I usually don’t post twice in as many days, but I got a long comment from an X-men fan criticizing my last rant. That’s fair, so I will respond.
1) There’s nothing wrong with “wouldn’t it be cool if…” – Well, yes and no. The problem with that starting point for an idea is when it really isn’t taken any further, or the storyline to achieve the cool outcome is convoluted or worse, ignores continuity. As I cited in another rant, I theorize someone said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if the X-men had a ninja?” Hey, ninjas were popular at the time so it wasn’t necessarily a bad idea. The problem was the execution of the idea. I’m not sure the writers really thought about the options to put a ninja on the team before settling on completely re-vamping Psylocke’s character through a literal deus ex machina. I believe at that time Wolverine’s connections to Japan and various Eastern criminal organizations had already been established so there were a few avenues they could have taken advantage of right there to find a ninja. But even if that weren’t the case, there were other options to introduce a new character without completely re-writing an old one. “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” isn’t necessarily a bad place to start, but when writers have to ignore large swathes of established continuity to make their story work, then they shouldn’t write it, or they should write a “what if.”
2) There’s something silly about criticizing something you haven’t read – That is a fair point. I actually was reading the comics in the beginning of this storyline through the New Avengers and X-men titles. Then it made me scream at the pages so I decided I’d better stop. But I was curious on how the story was progressing, so I checked Wikipedia before I invested any more time (or money) into reading the actual comics. But fair is fair, so I procured the comics and I did read through them (yes, occasionally I do have too much time on my hands and can be a little obsessive about a point). And frankly I remain distinctly unimpressed. I am also annoyed the story is spread over so many comics that it’s hard to get the whole story without using a source that compiles the highlights, like Wikipedia (and yet Storm’s X-men comic hasn’t had a peep about this in several issues…). I will say I am kind of glad the creative team decided to segregate the fighting episodes into their own comics. It means that I didn’t have to invest too much time in those if I didn’t want to because there were really no new story revelations. Likewise, if I was someone who wanted awesome fight scenes, then I could focus on those books. However, the cynical part of me says this wasn’t done as a courtesy to the reader, but a way to spread the story over more comics that fans would have to then buy. But yes, to the point – I am unimpressed. The part of the storyline I’ve enjoyed the most is the part that really doesn’t even belong – the Kun’lun subplot (I hate what’s been done in mainstream Spider-man story-wise, but Spider-man still gets the good lines). As mentioned, it is a huge continuity oversight to state that Kun’lun hid the ancient Phoenix incident until the Phoenix returned to Earth because this ignores every other time Phoenix has already been on Earth, including the famous Phoenix Saga when Jean Grey became the original host.
2a) “Superhero comics are an inherently absurd genere, so the key isn’t really the plot, but how it’s written.” – Wow, reader, I’m sorry but I disagree with this statement.
– I don’t consider comics to be inherently absurd genre any more than I consider fantasy to be an inherently absurd genre or science fiction to be an inherently absurd genre or detective stories to be an inherently absurd genre or romance novels to be an inherently absurd genre or children’s literature to be inherently absurd. Going by dictionary definitions (1 – “utterly or obviously senseless, illogical, or untrue; contrary to all reason or common sense, laughable foolish or false; 2 – the quality or condition of existing in meaningless and irrational world”), all fiction could be considered absurd. All fictional worlds are made-up, so how can they be anything but inherently meaningless? Then again, if you’re a fan of French philosophers, “The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.” Absurdity, to me, is not a property of a genre, although certainly there are stories within any genre that are absurd.
– Plot is key. Without a decent plot, it does not matter how good the writing is. Many of the comics for “The Civil War” were well-written, but a lot of the criticism is aimed at whether or not the plot made any sense in continuity to begin with. The best example of this is to read any fan fiction for any book/novel/movie you want (really, at this point comic books are fan fiction [also known as the trope “Running the asylum“]). For an example of why plot is key, see Ron the Death Eater. Many a fan fiction is written about how Ron turns evil and becomes a Death Eater. Is some of it well-written? Yes. But that doesn’t make it worth reading because the plot ignores the continuity of the world established by Rowling. I’ve also ranted on this before in “Fridge Logic vs Chomper Logic.” For me, plot holes can ruin a story. Writers blatantly ignoring continuity can ruin a story for me, and is, to me, an example of poor writing in and of itself. I’m not saying it’s easy to incorporate the entire continuity either (Magneto’s switched alignments more times than the Earth’s magnetic field has switched poles). Writers do have to pick and choose what works. But this just does not work.
– In short, I expect better of comic books. You may see them as absurd, and maybe you can ignore plot holes, but I have read comic books with better plots and better writing, and even by some of the same writers! (For example, Ultimate Spider-man written by Bendis).
3) The Avengers weren’t going to kill Hope – You’re right, the Avengers weren’t going to kill Hope. My mistake. But whole containing the Phoenix was really stupid, especially Wolverine just saw the X-men try the same damn thing in the “Endsong” mini-series that totally didn’t work and he didn’t say a damn thing and ARGH!
4) A video game wouldn’t allow the story to be told – True, but I argue this isn’t a story that needed to be told any more than ones about Ron the Death Eater.
4a) It’s sold well…so it’s been successful as a comic story – Success is not necessarily a measure of quality (see “Enthusiasm vs Skill, Skill vs Marketability“) and in popular culture success is in some ways a terrible measure of quality. The “Twilight” books have sold over 100 million copies worldwide. That’s a success, a runaway success even, the sort that gives publishers the hope they can save their dying industry. The movie adaptations have made over a *billion* dollars in the US alone and there’s one more movie due out. Again, that’s success. But does this mean the “Twilight” books are well-written? Does that mean the movies are good? I’m not saying a successful comic book (or novel, or movie, etc.) is not of high quality, but success does not necessarily equal quality.
So, thank you, reader, for sending me your comment. It has given me something to think about and fodder for a new blog (although it has cost me a bit of sleep to read up on the storyline in question). Please understand, I like comic books. I really do. That’s why I’m so mad when this what a bunch of talented people get together and offer up as something I ought to spend my money on. Sure, not everything is going to be a home-run. I get that. As a writer myself, I know when something is not up to standards, and if I was locked in a deadline, maybe I’d just put any old thing out there and hope the readers forgave me. But this particular storyline deliberately ignores so much well-known history, and even recent history (i.e, “Endsong”) that I just can’t get past that (see “A Comic Book Entry – Tyrant-in-Chief Part 1,” Rule 1).
It comes down to this – The writers may think, “Wouldn’t it be cool if Ron was a Death Eater,” but I refuse to accept stories about Ron the Death Eater and I refuse to pay for stories about Ron the Death Eater. I want better. Marvel can do better.