June 13, 2011

Krypton (comics)

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So it looks like DC comics is resetting the clock on the entire DC universe. I’m guessing that means that Dick Grayson will go back to being Robin, Lois will once again pine for Superman without realizing he’s actually the dweeby bespectacled guy on the other side of the newsroom, etc. Deaths, births, crises, marriages, costume changes, rebirths, redeaths, rerebirths, and decades of other nonsense erased, and the slate wiped clean once again.

Here’s what that also means: for the umpteenth time, young Bruce Wayne will be forced to watch the murder of his parents. Krypton will blow up again, killing billions more. Harvey Dent will get yet another fistful of acid right in the face. The unending nightmare that is these characters’ lives will just start over from the beginning, and I give DC less than a decade before the mythology gets back to being so convoluted that they need to do another world-spanning Crisis event just to set things straight and kill off all of the extraneous characters (plus maybe one that people actually like, just because).

It makes you wonder why these titles still exist. Oh, I get why they exist: they’re iconic, lucrative properties. A movie adaptation has to be adapted from something, and tie-in merchandise can’t tie-in to itself — the comics need to be there to justify it all. But why do people still read them? There are other, better comics out there created by writers who let their characters age and grow in a comprehensibly human fashion. These other, better comics have actual narrative arcs — arcs which you know will come to some kind of end.

DC and Marvel’s flagship titles don’t have narrative arcs anymore. If you believe the two biggest comic publishers on Earth, the life of a superhero is incident after nightmarish incident, with no logical progression. And not even death can end the eternal parade of horrors, because dead heroes get only get a few precious months of rest before their hideously contrived resurrections. (See io9’s X-Men timeline to watch that play out in official Marvel chronology.) That’s if you’re lucky, anyway. If you’re unlucky, you get a reboot. And all of the most traumatic events in your life happen again, over and over, except each time they’re somehow more gothic and elaborate and grotesque.

The worst part, though, is that none of it means anything. If you live forever and nothing fundamental in your circumstances can ever permanently change, how can anything mean anything? And if there’s no room for meaning, then why is your story worth telling?

Time to retire universe-spanning comic continuity. Let the Justice League rest.

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