Sunday, August 28, 2005

BATMAN #644

Wow.

Although the verbosity of the internal monologue, the inability to keep from giggling through what are supposed to be dangerous situations, and the thick coating of Super Friends/live-action Batman campiness are all redolent of Willingham's work on Robin, which was deemed unreadable long ago, this so far outstrips it as to require a different, grander vocabulary of invective and abuse. And I say this as someone who doesn't even like Leslie Thompkins. Or Stephanie Brown for that matter.

This was the kind of distended, distorted story that... if someone who hated Batman in particular or comic books in general were to come up with a prospective story, a hyperbole-laden theoretical issue that encapsulated everything that was wrong with Batman or comics, this would be it. It had all of the weaknesses of a serialized story and none of the strengths. It had a nominal hero whose only utterances were pompous speechifyings that needed to be delivered with clenched fists on hips and boots planted three feet apart. It was chock full of impossibilities and plot twists that are only laughable if you have absolutely nothing vested in the principles of good storytelling.

This is why I miss Jon Lewis and his Amish alien symbiote twin wrestlers over in Robin. And why I keep waiting for things to fall apart in Day of Vengeance. And why I suspect Willingham has an evil twin who writes these stories because there can't possibly be a way that the same brain that puts together the superb and complex Fables can also be responsible for this tripe.

The actual point of the story is almost secondary: Leslie, whose compassion and reluctant complicity in Bruce Wayne's world was transubstantiated during Batman: War Games into a PETA-esque radicalized pacifism that valued narrow beliefs over common sense, is revealed to have violated the Hippocratic Oath on the most fundamental level and willfully murdered Stephanie Brown by withholding treatment. Leslie has pulled a Jean Loring -- gone psychotic, back later. I half expect her to come back in another book as an archvillain so she can be the one to do in Batman during Infinite Crisis.

Sadly, this is becoming less outrageous than it should be. The Path to Infinite Crisis is turning into the comics equivalent of the Trail of Tears or the Bataan Death March -- strewn with the corpses of once-noble warriors. Fie on the perpetrators.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Prodigal said...

I know that, on at least one level, getting emotionally worked-up about what people do to fictional characters (especially comic-book characters) is a silly, stupid thing to do.

On the other hand, I can't believe anybody would turn Leslie Thompkins into a killer. It violates everything ever established about her character, and how she's been written for however many decades she's been a part of the Batman family of books, and it just sickens me.

I know that you occasionally need to modify, or even heavily shake up, a character in order to make them interesting. But Leslie didn't need that - what made her interesting was the way she could serve as a foil for Bruce's obsessions, how when anybody else (even Alfred) might back down, she would get right in Batman's face and tell him he needed to get a grip. She was, in many ways, the moral center that Bruce needed in order to keep him sane.

To have them throw that away in order to milk yet another few drops out of the cheap drama that was Stephanie's death just makes me sick.

Sun Aug 28, 01:53:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

Did you read Willingham's statement on the Fables board? When a writer says something like that, I look to the sky and wonder, honestly, why the hell they are working in comics.

Sun Aug 28, 02:04:00 PM EDT  
Blogger The Comics Shrew said...

I don't read bulletin boards, so missed Willingham's comments -- dare I ask what he said?

Sun Aug 28, 02:35:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Prodigal said...

I just got done browsing the board, and the criticisms of what he did were defensive at best, and outright rude and insulting at worst.

If you'd like to read the thread in question, go here.

Sun Aug 28, 02:40:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was a regular on DC's Vertigo boards when Willingham was actively responding to posts about Fables. He was extremely sensitive to criticism there, and when DC wouldn't allow him to control the content, he took his toys and set up his own board. So I learned then to enjoy his work and try to stay away from him as a person. His response to this doesn't surprise me.

Mon Aug 29, 06:20:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't even like Batman, but I'm hoping that all the recent mischaracterization/senseless resurrections are part of Infinite Crisis. Remember Millenium? They told everybody 'make a longstanding character a sleeper Manhunter agent'! Except in this case, like the Luthor of Villains United, these ringers will turn out to be cross-universe people.

Badficwriter

Sat Oct 29, 10:21:00 PM EDT  

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