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Jason Schachat remembers you.
Jason Schachat's Occasional Breakdown

He's back! We're not sure where he's been, but...let's get his opinions anyway...

All right kids, let’s try a little experiment: take a snarky, prematurely-curmudgeonous comic critic and prevent him from reading comics for, oh, half a year. Then throw him back in the mix without ANY clue of the continuity he missed out on, and see what you get!

Okay, okay; that’s not exactly true. I REALLY tried to catch up on all the books leading up to Infinite Crisis. I read the first issue, and now, you’d think, I’d be all caught up and able to clearly and concisely review Issue #2 of the multiversal crossover extravaganza.

Ohhhhhh… how wrong you’d be…

Infinite Crisis #2 begins by tossing us into all sorts of little vignettes a la Crisis on Infinite Earths, but doesn’t tie it together with the grand (not to mention melodramatic and often laughable) narrative passages showing WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON.

If you’ve kept up on the five gazillion storylines leading into this, you know that the villains have united into an all-powerful Society *cue spooky music*, the forces of magic and wizardry are all outta whack, Batman’s computer has gone mustang and created an army of unkillable cyborgs, it’s public knowledge that Wonder Woman killed a man in cold blood, Superman’s more useless than ever, and an interstellar war with giant swirly vortexes of doom threatens to do something really, really interesting. Eventually.

She would kill you for debating her nipples.
But this installment in the mega non-multiversal crossover event sheds some light on things by expanding the subplot involving the survivors of the Pre-Crisis multiverse (Crisis on Infinite Earths, that is, not Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, or other cheap attempts to boost sales through the clever use of the word "crisis").

Apparently, Superman, Superboy, Lois Lane, and Alexander Luthor (from... you know, I'm not even going to try) have been watching the DC Universe from the comfort of their own little "bubble" dimension, but they don't like what they see. Too many Robins dying, too many loony Green Lanterns, too many minds being altered, too many inconsistent origin stories; enough is enough! They'll have to do something...

Which is not to say that they had any hand in all the bad mojo that kicked off the Crisis... 'cause that would be silly... bubble dimension and all... you know...

So, even though much of the story is still a big "huh?", Geoff Johns finally gets across his mission statement: DC continuity is F'd up, the stories are way too dark, and I'm not gonna take it any more!

Not that the work he did on JSA, Flash, or Green Lantern really demonstrates laziness in the face of wacky continuity, but okay Geoff, we're with ya!

What we may not be with is the small library you have to read to understand this thing. You REALLY need to be well-versed in your DC continuity to avoid the head scratches this story prompts, and, even then, the references are not necessarily satisfying. Then Phil Jimenez gets a little lazy with certain panels while others are dripping with detail (the most challenging sights of all being the cleavage shots of Power Girl which confirm once and for all that she has no nipples).

What DOES work is Johns' use of a big crossover to say "Can't superheroes be superheroes again?" Unfortunately, he sort of said the same thing in Green Lantern: Rebirth, and the new Green Lantern has yet to demonstrate that it's such a good idea.

An interesting read, if you've already been used and abused by DC continuity, but not one for newbies and certainly something with a lot to prove.

Is that Nightmask? Holy crap.
Now, Exiles #72 is not a book I have been reading the Cliffs Notes for. Most of "House of M" slipped by me, and I really haven't the foggiest idea what's supposed to be happening in the Marvel multiverse. So why is it I feel so much more at home there?

Following the Exiles finally taking control of their fates, the team tangled with House of M, lost Beak, and are in the process of losing Mimic to an alternate version of Proteus (who figures the combination of his reality-altering powers and the superpowers strewn across the multiverse are a scrum-diddily-umptious recipe for godhood). Proteus rides Mimic's stolen body to a universe where there are no mutants or hero teams running around, but, as it turns out, a superbeing has recently empowered people all across the globe with strange new abilities. Abilities which Proteus can't wait to sample.

Why, one might even call this a New Universe.

Now, this is not a simpler landscape than what we're dealing with in Infinite Crisis. Lots of information to absorb, but far easier to assimilate. But, whereas the DC crossover has the luxury of building up to a finale (whenever they fix the multiverse problem... again), Exiles is a constant struggle to patch the holes created by What If...?, Age of Apocalypse, and other Marvel alternate realities that we simply can't resist mixing with Marvel Universe continuity (Maestro vs. Hulk. Again and again and again. 'nuff said.)

In fact, my only real complaint about this book would be Proteus' rambling narration in which author Tony Bedard very capably demonstrates how to butcher a Scottish accent.

As for the longterm changes in Exiles, it's good to see that, six years later, the feel of the team has changed from the loose collection of wandering do-gooders to the masters of multiversal heroism, yet it's still the same book Judd Winick nursed beyond Age of Apocalypse all those years ago.

While I usually don't like the weird continuity Marvel encourages, this book may be one of the great examples of the difference between DC and Marvel: DC keeps mucking up their continuity and restarting their multiverse every few years; Marvel revels in its mistakes and makes a long-running series out of it. If you want to follow a multiverse where realities are happily altered every month and diversity is the name of the game, Exiles is still the book for you.

And remember to treasure a comic when it's doing you right, because I took a break from Incredible Hulk and Issue #88 has me beating myself up about it. Is it a climactic ending to a story that's been building up? No, not at all; new storyline with a new writer. Meaning no more Peter David for a while.

Hulk smash. Again.
God just killed a kitten.

Seriously, though; the man is just such a great Hulk writer that I had to overdose on his classic run when he started writing the book again. His understanding of the character is just that good.

This new story? Simple and linear. Bruce Banner's living in the woods, being alone. He reluctantly agrees to go to a party in town, some girl nearly gets raped, HULK SMASH, the end. Oh, but then we get a stinger where Nick Fury calls him on a cell phone, and you remember that this is part one of "Peace in our Time."

My problem here: The words "part one" usually imply an inciting incident, the beginning of a story, setting the players in motion, and catching us up on current events. Writer Daniel Way just dumps a HULK SMASH on us and calls it a day. No lesson learned, no character developed, no plot movement. Nothing.

And you know what the sad thing is? I think back to Peter David's first issue on his recent run, and I can still remember it with crystal clarity. Hulk walking across the bottom of the ocean, remembering Bruce Banner's school years and the struggle between man and monster even then. It didn't even matter when the last pages of the issue swung off in a different direction; David hooked us. He connected us to Hulk and Banner like they were in our own heads. He kicked off a new storyline with gusto and made us want to dive headlong into the series.

This issue, on the other hand, is just sad. It goes absolutely nowhere and doesn't even have fun doing it. Very sloppy work and not a good start for a new story.

Jason Schachat

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