- It’s either the name of the villain or the sound of my interest leaving so quickly it caused a gust of wind: The “story” named Hush seemed like a match made in heaven. Star artist Jim Lee would team up with Jeph Loeb, author of two great Batman stories, The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, to do a Batman tale that would be set in the now but have underpinnings in Batman’s childhood. And boy did it look sweet! Too bad it read so sour! The thing is a giant mess of guest stars, random villains, red herrings, a new villain (a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne’s, like he doesn't have enough issues from his boyhood) and caps off with Batman revealing his identity to Selena Kyle, the Catwoman. As you read it, it is literally bad idea after bad idea with each bad idea handled worse than the last. The phrase may be in bad taste, but I’ve taken to calling it bat-porn: light on story and sense, but filled with "money shots." Plus it won’t stop haunting us! Hush is the most boring villain of all time and I defy you to tell me what his motivation is, but he’s taken over one of the bat books for the last several months as the only villain appearing in it. Catwoman keeps hanging out in the Batcave in Bruce’s robe! The AGONY! I also blame it for All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder (from here on out called ASBAR, pronounced ass-bar, the Boy Wonder) which managed in its first issue to be both bat-porn and soft-core porn all in the same book. Way to hit one out of the park Jim and Frank! The only reason ASBAR the Boy Wonder isn’t getting its own listing here is because it isn’t over and I’m really hoping that Miller is using it as satire commenting on how well Hush was received. Please, Frank, I beg of you...be laughing AT us!!!
- The last time "domino" was cool was when KISS sang it...and that was a long time ago: Domino masks are stupid. They stretch my suspenders of credibility more than flying, more than proportionate strengths of bugs, more than magic rings and more than intergalactic empires all rolled into one. A strip of cloth around your eyes isn’t going to stop anyone from recognizing you and (post 9-11 world that we live in) it isn’t going to obscure your face enough for facial recognition software to not pinpoint you. That might have worked in the Old West for the Lone Ranger where nobody knew him without the mask and photographic technology was hard to come by or possibly I could be convinced that it might work for someone like Nightwing as he lives in a huge city (until this terrible idea of making him a male model; having pictures of yourself modeling underwear plastered everywhere, that’ll be real helpful to the secret identity). But the minute one of those domino-wearing sissies saves someone they know in their secret identity (which happens amazingly often), the jig is up.
Throwing in something incredibly ridiculous like Green Arrow’s (more on him below) trademark facial hair or, I don’t know, Ollie becoming MAYOR or something and the already shaky house of cards that is domino masks comes crashing down around our ears.The saddest thing is that there are so many different options that make plenty of sense. Who didn’t love the Green Hornet’s full face mask and fedora combo? Or the Grifter’s devil-may-care variation on the Hornet’s style? Let’s get really creative like ol’ Wes Dodds did with his gas mask Say what you want about Kyle Rayner, but the kid thinks outside the box when it comes to masks Zorro’s do-rag that covers the top of the face obscures a lot more than a domino AND gives him a swashbuckling feel the Dread Pirate Roberts envied. Old school guys like the Crimson Avenger that just refuse to leave the domino alone at least wore a hat pulled low to shadow their faces. I may believe a man can fly but this is one four color concept I just can’t wrap my head around, even when it's wrapped around my head.
- I shot an arrow into the air…I hope it hits the guy that created Green Arrow: Look, I don’t care if Green Arrow has been around since the friggin’Pleistocene age, he’s a bad idea surrounded by bad ideas created by other bad ideas. It isn’t enough he was a cheap Batman rip off who Jack Kirby couldn’t even make me care about, but he’s spawned literally hundreds of other archery-themed heroes and villains across at least three major universes. Speedy, Spider from the DC Golden Age, Shaft, Hawkeye, that girl in Young Avengers who is just waiting to have a crappy codename slapped on her…they all need to be Crisised out of existence. What would be the monumentally powerful force that could destroy all these heroes and villains across time and multiple universes? Common sense.
- What’s in a name? If you’re a super-hero it better be your origin story in shorthand: This may be a personal sticking point, but if there’s one thing I couldn’t stand in the 90s it was codenames that had no bearing on people’s powers. It is a fundamental concept of super-heroes that you should be able to tell what they’re powers are from their name and probably be able to make a pretty good guess at the name from their outfit. “Hey, look at that guy in the bat costume; he looks like some sort of bat-man. That guy over there is dressed in green and has a quiver of arrows on his back. That’s pretty stupid, but I bet he’ll fire green arrows at crooks until someone wises up and shoots him with a gun. That strapping lad over there with the S on his chest sure can do some super things. Look at that guy with the handful of glowy cards…is he doing card tricks? Is he ‘Stage Magic Guy’? Wait, what? What the hell is a Gambit? Is he related to Risk over at Teen Titans? Are they using those names because they’re taking a real gamble on anyone buying this crap?”
I don’t want to pick on Marvel entirely, even though they also brought us Cable, Domino, Shatterstar and many others. DC gave us the aforementioned Risk as well as Grace and Jericho (who were not, but probably should have been, names of a religious themed super team). Wildstorm/Image is responsible for Grifter, Zealot, Spartan, Void, Maul, Rainmaker, Bloodwulf and the reprehensibly named and mired-in-the-early-90s Grunge. Pretty easy to tell why the 90s is sometimes described as the Imagization of comics, huh?
- Mussolini was an asshat fascist and even he made the trains run on time: Comics are monthly periodicals. I know this may come as a shock to anyone who is new to the world of comics (like there are any of those...), but they really ought to come out every four weeks. Rain or shine, good art or bad art, well written or hacked out. Every. Four. Weeks. Do you think the Silver Age would have been as delightfully weird if they’d had flexibility in their schedules? Hell no! Half the reason they’re so weird is because nobody had any time to think things through. They made it work on the fly and we love them for it.
Monthly books coming out every six to eight weeks also cause massive headaches when it comes to keeping track of a budget.
I’ll add another complaint to general lateness; creators from other media who have a comic book story to tell are welcome. But they have to remember that part of a comic book story being told is that it actually come out every month…WITHOUT A HIATUS EVERY 6-12 ISSUES! This isn’t TV or movies that have season breaks or long production times. Comics come out every month. If I seem like I’m belaboring this point, it’s because apparently much of the industry has forgotten that comics come out every four weeks. Did I mention that comics should be monthly?
ADDENDUM: I guess I’m okay with a book being bi-monthly if they solicit that way and there’s a good reason for it. For instance, we know Frank Quitely can’t keep a monthly schedule with a gun to his head. Grant Morrison (and, frankly, anyone with half a brain) wanted him on All Star Superman, so it was solicited as bi-monthly so he could keep the schedule. Well God bless the genius that thought that up! Here in the real world, we call that “planning” and “scheduling” and it’s a damn sight less annoying that what we call “lateness.”