Friday, May 02, 2008

DC Universe #0

DC Universe #0, the prelude/teaser for Final Crisis and a variety of other DC books dropped yesterday. It was pitched as a primer for new readers, giving them the info they needed to follow DC’s upcoming stories. I don’t consider myself a new reader, I’ve read 52, Infinite Crisis, Crisis on Infinite Earths, all of The Fourth World, Grant’s JLA and more, but I found myself very confused, and not really knowing what was going on for the vast majority of the book. So, I think the book would be absolutely impenetrable to totally new readers. That said, I am pretty intrigued by the stories, so perhaps the book did its job.

I think one of the great myths of recent comics discussion is the idea that readers need done in one stories and clear jump on points if they’re going to enjoy a book. Ultimate Spider-Man was specifically designed to have standalone arcs, so you can pick up any TPB or arc starting issue and enjoy it. Warren Ellis has talked a lot about this, and done series like Global Frequency that are modular and designed to be easy for new readers to pick up. I don’t think this is a bad idea, but if you read people talking about why they got into comics, very few of them say they picked up the first issue of a book, or a new storyline and got hooked from there.

More frequently, you’ll hear people talk about how they picked up a random issue of Claremont X-Men, or something like that, and didn’t know what was going on, but wanted to know more. For me, I picked up some X-Men comics, and was baffled, but I was interested in knowing more, so I picked up Essential X-Men 1, and went from there. So, technically it was reading a jump on point that got me into comics, but I would never have been interested if I hadn’t gotten a glimpse of the crazy universe and its many stories from the current issues. Hearing about stories like Mutant Massacre and Inferno, I wanted to find out what they were, and discover the characters’ backstory. If there was a downside to actually finishing the Claremont run, it’s that all these stories were nailed down into something concrete, rather than existing as this hazy apocryphal narrative.

So, in that sense, this book works. It presents cryptic glimpses of various storylines, and has me intrigued for a number of them. I wouldn’t normally read a Wonder Woman comic, but this teaser wasn’t bad, and reminded me of the Gail Simone issue I had gotten free at New York Comicon. I won’t be buying this new storyline in singles, but I might grab a TPB of Simone’s first arc when it comes out.

The stuff with Green Lantern was totally incomprehensible, as was whatever was going on with Superman at the start of the book. The book in general felt a bit too divided in focus. By jumping around to all these stories, we don’t get a real feel for them. It would have probably been better to make a choice and go for either something that’s straight up ad, or go for more of a coherent story.

That said, I do really like the scene with Libra at the end of the issue. The tagline for Final Crisis is ‘The Day Evil Won,’ and the series seems to be dealing explicitly with the dark power of Darkseid. Having just finished the last Fourth World omnibus, I’m curious to see how Morrison deals with Darkseid. I like the religious angle, which feels very contemporary. I could imagine Dick Cheney leading a similar meeting of his business associates, asking them to join him and invade Iraq.

The end of The Invisibles posited a world on the threshold of a new age, ready to burst into glorious chaotic life. In Volume III, the old order was already destroyed, and their defeat was a formality. However, our world hasn’t gone that way, and it’s appropriate that this crossover deal with a resurgent force of evil in the world. Darkseid is the pure incarnation of control, and by believing in him, this ragtag crew of villains could become united for a single cause.

So, that was me intrigued, and bodes well for what’s going on in FC. However, the ‘big revelation’ out of this issue was the return of Bart Allan, the original Flash. Now, the only reason I have to believe that happened is the various media articles about it. Reading the issue itself, I had no idea that that happened. Yes, there’s the giant Flash sign on the last page, but that means he’s returned from the dead? My interpretation would more be that he’s merged with the DCU itself, and perhaps that is the take, but it doesn’t seem to gibe with what the media’s reporting. Is that the Flash falling through time, and glowing with power, or Darkseid? I don’t even know.

And, I think that’s a big problem with the issue. I think it errs a bit too much towards the cryptic, if I can’t tell what’s going on, someone who’s read many, many current and older DC comics, then you’ve got a very narrow audience for the book. I don’t necessarily mind not being able to follow everything, but if this Flash story is something internal to this book, it should be at least somewhat comprehensible.

Still, I don’t think Morrison’s responsible for most of the content in the book. It’s got a lot of stories to tease, and not much space to do it in. It succeeds in intriguing me, but it’s not the kind of thing that’s going to hook, or even make any sense at all, to a casual fan. Now, for some people that might not be a problem, getting a glimpse into this crazy universe could get them on the path to buying some more books. But, a low priced book going out the week of Free Comic Book Day should at least have some internal logic.


Anonymous said...

Barry Allen.... not Bart. Bart is the kid.

Patrick said...

See, that's the level of confusion this book brought me, I'm not even sure who's coming back! But, it still had its moments, and I'm sure Final Crisis will be great.