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Comics (Warren Ellis Edition)

Injection #12: Injection is, essentially, Planetary, except that everything secret in the word is terrifying and the protagonists screwed up and are responsible for about half of it.

The Wild Storm #3: Mostly the original WildStorm universe, but tightened down into a much more consistent history, and in a relatively more realistic-looking setting.

Bruce Wayne, Ladies and Gentlemen

Bruce: This situation is too dangerous, leave Gotham.

All the Robins[1]: Sure. And by "Sure," we mean "Nope." Dick, literally: "Ignoring Batman's pretty much the definition of being a Robin."[2]

Bruce: *kidnaps the Wayne-ish subset of the Robins, puts them in stasis chambers, and stashes those in the Fortress of Solitude* [3]

[1] Minus Tim and Steph, and, yes, Rebirth can kiss my tushie, Steph was/will be a Robin and Cass was/will be a Batgirl, and the whole Mother thing can kiss my tushie, too.

[2] Batman, somewhere: "... And that's why I have a team of adoption lawyers on retainer." Alfred, somewhere else: "I'm sure sixth time will be a charm, Sir."

[3] Alfred: *files away the idea, as Bruce's developing a tolerance to the sedatives he uses to "convince" him to rest whenever his injuries are particularly grievous*


Peace is a techne

Where and how did Diana learn how to be a diplomat? Everything we've been shown of Themyscira during her life there shows the island as inhabited by a single polity, and one ruled by an immortal (mostly absolute?) monarch at that. You have the interpersonal issues inherent to, well, people, but none of the kind of conflict between social or political groups deriving from competing ideologies or sets of interests for which workable compromises must be found.

Even worse, it's a warrior culture, so physical conflict, although within heavily regulated boundaries, is absolutely accepted, and perhaps even encouraged.

So why should their Princess — who rather than a misfit was highly respected and extremely well-trained by the standards of her society — be any good as a diplomat? I don't question her desire for peace at both social and personal levels, nor her reluctance to fight given alternatives, but effective diplomacy, even when the goal is peace, isn't just about wanting it, it's a skill. It's a form of politics, and Themyscira looks like an awful place to learn politics; too immortal to have to deal with heir hairiness, too small for fights over centralization and delegation of power. And their economy, to whatever degree we know it, looks like "Ancient Greece with magic replacing slaves" (I think), which doesn't even give you space to the Pandora's Box of an urban commercial class or, later, a proletariat.

Options: (1) Diana spent quite a bit of time in Patriarch's World learning the nuts and bolts of diplomacy (the Trevor timeline forbids it, but Diana could be old enough for her to have shadowed Talleyrand). (2) The Amazons have a secret school of diplomacy they trained her in before she left the island (but this only punts the problem; do they travel to keep in practice, and/or learn new tricks? that goes against the grain of Amazonian isolationism). (3) Diana is bad at it and knows it (but I've never read her say anything along those lines). (4) Diana is bad at it, doesn't know it, and neither Clark nor Bruce have been able or willing to tell her. Clark probably wishes he could approach the issues as she does, but can't due to his own standing in the world (basically, the Pope can host meetings, but he can't draft treaties). And I bet Bruce sees her directness as, most of the time, useful in the kind of negotiations he makes after scaring the crap out of people in their "highly secure" offices. In the sense of "you might possibly outflank Superman given his cultural, psychological, and geopolitical constraints, but then your options are *me* and the relentlessly idealist Superman-level highly-trained warrior with diplomatic immunity."


RL sucks

My not-really-fast internet is borked, and my ISP won't send a technician until Friday to "solve" the same issue I've had every other month for the last, dunno, year.

Meanwhile, Warren Ellis is publishing a comic about multiple deep black groups with ultrahigh tech fighting a secret war to control the world, and the lone genius who came up with yet more ultrahigh tech and it's going to throw everything out of balance (The Wild Storm #1, recommended if you're into Ellis and/or Hickman).

First-worldish problems, I know. And in a news channel I keep as background a D.A. is talking about an horrifying thing I'd rather not spoil your day by telling you about, so I'll try and keep perspective.


Being reasonable sucks

Just went through fourteen out of seventy-four old issues of Gotham Knights, and in a Bruce-like display of nearly superhuman strength of will, I'm going to pace myself and read the rest during the week instead of staying awake and reading all of them. Which I could totally do, except that it'd throw off my schedule.

I have to keep reminding myself of that, because, if you never read them, Gotham Knights is gold. There's a lot batfam character and relationships studies — an understatement — but if I have to be honest with you, the main draw is often the Dick-and-Tim sideshow of absolutely ridiculous, sometimes wordless banter.


I was going to say that although Tim during the whole "Bruce's not dead" Red Robin era (not the more recent insanity) is perhaps the archetypal expression of what I think he can be, I keep this Tim in my heart, because he's an earnest dork with a goofy sense of humor and I miss that.

But. While writing a bit more about Tim's search for Bruce (spoiler alert: Bruce wasn't dead), I suddenly realized something. Remember that awesome/awful birthday gift from Bruce in the form of a fake message from the future that made Tim question the sanity and morals of everybody he loved as a first step in the next stage of his training in detection? Tim's Bruce's not dead realization was very much close to that: a fragment of information out of time (in this case, paintings from the past) that he observed and deduced from in a way very few other people would've, regardless of their smarts, partly because Tim's a natural at this, and partly because Bruce helped him train in that way.

I don't know what I find more pleasing, the fact that what was arguably Tim's second legendary feat of detection (the first being of course figuring out Batman's identity) was so similar to that first lesson, or the irony that what he figured out was that the guy who had mocked him during for having bought the idea of time travel was indeed lost in time.

I don't think it was meant as a deliberate reference, but if it was, kudos.


It's a deconstruction... no, it's a deliberately ironical shattering of Karnak. First Ellis builds him up as this cool hyper-competent philosophical badass, and then he finds the flaw in him, kicks it very, very hard, and lets us see the cracks.

It's a peek at the what's behind the curtain of cool-looking ultraviolence and nihilism. From a psychological, emotional point of view, Karnak isn't well. That's a rather ballsy move to make after you rebuilt a C-list character into a niche favorite; it's done to Bruce Wayne in about one issue out of five (to an extreme, interesting, but probably inconsistent degree in I am Suicide), but then, Batman is Batman, with his huge cultural standing and long-accepted spectrum of psychological descriptions from Batman:TAS "good, mostly sane man coping with lingering trauma and depression in a weird way" to the late Miller's clinical psychopath.

A last, short, but spoilery paragraph.Collapse )
My main takeaways are that Jae Lee and Ben Oliver totally kick the art out of the park during the first issues, and I wish I could read more of the older (Earth-2?) world. I know they eventually got Darkseid' to pieces (and then there was a very long and silly migration and whatnot I only sort of followed), but I think TPTB made that happen because Batman and Superman had sort of won.

But mostly, the art was gorgeous; moody, strange, dramatic. As an example, here's Bruce Wayne (in disguise) sitting in a park bench:

It's all like that. The perfect style for that pair of over-dramatic prima donnas (in all fairness, everybody and everything looks over-dramatic drawn that style).

The Black Monday Murders #1

It's a very Hickman book: intricate world building, magic-as-machinery-as-magic, historical retconning, and his rather unique aesthetic. The overall premise of this one is that high finance is, literally although secretly, black magic. Cue occult systems, vague Tim Powers-ish pragmatics, and plenty of Ayn-Rand-meets-Aleister-Crowley characters.

A rec if you already know you like Hickman's books, an anti-rec if you know you dislike them, and a maybe, why not? if you don't know. A small asterisk in the above is that he's usually a much tighter world builder than his sprawling Marvel work would suggest. The style and philosophy are the same, but there he had to deal with a metric ton of history, all of which he attempted to make use of as a prelude of throwing his own stuff into it. Hence Secret Wars. The universes he creates from scratch are very rich, but much more consistent.


This is why we don't have nice things

[community profile] scans_daily is currently posting bits from the old "Doom's Master" FF story, which included both one of the worst moments of Doom characterization I can conceive, much less know of — lets just begin with Victor Von Doom calling somebody, anybody, anything, "Master" — and one of Doom's crowing moments of awesome, when he was thoroughly trashed (I'm being hilariously understated here) and thrown back into the Pliocene to be eaten by giant sharks. That's not the awesome part, of course (except in that it implies you're the kind of person who rates the sort of enemies who can do that) – the awesome part is what he did then. So I've always been ambiguous about that.

Except that now they are also posting bits of Dark Avengers #176, showing how the Thunderbolts, in the far past for irrelevant reasons, happen to rescue Doom. The Thunderbolts. Rescue. Doom. And he of course betrays them for their time machine, and that's how Doom survived that thing.

No. Nope. Nooooooope. No-no. No chance. Nah. I refuse to acknowledge that Marvel just retconned one of Doom's Peak Doom moments into little more than outrageously good luck. It's worse than the time DC retconned Hal Jordan's completely understandable grief (together with maybe completely understandable plans) and subsequent one-man blitzkrieg against the Crops and grim semi-godhood into "possession by weird cosmic entity," rendering meaningless what had been a psychologically and narratively *interesting* event. Mostly because I'm a gazillon times more interested in Doom than in Hal and, to borrow a 2016 vernacular we'll never use again, the eons-long Big Bang-sized dumpster fire that is everything the Guardian have tried to do, ever.
I'm reading Alan Moore's Providence (a twelve-issues mini of which I think nine have been published so far). Some random observations:

  • You could say it's something like "Planetary meets Lovecraft and the Gang."

  • You have to assume trigger warnings for graphical depictions of pretty much everything you could imagine.

  • The way it plays with time, dreams, and symbols is fascinating, and leverages the medium very well. It's Alan Moore, of course; that's kind of what he does.

  • The humor... I don't know if humor is the right word, YMMV, but another way of describing this would be Mr. Magoo Goes to Hell. This is bleakly funny sometimes, and other times almost intolerable. Every issue ends with a few pages of the protagonist's Commonplace Book (more of a journal, actually), which you definitely shouldn't skip over.

  • The story is its own meta, unashamedly and deliberately so.


cass, can you not

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