Monday, August 24, 2009

Stupid Plot Twists

Last year I put together my list of favorite plot twist moments from comic book stories. Now I'd like to look on the flip side of things and talk about those plot twist moments that were just plain stupid. There are those that make you gasp in surprise and there are those that make you groan in pain. These are the groaners:

Rawhide Kid comes out of the closet

So you have this stable of western heroes and you want to find a way to drive sales for your floundering market share. A little movie called "Brokeback Mountain" comes out and suddenly you think: "Hey! Gay cowboys!" Rather than create a new title or series, you take one of the oldest western characters in your lineup and turn him into a flaming homosexual. Not subtly different, mind you, but as far into stereotypical as you possibly can get. Never mind that previous stories he's been in have had him clearly hetero, the fun word here is "retcon"! This formerly tough gunfighter is now a truly sensitive man who loves to throw out double entendre like candy as he flirts with whatever man comes within sight.

Unfortunately for Marvel, this little 2003 limited series was so unpopular with the fans that it has been quietly swept under the table. Rather than take a subtle approach to the change of the character, they did this huge instantaneous about-face that alienated the fans and killed the sales of the book. No further mention of this incarnation of the character or moment has been made since then.

Sentry is the Void...again

So you put out this miniseries that is cleverly disguised as a huge piece of Marvel Comics controversy with a "forgotten hero" called The Sentry. During this six-issue miniseries, the supervillain known as The Void keeps tormenting the hero. The big plot twist moment is revealed when the hero and villain are revealed as the same person! Brilliant! The miniseries doesn't sell much though, and the hero is shelved for a couple of years.

Enter the New Avengers storyline. They need a Superman character, so Marvel dusts off the Sentry and brings him in for a really cool moment as he rips Carnage apart in space! That, my friends, is awesome storytelling! During the second six-issue storyline of the series, we get a focus on The Sentry and come to find out--dah dah daaaaaaaaahhhh--The Sentry and the Void are the same person! Again!

Now flash-forward to a new miniseries called "The Sentry: Reborn" and we get yet another look at the Sentry's "history" in the Marvel universe as a key player during the Golden Age. During this huge battle with the Hulk and he fighting the Void, this major reveal is given as we find out--blah blah blaaah--The Sentry is the Void! Yeah, we get it.

Why Marvel keeps considering this a major reveal is beyond me. Yes, the first time was cool. The second time was good for those who missed the miniseries. The third time? Getting a little desperate, aren't we? Sentry is the Void...we get it.

Batman dies...twice!

What happens when you have a comic book writer who creates two stories so convoluted the reader has no clue what's going on? You get an iconic hero who dies twice in the same month--in two different ways!

Grant Morrison is writing the wildly-unpopular and incomprehensible piece of tripe called "Final Crisis". In this book, he decides to let Batman kill Darkseid with a gun (going against everything he's ever stood for in fifty years of comics) while simultaneously being blown apart by his Omega beams. Ok, Batman's dead.

At same time, in Batman's own title, he's running the "Batman R.I.P." storyline. In the final issue of the story, Batman jumps onto a helicopter carrying the villain of the plot (if you can call it that) and the helicopter gets blown up with Batman on it. The iconic moment in the story is Nightwing holding Bruce's cowl as an obvious foreshadowing of him taking Bruce's place soon thereafter. Um, so Batman's dead...again?

There are a few things about this that make it just plain stupid. First, Morrison wrote both stories, so there's no way he can blame someone else for this. Second, even though he wrote both stories, he made the revelation of Batman's death a key moment in both while negating the other. Batman's death in a helicopter crash has been the driving moment to his title during the race for a replacement (eventually going to Nightwing). At the same time, his death in Final (please let it be so!) Crisis drives DC's universe to mourn him.

The capper to all this? Morrison lets us see him in the past drawing on a cave somewhere. The subtle meaning behind all of it? He's not dead but is trapped in the past. How is he trapped in the past? The Omega beams have disintegrated every other person they've hit, but Batman's so bad he just uses them to time travel? Is he going to show up with Doctor Who in a future issue? Maybe he'll come back in an 8-issue miniseries called "Batman: Rebirth" written by Geoff Johns someday?

Ah, Grant've somehow found a way to make Spider-Man's "Brand New Day" not look so stupid. Marvel is forever in your debt.


Rick said...

I haven't read any of these series but I am glad to hear they want to forget about the gay Rawhide Kid. I loved the character when I was growing up and that just ruined it for me.

pete doree said...

That Rawhide Kid thing was just about the most cringeworthy thing ever, you're right. I didn't realise how much it annoyed other fans too, but I'm glad it did. Actually it was a kind of cowardice editorially. If you want a gay character then at least do one the fans actually give a shit about. Or just invent a new one. And those horrendous double entendre's. It was like the worst of british TV, like Graham Norton or something.

Kize said...

I take issue with your assertion that when Batman killed Darkseid he went "against everything he's ever stood for in fifty years of comics." Is there some Silver Age issue I missed where Bruce Wayne takes an oath on his parents grave to never protect humanity against monstrous demonic beings?

Batman using alien technology to depose of a near-unstoppable supernatural evil is a far cry from shooting a handgun at a run-of-the-mill Gotham street hood (who he could easily disable in hand-to-hand combat). I really don't see how you can compare the two. For the last fifty years of comics, Batman has stood for justice. In Final Crisis, he sacrifices his life for it.

Brian Reaves said...

Kize, I think the thing is more of the fact that Batman doesn't (usually) knowingly kill his enemies. Yes, there have been times someone has gone down, but this was a deliberate killing of Darkseid.

How many times has he stared down the Joker and said, "No more!" but then walked away in the end without killing him? He watched Joker cripple Batgirl, and even kill Jason Todd, but he did not kill the Joker. As a matter of fact, when Jason Todd was holding Joker hostage just before "52" began demanding Batman kill him, Batman chose instead to send a batarang into Todd's throat rather than let him kill the Joker.

And now we're supposed to believe after decades of never killing the Joker, Two-Face, Riddler, Clayface, Catwoman, or a dozen others he's suddenly going to chuck that all away and kill Darkseid? To me, that's what goes against what Batman has stood for over the years. No matter what method he uses, it was the end result that bothers me.

Anonymous said...

As for the Omega Beams and time travel, check the original Kirby issues dealing with the Forever People and Sonny Sumo. The Omega Beams can cause a character to time travel, and sometimes to an unfavorable time and place.

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