Friday, 12 March 2010

Some Fantastic Place No 1: The Sinestro Corps War Volume II

It's really tough working out how good a comic is. So lets not bother. Let's take a more relaxed and emotional path to evaluation. Let's do away with all pretense at intellectual analysis and abandon all critical thought, fanboy indignation and continuity cop-ness. Let's just start looking for good things. Little good things, perhaps, just tiny nuggets of fun. Imaginative single panels, witty snatches of dialogue, unexpectedly appropriate sound effects. All the things we would have noticed and treasured when we had less comic books to indulge in and far more time on our hands. Because just about every comic book has something splendid in it, if you care enough to look, and because it's a shame to read something and not take something positive away from the experience.

Indeed, let's admit that most of us have read far, far too many superhero comic books. Possibly thousands and thousands of them. We've read so many comic books that the chances of us being surprised by anything new we read are slight to very slim at all. We've read so many classics that very few comics stand a chance of giving us something that we haven't had before. We're saturated with superheroes, satiated with superheroics, but we keep coming back for more. And more. And more and more and more. And more.

And sometimes we read perfectly decent comic books, and even really rather good comic books, and push them aside because we forget to engage with them. There's another one coming, and another after that, and perhaps those ones will give us more of what we've liked so much before. It's the conspicuous consumption of comic books. We're wasting things that we could be putting to better use.

Take the example of "Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps War Volume II". It's not particularly my cup of tea. My ability to absorb all the detail of intergalactic, thousands-of-superheroes epics was excessively stretched during the original Crisis, and, like an old muscle over-exercised, it's never returned to its original capacity. And I might be tempted to take this impulsively-borrowed book back to the library with a shake of the head and a refrain of "In my day ... ". Which would be a waste. Because there's some good moments there. Perhaps not the obvious cast-of-thousands double-page spreads, not for me. But fine little moments all the same.

Pleasing Moment No. 1.
Spooky little killer children are always entertaining villains. But everyone knows that tiny kiddie suicide-bombers bent on the murder of a really big sentient planet - who's also a Green Lantern - are a guaranteed smile-generator. This page takes that brave step forward towards questionable taste by having a Green Lantern coldbloodedly incinerate one of these murderous Children Of The White Lobe. It's gruesome and unexpected. The frightened silent face of the kid as it awaits flash-frying is disturbingly effective. (Writer: Dave Gibbons - Artists Patrick Gleason & Angel Unzueta.)

Pleasing Moment No. 2.
It's damn hard to generate a sense of wonder in a great big superhero punch-up anymore. The law of diminishing returns started to kick in around May 1964, when the Fantastic Four and The Avengers teamed up to not defeat the Hulk. Nowadays, thousands of superheroes can slug it out high above the Earth with tens of thousands of supervillians and it all seems rather mundane and predictable. But this page from the beginning of Green Lantern # 25 does bring something of the scale of the Sinestro Corp War home to the jaded reader. As the skies above the Earth are lit up by fearsome explosions, the rings of dead Green Lanterns and of their mortal opponents hurtle into space to find replacements for their vanquished owners. And the scale of the conflict, and the immensity of what's at stake, becomes so much more moving for the absence of superhuman fist-fights. All we see is the breadth of the fighting and its' terrible consequences. (Writer: Geoff Jones - Artists: Ivan Reis & Ethan Van Sciver)

Pleasing Moment No. 3.
I'm a fool for strange and cute non-humanoid Green Lanterns, and what could be better than a "super-intelligent smallpox virus" looking for revenge for the murderer of its dead partner? (And how pleasingly silly that a single throwaway comment written by Alan Moore for a Green Lantern backup strip in 1988 should result in this panel some 19 years later.) (Writer: Geoff Jones - Artists: Ivan Reis & Ethan Van Sciver)

Pleasing Moment No. 4. And on the theme of strange and cute non-humanoid Green Lanterns, here's a familiar-looking crystalline GL floating above the ruins of one of the many Terran battlefields of this war. I love his Mohawk, the fact that he/she/it looks as if they're wearing a very big and painted-on version of Robin's mask, and the way in which it seems to be staring around just daring a half-dead Sinestro Corp Member to try something. If I were caught out in this fighting, I think I'd be reassured to see this fearsome tentacled warrior floating nearby. (Writer: Geoff Jones - Artists: Ivan Reis & Ethan Van Sciver)

Pleasing Moment No. 5. Sometimes even the dumb moments in a comic book epic can be endearingly entertaining. Here we see Hal and Kyle running across the rooftops of Coast City because their rings have been exhausted of their power. And on the one hand it's interesting to see the two superheroes reduced to powerlessness. It's as if they were everyday cops trying to escape a master criminal after their car's been stolen from them. But on the other hand, it's enchantingly dumb, as dumb in its own way as the scenes of Batman and Robin supposedly walking up the sides of skyscrapers in the '60s camp show. Because, of course, you can't run 10 blocks across a the rooftops of a major metropolitan city. There are things called roads in the way. And alleyways. And the sheer faces of very tall buildings. It's a big, silly fib of a scene, which could only be made better by the Green Hornet and Kato sticking their heads of a window and demanding to know what the two depowered Green Lanterns are doing there. (Writer: Geoff Jones - Artists: Ivan Reis & Ethan Van Sciver)

Result: It certainly is a result. Not only have I satisfied my curiosity about what went on in the Sinestro Corps War, but I get to keep 5 pleasing moments which I might otherwise have simply skimmed over in search of plot resolutions and High Noon-style showdowns! I win! (And since I won't write about the books which don't have any pleasing little moments in them, I'll always win when I play "Some Enchanted Place".)


  1. Thank you so much for this!

    Wonderful take and perhaps ripe for reader submissions?

    I've got some great "Gee whiz" moments stored away...

  2. Hello Smitty! I very much appreciated your comments. I always liked this format & intend to return to it in the near future. There are times when I think those - as you call them - "Gee whiz" moments are the most interesting things about super-hero comic books.

    As it stands, the idea of reader submissions is something I'm fascinated by, and yet I can't think of a way to quite make it work as I'd want it to. Yet. For various reasons - ie: ones which would abit personal & tedious to read! - I'd rather keep this blog going with just my writing as things stand. But your idea is a good one. And one I suspect that I'll be mulling over ... In fact, I'm mulling now ...

    Thank you for dropping by here, and please do come again. I welcome anyone who gets my mind a-mulling.