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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Spoiler Warning, Don't Read The NY Daily News Either Or The URL To This Post

Warning, the following spoilers were taken from a major American newspaper who obtained said spoilers directly from the comics publisher whose book was being purposely spoiled most probably in the pursuit of mainstream media coverage.
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Also, I find it interesting that the direct market is depending on the spoilers not to be spoiled in order to maximize sales, yet the company putting out the comic is purposely working with the major media to spoil the story on the morning of the book coming out. Just a thought.


I always considered the Barry Allen Flash death as one of the cornerstones of the modern DC Universe. It represented the trauma and sacrifice of Crisis, and touched each of the major DCU heroes personally.

That said, the breaking news (broke on a mainstream newspaper, no less) that Barry Allen is returning as the Flash in DC Universe #0 doesn't surprise me.

I mean, who's left to revive? Even freakin' Bucky is back in business. Jason Todd's return proved that a character resurrection was as easy as a plot device that writers in the Silver Age would have been ashamed to use.

Grant Morrison is quoted in the article as saying,

"That's the point of comics - they don't have to die, because they're fictional creations."

I am kind of disappointed that he would say such a thing. It sounds like such a cop-out, and not worthy of him. And what is the rationale behind them not dying -- is it artistic, or is it merely economical? Wouldn't it take more artistic integrity to restrain oneself from devising some fanciful way to bring a character like Allen back?

It's just that every time you bring these characters back, you undermine the emotional resonance of those original stories surrounding the hero's tragic demise. But, I suppose if it's a choice between maintaining the integrity of some past issues that will probably do ok in backlist trade paperbacks anyhow, and the thought of getting another sales spike, the latter will probably win out.

I mean, why have the Big Two restrained themselves from resurrecting these famously dead heroes for so long? Because the sales were better back then. They felt they could afford to fold their arms over their chests and say, "This character is never returning. If we did that, we'd undermine our own integrity."

To be fair, the return of Bucky as the Winter Soldier has worked terrifically for Marvel, due in no small part to the genius of Ed Brubaker. I assume DC assumes the same will work for Morrison.

Another angle to the Allen return is why DC saw fit to break this story with a mainstream newspasper at all. One would assume that the majority of NY Daily News readers are not big Silver Age continuity freaks. What meaning does "Barry Allen Flash Returns" have on the curious onlooker who is not familiar with today's comics, much less the comics of yesteryear?

It's like making the big "hook" in Identity Crisis being the death of Sue Dibny. Dibny, Allen: who are these people? Do you think the new reader cares? The new reader sees the Flash on the magazine rack and on the TV, if they see him at all. As far as the new reader is concerned, the Flash is already alive; this current hoopla being mere hyperbole.

As insinuated in the article, since Barry Allen "saved" the comic industry the first time in the late 1950s, maybe he is set to do that all over again with Final Crisis. So perhaps this is all a "Pop Magic!" ploy on Morrison's part to symbolically juice up the ailing DCU.

You know what would really save the DCU? New readers.

43 comments:

  1. Gee, thanks for spoiling that for me, Val. I had managed to avoid it everywhere else. But, here it's the first thing you see when you come to the blog. Big as life.

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  2. I remember reading the Barry Allen death and actually not being too moved by it. If anything I thought of it as a bit...cheesey. Maybe I wasn't invested in the character as other people, seeing as I never read a Flash comic with him in it.

    But if he's brought back in fascinating and ingenious writing then so be it. Look at the new Cap. That was some incredible writing and made it all believable. I think the reemergence of dead characters in DC is going to for a long time leave a bad bad taste in our mouth because of Jason Todd. What a resounding horribly written story that could've had the potential for being an emotional change for Batman.

    Hope that Barry Allen is written well.

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  3. First I'd heard of this, and I almost wish you would have held off the post for a day.

    As for bringing Barry back... LAME.

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  4. Sorry, guys -- I assumed this morning that the news was common knowledge over the Internet after DC gave previews and interviews to the Daily News specifically revealing the ending.

    Why is this company spoiling their own book?

    I mean, I guess it's going to be spoiled anyway by 12:00 this afternoon and they'd rather have control over it and a story running in a mainstream publication, to boot.

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  5. Val,

    I love your blog. I'm here everyday but you really should have put a spolier warning or something about the Barry Allen thing. Anyway, no biggie. DC is doing what DC does well, catering to the old school fans. Didio and DC is pushing away new fans who want to jump on board. I've been a Marvel fan my whole life but I was reading more DC comics during the 90s then I do now. I hate what DC is doing.

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  6. I guess it's a good thing that the Justice League film that was rumored to be centered around Allen's death was tabled then..

    Still I do look forward to seeing what Morrison/Johns will do with Barry.
    I remember the CSI style story Johns (I think) did for the Julie Schwartz themed specials in 2004 being particularly fun, that could be a cool angle to explore.

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  7. Okay, so this is a pretty stupid question, but can anyone tell me exactly what Barry Allen died of?

    I mean, I read Crisis and everything, but what exactly was the coroner's report?

    Did he run so fast that he turned into butter like the tigers in Little Black Sambo?

    Extreme muscle fatigue?

    Was it that thing he was running around that somehow killed him?

    I kind of got the idea that he died from running to fast, which is kind of like Jeff Pierce dying of electrocution.

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  8. If memory serves, Mark Waid already brought Barry Allen back. It was in that great storyline, The Return of Barry Allen. As I said, it was truly a terrific storyline, which served to solidify Wally West as THE Flash.

    Yeah. Wally West, thats MY Flash. I ain't ready for Barry Allen to come back, I don't really care for Barry Allen to return. Just gimme back Wally West as the f'n MAN.

    Wally also had one of the best costumes, EVER.

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  9. It seems like they are trying to follow Marvel's approach (like when the death of Captain America or the unmasking of Spider-Man were spoiled by the media). The spoiling of those events in the media ruined it for their regular readers but got the attention of those who weren't reading comics at that time. I had a few friends email me asking me to find those issues for them that day. I don't know if they would have had the same reaction had the news said that the event happened in last week's issue.

    In this case, perhaps DC is trying to get the attention of people who used to read their comics but have moved on.

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  10. All that's really left is to bring back Uncle Ben and the Waynes. Maybe DC and Marvel could do a crossover where that happens. The three of them could come back as villains.

    Yeah, that's about where those companies are at now...

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  11. It's always struck me how the comics industry simultaneously tries to portray itself as all grown up, gritty, and realistic while repeatedly treating the death of characters like skinned knees that will be all better a few issues later... and then snickering about it.

    I love comic book stories but I would love them even more if the characters actually to had to face some of the realities of life.

    Then we could see true character development over time as opposed to "ret-cons" whenever characters grow and mature too much.

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  12. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>.“That's the point of comics - they don't have to die, because they're fictional creations," said Grant Morrison, one of the writers behind the comeback. "We can do anything with them, and we can make them come back and make them defy death," Morrison said. "And that's why people read comics, to get away from the way life works, which is quite cruel and unheroic and ends in death." >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Hey Grant, thanks so much telling me why I’ve read super hero comics for the past 30 years.

    Let’s drill deeper into that quote…what it says to me is …. “It’s ‘ONLY’ a comic book story so it REALLY DOESN’T MATTER….we can undo what’s been done and someday, someone can undo what we do here.”

    IMHO….that’s a disservice to the genre in that if comic book writers don’t take their own storytelling seriously and if they don’t respect the readers by upholding rules and consequences to the outcomes of previously told stories—then how does one convince the “mainstream” world that comic books are a legitimate storytelling medium?

    --FanBoyWonder

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  13. A few comments:

    1) I told a friend of mine a couple of years ago that if DC brought back Barry Allen I would quit reading DC all together. Time to see if I put my money where my mouth is.

    2)Ragtime - I think they make a point in Crisis that the antimatter cannon was drawing in energy from everywhere, including Barry. As such, he needed was simply 'sucked dry' both from the cannon and his own exertion to implode it.

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  14. Is this what Morrison and DC are reduced to now - aping what Marvel did last year? This just smacks of desperation - Barry Allen is popular with a small group of people inside a small group of people who already read comics, so why this should resonate with non-comics readers in the way that Spidey unmasking or the death of Captain America did is slightly baffling. Why should Joe Schmo give a damn?

    Perhaps this is all DC has left after Time-Warner laid the smackdown on their idea of corpsifying Batman - that would have got them headlines worldwide, especially with the movie coming out in mere months.

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  15. It's not so much that they're bringing Barry Allen back as that it will probably suck like everything else they get their hands on. When did he die, like 25 years ago basically? That's basically the span of Barry Allen's existence as a character — therefore, back then,about 25 years before Barry Allen had replaced Jay Garrick. Comics have to do something to keep the interest up in cyclical movements, since there is no actual drama to keep you hanging. Drama really doesn't work if it's perpetual.

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  16. "That's the point of comics - they don't have to die, because they're fictional creations."

    I am kind of disappointed that he would say such a thing.


    Being an avid fan of Morrison's work for going on almost two decades (yeesh - has it been that long), I'd be surprised if Morrison felt any differently. "Flex Mentallo" comes to mind as Morrison's ultimate expression of this idea, but it permeates his whole work. In a comic book universe death IS ephemeral. As a creator if you think some death is going to be "meaningful" you're only fooling yourself because someday, someone is going to bring that character back. And you have no control over it. The only books that Morrison has done where death is meaningful are his creator-owned works - where he knows no one is ever going to mess with it. (The entire issue of the Invisibles devoted to the final moments of a single henchman comes to mind...)

    As far as the "emotional resonance" of those original stories - emotional resonance for who? The people who were 8 years old when they first read the story? I have about zero emotional resonance with any comic book "deaths" I've ever read - not one of them struck me as "emotional" in any way. Maybe I've had too many real people die around me over my lifetime, but superhero deaths are about the least "emotionally resonant" thing I could imagine in any form of entertainment media. Except maybe soap opera deaths - those may be even more heavy-handed plot tools than superhero deaths. Maybe.

    As far as this particular return from the dead goes - whatever. The big surprise is that it took them this long to get around to it. But bringing back the "most boring Flash ever put on paper" isn't going to revive interest in DC except among aging fans. For most of the teenagers these days Wally is the Flash - he was the one on the Justice League cartoon they grew up with. But then DC hasn't shown any interest in turning those animated series fans into comic book readers, so perhaps those potential readers just don't matter in the end.

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  17. Danbizzle - the Return of Barry Allen didn't actually bring Barry back; it was Zoom, IIRC.

    As for Barry's return...well, on the day Wally lost the kids and asked Spectre-Hal to erase his identity, Barry told him that he would see him on the three most difficult days of his life as he was leaving - which means that wasn't one of those days.

    One was the day Zoom tried to make Wally live the death of his kids over and over again.

    One was where he came back to help Bart and Wally take on Superboy Prime.

    By my count there's one day remaining from that Geoff Johns written story. I'm pretty sure that the day evil won might be difficult...

    What makes anyone think this return is any more permanent than the rest?

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  18. I'm going to give DC a last shot with Final Crisis. If that doesn't impress me I'm dropping everything but Green Lantern.

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  19. Maybe this Barry Allen is a Skrull.

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  20. Man, when I was a kid, I read Starlin's Warlock series and when...

    SPOILER ALERT!

    ...Adam Warlock died (he sort of killed himself) - it really rocked my world.

    Peter David has said similar things about when he first heard about the death of...

    SPOILER ALERT!

    ...Gwen Stacy.

    It's sad, that such stories couldn't really be told today with the same impact they had before, because now, you know everybody comes back from the dead. :P

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  21. Spoilers -- (as if that matters)

    Having read DC Universe 0, Barry does not actually appear on panel, but it becomes clear by the end of the issue that he is the narrator.

    In reading the hype about bringing Barry back, I realized that Barry Allen was the Flash for 29 years, from 1956 to 1985. It has now been 23 years since he "died," so he has been dead almost as long as he had been alive. That just seems weird to me. Wally has been the Flash almost as long as Barry had been. I'm not sure that another change in the status quo is necessarily a bad thing.

    I'm looking forward to what Morrison and Johns have in store for us.

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  22. "Danbizzle - the Return of Barry Allen didn't actually bring Barry back; it was Zoom, IIRC."

    True, but the story was about Wally finally taking his mentor's place as THE Flash.

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  23. I remember back when (we're talking 20+ years ago) there were rumors of Jean Grey coming back, and it was special.

    Now it's like if I see Jean Grey die, it's understood she's coming back within a certain time. So the emotional impact is lessened because I'm making this assumption (based on experience)

    That said, I'm curious to see who gets brought back first: Uncle Ben or the Waynes. Any takers?

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  24. If it makes you feel any better, Val, you didn't spoil this for me. My MSN homepage spoiled it when I logged in this morning.

    As for Barry Allen returning, I am okay with it. Marv Wolfman said he deliberately wrote his death in Crisis in such a way that there was an out that he could be brought back. If the writer who killed him wants him to be able to be brought back, who am I to complain?

    Of course, there was a plot point in Johns run on Flash that said Barry would come back to help Wally during three crisises in Wally's life. There has been two, this could simply be the third. And then he'll go away again.

    As to why DC and Marvel bring these characters back? The same reason they kill them off--because they think contorversy equals excitement. And if people are complaining about it, it's the same as them talking about it.

    I mean, death and rebirth can be moving, powerful and exciting if handled well. And if it is done well I usually have no problem with it (The return of Bucky/death of Cap for instance won me over due to the quality of the story).

    However, when done haphazardly, it is annoying as heck. It's cheap and insulting. A stunt with no weight to it.

    Which way will the return of Barry go? I guess we have to wait and see.

    Oh, and it would make more sense for Uncle Ben to come back. He is less involved in Spider-Man's origin than the Waynes are in Batman's. So, by that logic, the Waynes will come back first.

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  25. So, that means we'll have 3 Flashes running around now. Like we have 3 Supermen running around now, and technically 3 Robins running around now. Man, DC sure does love to repeat themselves, don't they?

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  26. Since DC sees fit to reverse one major death from the CRISIS, why not go that little extra mile and bring back Supergirl--the pre-CRISIS Kara Zor-El.

    She may have been a little bland but on her worst day, she was a far cry better than that the Super Tramp wearing the "S" sheild these days.

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  27. "Man, DC sure does love to repeat themselves, don't they?"

    well, the Multiverse solved that problem back in the 70's/80's... Today is yucky.

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  28. You all realize he's coming back as the bad guy who'll be redeemed and become one of the New New Gods, right?

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  29. My mom heard about this on the radio (which I assume was NPR). She remembers watching the 1990 tv show and asked me when did Barry die. I told her just before I was born.

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  30. Nah. It's just comics. If you are going to have magic ghosts, robots with laser guns, aliens with psychic powers and a dude with a white dwarf in his belt buckle- I don't see why one should be upset when a character comes back from the grave.

    Bring back Captain America for an issue. Then kill him in the next. As long as it's fun to read I do not cry over fictional characters dying and coming back from the fictional grave.

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  31. Well, I'm off to plunk my two quarters on the store counter and figure out how well it all worked.

    Will let you all know!

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  32. i dont think uncle ben or the waynes will ever work like other characters do.

    uncle ben and the waynes were never core characters, they were sacrificial origin characters.

    they never led their own titles nor are they even heroes.

    their deaths are what make them interesting characters, so bringing them back wouldnt really be sensible.

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  33. William Gatevackes - Wolfman's 'out' for Barry Allen was to have him plucked from the timestream during his 'final run', so he'd always know that at some point he'd have to head back into it and run to his death.

    It would have revitalised the character and given him an edge that he sorely lacked otherwise.

    Its a similar ploy to how Captain Marvel seemed to be brought back during Civil War, even though that now has been proven to be something else entirely.

    That said, this could still be what's happening here, or it could be Barry's final visit to Wally, or something else entirely.

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  34. I don't worry too much about surprises being spoiled anymore. Like you said, the Big Two are bringing everyone back!

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  35. "That's the point of comics - they don't have to die, because they're fictional creations."

    "Comics." Too much of a blanket statement. Depends on the comics in question. Crappy comics? Yes. As much as I enjoy Grant Morrison's work, he probably should rethink that idea. All mainstream comics should rethink that philosophy.

    One reason I can't enjoy mainstream stuff anymore is there's no sense of jeopardy at all. They can boost sales briefly by some stunt death, but it's followed by a stunt resurrection that totally obliviates or moots any dramatic impact of the initial story. And as comics fans, we accept it with a shrug, pretending to buy the concept whenever a character kicks off but then making little wry comments.

    It's hollow and self-defeating and- most damning now- a cliche. Cliches for the most part should be eliminated from writing. Cliches, tropes and stereotypes are generally the enemies of effective writing. Rarely they can be friends, but I'm pretty sure Grant Morrison knows all this.

    It's just amusing to me to see a major weakness in the mainstream superhero genre being so nakedly proclaimed... as a strength, no less!

    Well, thanks, Grant. My turning away from corporate product is re-affirmed!

    Also my snobbery. Thank you very much!

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  36. "I am kind of disappointed that he would say such a thing. It sounds like such a cop-out, and not worthy of him."

    Well, it's consistent with his work, certainly, going back to ANIMAL MAN at least. The reason why Buddy and his family got a happy end was because they could - according to Morrison, there's enough death and destruction in life, why not try to do better in fiction? And, in the case of Animal Man, he brought the idea full circle again in 52.

    I think it's unfair to paint it as a cop-out, at least as far as Morrison is concerned. He genuinely seems to believe it, and it's been present in his work for decades.

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  37. I don't read newspapers.

    I avoided this news here and the Beat as warnings were given, and then it was spoiled with no warning on PopCandy. Dang you Whitney Matheson!

    It's cool though.

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  38. Crisis occured when I was ten or eleven, so I can't really recall feeling any emotional impact when Barry died. It took The Life Story of the Flash by Mark Waid for me to really feel anything for Barry's death, and what came out of that was largely a sense of respect. The second Flash gave his life to save his wife and the universe entire. You don't get much more heroic than that.

    I'm willing to give Morrison the benefit of the doubt; he seems a savvy enough cat not to just bring Barry back as a cheap stunt. True, the act will generate buzz and controversy, but I think it might also work as a thematic bookend. The Flash who died to save the universe in the Crisis now returning to aid the DC heroes against the 'Final' Crisis.

    They get my $.50 anyway. ;p

    Stacy

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  39. Valerie, I received some heat for "spoiling" this big surprise as well. I went into this thinking as you did: DC had emailed me the news story. The Daily News, and later the AP and New York Times, told everyone, without a spoiler, what the big deal was. And, the comic came out today.

    http://www.comiclist.com/index.php/news/daily-news-announces-return-of

    But, I will think twice next time this happens. Most likely it the spoilers and teases will just create more attention to the next big "secret."

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  40. See, this is where DC is loosing me on a lot of fronts right now. I started reading comics in 1991, and DC comics in 1998. All I know about Barry Allen is that he died during Crisis. That's all I know about him. I have no sentimental attachment or fond sense of nostalgia for him.

    I'm sure there's an old school DC fanbase who is thrilled about this, and more power to them. But since about four years ago I've gone from buying 16 DC titles, to buying none. I think DC has been catering to a specific fanbase, and I'm just not one of them. Everything I loved about the DCU when I first started reading is gone. And that's fine. I'm still read a lot of vertigo, I've still got my marvel books, I've still got my many indies... but I'd think that I was exactly the "new reader" that DC would hope to attract.

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  41. I guess I'm in the minority around here. At 45, I was around for the end of the Silver Age and Barry Allen. I read the original CRISIS when it came out with a sense of shock and outrage. Barry Allen was a very important character to me because of the qualities he exhibited.

    For years I've been wanting DC to bring him back. But now that DC finally seems on the brink of doing so, I'm afraid of what will happen to Barry. Can he survive the modern DCU and still be himself?

    I wrote about this in a column at Sequart.com and I hope people might swing over there to take a look. It's a really frightening feeling to finally get the thing you've wanted for so long only to be terribly afraid about what will happen to it.

    http://www.sequart.org/columns/?column=2144

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  42. Hmmm... couple of things here:

    1 - Has anyone taken into account the possibility that Morrision's quote might have taken out of context? Happens a decent amount in newpapers you know, especially when the writer is not very knowledgebale about the subject he/she is covering.

    2 - I'm amazed at the amount of people who have a problem with the national exposure of this, yet seemed to have no problem with Marvel doing to TWICE (with the Spider-Man unmasking and the death of Cap) or having problem with the human hype machine (Joey Q) mugging on the Colbert Report fot it. Double Standards anyone?

    3 - I'll reserve my thoughts on the situation until it plays out... however, I've come to pretty much trust Geoff Johns when it comes to telling a story and as far as I can tell he is heavily involved with the plotting of this. That bods well for it.

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  43. I think Morrison's quote is fine. It doesn't mean nothing matters... it means that people enjoy the fantastical elements of comics, among them the ability of characters not to stay dead. Hal Jordan didn't stay dead, and people seem happy with that decision. Green Arrow didn't stay dead, and that worked out. If it's well written and enjoyable, then I'll like it, and if it sucks, it sucks. Give it a freakin chance before we all jump on Morrison's case for acknowledging the obvious. Don't let angst about the suckiness of Countdown and other DC crossover business predispose us to bashing good creators over innocuous commentary and getting up in arms because *gasp* a superhero came back to life.

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