The Gold Standard #45

“Rebirth Retcons: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Blame Johns”

A couple of years ago I made a topic on the Gamefaqs.com Comics & Graphic Novels board, and in it I went a little overboard in explaining how I felt the unnecessary retcons he was using were diluting the franchise and stripping away the importance of several people and events for the purpose of bringing Hal Jordan back to life. I read Rebirth, and I read Green Lantern Corps: Recharge, and then after it launched, I picked up Green Lantern Corps. But despite my love of Green Lantern, a combination of how Hal’s return was handled and my own bias against Hal Jordan kept me from reading the core title, on principle, until the Sinestro Corps War. And even then, because I’m a completionist and had to own every issue.

Obviously I read Green Lantern now, and I didn’t just stick around for a few issues. I also have no regrets, just as this column isn’t about Green Lantern.

It’s about retcons for the sake of retcons. It’s about ripping apart what’s come before because it’s easier to deal with something of your own creation.

Of stuff like how Hal Jordan can’t remember his time as the Spectre, or Barry Allen being the Speed Force. Yes, that’s right, for as much as I love Geoff Johns, he’s going to get quite a few mentions here. He’s notorious for moving the pieces around to make things work, and while it doesn’t bother me nearly as badly as it did a few years ago, it still stands out.

Max Mercury was around in the 1860’s, and gained his speed then. Every trip he’d make to try and hit the Speed Force would result in him being bounced off of it and winding up decades in the future. He would keep trying, and keep being shunted forward. But thanks to the revelation in Flash: Rebirth, that the Speed Force was created by Barry Allen, now Max’s trips to hit the Speed Force are just him trying to find the source and being thrown further into the future, to Barry. I can live with it, but it’s lame.

Like them saying Jay Garrick went from mach one or two as a top speed to Flash Fast within seconds of meeting Barry. I get that it builds the importance of Barry, and it’s an attempt at making him relevant in a world filled with other speedsters, but you don’t need to make him the end all be all for everything. Even when Hal came back, Kyle was still the favorite Earth Lantern. He was the “Torchbearer”, he had importance. Hal was just a good soldier that they wanted to forget slaughtered them.

At the same time, there are three words that make me cringe everytime they run through my mind, and they were three words strung together by Geoff Johns and they make for one of my least favorite retcons ever.

Yellow. Fear. Demon.

Yellow. Fear. Demon.

How do you absolve a mass murderer? You say he was possessed. You give him the free pass, the get out of jail card. You say Parallax was a freakin demon who used Hal as a vessel to do all of his evil. It’s a horrible shitty retcon that they further used to explain the yellow weakness, and in my opinion, little good came from it until the Sinestro Corps when it enabled them to put it in Kyle for a few issues. But hey, absolution is awesome when you’re about to launch a new number one issue for a character that, in their last solo appearance in their own solo book, went bat shit evil.

Now let me shift away from Johns for a bit and talk about a famous Marvel retcon. Jean Grey being cocooned on the bottom of the Hudson instead of being the Phoenix. Yep, Jean was NOT the Phoenix! Well, not until she, you know, was the Phoenix. Again. Yes, it was an easy way to accomplish the goal of bringing Jean back, but it was just…..the Dark Phoenix Saga was soooo good, and it’s even aged awesomely! Jean’s return was just flat though, I mean, they launched X-Factor, and I liked X-Factor, but she spent most of the early days there feeding the “Scott Summers is scum” train that got rolling when he left his wife and infant son to go screw Jean.

But hey, Jean is the matriarch of the X-Men, and her presence on the team through the 90’s up until her death in 2004 was generally one of the more important things going on, so in the long run, you can’t complain because her being in those stories made them better, but her return was just….cheap.

Cheaper than when she’s revealed to be Hope.

Hope grew up all Jean looking

Hope grew up all Jean looking

Ooooh, how about a favorite of mine from a few years back. When Grant Morrison wrote the incredible New X-Men he killed Magneto off pretty quickly, along with sixteen million other mutants on Genosha. A little bit deeper into his run he did an issue where a team of X related characters went to Genosha and found Polaris freaking out, while Toad and some others tried to build a monument to Mags. A character named Xorn was created, discovered, with a star in his head. He was a healer who joined the X-Men and he was….weird, to say the least. To be honest, during his existence (read: New X-Men), he was pretty odd, but docile. Well, except for when he killed the U-Men. That should have raised some eyebrows in retrospect. Unfortunately, it was the, at the time, insanely out of character appearance in Uncanny X-Men written by Chuck Austen that made the reveal that Xorn was Magneto a little less impactful. But hey, Magneto being Xorn wasn’t the issue. The issue was that just a few months later Magneto was alive and well and on Genosha with Professor X where they were going to rebuild it. The issue was that Xorn was retconned into being some strung out Chinese guy, named Xorn, who became Magneto, who killed in his name, and then died. And then he had a brother! A brother with the same iron mask!

Grant Morrison says it best. “Xorn was Magneto.”

See, this was awesome.

See, this was awesome.

Nothing else makes a whole lot of sense, but Marvel panicked hard at the idea of losing their big name X-Men villain, and it’s understandable, but they took the cheapest way out that they could. Especially since House of M not even two years later could have been used to bring him back to life without anything offensive about it. Currently, I’m happy about the fact that he’s alive and interesting over in Uncanny X-Men.

Humorously enough, I was in the comic shop the other day talking about Spider-Man and how I had quit comics back in 1999. I mentioned that one of the factors that helped me quit reading was that over in Spider-Man they’d just brought Aunt May back from the dead, and Peter wasn’t Spider-Man, and the guy at the counter says to me “Yeah, Brand New Day is pretty lame.” Marvel really is all about those Spider-Man retcons, I mean, seriously. The Clone Saga was supposed to get rid of MJ and make Peter single, but then they wound up making her pregnant, killing Aunt May, ‘killing’ the baby, killing Ben, bringing back Norman, and leaving Pete and MJ together just like they were before, only with Aunt Anna instead of Aunt May. Then a few years later they did the Gathering of Five, where Norman gathered people for the Gathering of Five….which took place in The Final Chapter that immediately followed it, anyway, Norman uses the lure of a captured “May” to get Peter to go after him, believing it to be his daughter. At the end of the arc Norman was insane, Aunt May was alive, and Peter and MJ celebrated their repaired status quo family. The baby was never mentioned in continuity again.

I’d rant about Brand New Day, but if you want to see that, I’ve done it enough in the past to last a life time.

So the end verdict on my part? Retcons are going to happen, and some of them are going to be God awful horrible and do little more than piss people off. But it’s not about the retcons, it’s about what comes out of them. Green Lantern Rebirth was filled with some mind numbing attempts, but you know what? There’s a reason that Green Lantern is one of the best super hero books on the market right now, and that reason is that Geoff Johns used the retcons he came up with to craft a story that he knew would be great. It was worth all the groans and anger because it’s actually paid off.

Now we can only hope that Flash, with it’s growing retcons, follow suit.

Roundin up suspects, collection’ clues; I got a question, where the hell is Scooby Doo when you need em? The hound’s only found when you feed him….in fact he probably got my sack. Tell him holler back!

So I’ve been on Windows 7 for about a week now, following my mega-crash of explorer deleting doom, and I have to say, so far I dig it. Sure, I have that one friend who keeps doing the whole “I still run XP! Why upgrade?!” bit that is more than a tiny bit annoying, to be honest, but hey, I’m digging it. And this time around I know for a fact my repair disk will work, so that’s a victory in itself.

Madden 10 is like crack, and I seriously don’t get it. Not why Madden is crack, but why I’m so into football right now. Normally I’m pretty impartial to real sports, and it’s like, if they’re on, I watch them, but I don’t go out of my way. But this season? I don’t think there’s been a Sunday this season that I haven’t watched at least three different games. I got the game last week, and no, I don’t play fantasy football. I guess I finally just found something about the sport to make me love it. Now to rediscover it with hockey….

I love DnA, this is well known. I’ve read Authority this long just because I like them, and I know that even when things drag, they don’t like to leave their fans down. Unfortunately, with Authority, while I liked it, it was definitely the rare disappointment. I mean, after everything that’s gone on this book, the only real movement forward was the temporary possession of Apollo followed by his end of the run cure, Gamora getting killed, and Habib going crazy instead of dieing. I mean, I can’t possibly be the only person reading this book who is still wondering what in the fuck happened to Jenny? Aside from a few mentions, nothing. That bugs me since, well, a Jenny is always centric with the Authority. Jenny Sparks is synonymous with the entire concept, and Jenny Quantum was set to do the same thing. So where is she?

JSA: All Stars was like a refreshing breath of air for me after the past several months of JSA turning its wheels in neutral. I’ll admit that Magog all of the sudden being in charge is…illogical, since pretty much all he’s done since getting those powers is bow before Gog and then bitch at everyone about everything. But with All Stars we got an issue that captured some of the long missing fun that the book had managed during both of Johns runs, as well as managed to handle two fights where no character got skimped on their moments. In fact, the only thing that bugged me about it? Damage being alive.

The Mighty is one issue from being over and….it definitely feels like it rushed to the ending. That isn’t saying that this little book I love so much is getting bad by any means, but it definitely feels like Tomasi had no intention of wrapping everything up by issue twelve. I can understand Alpha One’s motivations, but it seems that after hundreds of years of planning he just went ahead and blew his load because one guy, one normal easy to kill guy, became a slight thorn in his side. His impatience just comes out of nowhere, and really disjointed the characters development.

Wonder Woman does everything with love, just like Hal does it all with will. Good to know, Diana kills because she loves.

I can’t claim love for Grant Morrison’s Marvel Boy mini, as I’ve only read it once and that was a while ago, so I have no real bias towards or against Noh-Varr. So how did I feel about the Dark Avengers Annual? I’ve heard complaints that Bendis writes Noh out of character, but I can’t claim to know if that’s true. I do know that he writes him as a believable outsider that is unsure of his path, that he’s on a world not his own and his own lack of understanding is screwing him harder than anything. Norman played him, made him think that they were the good guys, and now he wants to do his own thing. I dug the Bachalo art, and I dug the fight with Sentry, but I totally did NOT dig his new body condom costume. It just…..no. I like his older look, it made him look unique. Now he looks like a Kree soldier who screwed up his laundry. Nice cameo at the end though, to show us just where this book takes place in continuity. Here’s a hint, the Shield has apparently been decided on.

Meet Captain Marvel. Seriously, thats the look.

Meet Captain Marvel. Seriously, that's the look.

Johns is really the only man to write Blackest Night: Flash after all the work he has put into the Rogues over the years. I mean, Flash is all about the bad guys, and the bad guys in his line have a lot more accumulated deaths then the good guys, so it makes sense. It’s going to be like Rogue War part two: Zombies!

Guardians of the Galaxy needs two things. The first is to unkill Mantis and Cosmo, and the second is to get a consistent artist that can stay on for the long haul, because the book is suffering horribly from rotating artists that don’t resemble each other. Aside from that, I still adore this book.

And it’s good to know that Ultimate Spidey doesn’t have time for TV…..he’s got webs.

Hit me up on Twitter with your questions, and I’ll get you back here with some answers. Until next time!

What I read this week

  • Authority
  • Blackest Night: Flash
  • Blackest Night: Wonder Woman
  • JSA: All Stars
  • The Mighty
  • Superman: World of New Krypton
  • Invincible Presents Atom Eve and Rex Splode
  • Dark Avengers Annual
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Nova
  • Siege: Cabal
  • Thor
  • Ultimate Comics Spider-Man
  • Uncanny X-Men
  • X-Force Annual

The Gold Standard

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