Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Secret of the Girl Behind the Boobs

Last week's issue officially kicked off the Infinite Crisis event with admittedly less than shaky results. It was a story that didn't know how to thread the thematic core conflict it wished to tell into the action of the story, resulting in an issue in which the Big Three stood around bickering while we would occasionally cut to action elsewhere, most of which were bleedover from ongoing stories happening in other books that weren't well explained enough for me to fathom what was actually happening, but giving me enough of a glimpse to realize that there were nuggets of actually interesting stories in the margins. I don't know. Maybe now when I'm writing this in late 2016, I'm exhausted from a decade of hero vs hero events, that dedicating the launch of a cosmic level event to the internal conflict of these three just left me feeling like this event might have some framing issues.

Issue #2 turned out to be a bit better, although I honestly think the story had nowhere to go but up.

We start out at the home of Animal Man, where he is looking for his space suit before he can head out to join the Titans' "Save the Entire Universe" coalition. He explains to his wife that his powers (which I assume uses the same sort of principal as Vixen's, minus the mystical totem) have been going haywire ever since the crisis began, not unlike how dogs can tell when there is going to be an earthquake.
How literal a "moon base" can we get on a Titan salary?

The Escher stairs are being installed
next Thursday. 
He teleports by super speed pinball (?) to the staging area of the mission, which looks to be a cyberpunk version of an ancient Greek cityscape nestled into an asteroid shaped like a crescent moon (or maybe a moon that has been hollowed out to look more cartoonish). This is New Cronus, which doubles as their method to getting to the center of the universe. It turns out this thing is also a ship, which sounds incredibly implausible.

It turns out that Animal Man isn't the only canary in the proverbial coal mine, as a character whose brain is basically a ham radio starts flipping out over all the SOS signals he's getting from across the universe. A bit of research showed that this kid is Hal Jordan's nephew, also named Hal Jordan. I wonder if they initially tried to pass him off as the real Hal Jordan after the last reality reboot, like with the new Wally West.

We finish this scene drawing our attention to Supergirl, who tells us that there is no word in Kryptonian for "escape." Will that fascinating xenolinguistic anecdonte amount to anything in this narrative? Don't hold your breath.

Even a giant's hands aren't big enough to
cover up the ladies.
The only reason I can think of why they would end this page with her is that the following opens with a shot of Power Girl. My knowledge of Power Girl is pretty much limited to the New 52 World's Finest series. I somehow suspect in between Infinite Crisis and the New 52, they concluded that her breasts were cartoonishly over-sized... like the artist used a then-contemporary Pamela Anderson as a point of reference. I'm going to come back to this, undoubtedly, but let me just warn you that her physical proportions are... disconcerting.

"She's a Barbie Girl in a Male Gaze World..."
I don't want to fixate on Power Girl's breasts, but the fact of the matter is the artist is making it impossible not to. Power Girl is well-known for her ample bosoms, I was surprised about just how ridiculous they are. They are so endowed that half the time, it makes her head look shrunken. Even with a giantess on the scene, it's her breasts that cause me to wonder whether or not that can actually exist in nature. She looks like pretty messed up.

What good is a cape if I can see your ass?!
Between her extreme "WWE Divas" musculature, breasts that would put Dolly Parton to shame, and a costume that both puts the girls out on display while also basically being an arrow pointing to her vaginal area she basically resembles less a superhero than the embodiment of the toxic male gaze.

There must have been a different artist for the cover because Power Girl looks a lot less like a short-haired Anna Nicole Smith doll that's been through the wash a couple times and a lot more like a viable human form. The ladies are still very much on display, mind you. The artist clearly knows how to advertise to 12-year-olds who are into boobs. In fact, they even extended an olive branch to the butt crowd with the variant cover. Seriously, how is her cape fluttering up like that when they are indoors at an extra-dimensional room full of reality tv screens?

Kal-L narrates about her post-crisis background. This version of Power Girl was discovered on Earth an amnesiac doppelganger (I think the writer meant "Jane Doe," unless there is a definition of doppelganger I'm unaware of) and that she has gone through life without a sense of direction or importance, and yet she keeps fighting. Given that, he is proud of her and quite happy to greet her when he rushes in to assist her when outnumbered and greets her as his cousin.
Stranger danger, Karen! Call an adult!

I am going to put a pin in the Kal-L and Power Girl story for now because that's really going to be the main thrust of this issue.

For now though, we have a lot of  one-or-two-page-long vignettes about all the other things going on in the DC Universe. Some of these tie in to what we've seen last issue, while others-- just like last time-- feel completely random and we don't get a full explanation.

At the Daily Planet, Perry White assigns Lois to write on the recently uncovered bodies of the Freedom Fighters (Ray and Uncle Sam are still MIA). He seems particularly riled up over this story because "they were American heroes."

Like I said last time, I feel like this team was selected for the chopping block because of the built-in patriotic symbolism. Keep in mind, this was conceived of and written in the years immediately following 9/11. I guess it was still in the era when playing up American patriotism and using clunky symbolism in order to achieve a galvanized sense of national pride was still considered moving instead of distasteful.

Mind you, I'm not taking as much issue with the idea as much as the execution. The Freedom Fighters are career C-listers. In fact, if you look up C-List Fodder on TVTropes, DC Comics has its own sub-heading and the Freedom Fighters feature prominently. If not for the fact that the team is led by a guy who goes around looking like Uncle Sam, this team would have been in the clear. This team got taken from their habitual role of warming the proverbial bench just because DC editorial needed someone to die to kick off their event while also blatantly tugging at the heartstrings of post-9/11 America.

Did I mention this came out the same year as Marvel's Civil War storyline?

Lois finds her spouse around the office, staring pensively at a framed headline from that time he died, which I suspect would be a sore subject to begin with let alone last issue Batman put salt in the wound by accusing Clark of not being inspirational since then. Just to give you a frame of reference, the Death of Superman arc ended in January of 1993 and he was back before that year was out. In the intervening time, Superman has had twelve years' worth of series across multiple solo titles as well as being a mainstay of Justice League. To accuse Superman of not being inspirational in all that time is cold and unfeeling even by the standards of Batman.

Ever get the feeling that you're reading a book set in the Darkest Timeline from Community?

I feel like they wanted to put in a pep talk, but for the sake of squeezing everything into this book, Clark settles for a kiss. Then he just switches from his Kent persona to Superman in the middle of the hallway (I guess it's a secluded wing of the office) and goes off to... something(?) I think he might have been going to seek out the Secret Society, considering without his super hearing he and presumably everyone in a five floor radius has heard Perry's half of his conversation with Lois. Seriously, Perry White's superhero handle would be "ALLCAPS MAN."

Speaking of the Secret Society, there is a two page sequence that is essentially just housekeeping and letting the reader know which books to read based on which villains they like. It's a handful of characters in presumably a "secret volcano lair" coordinating plans with characters on monitors and telling you where other characters who are visible on monitors will be. For me, this kind of scene is a lot like getting a flu shot. It's quick, it's necessary, but I will find any number of things to do other than read this kind of scene.

However, we get a twist when we immediately discover who has been eavesdropping on this entire scene. Even though he is a participant in this scene: Lex Luthor. But this Lex doesn't know why he's hearing himself on his radio. Also, the reader doesn't know why he's in his super Silver Age green and purple power suit. Then again, having only a touch and go understanding of post-Crisis DC, I wonder why he is an older bald man instead of a ruggedly  handsome bearded ginger or why he's not president. Or why he's an outright villain instead of a sly puppetmaster who manages to keep his hands clean. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say the retro power suited Lex is an extra dimensional hand-me-down who somehow ended up here when Kal-L punched a hole in reality.

Well that tacky color combo would make
anyone have trouble thinking straight.
What is weird to Lex is that just as he is about to launch into a villain speech, his brain basically shuts down on him. He forgets what he was about to say, he can't seem to get a clear thought, and not even he knows what he's doing in that garish battle suit. Just then, he looks up to see the telltale sign of two blue and red streaks shoot across the sky....

Meanwhile, Booster Gold is back from a jaunt through the timestream. Good to know he left. And he's back to retrieve his OTP's prized possession, the Blue Beetle Scarab, which last we saw what accidentally dropped in the Wizard Shazam's cave. I bet the Spectre killing him for... reasons... will throw a wrench into that plan and that DC is heavily convinced that this glorified cameo will pique your interest in finding out what happened to Kord's alien and/or magic bug thing.

A real world decision in the writer's room must have been to reverse the best tie-in scenes for Wonder Woman and Batman characters to make up for how awfully the came off looking last issue.

First we get this incredibly amazing scene where the Joker is torturing a member of the Royal Flush Gang. In case the name doesn't give it away, they are a playing card-themed team of villains, traditionally they tend to be thieves or hired muscle for villains with much higher schemes. It seems he's miffed about being at being left out of Luthor's Secret Society Games. And of course King of Spades has no problem with calling a spade a spade and telling him off. Joker electrocutes him to death with his joy buzzer. Well, what did you think was going to happen, King?

Then as Joker walks away, we see all the dismembered, maimed, and otherwise dead bodies of the RF gang. Sometimes, I forget just how effective a character the Joker can be. I generally view him the way I view Deadpool. He's at his best when he's used in moderation and becomes less engaging when he is at the center of drawn out arcs, or in recent cinematic past, in films he didn't need to be in. Also, "body horror" Joker really doesn't work for me either.
Alfred: He'll regret this when I write my tell-all book.

In the Batcave, Alfred is trying to treat Bruce's injuries, but it is clear that Batman is growing unhinged. Or, well, even more unhinged for a guy who runs around dressed like a bat so that he can punch people with actual superpowers into submission. Once he yells at Alfred to go away, his computer screens light up with a pink light and we see a giant Egyptian-style eye.

Bruce recognizes it as Brother Eye. And it's here that we find out that he created this thing in order to spy on meta humans and other terrestially based super-powered beings basically because he's still miffed over Zatana erasing five minutes of his memory. Imagine if she'd erased the memory of seeing his parents get gunned down right in front of him. Maybe his personality would have adjusted seismically and he could be a sane, well-adjusted person.

Not only is Brother Eye the result of Batman's paranoia, but it turns out so are the OMACs. Yeah, Brother Eye is so committed to his programmed mission statement to keep meta-humans from threatening the Earth (read: "Bruce Wayne's fragile sense of security") that it turned apparently thousands of unsuspecting humans into sleeper cyborgs who can be activated and having their free will overridden at a moment's notice in order to achieve Brother Eye's objectives.
I feel like THIS should have been more of a focal point.

Brother Eye also has a quirk of saying "Eye" instead of "I" when using the first person singular and I have a hard time deciding if that would be more irritating in print or out loud.

Finally, we cut to Themiscyra, where Wonder Woman and a cadre of female superheroines are all battling the OMACs. There's not much to say about it, but it is truly a spectacular bit of action that, once again we only get a glimpse of.
Also would have light THIS to be the main conflict.

Finally, we return to the Kal-L/Power Girl story. Keep in mind, this is the subplot they decided to feature on the cover. It's what they are using to sell this issue. Want to know what earth-shattering plot point happens? Do you think you can handle this? Okay, get ready for your jaws to drop to the floor.
Her breasts are WAY too close to her cousin's crotch. Just sayin'...

Kal-L and Alexander Luthor summarize a twenty-year-old storyline. I mean, they do eventually restore Power Boob Girl's mammaries memories, but essentially they exist in this issue to be an expositor and an audience surrogate. To be fair, it had been 20 years since Crisis on Infinite Earths and there are younger readers and casual readers who inevitably need some context. However, seven of 28 pages, a full quarter of the issue is dedicated to explaining an old plotline, including the complex multiverse cosmology. Exposition is a thankless chore, granted, but this one feels like a thankless chore that has been heavily labored in the hopes of getting a pat on the back afterwards.

Also, the exposition paints D-Cups as this special, special snowflake who managed to survive the Crisis because she has a unique purpose. He thinks she is the sole individual from Earth 2 slipped through the cracks of reality because she must have some important destiny. But clearly the writer only read a summary of the event he is failing to succinctly summarize because this conclusion is emphatically not what we learned in the original. In fact Kal-L's description of events even covers.

Basically, everyone who was at the site of the battle with the Anti-Monitor at the beginning of time survived when the Earths were all merged into one. Most of the non-Earth-1 remainders ended up being killed afterward, except Earth-2's Kal-L and his Lois Lane-Kent, and Earth-Prime's Superboy, who all went to live in a heavens pocket universe. Everyone else had no doppelgangers who survived-- that includes Wonder Bra here because Earth-1's Supergirl famously died in Crisis and up until very recently DC's publication history, the Supergirls that appeared afterward explicitly wasn't "Superman's younger cousin." In fact the new Supergirl who had surfaced a few years earlier was "Superman's older cousin who just seems younger because... plot stuff."

Hell. She isn't even the sole survivor of Earth-2. I know that Jay Garrick is around, and even in this issue, we saw Psycho-Pirate, as well as Alan Scott and at least one of his children. This explanation Kal-L is giving her does not hold up well under scrutiny.

Finally we find out what Kal-L's objective is. He thinks that the wrong Earth survived Crisis. In case you didn't read my last installment, he arrived at this conclusion because they did nothing in their supposed heaven dimension by watching nothing but vast numbers of screens showing events playing out on New Earth.

Have you tried flying around the
Earth counter-clockwise?
One plot point that I have failed to mention until now, in fact the comic doesn't reveal it until very late as well, is that upon leaving their heavenly reality, Earth-2 Lois immediately started dying. Kal-L immediately explains that this is what the existing reality does: it actively targets the elderly and kills them. Maybe one of the channels they got in that heavenly screening room was playing Final Destination.

My interpretation of events is that Lois was already old back in 1985. Living in this pocket dimension basically halted the ravages of time and leaving it basically caused the ravages of time to catch up with them. The others all have reason why they don't visibly age, but from Kal-L's perspective, it's as though this world is actively targeting Lois.

Well, of course, you think the world is fucked when you do nothing but watch reality TV all day.

Now he is determined to fix it by restoring Earth-2 to existence and erase the existing reality. Bearing in mind that Earth-2 has a more Golden Age wholesome affect to it, it's like someone saying "life was better in the good old days" except Kal-L has the power to bust through reality like the Kool-Aid guy, so he possibly could make this happen, regardless of how adversely this could effect the billions of lives of the extant reality.

Ye gods! Earth-2 Superman has become an incredibly well meaning Donald Trump and he sincerely does want to make the DC Universe great again. He's out of touch with reality. He surrounds himself with yes men (one is literally hid younger self). He plans to ruin the world in order to bring his idea of "great again" into being. He mansplains. He gets angry at the TV. And he's looking a bit too longingly at a younger female family member who is well-endowed. Ye gods, when will he start tweeting angrily at the cast of Hamilton or SNL?!

I'm scared.

Send help.

I was going for a "Superman in a Trump hat" picture, but this just feels better.

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