you're enjoying doing these reviews and want to keep this up, by all means, knock yourself out. Your blog, your call. But the saying, "Every time a person dies, a library burns down," gets more and more relevant for each of us every day, and I just think it's a damn shame to spend any further time on books that are Dewey-Decimal'd on somebody else's shelf.

We've heard a dozen times, "It's in the queue." Here's my challenge: Post the queue! Show us what everyone is missing out on because people want to see reviews. And then let's see if anyone still thinks that reviewing titles that are at most 2 or 3 levels above whatever Rob Liefield is sleep-crapping out these days is really the best use of your time. [--MikeAnon]

Matt Adler said...

I couldn't disagree with you more, Mike. We've seen how it's done wrong; I too would like Jim to show us an example of a modern comic that does it right (I agree, Waid's DD is a good bet). I find these breakdowns very instructive and insightful, but we've seen what Jim feels doesn't work, so now I would like to see what he feels does.

As for that other stuff you suggested, to be honest, I'm not that interested in hearing about business deals gone bad, unless they involve the creative side of things (for instance, I think it would be very interesting to see the emails on the aborted Korvac project).

cesare said...

well, sure, we want to hear everything Jim has to share with us. But if and when Jim wants to share his knowledge of the craft again, why not a good book?

I for one enjoy good director commentaries on DVDs, peeking behind the creative thought (and practical) processes of making a movie, and by extension, any form of entertainment, and frankly, especially comics.

Phil, really, Ultimates didn't work for you huh? To each his own of course . . .

Dave James O'Neill said...

I'd like Shooter to review something outside his comfort zone. Why bother review Daredevil when he's friends with Mark Waid? I'd suggest Punishermax, but I think his head would explode at the concept of a comic with an "explicit" warning on it.

Robert Kinosian said...

I'm so happy to see two people here mentioning Omega the Unknown as a comic worth reading. It's one of my favorite comics of the last several years, and I'm glad that I'm not the only one with that opinion!

buddy said...

Just re-read Omega, totally stands up. I'm a big Gerber fan, and I loved seeing someone take his ideas and somehow clean them up and make them even weirder at the same time.

Defiant1 said...

I agree with Mikeanon.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the new Omega, but I will check it out on the recommendation of you gentlemen. I love Gerber's stuff. He really was a unique creator.

Neil

ELS said...

What the f---?

I grant that Wonder Woman is a very hard character to get right (as is Captain America... and Superman, I guess, so those patriotic characters must be difficult.)

I understand that Wonder Woman has had more different origins than I've had hot meals.

But a "jump on" point should make sense to NEW readers. Hell, from your reviews, I can't even tell what Wonder Woman's powers are. And she is supposedly in the Justice League - any mention of them in these books? Any mention of this mess in Justice League?

I'm still thinking that DCnU is a great jump off point, and from what I've heard from a couple of retailers, it's happening. Bad things are in store for DC... and thus, for all of comics.

Mr. Shooter, thanks for your reviews, and thank you again for the class and quality you strove to bring to comics. How they need someone in charge with those talents today!

I remain,
Sincerely,
Eric L. Sofer
The Silver Age Fogey
x<]:o){

Anonymous said...

"You might say what can they do? She’s a god!

Well, seems to me I just saw a single arrow do some serious damage to her fellow-god Hermes.

Maybe that was a special, magical arrow, pooped by Hera herself. But, if so, nobody let me know."


The writer did let you know, though. I believe that you responded to the sequence with something like "what's that supposed to mean?" It was the part in the last issue where they're talking about the impossibility of what's been done to Hermes (that is: injuring him). They even attribute the injury to weapons from the gods in the very next line.

I generally enjoy your blog, but feel like you're sort of showboating on some of these reviews, going out of your way to avoid using critical thinking to deduce what's going on.

Jay Boaz said...

Have you ever taken a look at the Thor: The Mighty Avenger series Jim? It was sadly canceled after 8 issues, but I think the low sales were due to a lack of proper marketing of the book; readers didn't know if it was in continuity or not, which was a reason I initially stayed away. At a glance I didn't care for the art style, but when I actually read the story I completely changed my tune, the art is fantastic.

I think you would really enjoy it; each issue can be read pretty much as a stand alone, but tie together into a larger story. It's a different take on Thor that wouldn't work so well in the regular Marvel universe but within it's own world the book is very charming, heartfelt, and a great read.

Greygor said...

JimShooter Said "I gave the first issue of Waid's Daredevil a brief but heartfelt rave a while back. You're right, I should check it out again. I'll pick up a copy soon."

If I may recommend Daredevil #7

I think it may please you.

Greygor said...

Anonymous Said "The writer did let you know, though. I believe that you responded to the sequence with something like "what's that supposed to mean?" It was the part in the last issue where they're talking about the impossibility of what's been done to Hermes (that is: injuring him). They even attribute the injury to weapons from the gods in the very next line."

That's fair but then we get Strife injured by a Glass.

To be fair Jim has me questioning myself, because I remember enjoying reading these issues. He seems to have seen much that I just skimmed past, maybe that's it, maybe I skim read comics rather than actually Reading them. I may need to go back and read them in a block.

Anonymous said...

@JayBoaz Why would you care if it was in continuity? Do you mean you would have checked it out sooner if you knew it wasn't?

But yeah, Chris Samnee is pretty awesome, and Jim already complimented his art while reviewing a Captain America + Bucky issue.

Brent E said...

Jim,

Still loving the recaps. Please continue to mix them in with the great stories on your blog.

I ended up trying out about 40 of the new 52 comics. Wonder Woman didn't make it past the first issue for me however, as I just didn't care about any of the characters when I was done reading it. I know others have mentioned them, but I'd say the ones that really hooked from the beginning were Animal Man, OMAC and Superboy (at least for me).

However, the writer I think does the best job at successfully being new reader friendly each issue is probably Christos Gage (also mentioned by other readers on here). It's all the more impressive in my mind, as Avengers Academy (and before it, Avengers: The Initiative) tends to get caught up in whatever's going on at Marvel at the time (Feat Itself, Siege, Dark Reign, Secret Invasion, etc.).

I'm curious as to if you'd view his writing the same way over a critical review such as this.

Pallas said...

"I'd like Shooter to review something outside his comfort zone. Why bother review Daredevil when he's friends with Mark Waid? "

I agree.

We already know what Jim will think of Daredevil, the critique will be boring and predictable.

Jim should review something critically acclaimed or popular that's outside his comfort zone, maybe one of the higher selling indie books.

Morning Glories? Skullkickers? I Kill Giants? Invincible? Stuff of Legends? Jersey Gods?

Maybe a manga like Dead Note or One Piece?

Absolutely nothing by Mark Waid!

Kid said...

Jim, with your kind indulgence, may I alert your readers to a related topic over on the pages of my own blog? The post is entitled 'What's wrong with American comicbooks these days? Lemme tell you...', and can be found on http://kidr77.blogspot.com - hope you don't mind the plug.

Petrus Magnus said...

@Kid:

Liked the article very much. Thanks for the 'plug' :D

@Pallas

«We already know what Jim will think of Daredevil, the critique will be boring and predictable.»

I don't share your opinion. I think it can be an opportunity for Jim to show what is being done right and what he thinks could have been done better. No script/comic/novel/piece of literature is perfect.

@MikeAnon

I share your desire to see Jim posting more "historical" material on his blog, not only of his time in Valiant, Defiant and Broadway, but also some insights of his about major stories/plotlines published in his tenure as Marvel EiC (hint: Avengers #200 would be a good starting point).

Josh said...

The entry point issue is an interesting one. There seems to be some differing opinions about what an entry point is, IMHO.

I don't think Mr. Shooter (can I call you Jim?) is saying every issue has to spend 1-3 pages recapping what has gone before, just that when you open the comic as a new reader you can figure out what's going on. The characters are identified quickly and the premise of the book is established.

There are a lot of writers who "write for the trade" essentially, and only provide that kind of entry point at the start of their 6 issue arc, and don't come back to it until the next arc begins. The level of decompression is pushing aside single issue stories and putting higher barriers for a casual reader to pick up an issue and start reading a title. But there are ways to do it without seriously disrupting your story.

I just picked up a run of Busiek & Bagley's Thunderbolts (first 3 years) and every single one provided an entry for the new reader. Sure, reading issue after issue in a row, the quickie recaps got a little tedious at times, but they were done efficiently and effectively, keeping the book to its core premise. half a dozen (over 30+ issues!) stuck out as clunky; that's not bad.

A skilled writer can bring a new reader into the story with a few lines, a couple of panels, etc. It doesn't have to be hackery. It doesn't have to disrupt the flow of the story. But as long as the title is being published monthly, a casual reader shouldn't need to immediately get 3-6 back issues to figure out what's going on or who the characters are.

Anonymous said...

@cesare - naw, I agree - Ultimates vol 1, All Star Superman, and even Millar's Enemy of the State are great - I just did not want to repeat the 2 you already recommended

Anonymous said...

I'd be curious to know Jim's opinion on profanity and so forth in comics. Frank Miller was openly critical of Garth Ennis' Preacher when it came out

Matt Adler said...

"Why bother review Daredevil when he's friends with Mark Waid?"

Wow, he can't win with you, huh Dave? If he gives something a negative review, it's because he has an axe to grind. If he gives something a positive review, that must mean he's "friends" with the author.

"I'd suggest Punishermax, but I think his head would explode at the concept of a comic with an "explicit" warning on it. "

You really have no idea who Jim is do you? I get the feeling someone just pointed you at this blog, and you went off. Here's a clue; Jim created the Epic line, Marvel's first creator-owned, mature readers imprint.

Anonymous said...

Matt - in fairness, Epic had some nudity - but PunisherMAX has anal rape and guys hiding guns up their ass

Shawn James said...

The more Jim shows me of this WW the more I- *FACEPALM*

I don't know what this is, but it isn't Wonder Woman. It actually reads like fanfiction. Horrible fanfiction.

And he makes a brilliant point buy starting in the middle of the blog with "more". Readers of the blog before would be lost if they didn't scroll down. I'm still lost on what this woman dressed like Wonder Woman is about and I read the previous blog.

If I spent money on these books I'd feel that $12 was wasted. Four issues in and this series is going NOWHERE. I've written chapters with more action going on in two pages than in the 128 synopsized here.

That same $12 wasted on this hot mess would buy someone 12 songs on itunes, or 12 movies at redbox. 12 eBooks (or more if you get some free ones on KDP select) Heck, I could get a good paperback for the price of these comics and still get more entertainment value for the dollar.

When I read about this mess I go back to what I learned in screenwriting, the three questions that a writer has to answer before they put fingers to keyboard:

Who is the main character?
What do they Want?
WHY SHOULD WE CARE?

And it's clear the writer didn't take the time to flesh out the ideas before putting fingers to keyboard. What's presented here are some ideas and concepts, but no story or serious character development.

It's comics like this that are why the industry are in trouble. confusing, abstract, and hard-to-follow. This is not the type of material that will compete for readers' attention in a crowded entertainment market.

I really have to write the blog where I make the case against Dan Didio and the current DC editorial team.

Shawn James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jimshooter said...

Dear Anonymous,

RE: ""You might say what can they do? She’s a god!

Well, seems to me I just saw a single arrow do some serious damage to her fellow-god Hermes.

Maybe that was a special, magical arrow, pooped by Hera herself. But, if so, nobody let me know."

The writer did let you know, though. I believe that you responded to the sequence with something like "what's that supposed to mean?" It was the part in the last issue where they're talking about the impossibility of what's been done to Hermes (that is: injuring him). They even attribute the injury to weapons from the gods in the very next line.

I generally enjoy your blog, but feel like you're sort of showboating on some of these reviews, going out of your way to avoid using critical thinking to deduce what's going on."

If I missed an explanation, I'm sorry. I tried to read the books carefully. I can't find the the line you reference. Is it in issue #4? I haven't read #5.

However, even if the arrows Hera made were special, how do you explain Strife being injured by an ordinary, broken champagne flute? And, besides, as I said, if I were watching my sister's corpse burning on the pyre, I would have fired arrows at Strife anyway, and I believe the real Wonder Woman would have taken action no matter what -- and that was the point I was making.

jimshooter said...

Dear Jay,

If the local comics shop has Thor: The Mighty Avenger, I'll check it out. If not, maybe JayJay can dig up the issues for me.

jimshooter said...

Dear Kid,

To me, it seems that whenever creators' stop being true to the character's nature, and start adapting the character to fit their agendas, points of view, social consciousness, current living situation and/or other sensibilities, that's almost always a bad thing. I think that's something like what you're saying. It happens in small ways, like Len Wein's having Spider-Man call people boychik and big ways, as in Denny O'Neill's social relevance issues of Green Lantern. Len and Denny are Hall-of-Famers, but still I heard them talking, not the characters.

Matt Adler said...

"Matt - in fairness, Epic had some nudity - but PunisherMAX has anal rape and guys hiding guns up their ass "

That's fine, and maybe it won't be to Jim's tastes, but Dave posited that Jim would somehow be shocked and appalled at "the concept of a comic with an "explicit" warning on it." Which strikes me as coming from someone who has no idea who Jim is or what his history in comics is. It's like a fanboy who was told, "Hey, there's this old creator ragging on today's comics" and the fanboy, even though he has no idea who the creator is, immediately associates all the stereotypes of an "old creator" in his mind, and goes off armed with those assumptions. I'd chalk that level of ignorance and arrogance up to youth, but the guy has admitted he's 29 years old. I'm only 2 years older, so what's his excuse?

For Jim's take on appropriate material in comics, people should read this entry:

http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/08/some-marvel-tales-and-other-horror_24.html

And speaking of past entries... I notice a lot of people asking Jim to talk about subjects he's already addressed (such as Avengers #200). Maybe it's worthwhile to create an FAQ out of his past blog posts, so people can check that before that ask him to cover something he's already covered.

Rikk Odinson said...

You write about what you want to write about Jim. I am diggin' all of it!

Matt Adler said...

On the subject of Strife... if, as someone posited, these are actual forces of nature, and not just powerful entities in charge of various things, then maybe that's why it was felt it was futile to fight? For instance, if your family drowned in the ocean, you wouldn't attack the ocean. After all, they'd already tried the frontal assault method, and all it got them was a bunch of casualties. It seems like Strife can only be gotten to if she's caught off guard, and even then, there's no telling what a full-on attack against her might bring. They seem to be playing these Greek gods as significantly more powerful than the Marvel versions.

Graeme said...

I'm a big fan of your blog, Jim, but these reviews leave me cold. They're like a Family Guy cutaway where Arnold Palmer lectures a crowd of old people saying "lukewarm tomato soup is good".

I think comics storytelling is different today than it was in the 1980s in the same way that Stan Lee's comics in the 1960s were from the stuff in the 1930s. (People who spent their formative years in an omniscient narrator driven eight page tale of rock 'em sock 'em heroics might be similarly appalled by 17 pages with lots of thought balloons and character moments). The form evolves, mutates and changes depending on the interests and influences surrounding it.

And this isn't just true of comics. Part of what annoys me about these diatribes about what the young'uns are doing in comics is that when you expand it to another medium like TV it looks palpably ridiculous. It's like saying TV should be like The Rockford Files in an age of Damages and Mad Men.

Also, there's plenty of comics that don't use decompression and use each issue as a fragment of a whole like this one. I think there's a big enough market for everything.

I think Wonder Woman is probably the least defined character DC produces-- everyone has an idea of what Wonder Woman should be, but there's no consensus on it. I know Carol Strickland has strong opinions against the current iteration, but I know just as may people who feel that Wonder Woman should be effectively Xena. I also know lots of people who would like Wonder Woman to be like the '70s TV show, the '60s Diana Prince adventure comic, straightforward superheroics, heroics mixed with myth like Walt Simonson's Thor... The character has little more than her branding and backstory and it's little wonder (pardon the pun) she's radically deconstructed every 5 years or so like clockwork since William Marston died.

Anonymous said...

I had a very illuminating (and disturbing) conversation with four friends who read comics and who are all in their early to mid-20s (I'm an old fart in his late 40s). I want to stress that (1) all four are intelligent, hard-working individuals with good-paying jobs (not underachieving slackers) and (2) the oldest had been reading comics for only 5 years (the others only a year or two apiece).

Some findings:

1) MOVIES ARE THE NEW GATEWAY. All four came to comics from Marvel and DC movies. So the only characters they knew were from things like IRON MAN, X-MEN, BATMAN etc. And that likewise shaped their expectations of said characters on the racks.

2) ARTWORK IS WHAT CATCHES THEIR EYE. Beyond character recognition they were drawn to other titles simply on the basis of artwork. Although they had opinions on certain writers there was no "loyalty" if said writer wrote anything else.

3) BAD ARTWORK IS APPARENTLY GOOD ARTWORK. Ugly cluttered art? Images that don't serve the narrative flow? No problem. Apparently several computer and online games do the same thing.

4) DECOMPRESSION GOOD. DONE-IN-ONE BAD. TV has apparently cultivated an expectation that a good story must be done as an arc. When I asked about one or two-partsers, one of the readers actually told me she thought it felt like a "fill-in issue" (my term) because the writer apparently didn't know where the "main story" was going.

5) WIKI TELLS ALL. Apparently it's also okay if the comic doesn't contain all the information needed for new readers. They will either read it until it does make sense or just GOOGLE it. There's an expectation that somehow somewhere there will be a wiki or a blog that can fill in the blanks.

[Also, there was a comparison to TV and how many shows today don't use traditional opening credits or other information-friendly bits for new viewers.]

6) BUY NOW READ LATER. Many of their purchases were being set aside until an entire storyline has been published. So again lack of traditional info for new readers was acceptable. The only books that were read monthly were the ones whose characters (or artists) just struck some kind of chord with them.

7) DON'T LOOK BACK. None of these readers had much interest in back issues, mostly because of cluttered continuity. A Spider-man fan, for example, was aware that Peter & MJ had once been married but had zero interest in reading that period because it didn't jibe with how the characters were being written NOW.

[On a related note I stumbled about a near-mint GREATEST JOKER STORIES EVER TOLD at a $7.50 steal. I could get none of the readers to buy it (or even flip through it). One even told me he found the character (based solely on Heath Ledger's performance) too disturbing to read a book devoted to him.]

Anonymous said...

8) TECHNOLOGY MATTERS. One reader admitted she tried to read some older Marvel/DC from the 70s and 80s but couldn't identify with a culture that lacked cell phones, computers, DNA testing, GPS, etc. Although she had grown up without some things they were so firmly part of her life NOW that little story points that lacked modern tech stood out like a sore thumb.

[One reader did like WW-era Captain America stories but that was only because (1) Cap was cool and (2) Nazis are understandable villains. He did not pay any attention (or care to notice) the actual culture and history that was being presented. So no selling him on retro series like THE INVADERS or ALL-STAR SQUADRON!]

9) NO ROOM FOR COLLECTING. All four of my friends were buying within a set monthly budget more or less. They had little interest in cross-overs or trying out too many new titles. They accepted the $2.99/$3.99 price points as just the way things are. One reader even cheered that less expensive comics might entice him to otherwise buy too many comics. To these modern readers, comic books were a light entertainment (like going to the movies), not a hobby. They considered themselves well-versed and well-served by their purchases but if the series were canceled they probably wouldn't lose any sleep over it.

Not once in this conversation did I try to sway them, to explain that past comic books were really (REALLY!) so much better than 99% of what is being published today.

Instead I had to privately admit that popular culture, technology, and several other factors had fostered a generation whose view of comic books would forever be distant from mine.

Just wanted to share that with everyone.

-- Dennis

Ole M. Olsen said...

Anonymous said:

"Matt - in fairness, Epic had some nudity - but PunisherMAX has anal rape and guys hiding guns up their ass"

Yeah. It's a MATURE title. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim. I love the blog. LOVE IT. and enjoy your reviews of new books as well. And I get what you're doing, doing it from the point of view of the new reader and would he/she be able to decipher all of this. As an old time reader from the 70's - 80's, who just returned back to comics in 2006 (and why do I keep seeing THAT year as the one people mention as the year they returned to comics), I don't have that hard of a time following the story. But my problem is with how LITTLE happens. I mean, when is this actually going to go somewhere? I picked up WW 1-5, but I think I'm done with it. I found the first couple of issues intriguing, and I was fished in enough to want to know what is going to happen. But they need to give us SOMETHING after five issues. I remember very fondly the Korvac Saga which I know you were a part of, and how that was spread over 11 issues, with a fantastic payoff. But as the story was developed, we still got lots of action and exciting developments along the way. And the art of George Perez!!! (Nobody can draw the Beast like George Perez)

You know, they recently brought Korvac back in Avengers Academy. I think Christos Gage might be an example of a solid story teller amongst today's writers. I don't know that he is writing anything that will qualify as a classic, but he writes enjoyable stories, and you can tell he is endeavering to make new-reader friendly.

Best,
Ray C.

Dave James O'Neill said...

""Matt - in fairness, Epic had some nudity - but PunisherMAX has anal rape and guys hiding guns up their ass"

Yeah. It's a MATURE title. ;-)"

While I can 'appreciate' your sarcasm, You should take two things into account.

-The gun up the ass was part of a longer story - with Bullseye guaranteeing he'd assassinate a man, and the target being so paranoid he wouldn't let him into the room with his clothes on

-The anal rape was a one panel thing, until Aaron referenced it a year later.


Elsewhere, I thought Dennis made some good points

"Wow, he can't win with you, huh Dave? "

Not yet.

Matt Adler said...

"Not yet"? When you slam the guy no matter what he says or does, it becomes apparent the answer is "not ever"... and you are just a troll.

Anonymous said...

Dave James O'Neil - I say this in a totally unantagonistic way - do you think you may have outgrown comics?

Matt Adler said...

That's absurd. It's perfectly normal for a grown man to expect his crimefighters in capes and tights to grow up with him. After all, he needs to be able to still read them without feeling embarassed.

Anonymous said...

Graem said "storytelling is different today"

Well no kidding. But is it better - is it effective. Can you logically make an argument that it is? I'd love to hear it

Look, I loved Ultimates vol 1, I enjoyed Jason Aaron's Ghost Rider immensely. But, can I defend the decompressed story style, and other modern techniques in them - not completely, in some cases they were flawed - just not enough to shy me away from liking the story. Whereas, those new storytelling fads are enough to ruin lot of new comics, because the other elements in those comics are not strong enough to make up for it


@Denny - I know it took you a while to write that long post - but just about every one of your points boils down to "It's all they know". If all they know is what they've read (comics from the last few years), then they have nothing to compare it to.

@David James - Bullseye shitting out a hand gun was stupid, unrealistic and stupid. I don't care if "it was part of a larger story" it was really, really stupid and it was childish writing. Read some of Ennis' punisher - he doesn't insult your intelligence along the way

bmcmolo said...

Good points, Denny. Thanks for writing those out. I have similar revelations when talking to the youngsters at my local.

"Instead I had to privately admit that popular culture, technology, and several other factors had fostered a generation whose view of comic books would forever be distant from mine."

That's really the long and short of it, isn't it?

With comics and different eras of storytelling, I feel like Stephen King when asked about what the movies made from his films did to his original stories. Shrug, look at the shelf "Nothing - there they are, unchanged."

(Wish Lucas would take a page out of that book...)

Simon Fraser said...

Hi Jim. I enjoy the Blog. Your take on things is well informed and insightful.
However I have to wonder if you are being a bit obtuse in your review of the new Wonder Woman run.
You take issue with Wonder Woman and the Amazon's lack of violent response to so many of their sisters/friends being killed, ignoring the fact that Eris/Strife is their God. It's all very well coming to this and applying a north american male perspective to things, but that is not who these characters are. The Amazon's very existence is based on their utter submission to the Olympian Gods. They can no more attack a daughter of Zeus & Hera than they can the sea or the sky. Nor would they expect an omnipotent being to even acknowledge their attack, far less respond to it. When the Amazons rush to defend Hyppolita from Hera I took that as a willingness to die for their Queen, rather than as a serious threat to the goddess herself. Likewise Eris chose to be wounded by Wonder Woman, she didn't have to be, but it suited her interests to make a gory show of it. Hermes was injured by Hera's agents. According to myth the Olympian Gods have always been able to maim each other.
As to the character of Wonder Woman herself she's stoic, unafraid and doesn't ask for any sympathy. Those characteristics are often all that's required to make a male hero noble. The character of Wonder Woman has been moving more and more this way for some years. It's debatable that she is even a superhero in the classic mold anymore. She's more like Thor than Superman and the costume change has removed the last shred of USA patriotism ( which always seemed incongruous ). I'm interested enough to see where that treatment of the character takes us. I don't know and not knowing is exciting.
The fact that this book doesn't recap itself every issue isn't a problem to me. That reads awkwardly in collected form, which is obviously where this story is intended to be. This book is more like a Vertigo book than a mainstream DC superhero title. That's not something I ever expected but I'm a grownup and the deliberately obscure storytelling doesn't bother me any more here than in an episode of Lost or a David Fincher movie. I've got to work to keep up. Ok.
I think the point of the comic is that everything you thought you knew about Wonder Woman isn't gospel anymore. I'm fine with that.

Anonymous said...

One thing I've noticed in my time reading books and comics - poor writing needs a lot of explanation - good writing needs absolutely none

Dan said...

Mr. Shooter, if you think WW's bad, you should review Hawkman.

It's the worst constructed story I've read. No explanations, no foreshadowing, nothing really happens. The art is the worst I've seen since Liefeld when it comes to telling the story.

For a book titled "savage," there are way to many pages of ordinary people in ordinary clothes exchanging ordinary dialogue.

And after 4 pages, we have no real indication what incarnation this new Hawkman is built upon.

Anonymous said...

Phil Bloom said - "Perhaps I am alone, but I just (days ago, in fact) finished reading The Ultimates for the first time, and I didn't like it. It took nearly 10 issues for anything to really happen."

The whole run of Ultimates at that time were written to remain stuck in a particular moment. No forward movement at all.

That's why I dumped it.

Dan said...

ELS said: "I'm still thinking that DCnU is a great jump off point, and from what I've heard from a couple of retailers, it's happening. "

DC has done the unforgivable. They have created a whole new line of very boring comics.

I love their top tier characters, but this stuff is just DULL.

Dan said...

@Graeme: "I think comics storytelling is different today than it was in the 1980s in the same way that Stan Lee's comics in the 1960s were from the stuff in the 1930s."

Yes and no.

Certain styles change over time, yes. Text or no text, balloons or no balloons, these are the elements that can change.

But the fundamental underpinning of storytelling is UNIVERSAL. The creators are communicating ideas to the reader, and when the creators leave out necessary information they fail to do their job.

From Greek playwrites to Shakespeare to John Grisham, the underpinnings have not changed.

Except at DC. Because these new books read as if they're done by amateurs without any editorial oversight.

Anonymous said...

Jim, in your years at DC, did you ever get a chance to write Wonder Woman, even as a guest appearance?

-Brett Ballard

Anonymous said...

I have never read WW so forgive me if this is a stupid question; with reference to an earlier point about how a missile strike could wipe out the inhabitants of the Amazon's island, is it possible that when one visits the island one also goes back in time to 300BC, or whenever? Could the island exist in a time bubble?

Anonymous said...

Not sure - my knowledge of Wonder Woman goes as far as: Lynda Carter is hot

DJ said...

Hi Jim, Jay Jay, Everyone,

I've just been to see a film called The Artist. It should win An (The) Oscar. It's Silent, It's Black & White, there's the occassional title card, and the odd bit of sound. Nobody talks. Yet the story is crystal clear. It's not the most complex story ever told, but in a way that's the whole point. Honestly, it's a joy to behold and experience. Unfortunately, there are many stories of people walking out, and demanding their money back. Not because the film is crap, but because they either don't understand what it is they're watching, can't be bothered to invest any time or effort into trying to understand it, or are apalled that there is no colour, big bangs, or loud humungous explosions. I imagine a lot of the decompressed comic lovers on here would not be able to sit through a film of this quality.
The fact that it has garnered so much praise, and attention is a major feat in itself. Will quality win out in the end?
Good storytelling is good storytelling, regardless of the medium, or the presentation.
After reading Fantastic Four 600 & 601, I seriously considered scooping my eyeballs out with a spoon, to prevent any further soiling of my brain by inept and immature comics. Luckily I didn't, and could enjoy an experience as wonderful as The Artist.
P.S. Jonathan hickman is not only a Hack, he's pretty poor at that too.
David Johnston.

Anonymous said...

DJ - awesome. I've heard good things about The Artist - but you never know.

I recently discovered Buster Keaton - genius stuff

As you said, there are many effective ways to convey meaning, emotion, tension, and any other element of story

Dave James O'Neill said...

"Mr. Shooter, if you think WW's bad, you should review Hawkman.

It's the worst constructed story I've read. No explanations, no foreshadowing, nothing really happens. The art is the worst I've seen since Liefeld when it comes to telling the story."

Ironic that DC have agreed, and dumped the writer, and artist, and replaced them with....Rob Liefeld

JayJayJackson said...

Wow, I just watched the trailer for "The Artist." It looks fantastic! But I love silent films.

jimshooter said...

Dear Simon,

If the creators had told me in the comic books what you did, if they had made the case you make, I might have had less of an issue. Might have. A little. I still don't believe WW would stand for Strife's actions, god or not. I don't believe she would make chit-chat with her later. I don't believe she would go clubbing with her. WW seems quite willing to oppose Hera's will with regards to Zola.

jimshooter said...

Dear Brett,

I think the only time I ever wrote Wonder Woman was in the Superman and Spider-Man crossover. It was a brief appearance.

jimshooter said...

Dear Anonymous,

RE: "I have never read WW so forgive me if this is a stupid question; with reference to an earlier point about how a missile strike could wipe out the inhabitants of the Amazon's island, is it possible that when one visits the island one also goes back in time to 300BC, or whenever? Could the island exist in a time bubble?"

It's possible, but no such information is in the books I reviewed. I can make up explanations for all the things that make no sense or are left unexplained, but I was reviewing the work the creators did...without my help.

czeskleba said...

Simon Fraser said:
The Amazon's very existence is based on their utter submission to the Olympian Gods. They can no more attack a daughter of Zeus & Hera than they can the sea or the sky. Nor would they expect an omnipotent being to even acknowledge their attack, far less respond to it.
**********************
But how do you know all these things? It appears to be through a combination of prior knowledge about mythology and through the creation of your own explanations/rationalizations, rather than because you were given the information in the story. I understand that some readers might not mind (or might even enjoy) having to create their own explanations for things that are unclear in the story. But don't you think it's possible that some readers (particularly those who are unfamiliar with the characters) might find having to do that annoying? And as a result might be turned off reading additional issues?

There are a variety of reasons why comics today do not sell as well as they did in the past. I would never claim any one factor (such as accessibility of storytelling) is the sole cause. Yet is it really so much of a reach to suggest that this type of deliberately obscure storytelling and overall inaccessibility might pose a barrier to new readers? I'm surprised that so many folks want to completely dismiss the notion that it might be a factor.

Kid said...

Jim, in response to your comments about my own post - while I totally agree with what you say, I meant more than that. I was also referring to the way that Superhero comics have been kidnapped by those wishing to make them more 'respectable' to an 'adult' audience and thereby negate any juvenile associations.

I believe this comes from their embarrassment from being linked to something that has traditionally (and mistakenly) been seen as being fit only for children or thick-heads, hence their desire to appeal to an older readership.

Just as the classic Tom & Jerry cartoons are seen as being for old and young alike, with no age restrictions or negative connotations, I believe that writers should have embraced and celebrated comics for what they are, without transforming them into something different to spare their blushes.

Can you imagine if they did the same with Tom & Jerry, introducing adult themes or overly-sophisticated 'humour' that kids couldn't get? I think they need to return to producing comics that are, in the main, suitable for a young audience - and also those who are still unashamedly in touch with the 'youngster' within them.

Expensive graphic novels of a more 'mature' nature could still be produced for those who like their 'sequential art' to contain meatier and grittier content, and comics could be restored to their place in the affections of the far wider, younger audience who once purchased them in their millions.

Anonymous said...

Excellent point, Kid. Tom and Jerry, the Tex Avery stuff, Bugs Bunny all had humor that appealed to children and adults. A good technique that you don't see as much of in any medium now

There is some irony in how we can no longer see Wolverine or Ben Grimm smoke a cigar - but we can have deleted expletives and blood splashing everywhere

Anonymous said...

.. and deleted expletives aren't always a bad thing. Frank Miller did it brilliantly in All Star Batman #10

Daniel K said...

Echoing kid's point, but in the opposite direction-

Y'know, if DC are going to do Wonder Woman as a Vertigo book, with gore and waffle about the gods in order to appeal to the "mature" audience, why not just go all out and insert full frontal nudity and sex scenes?

It could even be "tasteful"- like a European movie... that would be really, really mature. I'm sure it would find an audience.

Just askin'.

Daniel K said...

NB- I mean Vertigo style book- I know it is not literally a Vertigo book.

Anonymous said...

Daniel - people went ape shit when DC let Batman say goddam - I think they would have an aneurism if WW went topless

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Kid!

I've been thinking along those lines.

Anonymous said: "A good technique that you don't see as much of in any medium now."

Pixar has it nailed. Seriously, many of their movies are aimed at children, it's true, but how many times have we, as adults, been just as entertained? Certain elements within the story that a child under a certain age won't get, but leaves adults sitting in the theater - on on the couch - nodding his or her head.

I was kid and had just picked up my first Avengers book. Issue #234? #236? I liked it. I got it. I was eleven, maybe twelve. My father read it. He liked it. He got it. He's thirty years older than I.

Kid said...

I think I would too - but for a different reason.

Kid said...

I'm talking about the aneurysm.

Anonymous said...

To fellow Anonymous:

Thanks for reading my post. Yes, everything does boil down to "That's all they know". However . . .

That doesn't change the fact that these four modern comic readers had ZERO interest in broadening their horizons, esp. with the humongous history behind the industry.

And that their view of "good storytelling" within the medium (both script and art) was the exact opposite of what the industry fostered once upon a time.

[In some ways it felt like I was visiting Bizarro World.]

Even if I could have persuaded them to expand their horizons (and I politlely tried several venues), that doesn't change the fact that the industry as a whole is (in my opinion) still slowly dying -- not with a bang but a poorly edited whimper.

When I first discovered comic books in the early 70s, I devoured them. I bought every thing I could get my grubby little hands on. I haunted drug stores, used bookstores, garage sales. I went to the library and checked out and re-read every history about the subject I could find. I looked forward to the annual comic book price guides NOT to check the value of anything but to read the articles and admire all of the various covers.

In pretty much every way comic books were designed to not only keep me entranced with the current crop but to foster admiration for both writers and artists, to seek out their past work, and the hunt down and collect all the tangled webs of continuity for favorite characters that might be required.

In every way it was a hobby, a fraternity, almost a way of life.

If my friends are indicative of their age group as a whole, today's readers are much more casual with well-defined (albeit lower) expectations of what constitutes good art, good writing, and good characters.

Worse, rather than being the source from which movies are derived, their comics are largely an appendage to increase their appreciation for said films.

At best I see them checking out licensed comics for other movies and TV shows, but that's about it.

Like blind men who will never glimpse the colours of a rainbow or know the pot of gold that lies at the end of it.

Sad, really.

-- Dennis

Anonymous said...

Dennis, I agree with you on every point. I also started reading comics in the early to mid 70's, and I also searched in every nook and cranny for back issues so I could learn the back-stories on my favorite characters. I don't ever remember thinking the current issues were better simply because they were "new".

I think the younger generation actually believes that the "newest" thing that comes out is superior in quality. And this applies not just to comics, but music, movies, etc. In my opinion it makes them look shallow and just to be honest, not very bright. They have no interest in what came before; it's an ignorant and obstinate view.

Neil

Marvelman said...

The strange thing about this is that you can tell that the writer isn't stupid, nor am I convinced he is lazy. So why does the story have so many elements that are unclear or illogical? Perhaps a writer lacks the necessary distance from his or her own work to clearly see these things?

Dan (mad as HELL!) said...

@Oneil - "Ironic that DC have agreed, and dumped the writer, and artist, and replaced them with....Rob Liefeld"

The book is dead already. Cancellation by summer, easily. (Not that I'll be around to see it. NO WAY I'm buying a Liefeld comic. EVER.)

And the geniuses at DC will again conclude "Hawkman doesn't sell."

Well, geniuses, not when you produce pure SHIT.

Anonymous said...

The 'new is best' syndrome is now learned at an early age. Latest phone, latest computer, latest games, latest style of trainers, etc. How about, when they have been to see the Avengers film, get the 'comic ignoranti' a copy of Essential Avengers 7 (and 8 if it is out yet). Art by Perez and Byrne, written by... escapes me for a moment, good, solid, some humerous stories, what's not to like?

Brent E said...

Neil,

You wrote, "I think the younger generation actually believes that the "newest" thing that comes out is superior in quality. And this applies not just to comics, but music, movies, etc. In my opinion it makes them look shallow and just to be honest, not very bright. They have no interest in what came before; it's an ignorant and obstinate view."

There may be some newer readers who believe this. I'm not sure if it's a majority though. In my experience, most readers believe the newer comics to just be a different style than the older ones; made for a different era. Collected editions like the omnibus or the essential series are fairly popular and you see the demand for something collecting all of Kirby's Kamandi book or the Ditko/Lee Spider-Man. Those stories are often cherished by newer readers who were not even alive with they came out.

That said, I do agree that there will always be some idiots who refuse to enjoy an older comic/movie/etc. However, this is a constant in society, and they were likely present in the 60's as much as they are today.

Rusty Priske said...

I love this blog when Jim is talking about his carrer in comcis and the various stories about how things happened behind the scenes.

When he reviews modern comics... not so much. It comes across as front-porch cane-waving.

Comics have changed. You don't have to like it, but there it is.

(And the Wonder Woman comic hasn't been this good since Perez left. Azzarello is making WW INTERESTING for the first time in a LONG time.)

DJ said...

Hi Guys,
You know, to a certain extent, I don't blame the writers on modern comics. The editors should be hauled up on trial before them, because they are clearly not doing their job properly. Whether that is because they don't understand what the job of editor entails, they are too lazy to be bothered, or they're so in awe of the writers legend, that they are afraid to take them to task; whatever, they are not fulfilling their role. Writers, on company owned characters, have been given to much power I feel. The editors need to take the power of constructing storylines back, so that they can over rule (or replace) the writer when his excesses lead him to places he shouldn't go.
But more than this, I feel the blame really stops with the reader, for accepting this eroding of quality and coherence, and not complaining. The reader is just as culpable as both the writer and editor, for the production of sub-standard material.
By the way, while Cliff Chiang may excel as a Vertigo style artist, he just doesn't cut it as a superhero artist. Where is the pizazz, the drama, the Wow Factor, that should be an inherent part of a Superhero comic? While he's fairly good at expressions, all his faces look the same. Shave Wonder Woman's hair off, and she could be any one of the other characters. Boring!
Cheers.
David J.

Anonymous said...

Greetings again, Mr. Shooter

I'm not a comic book reader, my passion lies with manga. My stint with DC comic books was from between the ages of 10 and 13. There were massive collection of tradebacks in my cousin's home, mostly starring Batman and Superman (Green Arrow and Flash were far and few in between). I'd have trouble telling you which age they belong to but they were most probably snippets from the Golden and Silver ages.

I never got into modern comic books, too much decompression told over a period of months and months inbetween. I was happy with my current genre until I've heard of this 'new 52'.

What's this, says I, DC is rebooting the whole universe? Since I've got more than one friend hooked up on comics, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to jump onboard without being burdened by years and years of continuity. I was sorely disappointed. Batman and Green Lantern got 'soft reboots', their convluted history still remains. The rest of the books were decompressed 'cinematic' books. Every single one of them had lost me by issue 3.

The only one that managed to hold my attention until issue 5 was Wonder Woman. I'll admit, I was taken in by the 'horror' aspect of the book...but when they switched artists by issue 5 (horrible, horrible issue) I realized just how laughably bad the writing had been. I was in love with the art, not the story.

I am the sort of person that DC had been trying to ensnare with this reboot and they had lost me.

Few things, Mr. Shooter:

- The beginning of issue #3 of Wonder Woman begins in medias res. Meaning the opening page was actually the final page. The amazons did not build the pyres again. You can see Aleka in the first panel and that she was leaning on an amazon because WW-imposter had struck her. Don't feel bad, I had to re-read this issue three times to get that.

- The book lacks likeable characters. Wonder Woman is listlless, Zola reacts unrealistically to all this magic. I disagree with your hatred towards Strife, she's the only one who can point out the rampant stupidity of everyone around her. Atleast she has a PERSONALITY.

- From what I understand, the Amazons pre-boot were pinnacles of righteousness. These jerks are completely unlikable. Merely the fact that you have male genitalia causes them to go into berserk mode. They even spit at the mention of Hermes' name just because he's male even though he's a god. I know the final panel with the Amazons being turned into snakes was supposed to be a sad event but I merely shrugged and said "Good, they had it coming"

- Issue 5 gets even worse. Wonder Woman-lite does not actually do anything, she is a guest star in her own book.

That's it for now. Keep writing, Mr. Shooter. You're always insightful and entertaining.

- TKay

jimshooter said...

Dear Marvelman,

RE: "The strange thing about this is that you can tell that the writer isn't stupid, nor am I convinced he is lazy. So why does the story have so many elements that are unclear or illogical? Perhaps a writer lacks the necessary distance from his or her own work to clearly see these things?"

I read #4 first. At that point, I thought Azzarello was trying to create drama and suspense by coyly withholding information, a technique Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. hated, by the way. Or, like so many these days, Azzarello was deliberately ignoring the fact that someone might be picking up the latest issue not having read the previous ones and leaving people in the dark about what had gone before. Punishment. That'll teach them to come in late! I thought that there must be explanations in earlier issues for the events of #4 that seemed illogical or unfathomable. Reading the series from the beginning made what was being depicted in the events of #4 clearer, and what was being depicted in most of the events along the way was clear, but what really became clear was that those events, by and large, made no sense individually and collectively. I agree with you, Azzarello seems bright enough. I haven't ruled out lazy yet. Maybe he's making this up as he goes along. The fact that WW has a Big Dramatic Exit Forever from Paradise Island at the end of #3 which is quickly trivialized in #4 would suggest that.

Matt Adler said...

To my mind, it's only a "cranky old man" if the critic doesn't explain exactly what's wrong with it and how it could be done better.

And while it's certainly true that "comics have changed", maybe the current sales are an indicator those particular changes haven't worked out so well, and need to be rethought.

Simon Fraser said...

@ czeskleba
"Yet is it really so much of a reach to suggest that this type of deliberately obscure storytelling and overall inaccessibility might pose a barrier to new readers?"

I'm sure that you are quite right, however it was exactly that kind of 'lead the reader by the hand' kind of storytelling that convinced me that comics were for kids and caused me to drop them as I got into my teens. The Vertigo 'Lets assume that the reader has an education and an intellect' approach was what got me back in again.
There should be entry level comics, but I really don't want them all to be like that. I don't expect to be able to pick up a random chapter of Crime & Punishment and be able to understand it sans context. Thank fully this seems to be a problem that will fade away as digital distribution overtakes floppies and you will never be in a position of not knowing what has come before ever again.

Steven R. Stahl said...

Thanks for the review. My opinion of the series wasn't altered by it, however. It's still my favorite.

My biggest complaint is about the references to "WW-impostor." Diana isn't the classical heroine, but that's good, not bad. Azzarello is writing her as a person, not as a symbol.

The major points of the storyline are pretty clear: Zeus is gone; Olympians are maneuvering; demigods, such as Lennox (WW #5) are coming out; Zola and her infant are targets; Diana, as a daughter of Zeus, is now a player in the developments.

The elimination of the Amazons was, to an extent, background material, since the focus of the storyline is on Diana, pregnant Zola and the efforts to kill her, and the Olympians' infighting. That's exciting and intriguing stuff.

Your objections to the characterization of WW aside, you seem to be troubled more by the lack of information and the storytelling process than by how the plot points line up. In the case of the WONDER WOMAN series, at least, I've accepted the lack of information as the consequence of the process used, and my chief concerns are with characterization and plot mechanics.

Diana being the daughter of Zeus is good. The elimination of the Amazons from the storyline is good. The infighting among the gods is good. Diana being involved in the infighting is wonderful.

SRS

Bryan said...

"A skilled writer can bring a new reader into the story with a few lines, a couple of panels, etc. It doesn't have to be hackery. It doesn't have to disrupt the flow of the story. But as long as the title is being published monthly, a casual reader shouldn't need to immediately get 3-6 back issues to figure out what's going on or who the characters are."

Josh -

I think you distilled it very well with your statement above. Jim told me during an interview that he'd just like to see the writers give the reader a fighting chance to understand what's going on and the statement stuck with me.

Full disclosure: I'm another comics dinosaur, hopelessly trapped in the Silver Age I loved so much as a kid, but there are some good reasons for that, including the fact that I can pull virtually any of my collected old 4-color wonders off the shelf and enjoy it in a single sitting. Familiarity? Sure, but even despite that there are elements that make them extremely accessible. Used to be stories could be told in 8 pages flat. One of my favorite examples, at the risk of sounding like a suck-up, is one of my all-time favorite Shooter stories in Adventure Comics #353, which introduced the Fatal Five...or so I believed for a good 20 years. It wasn't until long after I read it for the first time that I discovered it was actually part 2 of a 2-part story. It was that well-encapsulated. A brief recap appeared at the beginning of #353, but it was done in such a way that it seemed to simply be a backdrop and then you jumped into what was happening. No pain, no strain. That, as they say, is how it's done.

Anonymous said...

In my day, stories made sense, took me longer than 2 minutes to read, had a plot, had solid characterization (waves cane)

Steven R. Stahl said...

One comment, at least, on how characterizations interact with plot developments: In WONDER WOMAN #4, Strife licked the blood from her hand and wasn't in pain. She was wounded, but not injured.

SRS

Anonymous said...

Steven - do you even realize what you are doing with these personal explanations?? She had glass shards sticking out of her hand

Also, why was bird boy convalescing?? Or should we ignore the ones you can't explain

Sheesh

czeskleba said...

Rusty Priske said:
When he reviews modern comics... not so much. It comes across as front-porch cane-waving.

Comics have changed. You don't have to like it, but there it is.
*********************
Again, the broader question is whether the change in comics has contributed to their significant decline in sales. It's reasonable to suggest it is a factor, and I'm surprised so many people (both fans and editors) are willing to completely dismiss the notion that declining readership might be related to the content of the books.

Anonymous said...

Can we please put this tired thread to bed? Each (issue within a)story should have as much information provided within it so that it makes sense. Possibly the best way to do this is is a 'Previously in Wonder Woman...' panel. This should be as succinct and well written as possible. It would take up a square inch or two of one page and then you're set. Jim's concern with the Bucky recap box was that it was all over the place in terms of language used and the topics chosen to be recapitulated. Once these faults have been corrected, the problem has been fixed. Now on to something more rewarding - who IS the strongest Avenger? (just kidding).

Anonymous said...

Also, since we're talking about plots unfolding slowly, details and clues being reveled bit by bit. When I finish reading a Sherlock Holmes short story, you know what still needs explaining? NOTHING

Brent E said...

Czeskleba wrote:

"Again, the broader question is whether the change in comics has contributed to their significant decline in sales. It's reasonable to suggest it is a factor, and I'm surprised so many people (both fans and editors) are willing to completely dismiss the notion that declining readership might be related to the content of the books."

Very well put. This is why this blog is so great; Jim brings a critical eye to a review like this that points out how the comics could be improved, or at the least, done differently.

Individuals on both ends of the spectrum (older comics are all better than they are now, vs times have changed and Jim hasn't kept up with them) should agree that the things Jim brings up are worth discussing as to being a factor that could be driving away potential readers.

Anonymous said...

Big fan of the blog, Mr Shooter.

I was glad a big name guy like Azzarello wanted to give Wonder WOman a go. Just depressed with the outcome, there's just no excitement or "feel" for the character. THe other folks are obviously more exciting for him to write.

Xena is as good a name for her as anything

Steven R. Stahl said...

Steven - do you even realize what you are doing with these personal explanations?? She had glass shards sticking out of her hand

Also, why was bird boy convalescing?? Or should we ignore the ones you can't explain


Hermes's injuries have been dealt with thoroughly upthread, so --

Strife is a goddess, not a human, and more of an energy being than a physical being. Being cut with the glass didn't injure her; that was fairly obvious and to be expected. Given her nature, she might even enjoy pain at times.

The relationship between the gods and the Amazons, and their inability to oppose the gods, also accounts for some of the missing details in the storyline. The Amazons were doomed; since the focus was on Diana and the gods' infighting, why spend more page space on characters which were being written out? The superiority of the gods also justifies making Diana a demigoddess.

The high quality of Azzarello's writing doesn't mean that dialogue-only writing is to be preferred, but when the natures of the characters (the Olympians) are widely known and the dialogue and artwork suffice for characterizations and developments, the results can be good.

SRS

Anonymous said...

Steven - see prior post about Sherlock Holmes

Or, continue to add your own annotations, explanations, supplements to the comic

Whatever

Steven R. Stahl said...

Steven - see prior post about Sherlock Holmes

I'd delete the comment if I could. If you're going to argue about something, then make an argument.

SRS

Anonymous said...

The argument's already been made, by Jim himself and a bunch of others

You've ignored it

You answered one of my questions though - you are utterly unaware of your own behavior

THE THINGS YOU ARE EXPLAINING - were they in the book!!??? If not, therein lies the problem

Good luck Steve - glad you're a fan of Azz. I am too - a very big fan. But some of his 100 Bullets arcs did leave out a few details - and when they did, I did not defend their perfection with colossal obstinance

jimshooter said...

RE: "In my day, stories made sense, took me longer than 2 minutes to read, had a plot, had solid characterization (waves cane)"

You are waving your cane along with almost every professional TV writer, screenplay writer and novelist in history. And the greatest comic book writers in history. And me. By cracky!

Anonymous said...

"I for one enjoy good director commentaries on DVDs, peeking behind the creative thought (and practical) processes of making a movie, and by extension, any form of entertainment, and frankly, especially comics."

[MikeAnon:] Oh, I absolutely love DVD commentaries, too, but here's a couple of dissimilarities:

1) DVD commentaries are generally done by people who actually worked on the pictures on which they are commenting.

2) DVD commentaries are generally viewed by people who actually bought or rented the DVDs in question.

Mr. Shooter's reviews have largely concerned comics he didn't work on and comics I didn't buy. Nor would I likely buy anything he reviewed favorably or drop anything he reviewed unfavorably. I mean, sure, he could pick out a good comic and use it as a teaching tool...but why not pick out one of his own for that purpose, since he'll be able to give insights into that book that he can't give for Azzarello's or Hickman's or anyone else's to whose creation he simply was not privy? [MikeAnon:]

"I think Wonder Woman is probably the least defined character DC produces-- everyone has an idea of what Wonder Woman should be, but there's no consensus on it."

[MikeAnon:] The problem is that Wonder Woman is based on a premise that is scientifically sound but no longer politically correct to assert: Men and women are different kinds of human beings. There is a masculine way and a feminine way, and Wonder Woman, being the official representative of an island populated solely by women, has the express purpose of communicating the "Amazon Way" to "Man's World." This interpretation of Wonder Woman was clear at least up through the George Perez run. After Perez, I don't know how many writers stayed faithful to that, but today that interpretation appears to have been completely jettisoned -- now Wonder Woman's role is protecting humanity from capricious gods rather than protecting humanity from its own dominant masculine aggressiveness. In other words, that's a whole different Diana we're reading about. I miss the old one. [--MikeAnon]

Marvelman said...

Jim, I'm ashamed to say that I have never read anything by Vonnegut. I keep trying to make my way through "Nostromo." Do you know the source of your quote about "withholding information?"

Defiant1 said...

I love your explanations Steven. Since I haven't picked up a Wonder Woman comic in a decade, and every single page moves at a snail's pace, here is my explanation. The bird guy is a lazy ass faking an injury. Off panel, some monkeys flew out of Wonder Woman's butt and she was too concerned about that in the back of her mind to be upset by anything actually happening in the comic. Mysterio made this all up as an illusion. Nightmare is manipulating everything behind the scene.

I like my version better than yours. Since there's no f#@king story in the comic and the art is completely unnecessary, let's all just make up our own version of events.

I'm really not interested in the lame defense of modern comics. DC came out with 52 new comic series. Out of these 52 comics, where is the one that is remotely even close to anything I want to see? I'm fully willing to let modern readers have 51 comics told in a style and manner they like. If modern readers like crappy sketch art inked with a sharpie, eyes floating detached in front of a character's face, and art colored with day-glo crayola markers... fine. You've already got it. All I'm expecting is one (1) comic that makes an attempt to meet standards that I deem to be worth my time. Just one.

I'm not going to waste pages looking at some guy prop his foot up and heal his leg/foot... whatever. I can go paint a fence and watch it dry if I have nothing better to do with my time. I don't need naked cartoon women to pique my interests in comics. I can find real women with real bodies and they are far more interesting than comics.

What it really boils down to is that comics are losing readership. DC needed a sales boost because comics are quickly becoming unprofitable at all. My prediction is that the comics industry will have some drastic downsizing (again) in the next 2 years unless something is done. If the product mix drops below a certain level in the market, comic stores won't be able to offer enough product to meet their fixed expenses for a month. I call modern comics crap, but in all honesty the toilet started flushing a few years ago. Just because you still see them now, that just means the water is still swirling downward and hasn't finished yet.

Dan said...

If asking that a professional storyteller actually provide the information that makes up the story is somehow "inferior" or "archaic," then the world's gone STUPID.

Artisans are supposed to get BETTER at their craft, now worse. If you get worse, then you're a HACK.

I was recently rereading a few New 52 series with these columns in mind. Aquaman, Flash, and Green Lantern don't have hardly any of these problems. The only hard part for me is trying to figure out the new status quo (since no one is telling us before hand). Very easy reads, IMO.

So I reject the idea that WW somehow represents a new standard--and that critics are just cranky old men.

Dan said...

Based on what Anonymous and MikeAnon are saying (and I agree completely), Wonder Woman is utterly irrelevant.

She was created for girls, based on things girls identify with.

Without the sexist underpinnings, she has no purpose. She's just another puncher-bimbo (She-Hulk, Red She-Hulk).

Maybe that's why her title struggles so much. Social modernization has rendered her moot.

So... there goes the Big Three, the Trinity, the female icon of the DCU.

fanfix said...

Thanks for the break down Jim:)

I can't quite get over the entire conceit of the series that Zeus is Diana's father.

Why not instead harvest the original myths and reveal it as Hercules?

This not only nods the hat to established myth, but provides an intellectually-satisfying reason for why Diana was raised with the Amazons in the first place and is effectively their ambassador.

The Phantom said...

To Mike Anon-

Frankly, I think it's a breath of fresh air to hear Mr.Shooter's views' on these books. I WANT to hear from somebody who doesn't have to toe the corporate line for the big two, or fill their long boxes.

Does a movie/tv/music critic have any creative input on what he/she reviews? No. They tell you what they think you should expect before you jump in. Now, whether or not you choose to listen to them is up to you.

But comics don't offer that luxury.
I don't read comics, but I was curious to know if the "new 52" might offer something that I would like to try.
So how do I find out if I'll like anything out there? Sure, there are other bloggers, I guess, but I wouldn't put too much stock in what they have to say.I want an objective opinion.

Before this review, I heard from a few people that this WW series was great. Some posters on here said they even liked it, until they were shown just how silly it is.
(as if they needed to be told?)

So again, how do I find out? Do I ask regular readers? Not bloody likely. I'm sorry if this offends anyone, but I really feel that most of them have been reading shit for SO long that their opinion is almost beyond useless.


So I say to Mr. Shooter, keep these reveiws coming. Show people that this emperor has no clothes, and that they SHOULD pay attention to the man behind the curtain. It's about time someone who has alot of EXPERIENCE to show these knuckleheads who are in charge of these characters the error of their ways.

Also, on an unrelated note, why do you sign your name like that? No one is interviewing you.
What's up with that?

Steven R. Stahl said...

I love your explanations Steven. Since I haven't picked up a Wonder Woman comic in a decade, and every single page moves at a snail's pace, here is my explanation. The bird guy is a lazy ass faking an injury.

You and Anonymous are managing only to leave the impression that you expect superhero comics to be written for people with IQs of 80.

Is it utterly beyond the intellectual capability of any critic here to relate Strife's reaction to the glass bit to the idea that she wasn't actually injured? Or are they so used to seeing gods written as humans with exotic power sources that seeing gods written as being superior to humans leaves them unable to process what they're reading?

I'd like to see some indication that the people objecting to Azzarello's writing have some experience reading hard SF, mysteries, and material that tests their abilities to think as they read. Expecting every aspect of a character to be explained in detail, along with the reason for every plot development, is expecting every story to be written for the lowest possible common denominator. I'd much rather see stories written for intelligent people who have experience reading genre fiction.

SRS

jimshooter said...

Dear Marvelman,

RE: "Jim, I'm ashamed to say that I have never read anything by Vonnegut. I keep trying to make my way through "Nostromo." Do you know the source of your quote about "withholding information?" "

It comes from a book called Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction. The entire quote is: "Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages."

buddy said...

Not to in any way ally myself with the Sloppy Writers' Defense League on this thread, but that Vonnegut quote sounds like a recipe for boredom.

I much prefer the middle-ground wisdom of electronic music pioneer Wendy Carlos: ' What is full of redundancy or formula is predictably boring. What is free of all structure or discipline is randomly boring. In between lies art.'

Defiant1 said...

Stephen,

The comic is boring. It isn't even interesting enough for me to want to think about what is going on. Jim proposes techniques that pique curiosity and make a person want to think. This comic doesn't introduce enough elements for me to want to think about it. I've avoided posting in the comments because I'm ready for it to go away. I think most readers are competent enough to write their own story without sorting through lousy art, day-glo colors, and trying to read the authors mind on what is relevant and what isn't. I don't buy something to read with the intent of trying to read the authors mind. The author is tasked with making the reader care. It is not the reader's responsibility to go out looking look for a needle in a haystack. I have more interesting things on my mind that anything within these pages. I just read an article about scientists heating aluminum to 2 million degrees Celsius. At work, I've been pondering million dollar electrical assemblies. A bunch of implausible day-glo characters acting like high school kids isn't worth my effort to think.

Jim on the other hand makes the visual elements matter. I spent 4 hours researching a painting online after seeing it the background of one of his stories. I knew it was there for a reason. I spent hours cross-referencing dates and times on
Valiant comics when Jim oversaw that. There was a reward of seeing a larger interconnected story by doing so.

It doesn't really matter. The series will be canceled or another writer will start everything over from scratch. Whoever approved this garbage for publication still doesn't get it. I'll go ahead and bid it a good riddance now. That way I won't have to say it while you are grieving it's cancellation and or negation. It will be completely insignificant in the span of comics history. People still talk about Jim's stories 40 years later.

Scott Bonagofsky said...

Jim, I would not read these stories on my own, but I have to admit that they are pretty fine entertainment the way you tell them on your blog!

Anonymous said...

It's obvious. Of course, give the reader as much information as possible up front!!

The first page of Spider-man 121 should have had the story's title 'The death of Gwen Stacy' up front. That would have been in the interests of the story!

Darth Vader's opening scene - invading the princesses ship - thinks to himself, I wonder if my son, Luke Skywalker is on board. Yeah, that works!

And many other examples. The theory is tripe - sorry Kurt.

Brent E said...

Defiant1,

Just curious if you tried out OMAC, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, or Superboy? They're all books I think provided a lot of story and were easy to follow from the beginning. Just wondering.

Shawn James said...

The trade of this mess is coming soon: http://www.amazon.com/Wonder-Woman-Vol-1-Blood/dp/1401235638/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1327590284&sr=1-3

$15 on amaszon. Save some money on the floppies!

Stuart Moore said...

Stories can be told all different ways. Acclaimed sf writer James Tiptree, Jr., famously described her method as: "start from the end and preferably 5,000 feet underground on a dark day, and then don't tell them." I'd think long and hard before using that technique myself, but it sure worked for Tiptree.

jimshooter said...

Dear buddy,

RE: "Not to in any way ally myself with the Sloppy Writers' Defense League on this thread, but that Vonnegut quote sounds like a recipe for boredom.

I much prefer the middle-ground wisdom of electronic music pioneer Wendy Carlos: ' What is full of redundancy or formula is predictably boring. What is free of all structure or discipline is randomly boring. In between lies art.'"


I think that you are missing the point of the Vonnegut quote. What he's saying, I believe, is that if the reader were fully aware of all that is going on in a story all along the way, it should still be a good story. If it depends on coy and cutesy telling to drag the reader along, there probably isn't a story there worth telling.

Vonnegut also said words to the effect, great writers tend to break all the rules. I say essentially that a lot, too.

Vonnegut's work was certainly not full of redundancy and formula. He was not preaching redundancy and formula.

When I analyze a story, I make notes and diagrams and figure out what is really going on throughout. If there's something going on I care about all along the way, good. If not, that's not good. For me, anyway. And Vonnegut.

But, that's not the only way to go. There are no rules that cannot be thrown down and danced upon.

Some stories are collections of bits like jigsaw puzzle pieces. The reader follows along because he or she wants to see what the picture is when all the pieces come together. Some people like jigsaw puzzles. I don't mind a good jigsaw puzzle. However, sometimes, in those stories, the picture is dull, and you wouldn't have followed along if you knew the pieces that looked cool as they were doled out really meant very little. Sometimes, in those stories, you end up with pieces missing, or ones that don't fit. Frustrating.

Some "puzzle" stories are like Sherlock Holmes stories, that is, more like crossword puzzles. The reader and/or character is given deliberately mysterious snippets that must be interpreted and interwoven until all the little blanks are filled in and we can read the clever word plays related to the puzzle's title. I don't mind a good crossword puzzle. However, sometimes, the word plays turn out to be inappropriate or meaningless. Sometimes, there are still blanks left....

Some stories are like I Love Lucy episodes, that is, if at any point a reasonable person walked in and cleared up the misunderstanding, well, there wasn't much of a story there, really. But some people like I Love Lucy stories. Usually, they're just a platform upon which to accomplish something else, in the case of I Love Lucy itself, playing out gags.

Some stories have glacial or no plot movement, but interesting advancement of the character(s). An internal journey of development. The climax of the Iron Man alcoholism story was meant to be like that. At the end, all of Tony Starks problems were still there, but he had beaten (or started to beat) his alcohol dependency.

Lots more kinds. You get the drift. No rules.

Except, do it well.

Commercial art, all kinds, comes with goals. The goals give us a yardstick by which to measure the efficacy of the effort. I'm not talking just sales, I mean does the work accomplish what it apparently set out to accomplish? Or is it a failed attempt at a story worth telling, a jigsaw, a crossword, an I Love Lucy, all of the above, or something else?

Sometimes, the creators don't know what they're doing. They're just doing, stumbling around, and they don't succeed at anything.

Anonymous said...

I might give Aquaman a try. I think Johns is a solid writer

buddy said...

Jim, great response, thanks! Also, a fitting end to this thread- put up a new post already ;)

Defiant1 said...

Brent,

I'll try and make a point to check out the titles at the comic shop. None of the characters interest me, but I'll try and come back with a reply this weekend.

Anonymous said...

"Based on what Anonymous and MikeAnon are saying (and I agree completely), Wonder Woman is utterly irrelevant. She was created for girls, based on things girls identify with. Without the sexist underpinnings, she has no purpose. She's just another puncher-bimbo (She-Hulk, Red She-Hulk). Maybe that's why her title struggles so much. Social modernization has rendered her moot."

[MikeAnon:] On the contrary, Wonder Woman could potentially be more relevant today than ever before largely due to "social modernization's" rejection of the basic principle of human gender duality. Women ARE different from men, in both body and brain chemistry. The only reason that it doesn't seem that way anymore is that (1) technology has changed the world such that men and women are now often able to do the same jobs, and (2) popular fiction (TV, movies, comics) often blurs the lines between men and women, either out of laziness, ignorance, or political correctness. But none of that changes the underlying truth that men and women still are essentially two different kinds of human being. Biology drives sociology -- it's not the other way around. Only when technology levels the biological playing field does sociology stop respecting biological norms.

So, rather than throwing Wonder Woman on the ash heap of history, why not pick her up, dust her off, and make her a champion of those biological norms? Imagine an island nation of women who look at "Man's World" and are horrified to see *women acting like men* -- i.e., to see women rejecting their roles as mothers, wives, and other feminine icons. The Amazons are without men because *they have to be* -- their desirability before the lecherous gods keeps them trapped in hiding on Paradise Island, defending themselves from lecherous god attacks, and if a man sets foot on Paradise Island, they'd all crumble into dust from the gods' curse, so a warrior culture is all that's left to them. But that doesn't mean they don't long for male companionship. But even worse, they see that *men are acting like women now, too!* So the men that they have longed for all this time are feminizing themselves and taking themselves off the table of desirability. So the queen of the Amazons cries out to the goddesses for the gift of a child who will one day go out into "Man's World" and teach men and women that they can live together in harmony *without* sacrificing what is basic to their natures -- that women can be powerful and still be feminine, while men can be sensitive and still be masculine.

Or, you know, something like that. Because, come on, isn't the worst thing about women in comics, movies, TV, etc., that they so often read just like men? *Viva la difference!* [--MikeAnon]

Moe Boulder said...

Great series of posts, and very interesting discussion. While I don't hate Azzarello's new Wonder Woman or anything, I'm not exactly thrilled by it and find myself wondering why it's as fawned upon as it is. It's refreshing to see a thorough critique that addresses the myriad narrative and characterization issues that I've been having with these issues, problems which continue in issue #5.

For one thing, I mean, why is Wonder Woman such a non-entity in her own book? She has little to no discernible personality to speak of, and five issues in, she just hasn't done much of anything: scuffled with some centaurs in issue #1, threw a tantrum in issue #3, stabbed Strife's hand with a broken glass in issue #4 - that's it. That's one slow burn of a character trajectory to follow, not to speak of the pacing of the story. And frankly, the (conceivably) stylistically sparse writing doesn't help matters.

Of course, Wonder Woman herself seems to be the last thing this story's concerned with, as it's far more interested in its parade of Ancient Greek deities and the "intrigue" it is glacially building up. Likewise, that's all the readers seem to care about from it. I just don't get it.

cesare said...

[MikeAnon:] On the contrary, Wonder Woman could potentially be more relevant today than ever before largely due to "social modernization's"

I'd read that.

Something I don't think anyone mentioned.

I don't read ALL the capes books out there, but I USED TO read many more than I do now.

And that's because, as much as anything else, there's no humanity in many (all?) mainstream big 2 capes books. I can't get into any of them, I can't relate to them, I don't care about the constant in-fighting among the 'heros', I don't marvel at their 'fantasticness' anymore. I don't rejoice at their heroism and bravery. I can't cheer for them. Never mind that I can barely understand the story.

I think these publishers are going about the genre all wrong, as much as they aren't paying attention to the quality of the craft.

I've been pumping Jim to look at some great 'capes' books, but I hope Jim looks at some other genres as well. Yeah, I'd like that. Let's see if there's any correlation between shitty comics and superhero comics, and good comics and other genres.

William said...

Excellent insights, Jim. You did a good job of illuminating the finer points, subtleties and storytelling errors of these four issues.

This book is a perfect example of why I don't even bother to read new comics at all anymore. As you said, it's not really a comprehensive story. It's just a bunch of stuff that happens. A series of moments that tie together loosely. For the life of me, I will never understand why comics are like this now, or how and why this change in the medium came about.

Luckily for me there is a lot of good classic stuff out in trade paperback these days.

ja said...

JayJay,

I do not own a Kindle, or even a smart phone as of yet. I would like to go to Amazon and buy your short story you wrote, They Always Come Back.

How do I do this? I saw on your book's facebook page wherein someone said something about buying a PDF of your story? How does one do this? Is buying the kindle the same as buying the PDF?

I'm so 'ignernt' about these things.

Thanks!

Ole M. Olsen said...

ja,

I'm taking the liberty of trying to answer your questions on behalf of JayJay, as I would like everyone to read her story. :-)

The Kindle edition and the PDF edition are two different editions. You don't need a Kindle/tablet/smart phone to read the PDF edition, you can read it on your computer or print it out.

You do need a PayPal account to buy it, though. Assuming you've got one:

Simply visit http://www.jayjayjackson.com/ebooks.html and buy the PDF via PayPal. After you have paid for it, you will (if memory serves) be forwarded to a web page where you can download the PDF. You will also receive the link via e-mail.

Good luck, and enjoy. :-)

JayJayJackson said...

Thank you Ole! Yes, right now you can get the PDF on my web site. I hope you like it! I'm also working on an audio version I hope to have up soon.

SWartStudio said...

Everything -- well said. I was laughing out loud a few times reading this blog. Bravo!

Stuart Moore said...

There are also free Kindle apps for both Windows and Macintosh. If you don't mind reading on your computer, you can download the appropriate app at amazon.com and buy any Kindle book that way.

Anonymous said...

Jim- I "tuned in" for the first time today, and I was completely lost. You are dead on with that criticism.

jimshooter said...

Dear Cesare,

RE: "I don't read ALL the capes books out there, but I USED TO read many more than I do now.

And that's because, as much as anything else, there's no humanity in many (all?) mainstream big 2 capes books. I can't get into any of them, I can't relate to them, I don't care about the constant in-fighting among the 'heros', I don't marvel at their 'fantasticness' anymore. I don't rejoice at their heroism and bravery. I can't cheer for them. Never mind that I can barely understand the story.

I think these publishers are going about the genre all wrong, as much as they aren't paying attention to the quality of the craft."


Well said. I agree.

ja said...

Ole M. Olsen,

Thanks for the information. I bought it, and I look forward to reading it this weekend.

Defiant1 said...

I think Wonder Woman would be more interesting if a woman wrote the comic. Who better than a woman to make a plausible icon for women to admire and one which enlightens men on how a superheroic woman would view her male counterparts?
I have a very disarming personality to people who know me, so it's pretty common for me to hear sexy attractive women expressing everything men do that annoys them. I suspect that if there was a Wonder Woman out there, she'd spend a lot of time trying to get men to leave her alone.

The last thing I want to see is a Woman who is bulked up and looks like a man. Women's muscles do not naturally bulk up the same as men when they work out. Their muscles are more elongated. There are physiological differences and I feel that a woman would intentionally be going for a bulked up appearance to actually achieve that. To draw Wonder Woman bulked up makes it look like she's just doing it to show off that she can. That's an unappealing and rather shallow character trait for her to have.

Dan said...

Definitely true: there's nothing very special about superheroes anymore. They've moved onto the "tread-worn concept" list along with noble savages, jungle lords, ocean explorers, astronauts, crime detectives, sword and sorcery (and sandal, and planet), and so on. Seen it and seen it.

Science fiction was 'dead' by 1975. So was space opera. So was the black vs white approach to conflict. But guess what... George Lucas restarted the whole thing--by getting back to its basics and building up again.

Superhero comics are 'dead' outside of its current narrow readership. The success of the current movies is more the novelty of using modern special effects than the genre concepts. We could easily argue that this is also why Star Wars revitalized science fiction/fantasy--the new special effects improved how the stories were told.

What new technique has been introduced to comics? Computer coloring? Computer lettering? Making people pay 2x the cover price while making them buy 2x/3x the number of issues to get a story?

Both the superhero genre and comic book medium have played themselves out. They don't attract people looking for new ideas and experiences, just people looking to continue an old hobby.

For the genre to grow, it needs to get back to basics. But nobody is interested in doing that. Marvel and DC pretend to attempt this by restarting already thread-bare concepts. Insignificant fashion changes aside, the New 52 is status quo as usual. The Justice League just restarted the personal relationships, but not the fundamental structure of the series. To an outsider, there is NOTHING new about the New 52. Same with all the restarts. They just enable Marvel and DC to redo the same things that were done in the 60s. This is NOT a restart from scratch.

Lucas tried to get the rights to Flash Gordon to make his movie. Luckily, this failed. Because odds are that a new fangled Flash Gordon movie would not have had near the impact. It would not have gone back far enough to reach the ROOTS of what make that type of adventure fiction.

What would a superhero look like if constructed anew today? What visuals would appeal to today's audience? (Hint: it wouldn't be based on 1930s circus strongmen.) What powers would strike people's imaginations? What struggles would audiences relate to? What villains would he fight?

Because Marvel and DC don't have any new ideas, they put all their chips in the "characterization" basket. It's all about the dialogue. They've turned into daytime soap operas, where the story isn't important. No set up for the plot twist, all set up for the snarky comment. Who cares how long the story takes? Keep the "moments" coming.

Defiant1 said...

In keeping with my word, I checked out the 4 titles Brent asked me about. I won't clutter the comments section. But here is a link to my evaluations...

http://bit.ly/xXfEm1

(The DC comics category will not stay visible long. I'm not collecting comics now, so I keep my board trimmed down in size & scope.)

Brent E said...

Defiant1,

Thanks for posting the link. Some thoughts: I enjoyed the score system you used for grading the comics, obviously you put some thought into your verdicts on the books. Sorry to see you didn't enjoy any of them more.

Being the one that recommended them, I did so for different reasons. With OMAC, I think it's one of the best books around for telling comics in a different way than other new books. Less decompression, throwback design, Kirby influenced art, etc.

Superboy was, for me, a great first issue that told a complete story where the main character was not the generic hero. Again, Lobdell gets ripped on a lot, but I think this issue was mostly positively reviewed because it was an easily accessible, compelling story from the get go (again, just my opinion, obviously not for everybody).

The other two titles aren't really superhero books, instead they're more horror stories. I think Yanick Paquette's art on Swamp Thing is amazing, I'm a bit surprised one would give it a 3 (Average) when besides JH Williams he has some of the most inventive panels and detailed work while not straying into uncanny valley territory. Obviously, these books are slower burns than the other two, but what I enjoyed about both was that despite being more "written for the trade" they are not quick reads. The writers are spending time creating an atmosphere that (eventually) is filled with creepy and unusual occurrences.

To recap: thanks again for posting the reviews, sorry you didn't enjoy them.

Anonymous said...

"I think Wonder Woman would be more interesting if a woman wrote the comic."

[MikeAnon:] Honestly, my favorite Wonder Woman writer? George Perez. Tried Jodi Picoult -- dropped it after 1 issue. Flipped through Gail Simone. Nothing spectacular there. It's been a while since I read the Perez issues, and his art was a MAJOR factor contributing to his run's "favorite" status in my book, but I wouldn't write off male authors where any female character is concerned. [--MikeAnon]

Anonymous said...

re: woman writer

The irony is, two of Azzarello's best books, 100 Bullets and Loveless, had female protagonists

Defiant1 said...

Brent,

I do check out comics periodically, but I'm doing it less and less. I used to buy comics that I thought "might" be good with a good creative team. I now cross-reference my insights with a little of my past experience in retail. A good creative team with a lousy marketing approach will still be something that won't last. Generic covers or anything that buries a title's potential on the shelf tell me that management won't let it continue. I'm not into being teased with something great only to have it canceled, abruptly stopped, or negated because some jackass is more interested in publishing stories that are the equivalent of a car crash. Everyone looks, but they are really vested in what's going on. The biggest problem with comics is they aren't inspiring anymore.