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Missed Directions: Don’t Walk Toward the Light

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Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010
That's A Train Coming: DC re-resurrects previously undead characters from the recent 'Blackest Night' in a way that is both confusing and tedious.
The reality of reading "Brightest Day"? I can’t bring myself to emotionally invest in the characters. Why? Because when a character is killed off in a fictional universe it should mean something.

There are few things that irritate me as much as dead superheroes coming back to life.  I think it sets a bad precedent and teaches an unfortunate lesson. 


Sometimes I long for the halcyon days of youth when I would watch Superfriends and unquestioningly accept whatever hi-jinks the Friends got into or whatever their creators made them do. I, of course, would come up with even greater adventures with my own Hall of Justice—as did many of my generation.  So, I tend to bristle at the seeming randomness of superhero deaths and rebirths.


Quite frankly, my only initial gripe with DCU storytelling used to be with handing Batman over to Alan Moore in order to paralyze Barbara Gordon—granted that’s a very reductionist sentence to describe The Killing Joke. But, it’s a grudge I’ve held for over 20 years. Now, I’m learning to accept and let go because there’s so much more to complain about.
  


More recently, the hackneyed “Final Crisis” with its wanton destruction of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, New Gods and Forever People (I mean, really, who had the bright idea to kill off the Forever People?) left me thinking not only would Kirby be turning over in his grave but that he would rise “Blackest Night” style to gleefully urinate on the creators of “Final Crisis” (at least I hoped). In and of itself, “Blackest Night” was another convoluted, high concept outing in the DCU which brought heroes and villains back from the dead.


The complete explanation would have to wait until this summer’s “Brightest Day” crossover event.


But, alas, the future’s not as bright as it seems.


Beyond the fact that event enabled Birds of Prey to be brought back for a limited edition series there’s little else redeeming about the main storyline of “Brightest Day” itself. The only character who is not an irritant is Martian Manhunter – who never should’ve been killed off to begin with. That said, at least the characters presented in Blackest Night and Brightest Day actually had been killed off as opposed to, say, Bruce Wayne (who nevertheless also receives a summer comeback).


The reality of reading this Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi opus? I can’t bring myself to emotionally invest in the characters. Why? Because when a character is killed off in a fictional universe it should mean something.


Bringing the characters back because DC has decided they’ve been dead long enough and can launch some new titles with them makes me feel cynical—especially since they initially came back as the undead.


Indeed, I do celebrate the return of Martian Manhunter and would love to see him in his own series. And I grant that a great deal of this feeling is personal preference.  But, what message does it really send to readers when characters can die and be brought back to life at seeming random? The Return of Bruce Wayne exemplifies this. Not only is the integrity of the storyline stretched to the limit –  or broken in the case of that fine series - but the heroic sacrifices these characters have made in giving up their lives for the greater good is diminished, if not destroyed.


The day may be bright. But, some of the creative decisions going on in the DCU over the last year or so have not been despite the luminaries involved.


When will DC Comics start consulting with me before they make these unfortunate decisions? Alas, that is the subject for another Missed Directions post.


For now, best wear your shades—things may get brighter as the summer goes on. But, I doubt it.

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