Thursday, May 01, 2008

Comic Shop Report: Stepping Out of The Comfort Zone

Before I discuss DC Universe #0, I think I'm going to back up and describe my comic shopping experience yesterday. It's not just a review, it's a whole scenario.

Wednesdays at a major urban comics retailer is, as you can imagine, a madhouse.

Here is what I bought:
DC Universe #0
Avengers: The Initiative
Lucky Volume 2 #1 (Gabrielle Bell)
Liz Prince's latest book from Top Shelf
Hercules #1 from Radical Comics
Giant-Size Avengers/Invaders
Previews <------nerd

When I finally managed to squeeze my way into the new comics rack & pluck a copy of DC Universe #0, I realized that the corner was totally dinged. This began to bother me more and more as time wore on at the store, in the way that only a formerly hardcore comic book collector can relate to. The corner of my copy of Lucky #1 was also dinged. I swore I would find my way back into the new comics rack to replace those copies! (and I did!)

Giant-Size Avengers/Invaders sold out at my store. I took the last copy. I'm pretty sure most or all of that book was reprinted material. But it promised you a great story.

I knew nothing about Hercules #1 from Radical Comics (as I know almost nothing about Radical Comics), but it was only $1.00 for a book with a card-stock cover, prestige binding, and painted (or painterly) art. I decided to take a chance. It was a good marketing strategy on their part.

As the months go by, I find I hunger for more and more independent comics. I go through the back issue bins looking for interesting and/or self-published books that I might have missed. As my finances are tight, I demand more from my comics -- and what I demand is an unique experience & food for thought. I have no problem buying Chuck Taylor knockoffs at Payless and using the money saved to well-made comics that will enrich my life and make me think.

DC Universe #0 was an ad. It was an ad. The way it was promoted, I thought it was going to be some crucial piece of the Final Crisis pie. But it was a series of ads. DC Universe #0 was impenetrable to me. This does not mean the whole series will actually be so. But as somebody who is not steeped in the current lore of the last 5 years of DCU continuity, I had little to no idea what was going on. The only thing I could relate to was the Batman and Wonder Woman segments. Will I be able to enjoy those books if I wish not to follow the entire Final Crisis oeuvre?

I hear some people comment that DC Universe #0 should have just been a Free Comic Book Day offering. I disagree. It is not new-reader friendly. DC is much better off with Superman, Batman, or whatever.

DC and Marvel need to start trusting their overall lineups more and not depend on these humongous events. At least Marvel sort of works the events in a bit more organically. I don't want to read a series of books called "Final Crisis: Blah" and "Final Crisis: The Beginning Of The End of the Beginning." I just want to read Final Crisis. And then I want it to be over. I don't need a whole miniseries as an epilogue. I just want it to have a good run and be over. And then I want some sort of new status quo established that I can identify with and understand. Which brings me back to my point about limited resources & an increased need to buy books that inspire me.

Currently, I'm reading Buddha by Osamu Tezuka. The series of books are put out by Vertical.

Buddha blows my mind. It is so great on so many levels. Life is short. I don't want to stuff my mind with the same old crap anymore. And yes, Buddha is a reprint of an older series -- but it's brilliant and lovely and unique and funny and powerful.

And you know why Giant Size Avengers/Invaders sold out? Because those older stories were good as well! They deliver.

DC Universe #0 brings to my mind the word "rut." I get into ruts sometimes. I think of the same types of things over and over; I try old methods that didn't work before, thinking that somehow magically they will work this time. My life becomes a routine, and even though I'm not completely happy with the routine, and my view is sort of limited, it's all I know. The familiar things, like Triscuits and beer while watching Family Guy, comfort me. And that's fine.

But life is short. I want more! I want to expand my mind. I want to sample the entire expanse that this medium has to offer me. I don't want to be comforted. I want to be uncomfortable. I want to grow.

Change will happen regardless. I am only forestalling it. I rather flow along with change. The mainstream comic book industry needs to do this too. And I think they are, with initiatives like Zuda and Soleil. But something like DC Universe #0 is like a comfort zone. It will have its fans and will generate money for the company. But it is not growing anything. At least Bendis makes people angry; I don't agree with everything he writes, but at least him and Millar write things that piss some people off and make them think. At least Civil War inspires some debate about current politics. I find the political metaphors in Secret Invasion a little chancy, but at least Bendis obviously has something to say.

But in the end, as I said before, Final Crisis will make money for DC.


  1. I was really shocked by DCU #0. They promised two things, and it delivered neither:
    1) a wrap-up to Countdown: so far as I can tell, Countdown will have nothing to do with Final Crisis. Which I've predicted all along, but has gotta be a burn for those hoping CD would amount to something.
    2) A primer to the DCU: which it certainly wasn't.
    At best, this book was just another promo book, like Countdown to Infinite Crisis. Except with less plot.

    At least the Morrison parts seemed neat.

  2. Thing is, lately I have been extremely unhappy with Marvel. The whole Spiderman issue, etc etc.

    And DC has been growing on me more and more since Identity Crisis.

    But I can officially say I am more excited for Secret Invasion. My problem with Morrisson is that everything he does tries to be so epic, but because of that he does shit that will never "stick."

    I am looking MORE forward to "Blackest Night" by Johns than I am Final Crisis.

    PS. I <3 Matt Fraction.

    Yesterday I was reading Iron Fist and the Order ends of the arcs and I was like, "holy fucking shit, this is good stuff."

    which I already knew, but damn were those some good stories from start to finish (iron fist 7 parts, the order 10).

    oh and new avengers was AWEESSSOMMMEEEE!!!!

  3. I was pretty disappointed with DCU #0. As someone who only reads a handful of DC books regularly I was hoping the promised primer would get me interested in Final Crisis. It did not.

    Also bought my store's only copy of Giant Size Avengers/Invaders, but haven't read it yet. How was that Hercules book from Radical Comics?

  4. "a wrap-up to Countdown: so far as I can tell, Countdown will have nothing to do with Final Crisis. "

    I can't remember the last time anyone claimed a connection between the two. I thought DC abandoned that long ago. My personal opinion was that CD was more or less bailed on as anything other than a series they HAD to take to conclusion. I'm sure it was probably more than that, but as Joe Fan on the Street it sure seemed that way to me.

    I thought DCU 0 was WAY more about setting the stage for the FC stuff and other major arcs upcoming than anything to do w/ CD. Sure it was an ad, but I really enjoyed it. Times are tough and I have a lot of financial crunch, but I can't bring myself to complain about spending $0.50 on anything. Some have on other boards - it's ridiculous. If one is that strapped then this is not the hobby to be in.

    "A primer to the DCU: which it certainly wasn't. "

    Well, no single comic could be unless they really simplify and limit themselves to the "major" things they'd want new readers to know about. I think the whole "primer" idea was used way too loosely in some of the early interviews on the book, and it got latched onto in the most literal sense possible.

    Kudos to Morrison & Johns for breaking down the basic principles of multiple Earths and preceding Crises in about 2 pages though.

  5. I agree with DC abandoning Countdown long ago, but the organizational structure seems to be the same. We get a number of miniseries with titles like Final Crisis: Revenge of the Toenails that run alongside the event. It's been a long time with all these spinoffs, lead-ins, prologues, prefixes, colons, "the end of the beginning!" & "the beginning of the end!"

    When the last page is printed of Final Crisis, there is no way in hell DC is going to get away with doing "Follow Up To Final Crisis," "Ultimate Crisis," "Invasion! Part Four," etc. Final Crisis and its attendant spinoffs and crossovers are it. The new status quo MUST be established and the universe given some room to breathe.

  6. "How was that Hercules book from Radical Comics?"

    haven't read it yet, but will let you know

  7. I think the whole "primer" idea was used way too loosely in some of the early interviews on the book, and it got latched onto in the most literal sense possible.

    From Didio's interview in Newsarama posted, oh, about 40 minutes ago:

    "When we did Countdown to Infinite Crisis, it really became a great jumping-on point just to get people in tune with the direction and tone of the DC Universe and familiarize or re-familiarize themselves with the characters of the DCU. This one (DC Universe 0) again, has that same goal and agenda."

    I think it's safe to say that if people expected a primer, it's because DC was, and still is, pushing it as a primer.

  8. "I think it's safe to say that if people expected a primer, it's because DC was, and still is, pushing it as a primer."

    This doesn't refute what I said originally, which was that the term was used too loosely (read: incorrectly) and people just latched on. Just because DiDio is still misusing it, over-using it, or whatever doesn't change that.

  9. "The new status quo MUST be established and the universe given some room to breathe."

    I agree with you. I've been hoping for some time that this is it for at least a few years re: event crossovers impacting the whole line. They need to just get set with all the characters and books after FC and let this "new" DCU thrive or struggle.

    I've heard a lot of stories about this massive timeline in the DC offices that's been established and evolving for something like 5 years under DiDio. Who knows (you probably would right?). If so, here's hoping all that comes to a close and the DCU can just get on with evolving into what it going to be for the fans of the next 20 years, similar to post-COIE.

    Re: the crossover minis for FC - I'm optimistic about them because they're written by a limited set of quality writers. Best chance for them to actually be connected and good.

  10. Heh my sister loves those Buddah books. I've been trying to find her other similar comics to get into.

    When I started reading comics, I was a Marvel Zombie. Then I became a mainstream fan. Now, I've grown into the indies (which also helps since I'm part of the indy scene). They really do offer what comic fans want. Marvel and DC, they need to can the events already and get back to basics: storytelling. Simple, self-contained, character specific storytelling.

    And for all the disappointment that was DCU #0, at least they only charged 50 cents. Imagine if they had the balls to do what Marvel did with Choosing Sides? $3.99 for a glorified promo book.

  11. You didn't happen to flip through Teen Titans #58, did you?
    Would have been curious to what you thought about Miss Martian being mind-controlled into (almost?) having bathroom sex with truckers in a dirty man's room.

    And yes, that is McKeever's TEEN Titans, not Winick's Sex Titans.

  12. The only reason….the ONLY reason that we are being subjected to Final Crisis is because Didio’s DC screwed the pooch so very badly on Infinite Crisis.

    Team DC did a masterful job in the months leading up to Infinite Crisis with all of the various mini-series dealing with a different thread of the DCU, all of it building a sense of excitement and urgency to Infinite Crisis.

    The planning of Infinite Crisis was brilliant but execution was feeble—from a story that made NO sense to artistic chaos cumulating in the publication of a final issue with UNFINISHED ART!!!

    Since then DC has done very little right unless by accident. Final Crisis is an attempt to “fix” what Didio’s DC broke a couple years ago.

    Yet Final Crisis has none of the lead-in advantages that Infinite Crisis enjoyed while it does have a lot of new liabilities, including a cynical and disgruntled readership.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>”The new status quo MUST be established and the universe given some room to breathe.”>>>>>>>>>>

    Couldn’t agree more but unless and until management realizes that the first thing you do when in a hole is to STOP DIGGING, we the long suffering customer can only expect more of the same.


  13. I have to disagree... DCU#0 was quite well done. It never was promised to be a wrap-up to Countdown... only as a "start point" for Final Crisis (which it was).

    I saw the book (which was only 50 cents) as a bunch of trailers. Good ones at that. It also did an amazing thing... it summed up the first two Crisis' in less than two pages and made sense while doing it.

    I feel the set-up was well done and created more anticiaption for Final Crisis and the storyline surrounding it... and for only 50 cents. I considered it a huge plus this week.

  14. Since you like Buddha, I think you'd also like Phoenix, also by Osamu Tezuka.

  15. I thought the book was okay, but I wasn't going into it thinking it was going to be a wrap up to Countdown. I may have forgotten that.

    Everything by Osamu Tezuka is worth reading, especially Phoenix.

  16. "The new status quo MUST be established and the universe given some room to breathe."

  17. "The new status quo MUST be established and the universe given some room to breathe."

    Let me be the next to use this quote and agree wholeheartedly. I've been making it known to the other people at my local shop for a long time that I hate how the DC books lose all meaning btwn big events.

    Why should I care about any of the stories or believe any of them will matter in six months when they screw with the status quo again.

    While, on the one hand, I hope Final Crisis gets rid of the Multiverse cause I hate it so much, on the other hand, if it is gone, I have to ask why they bothered bringing it back at all.

    So, call me naive, I'm going to take the same tact with "FC" as I am with Brand New Day, I'm going to stick it out because I feel they know what they are doing and this will all go someplace. I know....I'm crazy

  18. Wanna blow your mind? Tales of the Beanworld, by Larry Marder. Yeah, there's a new collection coming from Dark Horse, but go find the old Eclipse trades.