Ah yes, the dog days of summer. This year, I’d say the dog was a pit bull. The heat’s been suffocating, there’s no air flow and the allergens abound. It’s the perfect time to sit in the AC and read comics. Or at least it could be.
It seems you can’t just read “a” comic any more. If you want to read, say, Iron Man, you’ll end up buying almost anything under the “Initiative” masthead. Want your Hulk fix? There’s about a dozen “World War Hulk” stories on the shelf. God only knows what the X-Men are up to. I gave up on them long ago, despite the Bru and Mike Carey. I just won’t buy that half-Claremont, half-Morrison mess anymore, not until somebody truly wipes the slate clean. But I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. Not because it doesn’t need it, as it certainly does, and not because there’s nobody interested in completely overhauling the X-Men, because I’m certain many a writer would jump at the chance. And not even because we are too stupid to refuse to buy these persistent crossovers and vote with our wallets against such flagrant marketing ploys, as they’re obviously working and it would be bad business to stop now while the money’s rolling in. No, nothing is going to get cleaned up at Marvel anytime soon, because they don’t have anyone doing that job.
“Cleaning up” in the comics world, in my mind, should be a function of the editorial staff. I don’t pretend to know what all they do from day to day. But I would think their duties would include cleaning up dangling story threads by gentle prodding or forceful commanding of writers, sending pages back to artists for corrections of obvious errors or questionable images, and shepherding their books through continuity. As we just discussed in the Nightmare Readers’ Roundtable, people DO want, expect and enjoy stories that fall into continuity. So let me present my (latest) argument as to why the House of Ideas is now a House of Clutter and Chaos: the New Avengers.
I didn’t want to interrupt the Roundtable to do this, but ever since I read and re-read the most recent issue, #33, it’s been gnawing at the back of my brain. Now, this might just come off as a persnickety review, but hear me out. We open with a flashback to the early days of the Avengers, where Captain America is giving Goliath, Scarlet Witch, Wasp, Quicksilver, and Hawkeye the “Gunny Sergeant Treatment”. In all of my years reading Captain America, and that’s a lot of years, I don’t recall one single issue where Cap was depicted like R. Lee Ermey. Bendis (of course it would be Bendis, wouldn’t it?) stops just short of having Cap call Hawkeye “Numbnuts!” while explaining what his major malfunction is. Is it a good scene? No, not really, because it doesn’t seem to really fit into the flow of the narrative all that well and more importantly, it just doesn’t ring true. And that’s got to be one of the most important things the writer brings to the dance. The story has to sound true to the reader’s ear. By page two of this issue, I’m already too aware of the strangeness Bendis has penned and can’t maintain my suspension of disbelief.
By page 5 I’m pretty much done with book. There’s a panel in which Wolverine is standing on a hotel bed like a petulant four year old. His feet are much too large proportionally to the rest of the character, and one of them appears to be standing more or less between the two hotel beds instead of Wolverine appearing to straddle the gap. I realize that there are only so many days in which to produce a monthly comic, but panels like this, from a guy who used to do quality work in Leinil Yu, shouldn’t make it into production. The Liefield quality of the panel notwithstanding, my bigger problem is with Maya “Echo” Lopez, also in the panel. You see, Wolverine is standing on the bed while the rest of the New Avengers argue about who may or may not be a Skrull. Suddenly, there’s a knock at door, and Echo turns with a startled look on her face…
I invite anyone working in comics who either have or have had the word “editor” in your title to join me in a discussion of the day-to-day duties of a comic book editor. I would absolutely LOVE to understand what it is you do. Because if you’re not making sure the art looks right and you’re not keeping your writers from butchering language and/or continuity within a single issue, then I don’t have any idea why you rate the title.
…Well she SHOULD be startled. SHE’S FUCKING DEAF! How can she hear the knock at the door? According to the Marvel website: “Maya is deaf. Her reliance on visual cues renders her vulnerable in the dark. Since she reads lips, she has difficulty communicating with people who are wearing masks or are not in direct visual contact.” And from her Wikipedia entry: “Her absolute reliance on visual cues renders her helpless in the dark, and her ability to communicate by reading lips prevents her from taking oral commands and communicating with people who are wearing masks or are not in direct visual contact; when she initially met the Avengers, Captain America had to repeat all of Iron Man’s questions for her.” So she can’t hear Stark talking through his iron mask but can hear the bellhop at the hotel door? HOW THE FUCK DOES ONE KNOCK IN CLOSED CAPTIONS? I mean, seriously, Echo debuted in Daredevil, and while she was actually created by David Mack and Joe “Who needs continuity?” Quesada you have to believe that Bendis had some idea who she was before making her Ronin. How does he miss her biggest character defining trait? And even assuming that Bendis is human and might make a mistake now and then, shouldn’t his editorial team be riding shotgun? And lest I forget, there’s a panel some 6 pages later where the New Avengers arrive back at the Sanctum Sanctorum, and are greeted by Wong and Jessica Jones. Luke Cage makes a point of telling his wife, and I quote, “She’s deaf, so look right at her when you talk.” OH, NOW BENDIS REMEMBERS! But doesn’t that throw up the red flag that makes Bendis or editorial say, “Hmm, why does that make me…oh shit, she’s deaf, we gotta go back and fix that knock-knock scene. It’s not like Strange couldn’t have magicked up someone else in the room to answer the door, or send Luke, who other than being an exceptionally well built black man wouldn’t set off any alarms when the bellhop delivers the room service.
So having given up, I turn back to the credits page. Oh, no surprise there, it’s Team Brevoort, specifically Molly and Tom himself. These are the same folks who let Fabian Nicieza write a story in their standard line of books where a guy kills his sister and wraps her dead flesh around the hilt of a sword. I truly believe that there isn’t anyone at Marvel who actually reads the scripts before they see print anymore. There’s also Irene Lee credited with “Production,” whatever that title means. I’ve extended the invitation before and I’ll do it again: I invite anyone working in comics who either have or have had the word “editor” in your title to join me in a discussion of the day-to-day duties of a comic book editor. Anyone from ANY major comic company, from Oni to Top Cow to Image to Dark Horse to DC to Marvel and all points in between, please drop me a note and conduct a brief interview with me. I would absolutely LOVE to understand what it is you do. Because if you’re not making sure the art looks right and you’re not keeping your writers from butchering language and/or continuity within a single issue, then I don’t have any idea why you rate the title.