If you are a comic fan and have read mainstream comics in any fashion, I don’t have to explain who Goeff Johns is, BUT on the off chance that you’ve been living in a hole in the ground or actively avoiding such things:
He is a famous and prolific writer of comics who is currently Chief Creative Officer over at DC comics and has been writing a lot under that banner – most notably his long tenure on the Green Lantern books and more recently as the a primary architect of the DCU in its New52 format and has been helming one of the flagship books – Justice League – since the relaunch a few years ago.
Now, with that out of the way, the purpose of this post itself.
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that barring a VERY small handful of titles (many of which have been cancelled despite critical acclaim), I have pretty much been either underwhelmed or flat out saddened by most of their output the last couple of years. I used the word “sad” because I’m not angry like some people, just sad and disappointed to see so much potential and so much goodwill and such utterly being squandered and in some instances pretty much flat-out crapped all over in the interest of gimmicks and short term sales boosts.
But today, the specific focus is Mr. Johns.
Why? Because I really like a lot of the guys work. I’m one of those readers who thoroughly enjoyed and till today remain grateful for the work he did on titles like JSA which revived that team and gave rise to some of the most fun comics, characters and such in the DCU. I’m also one of those fortunate few who read the Green Lantern titles back when he was writing them and read the entire thing through, including the landmark Sinestro Corps War that completely upended the whole GL franchise but left it so much better and the richer for it – seeds that have been repeatedly reaped since then and spun out into numerous titles.
He stumbled a little as he gained more prominence after all that and some of his last GL work was a little bit shaky, but he clearly had a love and reverence for the material and his tenure there ended well enough to leave me with no negative feelings of note for any of it.
BUT, it’s what he’s done since then that has been repeatedly stunning. I don’t know if he’s trying to be the next Brian Michael Bendis (who pretty much oversaw and orchestrated The Avengers line of books for years while also writing Ultimate Spiderman as well as some of his creator-owned stuff and was pretty much a creative juggernaut, still kind of is…) but it’s a terrible idea because trying to orchestrate something as large as it has been in the JL books plus his early work on the Aquaman relaunch and other things, his most recent output was undeniably sub-par by his previous standards.
Some of that I can attribute to editorial mandates – a HUGE black-mark on DC’s image for a while now (there’s even A SITE that keeps track of their stupid choices!), I wish they’d make a change there… that’s for another day…
But the truth is that if you read his JL comics in particular, you can see the poorness of the quality all over the place – bad choices, poor characterisation, ill-use of people/concept, unheroic heroes, unlikable leads, over-the-top melodrama and action and an almost Michael Bay-ish feel have all been hallmarks of his tenure the last couple of years.
It became so bad that I pretty much stopped reading anything he was writing. Every couple of months I’d either pick up an issue or talk to friends who were reading them in the hope that he got his stride back – and each time I’d be disappointed and saddened and continue to not read what was once one of my favourite team books by an author I used to genuinely love to read.
As both a reader and a writer myself, I hate this situation. Being on either side of a situation like this is not cool and I keep hoping it’ll get better.
This was my feeling and hope when I picked up this past weeks Justice League #41 – a new issue after the recent company-wide event Convergence that starts of a new story-arc, making for a good starting point to jump back in, plus it kicks of a story-line that’s been teased and built for ages now called “The Darkseid War“. Throw in that Jason Fabok is on art and you have a comic that looks AMAZING – which it is because he really does an excellent job, the comic is worth reading once just to see the pretty pages he and the rest of the art team put together, seriously.
[ATTENTION: SPOILERS AHEAD!! You have been warned.]
Back to the story – the many threads Johns has been laying for a while now across the DCU were it seems woven into this, including Darkseids daughter, the Amazon-born Grail showing up and kicking everyone’s butt. This of course is head-shakingly hilarious because she takes out pretty much ALL the heavy hitters of the JL (WW, GL, Bats, Flash, Cyborg, Power Ring-ugh) except Superman – the ONLY people in all of existence to have in the relatively recent past beaten Darkseid AND his entire army. Grail literally steps out of The Flash (I kid you not!) – which is weird and except for coolness and shock-value seemed such a strange way to bring her in… She makes amazingly quick work of Batman and Shazam and sucks the power out of Hal’s ring while at the same time seems able to control Power Ring’s. Wonder Woman at least seems harder to defeat, but maybe that’s because she’s top Amazon and almost Superman-tough, but even she is no match for Grail in the end.
This one woman took them down in pretty much no time at all. Good for her, she’s a badass, but beyond the “cool” factor, it is overkill and bad story-telling.
Meanwhile two of Darkseid minions basically rip off The Terminator‘s search for Sarah Connor, tracking down every woman named Myrina Black. I find it hard to believe there were this many women with that name, but whatever. It’s an excuse for the crazy duo to just randomly kill women with that name, even though they flatly state that they knew a victim wasn’t the one they were seeking but killed her anyway – thereby attracting more attention from the JL – the people that beat their unbeatable boss not too long back. Good call!
Speaking of Myrina Black it’s not even a normal sounding name. So I actually went and looked it up and you know what? Turns out Johns is reeeaally not that imaginative anymore because it turns out that:
1. Myrina is an ancient name for Amazons and for a particular Queen, so wow, much creative bro! And…
2. SHE IS GRAILS MOTHER! Look back at that comic where the kids mom is in a rainstorm with two other Amazons (or some such) which you can find on G+ and it’s her, a pregnant woman named Myrina carrying Darkseids child. With the whole “Omega” symbol tatted on her face.
So why has she been planning a war against Darkseid? For magic-rape-er… immaculately concepting her? 😀 And where does her uber-violent idiot daughter fit into all this? PLUS, if she’s been building an anti-Darkseid war plan, why oh why didn’t she do anything the first time he showed up a few years ago? Then when he got totally and unexpectedly (to him as well) defeated, why not go finish him off then? AND NOW when he’s back, badder and more powerful than before with a bigger army, WHY come out now and on top of that NOT take the help of and recruit at least some if not all the Earth-heroes who (as has been VERY clearly established) WERE THE ONLY PEOPLE TO EVER DEFEAT HIM!! EVER!!
I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but John’s is not the writer he used to be and that we’ve seen he can be – maybe he needs to step away from some of his workload and refocus because what he’s doing now, if one is honest, is poor quality writing, regardless of the characters he is using. I would feel the same way if it was totally original character and in fact that comic would have failed long ago in all likelihood because franchise fans would not buy it – whereas DC has die-hard fans who will keep reading just because, good, bad or otherwise.
This is a stupid comic, insulting to good writing and Johns is writing like an idiot. Correction, a Didiot. Somethings gotta give and I hope it happens soon because over the course of the last 3-5 years I have all but given up on anything DC puts out and I’m now reading none of their books and don’t plan to based on the utterly idiotic comics they seem set to put out in the months ahead.
I wish you well and hope you get your groove back DC, but know you’ve lost a formerly life-long fan for now.