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Ow, my brain!; or, the absolute failure of The Brave and the Bold #33

No preamble – let’s jump right in!

Every so often, I like to read a bad comic. I’ve mentioned this before here at the blog, but if Comics Should Be Good, then what makes a comic good? That’s a tough one, but one way we can determine if a comic is good is if it’s not bad. So I like to break down bad comics every once in a while. I believe it was the great comic book writer Leo Tolstoy who said, “Good comics all resemble each other, but bad comics are each bad in their own way.” Or something like that. With that in mind, let’s look at a book that came out on the 21st of April and had such potential. It’s a standalone issue, meaning you don’t need to have read anything else in preparation for it. It’s drawn by a well-respected artist. It stars three female characters, which is rather rare. It isn’t about punching people, it’s about the regular lives of the characters. This has to be good, right? Well, it’s not. It’s terrible. And depressing, because unlike some comics that I read that I know will be terrible (Ultimatum, anyone?), I wanted so much for B & B #33 to be good. But it’s not.

Doesn't look terrible, does it?

Let’s break it down, scientific-like, as some of you may not be convinced that this is terrible. First, boilerplate: J. Michael Straczynski writes, Cliff Chiang draws, Rob Leigh letters, Trish Mulvihill colors, Chris Conroy assistant edits, Joey Cavalieri edits (believe me, editors will be important for this comic), DC publishes. And, just so you know, massive SPOILERS ahead. I’m basically going through this page-by-page, so nothing will be left uncovered. We begin with a gunshot. Well, a “Blamm” over a starburst design, so we know it’s a gunshot. In bed, Zatanna wakes up from this dream of a gunshot and realizes it’s not just a dream. She tells her fancy magical top hat, “We have places to be.” Spooky! On the next page, there’s a terrorist on board a cruise ship threatening to blow it up (he has explosives strapped to his body) unless he’s taken to Syria. As he’s talking, Wonder Woman flies in as a blur, grabs him, and zips him through the air so quickly she gets all his clothes off before he can detonate the explosives. So, we have the set-up. Nothing really horrifyingly bad yet, except for the fact that the terrorist somehow has so many bombs strapped to his body that he alone will be able to sink the ship even though he’s standing on the top deck. I very much doubt that him blowing up would cause enough damage to sink the boat, even though he’d probably kill a lot of people. But that’s a minor point. We can forgive the hyperbole because JMS is just bringing in Wonder Woman, and terrorist dude isn’t all that important. This lack of attention to detail is troubling, though, as it portends bad things for the future.

While the cops lead the terrorist away, Wonder Woman watches from deck, standing in front of a bank of windows. Zatanna suddenly appears in the mirrored surface and says, “You’ve got some real signature moves there, W.” Wonder Woman says, “I’ve never had much trouble getting someone’s clothes off.” It’s a mildly funny line, but I’ll get back to why it’s a dumb line in this specific comic. Zatanna tells her that she’s putting together a ladies’ night and she wants it to be special … very special. We switch to Gotham City, where Batgirl stops some bad guys on a motorcycle. This is, of course, the first indication that this story is taking place in the past, because most DC readers know that Batgirl – Barbara Gordon – is in a wheelchair. They know how it happened – the Joker shot her in the spine. And, importantly for this story, they know when it happened – 1988. As importantly for this story, they know what Barbara did after she was confined to a wheelchair – she became Oracle, an information-gathering font for superheroes. If you don’t know any of this, the story you’re about to read means very little to you. JMS is counting on your knowledge of DC’s past history. This becomes important, as I’ll explain later.

Wonder Woman flies in, takes Batgirl to a rooftop, where she and Zatanna convince her to come out for a night on the town. She wants to go out on patrol, but Zatanna points out that in order for her to remain sane, she needs to take a break every once in a while. Wonder Woman tells Babs that “Nobody can really relate to what we do but each other, so the three of us going out makes sense.” That’s a fair point. So when we next see the three ladies, they’re getting out of a taxi at a club. Of course, they’re dazzling. Zatanna asks the bouncer if it’s all right for them to go right in without waiting in line, but before he can acquiesce because he’s not stupid (who’s going to turn away such fine honeys?), she uses her backward speaking voice on him to make him do it. She adds, “Eseht era ton eht sdiord er’ouy gnikool rof.” We’ll get back to that, too.

So they dance. Some tool approaches Wonder Woman and she crushes his cell phone – but JMS makes it look like she smushed his ‘nads. Ha! Zatanna sees that Barbara isn’t dancing, and she asks why. Barbara isn’t used to the shoes, but she also says, hilariously, “It’s not like anybody else was asking me to dance.” Yeah, who would want to dance with a foxy redhead in a tight skirt? That’s just crazy! But the point of the exchange is for Barbara to tell Zatanna the story of the shoes, which were a gift from her father. Barbara is a bit sad that she doesn’t get to see her father too often, because he’s busy with his job (in another nod to our knowledge of the DCU, JMS doesn’t actually tell us who Barbara’s father is – all we find out is that he’s a cop) and she’s busy with her day job and her nighttime activities. Zatanna tells Barbara to spend more time with her dad – oh, the irony of that statement! As she walks away to find Wonder Woman, she actually uses her spell-casting to get a guy to ask Barbara to dance. Really, Zatanna?

After some spirited dancing, Barbara tries to find her friends. She sees them in the bathroom, hugging each other sadly. Barbara leaves the room, saying, “There’s something you don’t see every day.” What? You don’t see two women hugging each other every day? Does Barbara know anything about people at all? Anyway, Zatanna and Wonder Woman show up, and Zatanna has been crying, but she puts on a brave face. They move on, hit a bunch of clubs, sing karaoke (“Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” by Beyoncé), and end up at a diner. Then Wonder Woman gets serious and starts talking about oracles, much to Zatanna’s dismay. Barbara says that oracles could only tell the future imperfectly and if they told you your future, you couldn’t change it and if you tried, it would be a thousand times worse. Wonder Woman then says that they were more than that – they provided information and acted as advisers to kings because they heard reports from distant lands. Being an oracle was a burden because you had just enough information to know that something was going to happen but not enough to stop it. After that bummer of a conversation, the ladies decide the night is over. They toss Barbara in a cab, she tells them she’s always remember this fabu night, Wonder Woman and Zatanna exchange sad and meaningful looks, and then they go their separate ways.

The next page shows us the famous scene from The Killing Joke in which Barbara is shot. We don’t know when it’s happening, but it’s not long after Barbara went dancing. Interspersed with Barbara bringing coffee to her dad and talking about various stuff are scenes of Wonder Woman and Zatanna that reveal what they were talking about. In the bathroom, Zatanna tells Wonder Woman that she doesn’t know when it’ll happen or where, and she doesn’t know if she’d make it worse if she tried to stop it. She also says she’d “do anything” to stop it from happening. She says she doesn’t have visions too often, and she just wanted to give Barbara this one night so she could look back on it and remember dancing. Then Barbara gets shot. Then we get a repeat of the first panel, with the “Blamm” and the starburst, and Barbara wakes up and gets into her wheelchair. She gets to her computer, answers the phone, and tells whoever it is that she was having her favorite dream, one in which she was dancing and she was beautiful. The end.

So what’s so wrong with this issue? Well, before I get to that, I should point out that I haven’t seen the one interpretation of this issue that would still be horrible but would at least mitigate some of the awfulness: What if Barbara dreamt the whole thing? Explaining everything away by saying “It was all a dream” should automatically bar a writer from ever working again, but at least it would explain the crap in the issue, because Barbara’s dream shouldn’t be logical! Perhaps Barbara never went dancing but just dreams that she did. I doubt if JMS intended this to be simply a dream – all of this, I believe, actually “happened,” so let’s go with that. I’m just throwing out the “It was all a dream” interpretation to comfort those who hated this issue. That’s the least terrible way to read this.

But let’s get back to the issue. Zatanna dreams that Barbara is going to be shot and crippled, and that depresses the hell out of her. She asks Diana to help her give Barbara one last night of joy. Okay. Why Zatanna and Diana? This is the first problem with the issue. JMS is using DC continuity, and while I’m not the biggest fan of DC continuity, if you use it, use it correctly. Barbara was shot in 1988. This version of Wonder Woman debuted in 1986-87 (she showed up in Legends, but her new series’ first issue was cover dated February 1987, so let’s just say around the turn of the year, shall we?), and the writers (Greg Potter and George Perez) made it perfectly clear that she had no idea how to function very well in “Man’s World.” We can certainly ignore the actual dates for these two events, but the fact remains that in DC continuity, Wonder Woman made her first appearance, didn’t know much about anyone and didn’t adjust for quite some time, and not too long after that, Barbara was shot. So the fact that JMS makes them bosom buddies is inexplicable. It makes no sense. It’s as if JMS wanted to tell the story of Batgirl’s last fun night before she got shot and simply couldn’t figure out if she had any friends to take her dancing. I don’t have too big a problem with writers playing fast and loose with the chronology of DC or Marvel, but again, JMS is playing with a specific event – Barbara’s shooting – so he needs to understand where that fits into the bigger chronology. If you’re going to write a story that takes place before that event, you need to understand what kind of character Wonder Woman was back then. This is not the Wonder Woman of today, in other words. I can’t even imagine today’s Wonder Woman saying something like “I’ve never had much trouble getting someone’s clothes off,” much less the Wonder Woman of this time period. I was listening to Chad Nevett and Tim Callahan discuss this issue, and Tim said he doesn’t mind writers having their own take on the character, even if it’s “out-of-character.” To an extent, I agree with him. But that’s what JMS on Wonder Woman is for. In this issue, he’s playing with characters from a very specific point in their lives and he hasn’t written them in issue after issue, so what we know of the characters must come from other DC comics. And this Wonder Woman doesn’t sound like Wonder Woman. When JMS writes the main title, then he can go nuts with writing Diana any way he wants.

Then there’s the karaoke, which ties into a larger issue. What, you might ask, can I have against the karaoke scene? Well, I’ll tell you. “Single Ladies” debuted in late 2008. This specifically dates the issue as after that. So let’s assume this scene takes place during October, November, or December 2008. As comic book readers, we’re conditioned to accept elisions of time, but we also know the journey Barbara has taken to become Oracle. Are we supposed to believe that in a no more than 18 months, she was involved in everything she’s been involved in since 1988? That all the giant events that have happened in the DCU have occurred in a year and a half? I know I should suspend my disbelief, but this is why writers have to be very careful about referencing current events. JMS should have been safe and used an old disco staple or something like that – it would have been very non-specific in regard to dating. It’s lazy writing, which is one of the biggest problems with this issue. Zatanna making the joke about “These are not the droids you’re looking for” is lazy writing. It’s such a cliché, and it’s in there not because someone like Zatanna would say it – this is a question of characterization again – but because JMS wants to make aging fanboys laugh. All of this lazy writing in the details is bound to be worse when it comes to JMS’ big ideas, and that’s where the people raking this over the coals are having a field day. I’d just like to point out that the big ideas are lazy because the small details are lazy, too. JMS is so desperate to get to the DEEP, DEEP POINT of the book that he forgets that these need to be good characters, not just people spouting philosophy.

And it’s the spouting of philosophy that bothers people, and I’m one of them. Zatanna has a vision that Barbara will be crippled. She and Wonder Woman, instead of doing something, you know, heroic by trying to stop it, take Barbara dancing. What could they have done, you say? Doesn’t JMS address that very point with the rambling bit about oracles? Yes, but that’s bullshit. Barbara is already in a wheelchair in the “real” DCU, so JMS can’t go back and change that. He wanted to tell this story but couldn’t actually change the past. Some people have compared this to Booster Gold, where he goes to certain points in time and finds out he can’t change them. But he’s dealing with the past. Zatanna and Wonder Woman are dealing with the future, which is mutable. I can think of two things they can do very easily. Wonder Woman could take Barbara to Paradise Island, where no men are allowed, I should point out, and then she and Zatanna could find the Joker and, I don’t know, break his arms. And legs. Or, you know, kill him. If JMS wants to play around in DC’s sandbox, he surely knows that at this point in her history, Zatanna had already shown absolutely no compunction about fucking around with the brains of not only villains, but Batman himself. Surely turning the Joker’s brain to tapioca isn’t beneath her, is it? And Wonder Woman, it has been shown, is not bound by the laws that govern people like Batman – she’s a warrior, so killing isn’t beneath her. If Zatanna “knows” she’ll be crippled, what’s the problem? Ah ha, you say! Maybe she doesn’t know WHO will do the shooting! She just knows that Barbara will be shot. That’s a decent point. But she claims she’d do “anything” to stop it from happening. How about letting Barbara know? How about telling her to be careful? Maybe she would have, you know, looked through the peephole before answering the door? I hate to bring in a real-life example, but if one of my friends had said to me seven years ago that he (or she) foresaw my daughter with a traumatic brain injury but not how it happened, it might still have happened, but at least I could have taken a few more precautions. Maybe Barbara decides to quit being a superhero so she’s not around guns so much. Maybe she invests in some Kevlar. For her friends to tell her nothing strikes me as ridiculously cruel of them. Even if they couldn’t do anything, they could have said something. Instead, they go dancing.

Wonder Woman’s speech about oracles is sloppy, too. She has to know that the oracles were, in all probability, drugged by the priests and woozy from underground gas. Maybe in the DCU, they actually were oracles in the truest sense of the word, but that’s not what’s important. The retcon of Wonder Woman giving Barbara the idea to become Oracle is annoying because it ignores the very good work John Ostrander and Kim Yale did making Barbara realize that she had worth as a person in a wheelchair. Wonder Woman basically telling her that, if she happened to find herself shot through the spine in the future, maybe she could do something with her life rings very false, because Barbara had to struggle with her feelings of self-worth before she was able to come up with a purpose. Again, this is lazy writing, and it’s insulting to the work of better writers who have come before. Plus, like a lot of JMS’ writing, it’s so heavy-handed that it has no impact whatsoever. JMS does this far too much (he even does it in his best comic work – Midnight Nation, if you’re wondering), and in this issue, it’s ridiculous. Wonder Woman should have brought flashcards, one with a drawing of Barbara in a wheelchair, looking all sad, then a second one with her surrounded by computers, looking all happy. Nah – that would have been too subtle. Plus, it’s implied that Barbara is a tad off her face – maybe she’s just tired. Would she really remember this little speech? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, Wonder Woman really beats us over the head with JMS’ theory. He must think we’re not that bright.

A lot has been made about Barbara’s concluding words, as she implies that she’s no longer beautiful because she’s in a wheelchair. Shockingly, as annoying as this little speech is, with more JMS heavy-handedness (three times in the final few pages he reminds us that she was dancing, because we might have forgotten that from less than ten pages earlier), I don’t think that’s what he means by this. Remember, everyone in this comic book is a cliché, so Barbara, before the shooting, is a typical “mousy librarian” and feels that she is unattractive. Now, much like the movies, this means she’s unattractive because she wears glasses and has her hair up in a bun, and if she just lets in down and gets some contact lenses, men will fall all over her, but the point is that she feels unattractive, but for that night, she felt beautiful. It doesn’t mean this is a clichéd view of someone in a wheelchair with self-esteem problems, it’s just a clichéd view of an attractive woman who doesn’t think she’s attractive and needs to wear tight clothing and fuck-me pumps to feel pretty. See? It’s all about which cliché JMS uses!

Finally, there’s the question of whether this issue is insulting to women. What if two male heroes knew a colleague was going to be shot and left in a wheelchair for the rest of his life? Would they be so fatalistic about it? Is Zatanna and Wonder Woman’s attitude healthier, because they know the curse of Cassandra and understand that if they screw with the natural order, Barbara might be killed instead of crippled? But is this fatalism really healthy? JMS, I’m sure, wants to show that women would understand that it would be worse to attempt something and that it’s better to make Barbara happy in the time she has left. Again, they can’t really do anything different because in the real DCU Barbara is, in fact, in a wheelchair, but one wonders how this story would have played out if it were men. The women don’t act even though they could. They simply let things happen. We might scoff at men for trying to change their fate, but the point is that they do it, and damn the torpedoes. The fact that the women don’t seems insulting. I do hope Barbara never found out that Zatanna and Wonder Woman knew what would happen, because how could she forgive them? There’s a difference between accepting that you’re in a wheelchair and making the most out of it and knowing it could have been prevented. I’d be pissed, if I were Babs.

Don’t think I’m letting Cliff Chiang off the hook, either. Actually, I do like Chiang’s work, and it’s quite good here. The way he makes Barbara absolutely uncomfortable when she’s dressed up is very nice, and he does as well with the ladies in their costumes as in street clothes, which many artists can’t do. He has a problem that many artists do – his faces tend to look alike – but otherwise, this is a nicely illustrated comic. My issue with Chiang has nothing to do with his work itself. As Caleb pointed out, the way Chiang draws ought to be the industry standard, instead of something we find exceptional. Chiang doesn’t push comics art forward, he doesn’t experiment with panel design or layouts or even character designs (well, except for one double-page spread at the end of the comic, but that’s not too, too experimental), but when we see his art, we’re amazed by how good it looks. As good as Chiang is, his work should be the bare minimum in a comic. Yet the fact that it looks so great means that a lot of artists are not even close to competent. That’s just sad. Still, Chiang’s art is really the only thing worth remembering about this issue. He deserves better than this.

You may disagree with my conclusions. You’re wrong, but this is America – where it’s your right to be wrong! This comic doesn’t make me angry like some comics in the past. But it’s still terrible. The actual writing is lousy, the plot is badly put together, the editing is lackadaisical, the use of DC continuity is shoddy, and the depiction of the characters ranges from stupid to insulting. The art is nice but unspectacular, but there’s absolutely nothing redeeming about any of the writing. I mean, even the final words of the terrorist are stupid! So if you’re wondering if a comic is good, think about the writing on this one. If the comic does everything the opposite of The Brave and the Bold #33, it’s probably good. See? It’s handy for something! Other than that, it should probably be taken out behind the barn and done in, execution-style!

One to the chest ... ... and one to the dome!

121 Comments

After reading JMS’s run on BatB (and his Mighty Heroes revamp), I am utterly baffled by his reputation. Every issue has been filled with cliches, poor characterization, and just plain lousy writing. I’ve been reading and buying Superman for over fifty years, but if his writing continues to hold to this level, it may be the straw that gets me to stop buying the Super-books.

RetroWarbird

May 2, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Valid points, all.

Except the bit about the talk about oracles being heavy-handed. In that particular case, I was more than positive that Wonder Woman wasn’t giving Babs the old “in the future when you can’t run around on rooftops, try being an oracle!” speech, but was actually talking about Zatanna … seeing as how, you know … Zatanna actually had a premonition and was burdened by the weight of it. Zatanna is the oracle here. I also disagree about it discrediting anything Ostrander did. Oracle took the name Oracle … in real life we have multiple influences for our reasons for liking particular themes. We see it here, we see it there, it coalesces in our heads into our concept of that theme. In this case it’s just a little more subliminal reason for why Oracle chose “Oracle” as a codename.

Lastly, on Wonder Woman and where she was in 1988 … see Infinite Crisis.

You know…I agree with everything you said. In fact, I’d usually be even more aggressive as far as being pissy about continuity errors. It started to get my blood to pulse…my outrage to simmer…But then I consider…1988….22 years ago. If anyone gave a damn about continuity, this article would be fantastic. But nobody really does. It’s all about interpretation. So I say…ehhh…you’re right, but oh well.

and that makes me sad.

I seriously wonder if jms was under the influence of a brain slug when writing his brave and the bold run. He should be so much better than this.

Greg, I can’t disagree with everything you said more.

Oh, and fuck continuity.

Hey, interesting article.

Didn’t get to read the comic yet, just one note of point. If I recall correctly, Wonder Woman has been “re-retconned” back to having been an original member of the JLA, which puts her back farther in the chronological history of the DCU. I think it happened in Infinite Crisis… same time that Joe Chill became ‘known’ as the killer of Batman’s parents again.

Thanks!

“A slavish devotion to continuity is the hobgoblin of little minds” what Ralph Waldo Emerson might say of comic book fans if he was still alive.

I’m not a fan of this issue, mainly because it’s a bait and switch of the worst kind. But I’m not sure your critique is on the mark. In particular the feminist critique ignores that the “You can’t fight fate” issue is a theme of JMS’s BatB run; this issue echoes the Batman/Dial H for Hero issue and the Green Lantern/Dr. Fate issue, all of which involve male characters. I think that theme is flawed, but JMS has been consistent in using it among many characters.

(In addition, Zatanna seems to only know that something bad happens to Barbara, but none of the details. In fact, it’s implied that the only reason Barbara was at her father’s house when the Joker arrives is because of the talk Zatanna gives her about meeting with her parents; that the point of Zatanna’s comment that anything she might do could make things worse.)

Incidentally, there is one thing this issue does quite well, which is to make WW and Batgirl extremely competent at fighting crime. This is one thing Diana very much needs.

JMS’ strength as a writer has always been in his long term plotting, which is why JMS is completely off the mark.

I quite liked this issue and JMS overall run on the title. Have to admit that i strongly disagree with most if not all of your points. Despite our differences of opinion i enjoyed reading through it.

This is one of the best comic books I’ve read in years. I love everything about it. The art. The characters. The fun factor. The emotional arc. It’s brilliant!

As for the continuity… That’s you creating your own dislike. Continuity is a loose patchwork at best. If this is someone’s first DC comic, they see a “Single Ladies” reference, and the familiar, contemporary song plays in their head and they roll with the story. If the song is from several years ago, they may have to search for it, especially a young reader. Continuity is CONSTANTLY changing. I don’t understand why people don’t get that. It has always been that way. It’s about making THIS story work, not about appeasing continuity geeks. There is no reason anyone should have to have read The Killing Joke to understand this story. It’s great that this story makes new readers aware of the The Killing Joke, though.

The current Wonder Woman is not the Perez late debut model, but a founder of the JLA. If you are going to critique from a continuity perspective, try to be current with your continuity.

Has there ever been an issue-to-issue drop in quality as drastic as this one? From the same writer? I mean, that Aquaman issue was great, but this one is just laughably bad.

Love me some Cliff Chiang, though.

JMS’s entire run on Brave and the Bold has been trite, hamfisted clownshit. I’m glad I stopped reading before I got to this issue because it probably would have given me an aneurysm. Like that first issue: “Little boy, you did the right thing by killing that homeless man, because he ended up saving people, even though he didn’t want to, and there were a trillion ways you could have dealt with your problem without winding up killing anyone. And hey! He was sad and poor, so his life was basically worthless already. I’m not even going to call the police!”

Or that Flash issue: “The uniform I’m wearing gives me the right, and the ability, to kill people.”

Or that fucking stupid Brother Power issue: “LONG LIVE THE BOOMERS!”

I like JMS but his B&B work has been completely atrocious.

Zor-El of Argo

May 2, 2010 at 5:03 pm

I really hate stories that attempt to fit something in before a fixed event. Star Trek Enterprise failed because a bunch of fanboys were trying to tie modern ideas to “future” events long ago chronicled by other writers. Star Wars 1 thru 3 did not live up to the legend because Lucas was presenting concepts that he had not yet thought of when writing 4 thru 6. The only reason Smallville works is because the show has it’s own continuity completely separate from anything done before.

If you really need to revisit the days before Barbara was shot you should at least set it in continuity she was shot in. One last adventure with Linda (Supergirl) Danvers would have been far more meaningful.

“I thought it was pretty good.”

“most DC readers know that Batgirl – Barbara Gordon – is in a wheelchair. They know how it happened – the Joker shot her in the spine. And, importantly for this story, they know when it happened – 1988.”

This is where you lost me with your argument.

We can disagree on writing styles and what comes off as too heavy handed for one person might be perfectly OK for another. And I’ve come to accept that there will always be people inserting their own sexism/racism/misogynism/whateverotherism card into reviews, because it makes for “good debate” (of the cable news variety). But I’ve been reading DC comics for nearly twenty years, and if you’d offered me a thousand dollars on the spot to tell you what year Barbara Gordon was shot, I couldn’t have told you it was 1988.

Maybe I’m the minority, and “most DC readers” have been following continuity for more than twenty years, but I’d be surprised if that were actually true. It’s “analysis” like this that makes Dan Didio joke “pretty soon Dick Grayson will be older than Bruce Wayne” and Grant Morrison write comics that you need an annotated encyclopedia of the DCU and three hours of internet research to fully understand. Accepting that someone puts on spandex and a cape and jumps from rooftop to rooftop, but then complaining that they couldn’t possibly have experienced everything we know they went through in such a short period of time is a little ridiculous. But, if it helps you sleep at night, “A wizard did it.”

Personally, I dropped B&B from my pull list a while back but picked up this issue because the premise and art looked decent. I was not in any way disappointed. I’m shocked that anyone would single out this issue as an example of a bad comic. However, you are completely correct on at least one point:

“this is America – where it’s your right to be wrong!”

Also, since when has Zatanna been able to see the future? And if she’s always been able to see the future, why does she assume that she has to play by the same rules that an oracle would have to? She’s NOT an oracle, she’s a magic lady. She doesn’t have to do jackshit.

I have to agree with Greg: If some friends of mine got a warning from the future about something that was going to happen to me, and then didn’t tell me, I’d never forgive them.

I guess that’s the other thing that’s bothered me a lot about JMS’ run, is that nobody in any of these issues has acted like a human being for even a moment. Or if they did, they were faking it, like with this issue.

I have been a DC reader for about 30 years and have never got the continuity thing…I so miss the Elseworld’s books…at least the really good ones. To my way of thinking the issue of comic book continuity is analogous to literary folks arguing over who Shakespeare was, did he exist, etc…or who was the “historical” Jesus. I don’t really care what Wonder Woman was doing in 1988–what I do care about is being entertained with an interesting story–and if the teller of the story needs to take a few literary embellishments to do so–all the better.

Brian Cronin

May 2, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Yeah, the Wonder Woman issue is what makes your whole continuity complaint fall apart for me.

You’re complaining that it doesn’t fit into continuity, but it DOES fit into continuity because DC has changed their continuity so that Wonder Woman WAS a founding member of the Justice League and HAS been around for a long time (well, as long as anyone else).

You apparently didn’t know that.

That’s fine by me, but you would then be failing by the same standard you’re charging JMS with – not keeping up with DC continuity.

Since continuity changes so often (to the point where you didn’t even know yourself) it seems silly to me to penalize a good story for failing to follow it.

Now, if you think a story is bad on its own merits, have at it.

Honestly, I’m pretty deep in DC continuity knowledge and I didn’t bat an eye at the “Single Ladies” reference. Why? Because it’s a ONE PANEL minor detail in a 22 issue story. Face it, in 20 years this story will be “bumped up” in time so that the song will be a Golden Oldie, much like how the Reagan appearance in “Legends” doesn’t work anymore.

I’ll take your other arguments as valid, but aren’t you nitpicking with the song thing? And, as others pointed out, you shouldn’t argue continuity points when you aren’t up on “current” continuity yourself. Or will you mention that as another weakness of the issue — that Cavalieri didn’t put a (*) that said:

(*) This issue takes place in current, post-Infinite Crisis continuity, in which Wonder Woman debuted in the same year as all the other Modern Age heroes, Zatanna is a huge Star Wars fan, and men aren’t attracted to foxy redheads.

TheDonAbides

May 2, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Even if the WW continuity is where the argument “fell apart,” the rest is valid. Sliding timescales make hell on this issue.

I agree with almost everything said in this piece. Why anyone would would call this issue of the year, I want to borrow some of their glaucoma medicine.

One real nitpick, you spelled lacksadaisical wrong. You forgot that first ‘s’.

The dialogue on WW is hideously bad. Glad I dropped that.

The word isn’t “lacksadaisical”. It is indeed “lackadaisical”.

TheDonAbides

May 2, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Getouttatown!!! I could sworn!! Huh, well, thirty years too late on that one, I guees.

Haven’t read this particular issue (or any of JMS’ DC work), but I don’t have a problem with any of the story elements you described.

In fact, it actually sounds as if it’s a return to form for JMS. I haven’t picked up Brave and the Bold because all of the preview I’ve read of it have been hackneyed, cliched, and just downright offensive (like Chris Jones pointed out above).

But this… I don’t actually have a problem with. I might just start picking this title up if it keeps the same quality as this issue. I’m going to pick it up the next time I’m at the shop.

I didn’t buy this book just because I’ve bought a couple of his last B&tB issues (the first with Dial H for Hero & the Atom in Joker story) and wasn’t that impressed. They were good enough but nothing exciting. JMS’s Thor is great though and I’m looking forward to his Superman and Wonder Woman.

That said, I find your complaints to be a little too much and agree with slat88 above. I’d look at it more as rewriting the Killing Joke in continuity as being now rather than in the 1980s. I typically like an adherence to continuity but not strictly to when events were exactly published and that’s where I think your criticism is asking too much.

Admittedly, I was annoyed that Marvel redid Iron Man’s origin to the movie version where he was injured in the War in Afghanistan instead of the Vietnam War, but I think that’s a completely different situation.

Sorry, I’ve been away from the computer. So sue me …

Okay, everyone who’s picking on me for the lack of knowledge of Wonder Woman’s latest retcon is exactly right, and I apologize. I suck. That wasn’t the biggest reason the issue is bad, and the issue is still bad even if we accept that Wonder Woman has been re-re-re-retconned to the point that it’s useless to worry about her history. But that’s my bad. Whoops.

Those of you criticizing me for worrying about continuity are missing the point. This issue fails miserably if you DON’T know the history of these characters. If these were three characters with no history, it would make no sense. I don’t care a whit about continuity, but JMS doesn’t give us any compelling reason to care about these characters within the text itself. We bring our own feelings to them because of continuity, and that’s just laziness on the part of the writer.

As for the entire run being about fate and our inability to change it, from what it sounds like, all the other stories are about men trying to change their fate and failing. Why, when the focus is on women, does he write a story where they don’t try? I get that he’s showing different reactions to the same conundrum, but why do the women get the reaction of “We shouldn’t even try?” I was hesitant to mention that in this post because I know he had been doing this kind of thing throughout his run, but every review of the other issues I’ve read makes it sound like the other characters have been actually trying to change their fate. Am I wrong?

Even so, my main points stand. JMS is heavy-handed and obvious and doesn’t trust his audience to make any connections. That’s just lousy writing.

funkygreenjerusalem

May 2, 2010 at 7:03 pm

This doesn’t sound like a great comic, but it also doesn’t sound like the war crime you’re making it out to be.

You seem upset that a comic that is set around continuity is pandering too much to aging comic fans – that’s all it’s meant to do story wise, so why get upset if there’s more pandering with Star Wars jokes?

Also, when Booster goes to the past, it stops being the past as he’s there in the present, so it’s not like there’s a different rule in play on why he can’t change things – Barbara Gordon must get shot.
Now, what the in DCU explanation for this is, I don’t know – but that’s two stories now referencing that it must happen.
Which I think is terrible an should be left alone, but some writer is going to be desperate for ideas, and come up with a reason for it in a crossover.

After reading JMS’s run on BatB (and his Mighty Heroes revamp), I am utterly baffled by his reputation.

Maybe read the books that he got his reputation on, not the one’s everyone’s ‘meh’ about.

As for the entire run being about fate and our inability to change it, from what it sounds like, all the other stories are about men trying to change their fate and failing.

In the Dial H for Hero issue, the owner of the Hero Dial actively facilitates the future by deliberately letting somebody steal the dial, knowing they will die. Batman praises the kid for doing this. There’s no reading of that which makes it better than what Zatanna and Wonder Woman do. The only reading that makes the two circumstances equal is if you recognize JMS is exploring the “You can’t fight fate” theme, and is trying to connect his stories to Greek tragedies like Oedipus Rex.

(Dr. Fate/Green Lantern comes off much better in this regards, because the person who suffers tragedy specifically makes all of the choices that cause him to suffer the tragedy. So in one story men are better, in one men are worse.)

This issue fails miserably if you DON’T know the history of these characters.

I claim all you need to know if that they are female superheroes, that Zatanna has mystical powers, and that Barbara gets shot by the Joker. Conveniently, all of this information is actually shown in the comic where necessary. (Also, JMS clearly designed the comic to be read multiple times, as shown by the scene in the bathroom which drastically changes interpretation on reading.)

Aside from the fact that JMS sorta wonks around with continuity, I really don’t see the problem in this issue.

I haven’t read it, but it looks like it’s well-told.

Or, if not well-told, at least competent.

And it occurs to me that you totally missed the point of the scene in the bathroom the first time through (or what JMS was hinting at for misdirection.) Which also ties into the reason the line was “‘I’ve never had much trouble getting someone’s clothes off,” instead of “I’ve never had much trouble getting a man’s clothes off.”

Travis Pelkie

May 2, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Ok, I haven’t read this issue, but I’m guessing that since no one is claiming Greg got any details factually wrong, that his synopsis is accurate.

I don’t think that Greg is saying that Killing Joke took place in ’88 and that we should never move the time, it’s more that the events that have happened since then can’t possibly have taken place since Single Ladies came out (don’t forget, after Infinite Crisis, there was the whole One Year Later, and Barbara had been Batgirl for a while before IC). As Greg says, the little details are sloppy.

But it sounds dumb the same way things in Identity Crisis were dumb — when you retcon details like “Zatanna knew something was going to happen to Barbara, told WW, and no one did anything, or feel guilty at all in the meantime” or “Zatanna brain wiped a &#!t load of villains, and Batman, and no one ever talked about it or felt guilty in the meantime”, it’s important to your current story, but it should have been important to the character AT SOME POINT between the event originally occuring and the now of the story. When the details NEVER get mentioned in the meantime, it loses some impact. Consider when Busiek did Untold Tales of Spidey, and the Sally Avril story — very emotional, but some impact got lost by virtue of the fact that it NEVER made Peter guilty in the meantime (and Peter is soooo guilty as a character trait) because it had never happened until Busiek told the story.

Someone hates Zatanna, it looks like. Of course, she was being treated differently between the time of IC and GM’s SS Zatanna mini, which were published about the same time, so…

The WW continuity issue points out, though, that DC continuity is too damn confusing, when a long time comics fan like Greg can’t keep track of what’s “real” and what’s not. But I don’t know if that completely discounts his overall points. The WW issue isn’t the main bad point of the story.

Is there anything worse than “super heroes go out on the town” stories? I could care less about the continuity problems or pop culture references, but that crap is just inexcusable.

Andrew Collins

May 2, 2010 at 8:04 pm

I actually got the impression that Babs thought she was walking in on Diana and Zatanna “making out,” not just hugging. The way Chiang draws the scene seemed to imply that to me…

But overall, I agree, this was a terrible, terrible comic. I’ve tried a few issues of JMS’ work on B&TB and been disappointed each time by the general soulcrushing element he brings to every story. I had been interested in the two-parter coming up next with the Legion Of Substitute-Heroes, but nevermind. He’ll find some way to make even them and the Inferior Five teaming up into some suicidally-depressing adventure. It’s also why I have no interest in his Superman or WW comics that are coming up soon…

Floating continuity has become so complicated, it was never an issue for me as far as this story was concerned. What bothered me was how no one acted in their established characters, and that’s something I can’t forgive. JMS takes basic character traits (the Flash runs fast; the Atom is a scientist, Zatanna is a magician) and plugs those generically into stories. This will be my last issue of BatB until he leaves. I have better ways to spend my money.

As far as reading the stories that everyone raves about, no thanks. I didn’t like his television work and I don’t like his DC work/ Such an approach is akin to “You don’t like brussel sprouts roasted, fried, or boiled, but maybe you’ll like them in ice cream.” No thanks, I’ve been burned enough by this guy.

Andrew Collins

May 2, 2010 at 8:06 pm

@Travis

The WW continuity issue points out, though, that DC continuity is too damn confusing, when a long time comics fan like Greg can’t keep track of what’s “real” and what’s not. But I don’t know if that completely discounts his overall points. The WW issue isn’t the main bad point of the story.

Agreed here too with Travis’ point. Supposedly the new DCU: Legacies mini-series is going to address what’s canon now but we’ll see if it doesn’t raise more questions than answers them…

“Legacies” may explain what’s canon, but it’ll all change as soon as someone comes along who says that it’s no longer canon or something else is.

The only way to “fix” it is to shake out the blanket and restart everything from scratch. I’m not saying they should do it, but it’s the only way.

Re the sliding scale:

Doesn’t all of DC’s “modern” history take place in a ten-year timeframe? I.e., Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman debuted as adult heroes; Dick Grayson became Bruce Wayne’s ward; etc. 10 years ago? I.e., in the year 2000?

In this scenario, the Joker’s shooting Barbara happened several years into the 10-year period. The question is when. Maybe 70% or 80% into the period? Which would put her shooting somewhere in 2007 or 2008.

That’s still a bit early for the Beyoncé song, but it’s close. It’s also much too late for a “Star Wars” reference. Are you sure the “droid” reference wasn’t to the new Droid cellphone? Perhaps people are calling people “droids” these days because of the phone.

All in all, it sounds like a sloppy but decent story. I like the idea of Wonder Woman’s providing another inspiration for the Oracle transformation. I don’t buy Barbara Gordon as a mousy librarian. Didn’t that characterization end 30-40 years ago? A reference to her old friendship with Supergirl would’ve been nice. And the whole “passive acceptance of fate” thing sounds problematical. At least consult with Dr. Fate, Rip Hunter, or someone before you give up on changing the future.

I disagree with you on your choice of which cliche’ JMS was going for with the “beautiful” line. I chose to use the one that damns him more.

As for continuity this or thats…here’s my issue…..if Diana and Zatanna are such best buds with Barbara…despite possibly never having ever appeared in the same panel with her before or after this story is set….why don’t they heal her after the fact? (forget that as heroes they should be helping out a member of the sisterhood anyhow…but here the HAVE to give BARABARA!!!! one last nite)….but WW doesn’t use Amazon healing retcon crap like purple rays, and Z doesn’t say “enips eb delaeh”.

agent_torpor

May 2, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Seriously, this column is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.

agent_torpor

May 2, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Clearly, we’re on different wavelengths. I’m taking this blog off my bookmarks, no need to waste anymore time here.

I like how some people are so OUTRAGED that Greg didn’t like this issue that they aren’t going to read this entire blog anymore. I read some of JMS’ earlier B&B, but not this particular one. I do know the plot though. I wasn’t that impressed with the stories he was telling in the first 4 issues. I can’t blame Greg for writing a whole column about the faults of 33, even if some of reasoning might be off in some people’s eyes. Anyway, the man has an opinion, calm down.

Every once in a while a “review”/”analysis”/rant comes along that makes you want to punch someone in the nuts.
This is one such “review”/”analysis”/rant.

Not one point in that asinine ramble make any impact on a thoroughly enjoyable story.

“1989″ HAHAHA, you are kidding right? You honestly believe that the publication date is the same as the continuity date? LOL, so Bruce Wayne would be what? 100 years old? Its not that difficult to follow this type of concept.

I won’t waste my time in discrediting all of your points, but just know that any credability of you as a commentator of anything, especially comics, has just gone out the window. Bye Bye

I don’t think the “Single Ladies” complaint is nitpicking. When I read it in Greg’s review, my first thought was “What the? That’s a really recent song. Isn’t this supposed to be at some point (further back than 2 years) in the past?” It’s a weird incongruency and I think Greg was right to mention it along with the criticism of the Star Wars reference. They’re obnoxious attempts at creating a light-hearted feeling, so JMS can turn it on the reader in the end with the tragic ending. It’s manufactured sentiment that undermines the story, instead of serving it.

I also agree that the idea of any superhero telling themselves that things are going to be bad and there’s nothing they can do to stop that fact is the complete opposite of who and what they are. It’s completely unbelievable that someone who puts on a costume to make the world a better place in ways that others can’t, would be so willing to admit powerlessness. It just doesn’t jibe. Wonder Woman should be bodyguarding Barbara Gordon for the week, not comforting Zatanna because she has to suffer the awful pain of SOMEBODY ELSE getting shot in the spine.

That’s dumb.

“I won’t waste my time in discrediting all of your points, but just know that any credability of you as a commentator of anything, especially comics, has just gone out the window. Bye Bye”

Poor spelling and punctuation are good ways to discredit yourself, you know.

And if I was the one putting myself up on the platform and proclaiming a definitive opinion of a given text then you would have a point.
But I’m not, so you don’t. Bye Bye.

Philip, I think by “some people” you actually mean “one malcontent who didn’t read this blog to begin with” and “one malcontent who has never contributed anything worthwhile to any discussion, ever.”

I do not mourn their loss.

Two words: sliding continuity. I’ve never heard ANYONE say that Barbara was shot in ’88 until this article. The way that people write these comics nowadays in the DCU is that at least the Trinity has been around fighting crime for somewhere between 10-12 years.

funkygreenjerusalem

May 2, 2010 at 10:14 pm

That’s still a bit early for the Beyoncé song, but it’s close. It’s also much too late for a “Star Wars” reference. Are you sure the “droid” reference wasn’t to the new Droid cellphone? Perhaps people are calling people “droids” these days because of the phone.

Is that sarcasm, or are you really denying an exact line from the film is a star wars reference?

Although I doubt Zatanna, going b y her character, would have watched Star Wars, she would be in the age group of people who grew up with those films as a constant part of their childhoods and teens.

The line is used fairly regularly in shows like family guy, and any star wars tie in/take off, so I do think it’s odd to call it wrong – except that there’s nothing in Zatanna’s personality that hints to watching that much film, let alone memorising star wars lines.
(Cue people jumping in to argue that there’s nothing in her personality that would mean she wouldn’t love star wars as much as them, just because they want to think they are as ‘kewl’ as she is).

Wonder Woman and Batgirl fought over Batman in BRAVE AND BOLD #78 (June-July 1968). That’s probably when Diana and Babs became buds. Despite the 1968 cover date, the story probably took place in 2004 or so. I.e., just before Wonder Woman lost her powers and turned into groovy kung fu Diana Prince in 2005 or so.

Despite not agreeing with everything Greg said, I think he did a great job of analyzing the story. I’m going to bookmark and read this blog several times a day to make up for the quitters.

Well, it sounds like a horrible story to me. (I haven’t read it.)

The only Straczynski I’ve read is his Spider-Man stuff, and a couple of Fantastic Four issues. And for the most part, those stories were not bad when judged solely on their own merits, but they were mediocre to horrible when judged as Spider-Man and Fantastic Four stories. He doesn’t seem to care much about continuity, or characterisation as it had previously been established. I never thought his Spider-Man acted very much like Spider-Man, and Spider-Man is a character that nearly every writer gets right. And it really bothered me during the Civil War, when made an important plot point out of Tony Stark knowing about Peter’s spider-sense, when he had only ever told Mary-Jane and Aunt May about it (which meant that Tony had been spying on him through the high-tech suit he’d provided). Except of course, that Spider-Man had been telling other people about his spider-sense almost from the very begining. That’s not a minor error, that’s a complete disregard for previously-established history.

Maybe Straczynski should restrict himself to only using his own characters.

Speaking of Zatanna’s powers, what would happen if she said “live enogeb,” “lla slanimirc og ot liaj,” or “dne regnuh dna ytrevop ediwdlrow”? Has any story addressed this?

not reading brave and the bold can not really argue the merits of what jms was doing by having Zatanna and Wonder Woman decide to give Barbara one more night out of fun. Zatanna knowing the killing joke is to happen even though having Zatanna know its happening and not warning Babs what to come even using that story is to me jms showing he seems to be not really right for brave and the bold not to mention Wonder woman ‘s speech on oracles when its established only a few know babs is oracle in the dcu and zatanna and wonder woman are not on that list. plus even if they figured out it was the JOker who shoots babs. Zatanna would not mind wipe the joker and wonder woman would not kill the joker for dc editoral would never okay the joker being killed ever. and the mind wipes happen during identity crisis long after the killing joke.

“And if I was the one putting myself up on the platform and proclaiming a definitive opinion of a given text then you would have a point.
But I’m not, so you don’t. Bye Bye.”

You are, actually. You stated that it was “thoroughly enjoyable”. By posting a comment, you put yourself on a platform. So, I do.

Are you going to come say “Bye Bye” again?

“Speaking of Zatanna’s powers, what would happen if she said “live enogeb,” “lla slanimirc og ot liaj,” or “dne regnuh dna ytrevop ediwdlrow”? Has any story addressed this?”

No.

It’s one of those, “Why doesn’t Superman just do everything by himself?” things where they count on the other part of your brain to go “He just DOESN’T, alright?!”

“Two words: sliding continuity. I’ve never heard ANYONE say that Barbara was shot in ’88 until this article. The way that people write these comics nowadays in the DCU is that at least the Trinity has been around fighting crime for somewhere between 10-12 years.”

By that logic, the Beyonce song came out a few seconds ago. So, that’s a no-go on that excuse.

Making a passing comment and writting a lengthy blog post on a high profile comic website are two VERY different things.

I will continue to say “Bye Bye” as long as ridiculous attempts to rebuff the obvious are insisted on being made.

No, I wasn’t being sarcastic, funkygreenjerusalem. Outside of a few “May the Force be with yous,” I haven’t heard many “Star Wars” references since the early ’80s. Certainly not many references to guys as “droids.”

Zatanna’s formative teen years would’ve been in the mid-1990s, when no “Star Wars” movies were in the theaters. She’d be using these terms:

http://www.inthe90s.com/generated/terms.shtml

Not a fan-boy phrase from 3-5 years before she was born. And that doesn’t even address Zatanna’s complete lack of history as a “Star Wars” fan. Greg was right; the line is a clunker.

Obviously “droid” came from the movie. The question is why JMS thought it sounded like something cool to say in 2010. Perhaps it’s because the Droid phone has made the word popular again.

I will continue to say “Bye Bye” as long as ridiculous attempts to rebuff the obvious are insisted on being made.

I’ll say “Bye Bye” for you and we’re done with it.

Man, people who say they’re leaving and then don’t irritate me.

Ha ha!

Well, then I apologize if this sends you into some kind of seizure-inducing feedback loop, but you should know that by saying “Bye Bye”, you seem to be attempting to rebuff the obvious fact that we all know you’re going to keep coming back to see how people respond to your posts. Nobody ever makes a farewell post and just leaves. It’s an egocentric thing that people only do for the reaction

So, will you just continue posting on this thread for all eternity? That would be pretty amusing. Or are you actually going to leave? It seems like either way, we win.

Feel free to delete my post for the sake of just moving right along, Brian.

JMS is exploring the “You can’t fight fate” theme, and is trying to connect his stories to Greek tragedies like Oedipus Rex.

The thing is that all of those Greek tragedies depicted the characters trying to change their fate, even though they always failed (and usually brought there fates upon themselves in the process). King Laius tried to kill Oedipus. Cassandra tried to stop the Trojan War. The point of those tales is that you can’t change fate no matter how hard you try. The message of this story seems to be that you can’t change fate if you don’t try at all.

I claim all you need to know if that they are female superheroes, that Zatanna has mystical powers, and that Barbara gets shot by the Joker.

That may be all you need to know to get the brute facts of the story, but surely we would hope for the story to have some emotional depth, and the question is whether the story has any emotional resonance if the characters are merely Generic Superheroine #1, Generic Superheroine #2 and Generic Superheroine #3.

>> It’s one of those, “Why doesn’t Superman just do everything by himself?” things where they count on the other part of your brain to go “He just DOESN’T, alright?!” <<

Ah, one of those things that makes comics "stupid kid stuff" rather than intelligent material for adults? Now I understand.

P.S. Let's all count the number of times Maestro says "Bye Bye." He's up to three so far.

funkygreenjerusalem

May 2, 2010 at 11:18 pm

No, I wasn’t being sarcastic, funkygreenjerusalem. Outside of a few “May the Force be with yous,” I haven’t heard many “Star Wars” references since the early ’80s. Certainly not many references to guys as “droids.”

Droids isn’t guys – it’s a line from the film when Obi Wan mind wipes the storm troopers.

It is referenced quite a bit.

Zatanna’s formative teen years would’ve been in the mid-1990s, when no “Star Wars” movies were in the theaters. She’d be using these terms:

My formative teen years were in the 1990′s – we grew up with all the star wars films constantly on video, then in the late 90′s the original three were re-released and then the new one’s came out.
For the geekier girls, and all guys in their late twenties to mid-thirties, star wars references are very common.

I don’t know they suit Zatanna’s personality, but she’s in the age group to be making them (late twenties/early thirties).

.
Obviously “droid” came from the movie.

No, the entire line is from the movie, said when a character is mind wiping/tricking two other characters.

The question is why JMS thought it sounded like something cool to say in 2010.

Why do so many shows like Family Guy, Robot Chicken or anything aiming at an audience from 24-35 make specific Star Wars references?
Because that’s the audience who knows and appreciates them.

Perhaps it’s because the Droid phone has made the word popular again.

Your obsession with this phone having something to do with it is odd and unfounded.

I didn’t ask why Zatanna doesn’t utter phrases such as “enips eb delaeh,” “dieskraD raeppasid,” or “live enogeb,” Chris. I want to know what would happen if she did. Any thoughts on that question?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zatanna#Powers_and_abilities

“The limits of her powers have never been clearly established. She has been called the most powerful member of the Justice League, and is often depicted working alongside the most powerful magic-users on Earth, including Doctor Fate, Madame Xanadu, and Captain Marvel. She has used her powers to command elemental forces, heal, transmute and transmogrify objects, manipulate minds, and attack her opponents with energy blasts. She has resurrected the city of Metropolis from ruin, merged Aquaman’s spirit with the entire ocean, and manipulated time and space.”

And yet she was powerless to prevent or cure Barbara’ s injury. I wonder why.

Zatanna’s formative teen years would’ve been in the mid-1990s, when no “Star Wars” movies were in the theaters.

Well, to pull rank, as a child of the 90′s I can clearly remember when I first heard about Star Wars, which was when the original trilogy was re-released in cinemas in 1997. I’m not sure what rock you’ve been living under that you haven’t heard many Star Wars references since the 80′s, but at the very least the fact that Family Gut have dedicated two hours of network time just to re-tell the story for what seems like the millionth time should convince you that Star Wars is still at the very top of pop-cultural awareness.

And yet she was powerless to prevent or cure Barbara’ s injury. I wonder why.

It’s because Barbara is a more interesting character in a wheelchair, so no matter how little sense it makes she has to stay in the chair.

We have had this argument before and we’ll have it again, but there are some things that will never make sense in comics. And that’s OK, because it’s all made up. Plot minutiae don’t make a comics “stupid kid stuff”, unrealistic emotions make comics “stupid kid stuff”. Art is a meditation on the human condition, not an examination of the practicalities of running around in funny suits catching bad guys.

The “droid” reference was to the guys in line and why the three gals weren’t the same as them. Her point was: “We’re not droids…like them.”

Your reliance on “Family Guy” as the main source of current “Star Wars” references isn’t persuasive. Roughly 290 million of America’s 300 million people don’t watch it. Including Zatanna, I’ll wager. Try to find a few more pop-culture sources if you want us to take you seriously.

“No, the entire line is from the movie.” That doesn’t contradict what I said, bright boy. The word AND the line come from the movie.

“Your obsession with this phone having something to do with it is odd and unfounded.” Your obsession with correcting a minor point that you perceive as an error is the only oddity here. Why don’t you devote another 500 words to telling us why JMS couldn’t possibly have been influenced by the Droid’s popularity? Even though he was evidently influenced by Beyoncé’s popularity. I’m sure we’d all love to hear it.

funkygreenjerusalem

May 2, 2010 at 11:49 pm

Well, to pull rank, as a child of the 90′s I can clearly remember when I first heard about Star Wars, which was when the original trilogy was re-released in cinemas in 1997.

What rock were you hiding under that it took that long?

(Or you mean kid, not teen, in 90′s? I was born 83, and was renting those films from the video shop for as long as I can remember – on my BETAMAX!)

@Ted

The message of this story seems to be that you can’t change fate if you don’t try at all.

As I’ve said, I don’t actually like this story and this broken Aesop is one of the reasons why I don’t like it (but a minor one, compared to the bait and switch issue.) But Greg is making what I think is an ill-founded feminist critique, and I’m trying to point out that JMS has used this broken Aesop before independent of gender.

tl, dr; The message is bad, but when viewed in context of his entire run it’s not antifeminist.

That may be all you need to know to get the brute facts of the story, but surely we would hope for the story to have some emotional depth, and the question is whether the story has any emotional resonance if the characters are merely Generic Superheroine #1, Generic Superheroine #2 and Generic Superheroine #3.

It’s reasonable to expect that JMS should remind us why there should be some emotional depth by showing us through his portrayals of the characters, rather than forcing the backstory to do all the work. There’s a reasonable argument about whether JMS actually did a good job building up this emotional resonance (and I think the people who liked this story think he did a good job with this), but Greg seems to be arguing that the only reason people could relate to the characters is due to the back story built up over years of writing in the DCU.

(Note, I’m mostly playing Devil’s Advocate here. I think the issue has big flaws, but I don’t think they are the “flaws” that Burgas is focusing on in this post.)

funkygreenjerusalem

May 3, 2010 at 12:07 am

The “droid” reference was to the guys in line and why the three gals weren’t the same as them. Her point was: “We’re not droids…like them.”

One hell of a coincidence then that she used an exact line from star wars to say that, if it wasn’t a reference from star wars.

Are you still arguing it to be a dick, or just to save face?

How does it even make sense if it’s about a phone?

Your reliance on “Family Guy” as the main source of current “Star Wars” references isn’t persuasive. Roughly 290 million of America’s 300 million people don’t watch it. Including Zatanna, I’ll wager. Try to find a few more pop-culture sources if you want us to take you seriously.

I said I doubted Zatanna would know/use the line, but that many people in her age group (like myself) would know the line.
It’s not just appeared in Family Guy and Robot Chicken, those are just two shows it has appeared on – two shows that are watched by a lot of people in Zatanna’s age group (hi!), even if I don’t believe she would have.

There’s also Kevin Smith films, I believe South Park, scrubs and Simpsons have used that specific line, a queens of the stone age track… I can’t imagine it hasn’t been on Big Bang Theory or a Buffy show…

If not that line they mention Jedi Mind trick – which is from that scene of the film.

You’ll argue them all – ignoring the books readership correlates with those products target audience, which is also Zantanna’s age group – but it is a known thing, and there is no other reference being made.

Your obsession with correcting a minor point that you perceive as an error is the only oddity here. Why don’t you devote another 500 words to telling us why JMS couldn’t possibly have been influenced by the Droid’s popularity? Even though he was evidently influenced by Beyoncé’s popularity. I’m sure we’d all love to hear it.

BECAUSE IT’S A LINE FROM STAR WARS.

Why would you argue it’s a line from star wars, when it is a line from star wars?
I don’t need to – you’re the one denying reality.

Seriously, google that line – it doesn’t bring up a single hit for a phone.

So anyway, it’s a star wars reference, not a phone reference, and Zatanna is in an age group that knows their star wars, however she doesn’t really have the personality to know lines from the film – however, it’s easily covered by saying she was mocking the boys by saying it.
Ergo, it’s not as bad as you want it to be.

How Zatanna’s powers work relates to why she and Wonder Woman passively accepted Barbara’s fate. Changing vs. accepting fate is a major point of Greg’s critique and perhaps the central theme of the story.

In other words, it’s hardly plot minutiae. When the theme and plot fail, the story and “art” fail.

Not only do Zatanna’s powers relate to this particular plot, they relate to her character in general. Does she actively intervene in human relationships a la “Identity Crisis”? Or does she hold back as in this story? Who knows?

The problem is that her character is basically cardboard. It’s all over the map, which means it’s nowhere. Sometimes she’s an old-school vaudevillian and sometimes she’s a hipster spouting “droid” references.

That helps explain why there are no long runs of Zatanna comics. And why most adults consider Zatanna-style comics “kid stuff.”

Or you mean kid, not teen, in 90′s?

Kid, definitely. I was born in ’88 so I was only nine at the time. I think I probably heard of Star Wars before that, but that was just when I realised how big a deal it was. That being said I don’t think I actually watched the films until a couple years later, when Episode 1 came out in ’99. (In fact that may have actually been the first Star Wars film I saw. Man, did my geek cred just go down several notches or what).

I have never actually heard of a Droid phone. Do we have them in Australia? I’m not really a phone guy.

Good lord, the amount of nitpicking here is staggering. I’m 54 and saw “Star Wars” the day it opened. and got the line. JMS was obviously using it as a cultural reference. My wife, who knows nothing about science fiction or “Star Wars,” knows the line.

It has nothing to do with growing up in the 70s, 80s, 90s, or 00s. It’s as much a part of the culture as “Rosebud,” “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” “…cats and dogs living together,” or “Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?”

The question is whether it would make any sense for Zatanna to say the line backwards, when it’s been established for 45 years that she casts spells that way. Her saying it in that way made absolutely no sense other than JMS thinking he was being clever in using what seems to be an “in joke,” when it’s about as opaque as an empty fish tank.

And why most adults consider Zatanna-style comics “kid stuff.”

“Zatanna-style comics?” I can tell you with a fair degree of certainty that every adult I know in real life thinks that all Superhero comics are kid’s stuff. I don’t know where this large, erudite community of Superhero comic lovers is with which we can judge which Superhero comics are considered kid’s stuff and which aren’t, but if you know their address can you tell me because I’d love to visit them.

Are you still picking on a minor point to be a dick, or…no, I guess that explains it.

I was making a suggestion, bright boy. Providing an alternate explanation. Not asserting that it was a mistake. Are you really so dense that you don’t understand that?

I Googled the phrase and didn’t see any evidence that anything but the song has used it. Your belief that “Family Guy” and other TV shows have used it is pure speculation.

Not that that matters. To reiterate, I didn’t say the line isn’t from the movie. I said JMS could’ve been influenced by the Droid’s popularity to use the line. COULD HAVE, not DID. Unless you have evidence that JMS wasn’t influenced by the Droid’s popularity, quit wasting our time with your macho posturing.

Or, go ahead and devote another 1,000 words to critiquing my initial two sentences. It’s pretty clear you have the biggest penis here, but another 1,000 words will prove it. It’ll also prove who’s the obsessive nut in this debate.

Travis Pelkie

May 3, 2010 at 12:49 am

Um, not to beat the dead horse, but as someone who (gasp!) hasn’t actually seen the Star Wars movies, I know that line though. I’ve heard it referenced on Two Guys and A Girl (the show Ryan Reynolds was on), and I’m pretty sure Andrew used the line in season 7 of Buffy. It’s like Dave Sikula says, it’s part of the common pop culture, but it doesn’t really make sense (in the context described) to say it backwards.

Sliding continuity does make a bit of sense as to possibly making this story “fit” the given time frame, but there is still a ton of stuff that happened since Barbara has been Oracle (hell, she must have been Oracle during Knightfall, right? and that’s a 15+ year old story). While obviously the characters don’t age in real time, you have to take into account that certain storylines that keep getting referenced have to have “happened”, so there has to be some time frame that exists, or (to take off on something Chris Jones said) the part of your brain that says how did all this happen to these characters and the part that says it just did, ok? both explode.

Um, Ted, isn’t the “large, erudite community of Superhero comic lovers” right, um, here? I think most of us who post here love superheroes, and can form thoughts reasonably well, and we’re not shy about judging the comics.

Um, Ted, isn’t the “large, erudite community of Superhero comic lovers” right, um, here? I think most of us who post here love superheroes, and can form thoughts reasonably well, and we’re not shy about judging the comics.

Yeah, but most of the people here don’t have a problem with “Zatanna-style comics”. Rob seems to be appealing to some other community, one smarter and more mature than this, who aren’t willing to overlook “those things that makes comics “stupid kid stuff””. If he were going to appeal to the people on this website he would just appealed to the people on this website.

Also, there is no real ‘here’ with the website. The people on it are spread out thinly across the world. The general population of intelligent adults in any part of at least the English-speaking world consider all comics kid stuff. Rob, someone who has admitted to reading something like ten thousand comics, someone who writes comics for publication, seems to have forgotten that there is a world outside comics, a world full of Star Wars references. Rob keeps talking about this group of people that seems to only exist in his head.

quit wasting our time with your macho posturing

Well, fuck, there’s nothing more macho than quoting Star Wars. I know that when I was in the school ground I was always terrified that all the Sci-Fi fans were coming to beat the shit out of me. If someone said “Do or do not” you didn’t wait for them to finish, you just ran for it.

funkygreenjerusalem

May 3, 2010 at 4:01 am

I have never actually heard of a Droid phone. Do we have them in Australia? I’m not really a phone guy.

I’d heard of them mentioned as a possible iPad rival in an article about an ipod, but no more than that.

Googling around, looking for any possible way that it could be about the phone, Rob just doesn’t want to accept an explanation that makes sense because he doesn’t like it.
Probably because I called him out for being sarcastic, but I really didn’t think a comic reader wouldn’t have got the Jedi mind trick reference.
(Heck, I’ve got a mate who watched Jedi with his girlfriend recently, and she’d never seen any of them before, and he started to explain that Darth was Luke’s father, and she pointed out that EVERYONE knows Star Wars.)

Are you still picking on a minor point to be a dick, or…no, I guess that explains it.

No, I’m sticking it to it because this isn’t a subjective thing, it’s objective.

I was making a suggestion, bright boy. Providing an alternate explanation. Not asserting that it was a mistake. Are you really so dense that you don’t understand that?

It’s like looking for another reason when a character says ‘play it again Sam’ or why a character in the 90′s would say ‘shagadelic’, or if a character picks up a skull and says ‘alas poor (insert name) I knew him well’ – there’s a direct source it’s coming from.
You may not have known it, but denying it upon hearing it is rather silly.

She wiped their minds so they forgot about them, and the joke is, that it’s the phrase that wiped their minds.

Why would you possibly think there is an alternate explanation?

I Googled the phrase and didn’t see any evidence that anything but the song has used it. Your belief that “Family Guy” and other TV shows have used it is pure speculation.

It’s not pure speculation – I’ve seen them.
Apparently, you don’t pay any attention to pop culture, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t so.

If you googled it, you would also have seen that for at least the first eleven pages – I got bored after that – there isn’t anything other than Star Wars references.

Now what’s more likely – that JMS was writing about a phone with that line, or that Zatanna was quoting the line in star wars, said whilst a jedi wiped people’s minds, whilst making some guys forget they were there?

Not that that matters. To reiterate, I didn’t say the line isn’t from the movie. I said JMS could’ve been influenced by the Droid’s popularity to use the line. COULD HAVE, not DID. Unless you have evidence that JMS wasn’t influenced by the Droid’s popularity, quit wasting our time with your macho posturing.

What macho posturing?

Why won’t you accept the most obvious reason for the line – the one that makes perfect sense?

I don’t even know how a phone reference there would make any sense – it’s a joke line, and it works if it’s a star wars reference.

Or, go ahead and devote another 1,000 words to critiquing my initial two sentences. It’s pretty clear you have the biggest penis here, but another 1,000 words will prove it. It’ll also prove who’s the obsessive nut in this debate.

It’s not about how fantastic my penis is Rob, it’s about you not accepting the truth that’s right in front of you.

I just don’t think you should say it’s sloppy for a reference that isn’t as out of place as you think – it doesn’t necessarily work for an upper class girl like Zatanna to have seen it and know it, but someone her age would, and lo and behold, her age correlates with that of the average reader of the book, who, in most cases, got that reference, and why it was said as a spell instantly.

funkygreenjerusalem

May 3, 2010 at 4:04 am

It’s like Dave Sikula says, it’s part of the common pop culture, but it doesn’t really make sense (in the context described) to say it backwards.

The joke is, that’s the line she says to wipe their minds instead of ‘tegrof su sresol!’.
Either the guys are such geeks that the line works on them as a spell, or it’s so well known that you can just say it with power and they forget.

Doug Atkinson

May 3, 2010 at 5:31 am

“If you really need to revisit the days before Barbara was shot you should at least set it in continuity she was shot in. One last adventure with Linda (Supergirl) Danvers would have been far more meaningful.”

That wouldn’t make any sense continuity-wise–”The Killing Joke” was published a month before Matrix/Supergirl first appeared in the post-Crisis DCU, and Linda Danvers didn’t appear until 8 years later.

Agreed on almost all counts. This is the worst comic I’ve paid money for in ages, and it’s gotten me to swear off B&B. “Almost” only because, as others have noted, Wonder Woman no longer debuted during Legends– but there is *no* Wonder Woman who I can “hear” saying that “clothes” joke; and because I liked Chiang’s art better than you did. But JMS has written a terrible, terrible comic, even by the standards of his tone-deaf B&B run up until now.

The song isn’t the only excessively-dated reference. The phone that gets crushed isn’t just a cell phone; it’s an iPhone. So, again, JMS goes out of his way to nail down an insanely recent date for an event that needs to have happened about half the post-Year-One timeline ago.

re Doug Atkinson above: Linda Danvers was also the pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El– that’s presumably who’s being referred to, not Matrix’s alter-ego.

Rusty Priske

May 3, 2010 at 6:35 am

I have nto read the comic and I am not going to and I agree that the idea that Zatanna knew in advance and didn’t do anythign abouyt is probelatic. (That concept is what completely ruins the Booster Gold comic).

BUT

The complaints about continuity are ridiculous. “That song didn’t come out until” blah blah blah.

Who cares?

IT DOESN’T MATTER AS LONG AS THE STORY HOLDS ITS OWN.

Uau, that Star Wars quote really became fodder for discussion!

Great analysis as always, Greg! I was surprised that you were so thorough about it. I didn’t read the comic, but I read some reviews and when I found out what the story was about I just thought of what a bad idea it was. I’m willing to forgive all the continuity screw-ups, but not this type of emotional manipulation.

Well, I’m happy to be wrong – I enjoyed the issue.

I enjoy reading Greg’s columns, but I disagree with almost all his points in this one.

I sort glazed over during his whole rant on continuity – and I believe that if someone was going out to give their friend a good time, they might even make a joke based on an old movie that’s part of the cultural lexicon.

The beyonce song may be an anachronism in the setting, but it was wholly appropriate to the mood of the scene, so I’ll give it a pass – it never even occurred to me that it was out of place until I read this column.

I’m not a fatalist myself, but I don’t object to it being used as a plot device, if it’s an interesting story.

It raises the question, if you knew a friend was going to go through a horrible traumatic experience, and there was _nothing_ you could do about it, what would you do? Maybe a night on the town wouldn’t be such a bad thing…

Continuity and anachronism problems that otherwise wouldn’t matter do in this case, because, as Greg says,

“most DC readers know that Batgirl – Barbara Gordon – is in a wheelchair. They know how it happened – the Joker shot her in the spine. And, importantly for this story, they know when it happened – 1988. As importantly for this story, they know what Barbara did after she was confined to a wheelchair – she became Oracle, an information-gathering font for superheroes. If you don’t know any of this, the story you’re about to read means very little to you. JMS is counting on your knowledge of DC’s past history.

The only level on which the story could possibly work is that of trading on the reader’s preexisting knowledge of what’s coming next. Someone who had never read the Killing Joke or who had never read the Oracle character woulnd’t get a fun self-contained story of the Silver Age here– it’s all about when it happened. And in that case, drawing attention to when it happened in our-world terms is just bizarre, and glaring.

Star Wars didn’t bother me– it’s a old reference but one that’s never entirely fallen out of use, and one that might appeal to Zatanna’s sense of humor. But Beyonce and the iPhone are symptoms of how terrible the book is overall, and why. Not every anachronism in every book would be like that, but this is terrible in a very specifically time-and-sort-of-continuity-bound way.

It’s clearly a line from Star Wars. If you want to go a little further back then Family Guy I’m pretty sure it was in Mallrats too.

I get what Greg is saying about the timeline problems and while some of them don’t matter, some things can be jarring. He is right though, if you are going to set a song in “the past” you should use a song that is more than two years old or it risks standing out. The crushed iPhone is probably a little out of place too.

You don’t need to pick a month and a date for a story like this, but it shouldn’t look like an event that happened a while ago took place last week. The creators need to establish more of a sense of past other than just referencing continuity events. I think the iPhone thing is probably an artist error though.

It was better than the last Wonder Woman/Batgirl team-up.

http://www.comicvine.com/the-brave-and-the-bold-in-the-coils-of-copperhead/37-134552/

Basically, I’da stuck it in the “B -” range. It was drawn well enough and the story’s whiplash switch from light comedy to heavy drama was interesting enough to make up for some of the…. er… lapses in the writing.

The continuity/time-line stuff didn’t bother me, but I noticed it. and I thought “This is gonna drive some people nuts.” It’s probably better to try not to drive your audience nuts.

WOW. Greg, I dunno what to say! I think you’re so wrong about this issue! I really enjoyed it. Taken solely on its own merits, I thought it was strong. However, it ties into The Killing Joke to an extreme degree, and, having read The Killing Joke when I was still a youngster (but not having read much Oracle stuff), I thought the payoff was huge. In fact, I got real teary at the end when I figured out what the hook was. My GF has been pretty sick for almost a year now, and her illness has stopped her from doing a ton of the stuff she used to love to do. Putting in my own emotional parallel to Babs’ character arc made it the comic that much more enriching. I thought, overall, this was a thoughtful short story with a lot of ambition and a relatively high payoff.

I agree, the Single Ladies thing is just laziness; if the single was Oops!… I Did It Again, no one would have cared.

If this was a 19th century movie, and the main characters were attending to a Mozart´s premiere, you´d be saying: wtf, Mozart is 18th century, what the hell?? That´s nitpicking?

I read the story and liked it at first. It’s a bit sappy and sentimental.

I’m wondering why the story features Zatanna, Wonder Woman and Batgirl. I can understand why Batgirl is in the story. Not sure why Zatanna and Wonder Woman are there. I think unfortunately there are too many gaps to fill in, or blanks, or dots to connect.

I assume that early in his career, Bruce Wayne as John Smith came across Zatara and Zatanna. While they never really had an opportunity to develop a romantic relationship, they became team mates on the Justice League of America. I would assume that her relationship to Bruce/Batman would lead to a Six Degrees with Robin, Alfred, Barbara and Jim Gordon. More times than not, characters like Zatanna and Bruce live in a very small close-knit circle of friends.

I also assume that more than once, Diana and Bruce have been linked. Bruce and Diana have had some pretty wacky JLA and B&B adventures together; as well as that one time that was mentioned where Diana and Barbara fought over Bruce/Batman.

What irritates me is a story that works from only one point of view. Whether it is a Batman story, or a James Bond story, or a Sherlock Holmes story. Given a certain amount of information from a certain point of view or perspective – or a character – and the story works. The same story from another characters point of view and the whole thing falls apart like a house of cards. Sorry, I’m drawing a blank on a fer-instance to support my argument, but here, everything works backward from Barbara in a wheelchair having been shot by The Joker during the classic The Killing Joke storyline. Zatanna has a vision or premonition of it and she and Diana make no attempt to stop her from being harmed in anyway – remember they don’t know WHAT specifically is going to happen, just that SOMEthing is going to happen. Either of them could have prevented something similar – “protect Barbara Gordon from being SHOT by a GUNMAN – only to find out that it was not THE thing. The wrong gunman. That COULD have worked. Instead they accept inevitability, and only prepared for the eventual.

I don’t think it could have hurt to have included some World’s Finest link with Batgirl and Supergirl. Unless that was TOO much power for the story…

“The complaints about continuity are ridiculous. “That song didn’t come out until” blah blah blah.

Who cares?

IT DOESN’T MATTER AS LONG AS THE STORY HOLDS ITS OWN.”

Well, obviously every person who’s said it doesn’t work for them cares. Many of us have explained how the inclusion of the song not only distracts from the story, but is emblematic of the cheap storytelling that was employed which makes the story NOT HOLD ITS OWN.

For what it’s worth, Zatanna’s out-of-nowhere prophecy powers also really bothered me. A Wonder Woman who made risque jokes, a Zatanna with heretofore unknown powers that don’t rely on spellcasting, and a Batgirl who’s a shy mousy little girl who goes on patrol every night [not a former Congresswoman who'd already semiretired as Batgirl] got together for an adventure that relies so much on readers’ knowledge of other comics that the best moment of the book was an artistic meta-use of the comic book form reminding readers of the time they read that other comic book– a mess.

Does DC work on a sliding scale? I admit I don’t read all that many DC superhero books these days (i.e. none) but back in the day, while Marvel worked on a sliding scale, DC didn’t really. It wasn’t quite real time, but it wasn’t nearly the type of steep scale as Marvel. That’s why these universe rebooting Crisis stories were necessary in the first place, because the stories weren’t making any sense any more over such an extended time frame.

Has DC now switched to a sliding scale for continuity since the latest crisis? Or are readers assuming this is the case based on how Marvel handles continuity? I’m just curious, I don’t know the answer, but I was a bit surprised to see all the references to a DC sliding scale since I didn’t realize they were using one.

Zero Hour inaugurated a DC timeline that’s partly sliding. The Golden Age is still tied to concrete dates– WW2, etc. But Superman’s public debut and the beginning of the Silver Age were tagged to “ten years ago.” Occasional Secret Files and similar things have updated the timeline, and allowed the “ten years” to slowly, gradually increase. We’re probably at Year 15 or so now, taking into account that 52/ OYL are constantly referred to as having taken a whole year.

Good God, this comment thread makes me want to claw my own brain out and beat someone to death with it. I won’t name names.

t raises the question, if you knew a friend was going to go through a horrible traumatic experience, and there was _nothing_ you could do about it, what would you do? Maybe a night on the town wouldn’t be such a bad thing…

I would at least, you know, mention it in passing. It’s about the least anyone could think to do. I would not take them out to a club so that, in the future, they can fondly recall a time when they had functioning legs. I think that’s a pretty asinine bit of plotting.

This was a very nitpicky article. And I don’t agree with many of your points. But I am willing to buy the point that the characterization is off and the entire premise is counter intuitive to what super heroes are about. Would Diana really just sit back and let her friend get killed?

But really, the continuity concerns are pretty moot. It isn’t what Brave and the Bold is about. its about telling fun stories without the burden of continuity Its fun superhero team ups. So the Beyonce song? Not a big deal. Batgirl and Diana being friends? Sure, I’ll buy that.

But Barbara being a mousy Librarian? Doesn’t seem to fit to me… And WW crushing the guy’s phone? I don’t like seeing Diana being spiteful or petty. She’s supposed to have a bit more grace than that. Is the ending cheap? Maybe.

This issue takes great story risks and makes some pretty odd characterization choices and I can see somebody having an issue with it. But I find the the continuity concerns to be misplaced. This is a non-continuity one-shot. And it actually fits (mostly) current Post Infinite Crisis.

All that being said, I loved the art. And I liked WW being shown as competent and I hope JMS brings that into his run on her regular book.

Andrew Collins

May 3, 2010 at 10:40 am

Oh my god, I just realized that all the ignoring of continuity that JMS in order to tell a Brave And The Bold story did can only mean one thing-

JMS IS THE NEW BOB HANEY!!!

This makes as much sense as trying to fit the Brave and the Bold cartoon into continuity…

“But Aquababy died way back in the sixties! This is s story set in modern times!”

Never mind the wonky continuity, or the fanfic-level premise (“Here’s what happened the night before that famous Batman story!” Hey, if you can’t be Alan Moore, at least you can ride his coattails). There’s something incredibly nasty and mean-spirited about having Zee and WW encourage Babs to spend more time with her father…which of course puts her right in the path of the Joker’s bullet. Oh, the irony!. I haven’t read much of JMS’ work…if it’s true that “You can’t change fate” is his signature theme, that makes him a pretty bad fit for the superhero genre, which is all about the power of one person to make a difference in the world.

“This makes as much sense as trying to fit the Brave and the Bold cartoon into continuity…”

You’re talking about what JMS did, right? Because he’s the one who wrote a story that relied upon an older story to have any emotional impact.

This post and the ensuing discussion perfectly encapsulates the zeal of the modern fan. A work must be picked apart and discussed endlessly, concluding with an absolute, polarizing and IRREFUTABLE decision on whether the work is good or god awful.

I’m exaggerating a bit. Of course, you all are entitled to your opinion, as am I. But I contend that this issue, like many comics and particularly the Brave and the Bold series, is mediocre, knows it’s mediocre, and only pretends to be otherwise for the sake of comic fans eager to throw themselves at the altar of continuity.

The premise of the entire line is “come check out your favorite characters from god knows when as they team-up and take on blah blah blah.” The whole thing is a fan service. Can we really be upset when every issue reads like fan fiction? Sure, we can try to figure out which character was pulled from where, but continuity is fluid anyways, making the whole exercise pointless.

Characters are generic, defined only by their powers. Situations are created solely to ensure the story hits the right beats. Plot holes are overlooked to lead us to an emotional denouement. A lesson or theme is bluntly laid out to the reader at the end. Competent artwork follows throughout. Ladies and gentlemen, after years of reading a variety of comics, I can tell you that this is NORMAL. I’ll make a blanket judgment about the average reader/tv watcher/movie goer right now and say that this what they’re looking for, and more than that, the emotional resonance, however contrived, will be the factor that shapes their opinion of the work.

My point is, and I know that I shouldn’t have taken this long to reach it, there’s really nothing wrong with mediocre work in and of itself. The issue we all have is when our peers examine mediocre work, butcher proven methods of critique, and conclude that dirt is gold. Seriously, if people hadn’t talked this up, a lot of you wouldn’t have even bothered. Since it’s been talked up, it must be degraded, and a bunch of us over-correct and conclude dirt is crap. People, dirt is dirt, and don’t let either side convince you otherwise.

I am also a modern fan. Disagree at your peril.

Hey that last post was mine, I don’t want people confusing me with the other Daniel that’s already posted.

I don’t blame Greg.

Superman and Wonder Woman have two sets of stories (Pre- and Post-Crisis) and it seems like each writer gets to choose which elements he will pick from each set.

A little late to this party, but isn’t the whole point of the tag line up there in the cover “Lost stories of yesterday, today, and tomorrow!” basically translates to “Don’t worry about continuity, fanboy!”? Nit picking about the exact time line of when, where and how this issue happened is kind of missing the point, if you ask me.

You can still point out the flaws if you want, but I think wasting I don’t know how many words (and this is not just for Greg, but for all the people leaving comments too) arguing about the details is an entirely pointless exercise.

As for the references to recent stuff like the Beyonce Song and iPod, there was also a recent comic, Avengers – The Origin, that also updated certain elements in the story. When there’s guys using modern computers in the background, all of sudden Iron Man’s clunky gold armor doesn’t look so good, but I don’t hear anyone complaining about it.

And, in my world. any team-up book where the leads make out is at least kind of good.

Zor-El of Argo

May 3, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Doug and Jacob;
Yes, I was referring to the Pre-COIE Supergirl. While technically out of continuity by the time Barbara had been shot, niether Barbara nor Batman had been been rebooted as yet. To my recollection, Kara Zor-El was the only super-friend that Barbara had who wasn’t Bat-themed.

Funky, not trying to be a dick but the droid line wasn’t about “mind-wiping,” it was about “mind-pushing.” Obi Wan used the Jedi Mind trick to convince the weak-willed Storm Troopers to allow his group to pass without hassle. It was very similiar to the telepathic suggestion that Max Lord used back in JLI. Zatanna didn’t seem to be making the bouncer forget them, she just pushed him to allow them passage…which, as Greg pointed out, wasn’t really necessary as bouncers ALWAYS allow groups of hot women to move to the front of the line. Thier presense makes the club more desireable for others to get into. At any rate, Zatanna thought they needed the assist and the droid line said backward was an amusing way to do it. Best not to read to much into it.

I still hate placing stories before fixed events after the fact, though. Just saying.

I thought the droid line was just Zatanna snark (with the real work being done by her two previous comments to the bouncer.) I have no problem with Zatanna snarking in backward speak.

funkygreenjerusalem

May 4, 2010 at 2:58 am

Funky, not trying to be a dick but the droid line wasn’t about “mind-wiping,” it was about “mind-pushing.”

I stand corrected.

Best not to read to much into it.

Agreed.

It was a joke.

So let me get this straight: The night of Superman’s birthday party Cassandra Cain and Bruce Wayne did the Batusi to N’SYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye” and then the next day Bane snapped his spine and for the next half-hour Wayne embarked upon a globe-trotting journey which culminated in his being healed by Swamp Thing?

Sorry, this was a great issue. And while I’m not going to stop reading this blog, I will stop reading anything written by Burgas because he’s a poor writer and has terrible, terrible taste.

Travis Pelkie

May 4, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Please don’t cry, Greg, now that someone has pointed out that you’re a poor writer and have terrible, terrible taste. Just because you wrote an entire post pointing out in detail the problems you had with this issue, and someone else can just let you know in a sentence that it was a great issue.

Man, just imagine the JLA meetings with WW and Zatanna — Hey, whatever happened to Batgirl? I mean, we knew something bad was going to happen to her, but we didn’t tell her, and now she’s no longer crime fighting. Should we ask Bruce what’s going on? Or did I mind wipe him about Batgirl, too?

Travis: I think I’ll get over it! :) If someone doesn’t want to read my stuff because I’m so terrible, well, that’s fine. I may struggle for years with the self-esteem issues, but I think I will make it through after a great deal of therapy.

Travis Pelkie

May 4, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Oh, thank goodness. I’d hate to not read more of the Comics You Should Own, even though your taste is so terrible ;)

It just happens to correspond to mine, for a lot of them…

Fantastic post, thank you for writing this.

This issue is a part of a continuing tradition of flashback Babs-as-Batgirl stories with heavy-handed hints/retroactive foreshadowing that Babs is going to get shot. Just once it’d be nice if there could be a story about her as Batgirl that doesn’t fall over itself to pay homage to The Killing Joke.

Since the ladies in this story know that intervening will only make it worse, if anything, it is showing that they are smarter than the male superheroes in JMS’ other stories around this theme. Pro-feminist story! They accept that which they cannot change, and do what they can to make things better for Babs.

As for the droids line, it is my understanding (correct me if I’m wrong) that Zatanna uses the words as a focus, but doesn’t need to say them, exactly. So using that line is like an in-joke, and since SHE knows what it means, the words do what she wants. She’s just using them as a focus. As to whether she would know that line, of course. But to use it and have it synonymous with that action, she’d have to be a fan. I’m not a big enough fan of Zatanna to know whether that would be in character.

The “Single Ladies” song will be in the right timespan in a year or two, with the sliding timescale. So no big deal soon. Lazy writing, sure, but it will be moot soon anyway.

I wouldn’t say this is a particularly good story, but I think most of the criticism is off-base.

I just have to wonder why other than obvious editorial mandate is Barbara getting shot this cosmic lynchpin event that cannot be broken by any means.

I mean this ain’t exactly Krypton exploding or the birth of the Guardians. It’s a tragic event but also kind of a mundane one. Other than DC editorial having a hard-on for Killing Joke there’s really no logical reason why Zatanna or Booster Gold or Phantom Stranger, any number of characters could save her.

Typo demons. That was supposed to be “couldn’t save her”.

If you look at B&B 33 from the right light, it actually isn’t that bad of an issue. Great art goes a long way. If you consider it to be a Batgirl story, you might get annoyed or even offended by the characterization of Batgirl, considering that the story presents her as a cliched wallflower in need of pity, whether that pity be from a night out dancing or from needing a guy to ask her to dance. The Barbara Gordon of Batgirl: Year One certainly wasn’t a wallflower. (Batgirl: Year One, by the way, features some fantastic Marcos Martin art, and is stingy on the foreshadowing. Pity it’s out of print.)

But what if you consider this issue as mainly a Zatanna story? She gets a vision that Batgirl’s going to get seriously hurt and knows she can’t do anything about it. She pulls in Wonder Woman, because she had to tell somebody. They decide to take Batgirl out to make themselves feel better, not Batgirl. She was the one that got dragged into it, maybe she just didn’t want to dance with anyone, or was tired after patrolling, and any characterization of her as a wallflower type comes from Zatanna’s limited perspective.

I’m VERY late to the party here. I read your review and I’ve read the comic repeatedly and I couldn’t disagree with you more.

Although it’s only a few years old, I keep this comic with my GOOD ones. The ones that mean a lot to me and have a special place in my heart. This is a story that was so sweet and so sad that I was actually crying at the end. If a comic book can move a person to tears, it’s doing a good job.

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