Friday, April 28, 2006

The Various. The Sundry.


"Loved the Villains United Special; if you don't, I don't know what you're reading comics for. Thanks, Gail! " Scip Garling of The Absorbascon.

After reading The Villains United Special, I've realized that I just may have just read the perfect superhero comic. I wish I could say more but in the interest of not spoiling it for anyone, all I can say is this:

Villains United Special is a love letter to every man & woman who's ever contributed anything to The DC Universe. From William Moulton Marston's creaton of Dr. Psycho to The Justice League's Martian Manhunter standing side-by-side with Odd-Man (!), writer Gail Simone has crafted a story proving that some 70 years in, The DCU is the place in which to find symbolism & wonder. I still get chills as I have never seen such a clear division of good vs. evil while literally, above it all, six very different individuals try to find a way. 24 hours later, this book is still with me. Villains United Special is athe culmination of every thing good about DC Comics.

21 comments:

Martin said...

Devon,

Man, that Kool-Aid tasted good, didn't it?

I liked the VU special, but it just bothered the crap out of me that this whole uber-battle is just a tacked-on ending to Infinite Crisis. The story should've ended with Connor Kent heroically sacrificing himself to put S-Prime and Alex Luthor out of business for good. Instead, both of them are still around, and Connor's triumph is minimized for the sake of a BIG POINTLESS FIGHT.

I'm not feeling it, man. Maybe I'll be surprised, though. :)

naladahc said...

What Martin said.

Overall, the whole Villains United "storyline" seems like it should have been a separate DCU crossover series.

To me it feels tacked on to Infinite Crisis, which doesn't feel like it really does anything other than give a cosmic explanation to deassholify Batman.

But I couldn't drink the Kool-Aid by buying all the tie-ins so maybe I'm just missing something.

Scipio said...

"The story should've ended with Connor Kent heroically sacrificing himself to put S-Prime and Alex Luthor out of business for good."

Why?

Is that how stories are supposed to end? One heroic sacrifice then everything's over?

Can you people not enjoy the story for what it is, without the concern that you've been "conned" into buying something?

In the orignal Crisis, the story didn't end with the sacrifice of Supergirl or Flash; a big "heroes vs. villains" fight followed. That current plot is an homage to that.

Jer said...

"Is that how stories are supposed to end? One heroic sacrifice then everything's over? ... In the orignal Crisis, the story didn't end with the sacrifice of Supergirl or Flash; a big "heroes vs. villains" fight followed. That current plot is an homage to that."

I have to agree with Scipio here - one heroic sacrifice and its over is not necessarily needed - and could make for a boring story. In fact, both Supergirl and Flash performed their heroic sacrifices to give the villain a temporary setback - not even an overall foiling of his plan. At least Connor utterly destroyed Luthor's chances of enacting his scheme - now its all cleanup.

"Can you people not enjoy the story for what it is, without the concern that you've been "conned" into buying something?"

Well, to be fair, this is partly DC's fault. This story was advertised as all things to all people, so when you don't get what you THINK you were told you were going to get, you're gonna get upset. I can understand that point of view, though I think the story is a perfectly servicable "big event" story myself. I'd probably put it on the order of Legends or Marvel's original Infinity Gauntlet. It doesn't quite reach the heights of Crisis on Infinite Earths or DC One Million, but it definitely avoids the depths of idiocy of something like Bloodlines, and also the terminal boredom combined with shocking revelations that really weren't all that shocking of Millenium.

My only "complaints" about the whole thing are that 1] the Alex Luthor / Superboy Prime are misguided/evil/psychotic bad guys thing is annoying given how they were portrayed in Crisis. Not as big a deal for me as it is for others, since I don't really consider them to be the same characters, but it still tweaks. And 2] the very, very, very thinly veiled commentary on comic-book fandom that Johns in making through Superboy Prime and Alex Luthor. I'm not even sure its supposed to be veiled. The commentary ends up coming out like "DC is teh best now, and if you like the old stuff you're wrong, wrong, wrong". I'm not sure he intended it to read that way, but it annoys me when it comes through that way.

Chris said...

The VU special was the best comic I've read this year.

Martin said...

In the orignal Crisis, the story didn't end with the sacrifice of Supergirl or Flash; a big "heroes vs. villains" fight followed. That current plot is an homage to that.

Yeah, and that sucked too. :) Just kidding.

In all seriousness, the difference between the original Crisis "big fight" and the IC fight is that the original was a direct part of the story--the final battle with the Anti-Monitor leading to the ultimate (or so we thought) fate of E-2 Supes, Superboy Prime, etc.

This time, it just comes out of nowhere and doesn't seem to relate to the story at all. Hasn't Alex Luthor just spent seven issues ranting about why this Earth sucks and it's no good for him? I can only see him deciding to take this route out of a kind of spoiled petulance--which would make sense, but also seems very out of whack with the guy who's basically played the entire DCU like a harp for a year-plus.

I can enjoy the story for what it is, yes. I like the Secret Six a lot, and there was a lot to like about the special on its own merits. But in terms of the larger story, it just feels weak...a hurried way to lead us to the changes shown in One Year Later, and an excuse for a big fight.

I love me some big fights, don't misunderstand--especially when George Perez gets his mitts on them--but I love me good storytelling more. This ain't it.

CalvinPitt said...

I guess count me as someone not all that impressed.

I went into this thinking "Alright, Secret Six", and mostly got. . . Oracle and Dr. Psycho. Uh. . .hunh. Maybe I'm just real ready for the Secret Six mini-series, I don't know.

I don't believe the big fight diminishes Conner's sacrifice, because we're witnessing Alex Luthor's fallback plan. He can't have the Perfect Earth he wanted, so he'll come as close as he can to a "perfect" Earth here. That's a result of Conner's actions.

Still, the ending boils down to just another big "heroes vs. villains" brawl. If you could convince me that anyone of consequence on either side would be killed, I might care, even though I'd know they'd be back eventually. But it'll be a bunch of Z-list types that get wasted, like in issue #4 of Infinite Crisis. Yawn.

So, yes, I'm jaded and cynical. And that's partly because, as jer suggested, DC billed this as something that would be great for everyone, but what they've mostly done is mess with the characters I like, and piss me off. So, I'm not inclined to give them much slack.

Jer said...

"Still, the ending boils down to just another big "heroes vs. villains" brawl. If you could convince me that anyone of consequence on either side would be killed, I might care, even though I'd know they'd be back eventually."

Wha? Why would someone getting killed make you care more than if no one dies? Especially when you know that they'll be back eventually? Seriously, no snark intended, I don't understand this idea and I'd like some insight.

And a well-done heroes vs. villains brawl is a well-done heroes vs. villains brawl, worthwhile to me on its own merits (if its good). A mega-brawl done poorly is worthless, but a well-done one is worth the $3 I pay for it.

(And I guess I need to make a trip to the comic book store to pick up the new VU special - or is it going to show up in trade anytime soon?)

Jeff R. said...

Honestly, in the original Crisis, the two issues of the Villian War were the high point of the entire series, and if there had been more of that and less of the Monitor-Anti-Monitor sibling rivalry plot, the series would have been much stronger.

At least this time around they're putting the good part at the conclusion, a step in the right direction.

Anyhow, it's not a big pointless fight; it's as pointful as any superhero fight ever is. Why shouldn't the bad guys attempt a massive strike when they know that the heroes are at the weakest they will likely ever be? And why shouldn't the good guys resist them?

CalvinPitt said...

jer: Honestly, you're right. Knowing the character would return makes any deaths pretty much a waste of time and paper. Given that we know death will never be permanent (and maybe that's for the best), allow me to rephrase my statement to better reflect my feelings:

Still, the ending boils down to just another big "heroes vs. villains" brawl. I understand that it is a perfectly logical way to conclude the story, but I have zero anticipation for it. Maybe this is because they already started the One Year Later books, and what I've seen in them makes me think the fight is no big deal. Maybe I just feel like I've seen this type of thing too often already. Maybe I was happy with what DC was doing before they kicked off Identity/Countdown/Infinite Mess, and so this is just a huge annoyance to me.

The whole "BIG FIGHT COMING UP!" does nothing for me, other than give me hope this will be over soon.

Jeffrey said...

Wow, the comments page is really dripping with cynicism today...

For what it's worth, the VU Special was the best read of a heavy week for me, no surprise given that the VU mini was the best of the Countdown minis. Everyone got to be a hero, got their chance to shine. You can really feel the buildup to the final page, and as one blogger mentioned, when was the last time you were actually excited to see "that guy" at the end?

The VU Special did its job - reignite my waning interest in Infinite Crisis. I'm not sure why you guys complain that it's a "pointless fight" when the actual issue isn't even out yet, but even if it is, a superhero brawl is a superhero brawl, y'know? You sit back and enjoy it. (And no, I wouldn't want the mini to end on the sacrifice - how predictable would that have been?) If you can't, well, that's fine, but why are you still reading in the first place?

So yeah, props to Gail Simone, who seems as though she should have been the one to write big-ass crossovers.

The Fortress Keeper said...

The VU Special was a great issue that stands on its own and will quite possibly outshine the end of Infinite Crisis itself.

Gail Simone accomplished what Geoff Johns has failed so far - take a bunch of cool moments and weave a compelling story out of them.

And, simply put, the "we are all the Justice League" moment is THE comics scene of 2006 so far.

Scotus said...

"Wha? Why would someone getting killed make you care more than if no one dies? Especially when you know that they'll be back eventually?"

Because in a fight like this, it's really stretching credulity for people not to get killed. For the most part, we know that most characters aren't ever going to die, so in order to show that there are consequences for putting on a costume, other characters sometimes need to.

An army of villains (including Doomsday), against J'onn, Black Canary, and a bunch of third stringers? If there isn't a decent body count, yeah, I'll be disappointed. The key then, of course, is to not bring them back. The fact that there's already a new Freedom Fighters annoys me to no end.

(Having said all that, I hope Skyrocket makes it. DC needs more fast food employees turned superhero.)

Ununnilium said...

First off, killing second-stringers just to show how badass someone is annoys me.

Second, I liked it a lot, but I'm confused as to what point it takes place. Right after IC #6? During IC #7? Ah, well, I suppose 7 will clarify.

Jer said...

Okay, so I made my special trip to the store this morning and picked it up. I have to say that Simone has done it again - made what is quite possibly the best "event" in the midst of a huge string of "events". Her Villains United series was easily the best mini-series of the "prelude" mini-series leading up to Inifinite Crisis, and this special is, to me, better than the actual Infinite Crisis series has been.

Its actually showing heroes at their most heroic, and villains at their most villainous. The scenes where the third, fourth and fifth-string heroes turn out to "hold the line" against the army of supervillains was awesome by itself, but the build up to it was in some ways even more incredible.

Stuff like this reminds why I started reading comics in the first place. Between this and the VU miniseries, Simone has made me like the Calculator as a villain. She's written perhaps the best version of Doctor Psycho that I've ever seen. I'm definitely looking forward to her upcoming work - enough that even as someone who generally only buys trade paperback collections these days I might just pick up the individual issues of the Atom.

And scotus, I just have to comment on this:

"Because in a fight like this, it's really stretching credulity for people not to get killed."

Why does the idea that there might be no deaths in a fight like this stretch your credulity MORE than the fact that there are two opposing armies of superpowered beings ready to put the smack down on each other? I find the existence of superpowers themselves in the first place to be far more incredulous than the idea that a bunch of superpowered beings might be able to beat on one another without killing each other. If there's not going to be a story reason for the death (like dealing with the aftermath of it - killing a third stringer to show that your villain is a bad-ass is not a valid story reason), that's one thing. But just to have deaths because that's what would happen "in real life" or something doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Scotus said...

"Why does the idea that there might be no deaths in a fight like this stretch your credulity MORE than the fact that there are two opposing armies of superpowered beings ready to put the smack down on each other?"

Willing suspension of disbelief. To enjoy superhero comics, you have to be willing to accept some pretty unbelievable things going in, such as super powers, secret identities, and Phantom Lady's costume somehow staying on.

That doesn't mean you have to accept everything however. Just like I'd call foul if Batman turned himself invisible through the force of sheer will, it'll be a bit hard to swallow if an army of super powered murderers doesn't do any more damage than a bloody nose or broken arm to a bunch of heroes who collectively have about as much power as Aquaman.

Ed said...

Man, so many jaded cynics. Kinda makes me glad I missed most of the 90's.

VU rocks. And though I'm enjoying Infinite Crisis, the series would be much, much stronger with more Secret Six and less Alex Luthor. Having Alex pop in to say, "Hey, this was Plan B! Really!" was kinda...meh. If they had cut down on some of the clutter in IC 2 and 3, Superboy's sacrifice could have been in Issue 5, and we'd have two whole issues of Doomsday murdering third-stringers. Hell, Alex could have been blown up along with his tower, and the MIA "real" Luthor could have popped in to take control and launch the assault, which woulda been a very cool twist.

But yeah, VU rocks.

Oh, and take a look at the dogpile page, specifically Big D's right shoulder. Wow, Rex already accomplished more than Superman managed to throughout the entire fight :-P

Scipio said...

"Just like I'd call foul if Batman turned himself invisible through the force of sheer will,"

Which he usually does about once an issue, appearing and disappearing at will...

Cove West said...

What I found to be so amazing was how Gail worked so many arcs within such an unwieldy story. In addition to the starring Secret Six, Oracle, and J'onn, there are small-yet-complete stories for the warden of Enclave M, Jack of the Royal Flush Gang, the Calculator, Dr. Psycho, Blacks Canary and Lightning, El Diablo, Arsenal, Captain Nazi and Black Adam, and Dr. Psycho's new best friend, along with a host of vignettes that actually contribute to the story. Also, the plotting has a remarkable professionalism to it. There's a real sense of the villains' plot unfolding, of character throughlines, of unique and distinct battles at the various prisons. It's not all just "dastardly stuff going on and this odd group of heroes fights that odd group of villains" that these sort of mega-battles usually portray. What's even more impressive is that Gail was able to color such tightness between the lines of the out-of-control density of the rest of Infinite Crisis without unravelling either story. Yes, there are some continuity gaffes, but remarkably few considering that the story, by the very nature of its whoever-no-one-else-is-using characters, was subservient to every other title in the DCU yet by page 48 had to become the most important. Not that the IC VU Special was even close to his masterpieces, but I would say that the kind of careful precision Gail had to employ is close to Alan Moore territory.

But that's all structural. From an entertainment standpoint, I loved the hell out of it! I didn't know half the characters involved, but who needs to know who the hell El Diablo is to care that Oracle recruited his D-list ass out of retirement to help save the world as an honest to Dios hero? Whose heart didn't jump as Croc salivated over the prospect of busting open Arkham? Chuckle at Catman's dining etiquette? For a brief second fear for Robin's life before Oracle ordered him to stand down? Feel Barbara's dread as she learned of the other prison breaks? Get a rush from the cavalry call of the freakin' Blood Pack? Every page not just fanboy heaven, but entertaining fanboy heaven.

Oh, before I forget, props to Dale Eaglesham. I've liked him ever since his powerful No Man's Land work, and he continues that here. Very few artists are able to show character and emotion in the middle of epic battles, but Eaglesham makes it look easy. If anything makes me sad about the upcoming Secret Six series, it's that Dale won't be there.

But what really got to me, what really made me love this issue, these far-too-little 48 pages, were three things:

1) The Rocket Reds. I know the concept, but that's it. I have no idea who the Brigade members are, or what they're about. But the big heroic moment for me was seeing these three retired Russians break into a military base and risk the probable imprisonment in a concrete Siberian hole-in-the-ground, because they wanted to help strangers in a time of need. That's a hero in the DCU, people.

2) "...we are every one of us the Justice League." I teared up, dammit. I haven't teared up since 3 got shot in the head! J'onn J'onzz, the living embodiment of the greatest team in comics, telling people like Cinnamon, Odd Man, and the freakin' Blood Pack that they're part of the greatest team in comics? That's a leader in the DCU, people.

3) "A shattered Justice League, and a coffin with a red cape on it." From now on, Dr. Psycho will NEVER be a joke again. How much evil balls does it take to do what he did? To wander alone before the assembled might of the non-cosmic DCU--whistling!--and with all the confidence expected of someone named Dr. Psycho, pull out that trump card? How brilliant is Lex Luthor to put that whole plan together, successes and failures and crazy telepathic Martian pep-talks all factoring in, and still assemble his army in Metropolis with victory all but assured? And--show of hands!--who didn't "oh, sh!t" right along with the rest of the heroes? That's villainy in the DCU, people.

Damn. And a proud Frenchman. Damn.

Bully said...

Okay, okay, so you've proven I'm a schmuck for not picking this up. I'll grab it early this week.

Verification word: Szzox. The sound that a severed head makes when it's sizzled off its body by a rogue Superboy.

K26dp said...

I don't think I understand this whole "promised to be all things to all people" bit.

I believe what that said was that after this story, the editorial direction would be to have the traditional good guys be very good and the villians to be very bad. In many ways, this "mega-fight" is that philosophy played out on the page. As Oracle throught-boxes in the VU Special, "never was the line between the good guys and the bad guys so clearly drawn" (or words to that affect).

They also indicated that they wouldn't throw out any continuity, and from what I've seen on OYL, they haven't... and have in fact restored a lot of continuity that go wiped out by CoIE.

Now, has this thing been a good story? That is a good question, but I don't believe that DC could be charged with being disingenous about the ramifications of Infinite Crisis.