I Like To Think I'm Xander, But I Know I'm Earth-2's Andrew

And you thought the New Order entry last week was showing high nerd levels…

Previously, on Snappish Thoughts, I went into far too much detail about a comics series called Crisis On Infinite Earths, aka ‘The series that changed Everything’, aka “OMG! THEY KILLED KARA ZOL-EL AND BARRY ALLEN SAVED THE UNIVERSE! OMG!” I also mentioned that twenty years on, DC are producing a follow-up to that story, with the very different title of Infinite Crisis.

Issue #1 shipped this week. And I would like to vent rage upon it. So, if you’ll allow me a little indulgence:

What has come before:

Identity Crisis: Jean Loring decides that she wants to get back with her ex-husband, The Atom. To do this, she eschews the common method of compliments, some chocolates, and perhaps, perhaps, a visit to the movies or two, instead going for the more esoteric option of stealing her husband’s shape-changing belts, shrinking herself down to a microscopic size, and walking on Sue Dibney’s (wife of Ralph Dibney, Elongated Man) brain. When this ends up with the rather unfortunate result of a dead Mrs. Dibney, Jean burns her body with the flame-thrower that she handily brought with her and flees, leaving the JLA to discover Sue’s corpse.

I will pause here so you can marvel at how stupid that sounds. I would also like to point out that this plot was conceived by an author who has made the New York Times Bestseller charts. The mind, clearly, boggles.

Anyway, during the JLA’s investigation, it is REVEALED, in a SHOCKING flashback, that Sue Dibney, part of a comedy duo with her husband, was once savagely raped by the villain Dr. Light (for those less nerdy: it was like an episode of Friends, if said episode opened with the cast finding Phoebe’s blood-spattered corpse on the hallway between the apartments). To pile on THE TRAGEDY, it turns out that Sue was pregnant when Jean decided to play a game of hopscotch in her head (at which point, readers started betting on what horrible event would retroactively be inflicted on Sue throughout the rest of the series).

BUT! In a further shocking development, it turned out that when the JLA of that time caught Dr. Light after the rape of Sue, they decided to mindwipe him, so he’d no longer be a threat to humanity. As Zatanna was casting a spell, Batman arrived at the satellite, catching them in the act. As you might imagine, Batman - not a fan of mindwipes or summary justice. So, the JLA mindwiped him too.

By the end of the series, it’s fairly clear that Batman knows his mind was tampered with, and Is Not Happy. Superman is rather annoyed at the old JLA members who did the Erase and Rewind thing with Dr. Light, and Jean confesses to The Atom, saying she did it all for him. Because she loves him. No, really, a New York Times Bestseller.

Superman is also Not Happy with Batman, for no real reason that I can remember. But it’s important for them not to like each other, as we’ll see.

Okay, so that was earlier this year. Four mini-series began soon after, all leading into Infinite Crisis, aka “Fanboys, Open Your Wallets!”. These were The Rann-Thanagarian War (BIG SPACE BATTLES!), Villians United (Lex Luthor manipulates a group of supervillains, including Mike The Parademon, Priest’s loving rendition of Mike Chary, noted USENET wag, who sadly dies (BOO, GAIL!)), Day of Vengeance (Jean Loring, now offically Completely Nuts and having been spurned after her tapdancing frolics, does the only proper thing: she becomes a supervillain! Who seduces The Spectre and gets him to start a war on MAGIC! I’m sure it made sense in their heads), and OMAC (One Man Army Corps), which is probably the most important (although MAGIC was destroyed in DoV, thus seriously injuring Paul Zenon’s attempt for a new series of Tricky Business).

Now, I must confess that I didn’t read OMAC., so I may be missing a few points, but here’s the basic plot: there’s a guy called Brother Eye (who Batman seems to have created, in another misunderstanding of Morrison’s BatGod concept, but there you go), in a satellite above the Earth, who sends out nanomachines that can turn humans into killer automatons. Classy!

Oh! But I’ve left something out! Countdown to Infinite Crisis, an 80-page comic which introduces the OMAC threat. To sum up, everybody makes fun of Blue Beetle, who then stumbles on the secret controller of the project, his old boss, Maxwell Lord (who has spent most of his comic life being a comedy figure. But, we forget, THIS UNIVERSE IS DARK AND WRONG, so he has to be evil). Who then kills him. w00t!

Anyway, back in OMAC, the Big 3 (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) bicker a little, and then! Max Lord uses mind-control powers on Superman, and has him fight Batman and the rest of the Justice League. THE BIG SCENE! Batman and Wonder Woman have tracked down Lord, and are trying to stop him, while Max taunts them. As Superman comes closer and closer to returning to fight the pair, Wonder Woman gets impatient and throws a shoe at Max Lord. Or slits his throat with her magic tiara. One of those, anyway.

Batman and a freed Superman are horrified, while WW is all like “whatEVER! I just saved the world! Now make me a sandwich!”

(oh, the OMAC project is not completely stopped, so there’s still thousands of OMACs out there)

And thus, the scene is set for Infinite Crisis! Distrust amongst the heroes! A sense of things have gone wrong! It’s too dark and gritty! (Possibly, just possibly, because in the past year, the DCU has been thrown off the rails to make everything as depressing as possible. After all, even in the darkest days of the 1990s, the idea of having Sue Dibney, of all people, raped would seem absurd. But apparently not now).

Still with me? I’m sorry.

DO YOU SEE?

DANGER! DANGER! “THINGS AREN’T WHAT THEY USED TO BE” NARRATION!

IC#1 opens on the moon, in the ruins of the JLA Watchtower (I guess somebody blew it up. I’m sure it happened in an issue of something, but I have no clue what). Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman argue about what’s happened (she wanted red peppers, but Superman was stingy and just bought the sandwich from outside the Daily Planet).

Back on Earth, RED SKIES! JUST LIKE LAST TIME! OMACs are attacking all over the place, but Superboy’s sulking because, er, he’s a clone of Lex Luthor mixed with Kryptonian DNA. You can see his point, really. The narration gives him a tongue-lashing. And THEN! FOUR! SHADOWY FIGURES! WATCHING! THEY’RE THE NARRATORS!

My heart sinks. Because I know who these people are.

After a weird bit with Nightwing (Dick Grayson, the original Robin), we go COSMIC with the Green Lanterns and the Guardians of Oa! They’re concerned that the universe is dying, and more importantly, Oa is no longer the centre of the universe! All those maps! Ruined!

Then, Uncle Sam (yes, that Uncle Sam) leads the Freedom Fighters into a trap! Cue more death.

Altogether now! 'Shot through the heart / and you're to blame!'

(By the way, if you’re looking for non-exploitative use of female characters in all this, well, I’d sit the next few months out, to be honest. TINY FOOTPRINTS ON THE BRAIN!)

But! back on the moon! While the trio are arguing, Mongul shows up for, well, I guess he’s got a reason, and gives us an excuse for another fight! This goes okay, but then Wonder Woman tries to kill him. Tsk. Tsk. It’s almost like she has a taste for it!

So, then, another argument. And the final wedge driven into the group, as Batman snaps at Clark:

And how is Jean Paul Valley, Bruce?

Oooh, GET HIM!

(We’re obviously meant to forget Superman leading the planet against a Martian invasion, him holding the moon in place, fighting against a vessel of angels that were prepared to destroy Creation to hide their Secret, that when the population of Earth were given superpowers to fight against the Anti-Sun Mageddon, they came because ‘they owed Superman one’, or that this Superman lives to the 852rd century, inspires the generations of Supermen, becomes the greatest Green Lantern ever, and saves the universe from Solaris. All of which Batman knows about. But Geoff Johns doesn’t like this Batman, so whatever)

The final two pages, then. The ending to the first part of a series that will change everything! A series promoted as the start of something new! Gaze in awe as the four figures break through the wall, REVEALING! REVEALING!

A Superman with white temples, a ginger guy in a gold suit, a Superboy, and a middle-aged Lois Lane.

Yes. IT’S CAPTAIN YESTERDAY! HE’S BACK TO SAVE US ALL!

At the end of the original Crisis, Superboy, the old Superman from Earth-2, Lois Lane, and Alex Luthor (Lex’s son from Earth-3), realising there was no place for them in the new, combined universe, disappeared into a portal, heavily suggesting that they were heading off to Heaven. But now they’re back. Because Things Have Gone Wrong.

Sigh. Yes, I know. But this series, and the rationale behind it irritates me a little (hahaha, well, perhaps a bit more than just a little, as you might have guessed). The writers seem convinced that the Silver Age was full of light fun, and the current stories aren’t. So to take us back there, they’ve spent the best part of two years making the DCU a miserable place. Which, to me, is stacking the deck a bit. I don’t have a problem with them bringing back the multiverse; while I prefer the current system, I’m not all that attached to it; I just think that spending thousands of pages of comics watching the Silver Age fans get their revenge on DCU Editorial of 1985 isn’t all that entertaining.

Why couldn’t they take a leaf out of Mr. Grant Morrison’s hat? Instead of moaning that things need fixing, he brings that oft-discussed “Sense of Wonder” back into the DCU, but as something contemporary, not just the old sensibilities (His DC1,000,000 series cannot be read without MANLY NERD TEARS as you get to the final few pages).

Also, a tip. If you ever find yourself involved in a Crisis, make sure you’re not wearing a Flash costume. It’s bad for your health.

Finally, the cover to Infinite Crisis #2:

Edna Mode would have a fit

IMPLANTS ARE OUR ONLY HOPE!

currently playing: Carole King – It’s Too Late

Hardcore Nation 2: Now Lichtenstein Falls Under Our Might!

Ouch:

The poll also revealed overwhelming opposition to Bush among African-Americans. Only two percent said they approved of his performance as president, the lowest level ever recorded in that category, NBC television reported.

currently playing: Cotton Mather — She’s Only Cool

Muriel Gray Roxor!

The t-shirt presses are rolling…

currently playing: Question Time

Video Killed The iPod Star

The fun thing about Apple product announcements is that even when most of the rumours turn out to be true, you’ll normally get something completely unexpected. So it was a surprise to finally see a video iPod, after years of Steve Jobs saying ‘no, we won’t do that’, and every rumour site insisting at every Apple Event that this time, oh this time, they’ll launch it. It’s finally here, and it’s pretty much what everybody expected it to be; 320x240 video, capable of connecting to NTSC and PAL televisions, and coming in 30Gb and 60Gb versions. While I still can’t see the appeal of the system to the majority (if you work in a city and take mass transit into work, then yes, this is great), it seems to have made many people happy.

The iMac G5 is lovely. The inbuilt webcam shows that Apple is serious about all this videoconferencing malarky with iChat (it’d be nice if Microsoft and Yahoo could get their act together and add video support to their applications, though). Possibly another reason why Mr. Ellis has decided to go back into the messageboard business.

The best part of the iMac is probably Front Row, which, from what I can tell, is what resulted after Apple finished laughing at Microsoft’s Media Center applications. It’s a TIVO module away from achieving everything you’ve ever dreamed about a media hub, and on the first attempt, too.

But, as all the coverage of the event indicates, the big news was the deal with ABC/Disney, allowing you to download ABC TV shows direct from iTunes (as long as you’re American, of course). Again, 320x240, locked to five computers with FairPlay digital rights technology, and costing $1.99 per episode. Oh, and music videos too (UK conversion for the music videos and Pixar shorts is £1.89, which seems a trifle high). Buying a complete series this way is something of a rip-off ($44 versus a DVD set for about $10 extra, at a much higher resolution, bonus features, and hey, if you really want to, you can encode it for iPod viewing as well), but for the occasional purchase, it’s not bad. iTunes 6 is a vast improvement over iTunes 5, in that it didn’t junk my music library on the upgrade like the latter did, and now you can have video playlists! Even in fullscreen! This feature excites me, even if it’s not exactly groundbreaking.

So, lots of shiny new stuff that looks great and I can’t afford. Yay Apple!

currently playing: Saint Etienne – He’s On The Phone

URAQT

The new Iraq constitution is now likely to pass, as the Sunnis have been offered a deal to support this weekend’s vote. Admittedly, the deal is along the lines of “vote for it now, and we’ll change it next year. Honest!”, but I guess it’s better than nothing. While Article 7 (which says that no law shall contradict ‘universally agreed tenets of Islam’) strikes me as a worrying loophole that could be used Weimar Republic-style, I suppose agreement is better than none,

Meanwhile, in the new home of women's rights that is Afghanistan!

Last week Baloch was in the news for jailing the editor of an Afghan women's magazine. The editor had questioned the harshness of sentences handed out under Shariah law. He also said that Muslims who reject their faith should not be punished.

Back at the Supreme Court:

As the White House seeks to rally senators behind the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet E. Miers, lawyers for the Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee are expressing dissatisfaction with the choice and pushing back against her, aides to 6 of the 10 Republican committee members said yesterday.

Ouch. It's amusing to watch the Republicans tear themselves apart over this, but you have to wonder who they'll get if Miers doesn't make it through the confirmation hearings.

On the other, hand, this is just funny.

currently playing: New Order – Bizarre Love Triangle

Big In Japan

Paradise Kiss is on the cutting edge of sequential art with high-quality pop-art illustrations that stretch the limits of traditional manga stereotypes. With characters who run the gamut of fashion, from the chic to the bizarre, Paradise Kiss is a coming of age story rooted in high comedy and one girl's awakening to her own beauty.

And for the anime, why, it’s backed by Franz Ferdinand’s Do You Want To!

(A companion piece, of sorts, to Sweeping The Nation’s Japan watch. And beware, there is a high possibility of J-Pop MP3s by the end of the week)

currently playing: New Order — Ceremony

Wanted: For Suspected Arson

WANTED!

currently playing: The Pixies Three – 442 Glenwood Avenue

DIE SMURF DIE!

This is…just…someone in Belgium BitTorrent this! PLEASE!

currently playing: Sugababes – Hole In The Head

Annie, Robyn, M.I.A. and…

Rachel Stevens — Come And Get It

It’s quite a sad reflection on the music industry today that this album is already been written off as a commercial failure, and it isn’t even out until the 17th. Now, it’s a fine enough album, with a few great tracks, some ones that are quite good, and a few that are, well, a trifle dull. The problem is that it all sounds so anonymous; by the time the CD finishes, you get the feeling that pretty much any pop starlet could have been responsible for the past hour (with the exception of Some Girls, which Polydor have added to this album seemingly in a fit of desperation). I’m not one who insists that pop has to be about something, or have a message, but I would like to feel that the singer brings something to the project, as opposed to being just a simple cog in the producer’s machine. People say that Stevens is a return to the sophisticated “New Pop” of the 1980s, but I think music critics have put too much emphasis on the role of the producer in that era. Sure, without Trevor Horn, Relax would be forgettable, but it’s a Frankie Goes To Hollywood song, unmistakably. There’s nothing here that suggests Ms. Stevens is capable of doing the same.

(Part of the commercial failure of this album, though, has to be placed at the foot of Polydor and 19 Entertainment, who released two of the weakest tracks from the album as singles. Plus, Negotiate With Love came out at the end of March, meaning that it’s been over six months since the first single and the album’s release, which seems awfully silly. A preferred release strategy, if I might be so bold, would have been to release I Said Never Again as the first single back in April, followed six weeks later with the Cure-sampling It’s All About Me (I’m sure some interest could have been made out of that, even if pop sampling isn’t all that notable these days). Followthat with the album a week or so later, and then release two more singles at six weeks intervals (probably the Eighth Wonder-aping Funny How and I Will Be There). Then, in October, cynically re-issue the album with a DVD containing the videos for all four singles (and Some Girls). Oh, and hire Michel Gondry to make one of them)

Also, I feel vindicated in my earlier Mud comments after finding out that Rob Davis co-wrote I Said Never Again

Girls Aloud — Biology

Meanwhile, back at Camp Xenomania, they’ve come up with a cunning strategy: a detenté, if you will of the two main movements of British music in the 1990s. Which is to say that they’ve taken a Britpop song via The Kinks and ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky, and stapled it to the Spice Girls’ Spice Up Your Life. It really is better than it sounds, trust me, even if only the start seems to stick in the memory on the first ten listens.

currently playing: De La Soul – A Rollerskating Jam Called Saturday

Dear Joss Whedon…

…we love you. But if we ever meet you, we’re going to hurt you.

currently playing: Air – Alone In Kyoto