PRE-CRISIS/POST-FLASHPOINT – A COMPARISON ACROSS DECADES, REBOOTS AND RETCONS

In 1961 we had…

jla5prea cover in which Aquaman’s legs have stopped being legs

a title page that promises Gravity Will Go Wild, completely burying the lead considering what we’re about to read

the JLA interrogating Green Arro a la the ‘Court Martial’ episode of STAR TREK

a shrinking pair of convicts who float out of jail in a balloon – and an unhelpful quote from a guard – see “Some kid must’ve lost his balloon!”

tiny super villains in a box of matches proclaiming ‘DOOM TO THE JUSTICE LEAUGE! SO VOW WE ALL!”

Clock King, Captain Cold, and some dude who used to bother Wonder Woman

a legitimately heroic moment from Aquaman where he saves Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern from a floating waterfall in the sky

“Something black up there, coming toward us….of COURSE! GIANT PUPPETS!” – Hal Jordan

a completely nonsensical super villain plot in which a man named Doctor Destiny commits no crime in his entire life so as to avoid alerting the Justice League (but is still a bad guy and gets beat up and arrested)

expository dialogue, improbable coincidences, brain dead plot twists

In 2013 we have…

jla5nu

a cover that looks like IDENTITY CRISIS 2 and buries, digs out and taxiderms the lead of actually being a fun superhero story

a talking flying Squirrel with a Green Lantern ring

a snake monster fighting a martian in drag

an evil robot Justice League versus a pop star

KRRAAKKLOOOOMM

a bad guy MADE OUT OF TIME

Hawkman v. a Yeti – battle of the century

expository dialogue, improbable coincidences, brain dead plot twists

COMPARISON

Comic books are still insane. I know that after enough bloody deaths and big events you’re going to get the rep Geoff Johns has earned, but I think it’s clear the influence Silver Age comics had on him. JLA #5 from The New 52 is only a shade or two less insane than the one from half a century before. It’s odd that both of them feature covers that seem ashamed of the greatness that hides inside – why wasn’t the cover to pre-Crisis JLA #5 a flying waterfall, giant puppets, tiny super villains in a blimp and the Justice League disowning Green Arrow? Who WOULDN’T have bought that? Why doesn’t the cover to post-Flashpoint JLA #5 feature a robot JLA, or Chronos or any of the fun ideas inside? The best thing about the Johns version is the cast. Not only is there a variance in ethnic and gender representation, the characters personalities and powers are incredibly wide ranging, which is much more visually interesting and creates more narrative conflict, as opposed to the singular voice that all Silver Age characters shared. The best thing about the pre-Crisis Gardner Fox issue is the story – not only does a lot happen, a lot of completely crazy things happen, things that could only happen in the DC Universe, and they’re played completely straight. Not only did I flip the pages with a sense of wonder and a couple of big laughs, but I was actually moved in moments such as Aquaman saving his JLA members – he really did do something superheroic. Contrastly, J’onn posing as a dead Catwoman seemed tasteless, silly and adolescent. Obviously, there’s no copmaring Sekowsky to Bret Booth. There’s just no contest.

THE VERDICT

Pre-Crisis is the winner. Both of them struggle with telling a story with such a big cast and with so much going on, but 1961’s JLA #5 uses this to its strength to throw the kitchen sink at us in a way that overwhelms in a fun and exciting way. Fox gives you a sci-fi superhero world where anything can happen, and you never know what you’ll see next. However, that comes at the expense of a personal connection for the audience – this story is a surreal fantasy, but ultimately disposable and forgettable. Johns story is predictable and dull, but it has a stronger emotional core. The characters have unique voices and differing points of view, and he manages to throw some craziness of his own into the story, even if it can’t hope to compete with Gardner Fox’s mad creative genius. Sekowsky’s art is beautiful – he tells the story clearly, gives the characters a real sense of self, and designs some really amazing set pieces. Booth is not very good – muddy storytelling, shaky character rendering. However, what I come away with comparing the two is that the modern comics scene isn’t as bleak as many people like to think – or maybe more so. We haven’t come that far from back then – it’s still the creativity and imagination that keeps us fans coming back, even if the stories are sometimes dumb and lazy.

 

 

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