[Spoiler Alert: The following post contains spoilers for the end of Scott Snyder’s Batman storyline, “Death of the Family”, as well as spoilers for Grant Morrison’s upcoming Batman Incorporated #8 and Peter Tomasi’s Batman and Robin. Additionally, the following post is alarmist, reactionary, and somber. Do not read if you do not wish to experience the ramblings of an author saddened by developments in things that he loves, or if such a perfectly acceptable thing somehow offends you.]
I’ve been living in a comic book paradise for a while now.
Honestly, the past few months have been filled with some of the best comics I’ve ever had the pleasure to consume. Between Scott Snyder’s unbelievably great run on Batman (in particular the “Death of the Family” arc that has been running since October), my sudden fixation with the stellar creator-owned series Saga by the incomparable Brian K. Vaughn, the continued drive forward of Geoff Johns’ legendary tenure as the author of the Green Lantern universe, the admittedly hit and miss Before Watchmen limited series, from which we’ve received such gems as Darwyn Cooke’s Minutemen and Silk Spectre (the latter of which drawn by Amanda Conner, in some of the best art of comic-bookdom), Len Wein’s Ozymandias (along with its unparalleled art), and my rediscovery of some of the Batman classics (Hush, The Long Halloween, and The Dark Knight Returns have been on my reading list lately), I’ve never wanted for great comic books. I couldn’t sneeze without running into a great book.
But, alas, I fear that all of that comes at a price. And that price is the Great Comic Book Implosion of February 2013, an event with such an unwieldy name that I should probably come up with a better name for it. We’ll just use “Implosion” here on out. But rest assured, the event deserves a name with such gravitas: the components that have merged to form this massive Implosion are large, paradigm altering events that will have far reaching implications for comics for years to come.
…are they gone? Okay, good. It looks like I scared some people off with all that alarmism. The truth is, I am well aware that comics are going to be just fine, and probably will continue being great going into the future.
The problem is that I have trouble saying goodbye.
Saying hello is easy – there’s this incredible fervor that accompanies absorption into any new series or universe. When a friend convinced me to start reading Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern titles at the beginning of the Fall semester, I consumed as much Green Lantern material as I could. I engaged in massive Archive Binges on the Green Lantern / DCU wikis. I borrowed several trade paperbacks and read through them as quickly as I could. I managed to get a complete set of every New 52 Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps titles. I had a ravenous hunger for everything Lantern. And that was awesome.
But now has come the time to say goodbye. Earlier this week, Geoff Johns announced his departure from the Green Lantern series, a series that he successfully brought out of the grave, transformed into the deepest mythos in the DC Universe, and turned into a bestselling title over the course of a legendary nine-year run. Everything I’ve read in the Lantern series has been overseen by Geoff Johns. And now he’s leaving.
What’s worse, the creative teams behind Green Lantern Corps and Green Lantern: New Guardians are also leaving. It’s a complete and total break from the current Green Lantern paradigm, and it even appears that the books themselves will cease to exist – no new creative teams have been announced, and all three books have a tone of finality to their May 2013 solicits. I’m having a hard time with this: to have, suddenly, three books that I’m reading just suddenly call it quits, leaving a big Green Lantern shaped hole in my heart? This I cannot abide.
And yet, despite my indignation, I must. I don’t like saying goodbye. But I’ve had to many, many times over the course of my pop culture history. And while something new comes along to capture my heart and mind, I still feel like a part of me dies a little bit every time I have to say goodbye to something I love as deeply as I love Green Lantern. Part of me died when I had to say goodbye to Lost. Having spent six years with that wonderful show, six years with those characters, saying goodbye was dreadful. A larger part of me died when I had to say goodbye to Toy Story. That third film, arriving at such a horribly poignant and appropriate time in my life, shook my very core. Perhaps the largest part of me died when I had to say goodbye to Harry Potter, twice – a series that, in both novel and film form, have defined my childhood in one way or another. The books were among the first things I ever read, and are books that I revisit more than any others. The films are among my fondest childhood memories, and captured my imagination from an early age, inspiring my current, and almost assuredly lifelong love affair with the art form. Saying goodbye felt like I was saying goodbye to something that had been a part of me as long as I can remember. And in fact, I cannot remember a day where that series was not a part of my life. Not a single day.
Saying goodbye sucks. It sucks really, really hard. But part of being an active participant in pop culture is saying goodbye to these things that I love. And while I’ve come to accept that, it doesn’t come any easier.
So, I think I’ve established that I get very invested in things that I like. To a tremendous degree. Anyone who has heard me talk about art in any sort of serious discussion will know that I place a great premium on emotional impact and character interaction. As a direct result of that emphasis, I grow incredibly attached to characters that I like. I’ve always had my favorites. Sirius Black was among the first. When he died in Order of the Phoenix, I almost – just almost – shed a tear. When Ben Linus was left behind as the rest of the survivors moved on, I shed a couple of them. When Andy had to say goodbye to his toys, and more heartwrenchingly, they to him, I openly bawled (along with the rest of the theater). I love these characters.
And now the knowledge that I’m going to have to say goodbye to one of my most beloved characters is eating away at my soul.
This is Damian Wayne. In my review of Batman and Robin Annual #1, I believe I mentioned that he’s my favorite character. In any art form. Ever. He’s a psychopath with a sense of good and evil, but a moral relativist. He shares his father’s sense of morality, but not his father’s self restrictions regarding violence and cold blooded murder. He’s one of the most abrasive characters in the Bat-canon. He’s Bruce Wayne’s son, but he’s as much an al-Ghul (from his mother, Talia) as he is a Wayne.
He’s been in Bruce’s care for some time now, and has been Robin to Bruce’s Batman for a good deal of that time. It has been my great pleasure to watch as this rough, intense child who resists his father’s efforts to discipline and restrain his natural penchant for violence turns into one of the most lovable, endearing, and touching characters in any medium. There’s a great admiration and love for his father at the center of everything Damian does. His great concern as the Court of Owls descended upon the city, kidnapping Batman and throwing him in the labyrinth was heartbreaking; his nightly vigils at the Bat Signal, during which he refused to allow the police to turn the signal off, are wonderful. His search for his grandmother’s pearls, an image that has haunted Bruce since the death of his parents, and his ultimate presentation of the lone pearl that he managed to recover to Bruce, and the deep embrace the two shared after is an impossibly poignant moment of father-son bonding that few stories in any media have managed to match. There’s a wonderful human being on display here: rather than being an unfortunate retread of Jason Todd, the other violent and rebellious Robin, Damian has become the best Robin in Batman history. He’s truly Bruce’s son, and that gives his character arc the strongest emotional effect imaginable.
But lo: the creator of this outstanding character, legendary Batman scribe Grant Morrison, has greater things afoot. In what appears to be the beginning of the end of one of the longest running arcs in comic history, rivaling Geoff Johns’ now concluding Green Lantern arc, Batman Incorporated #8 (of the New 52 volume, that is) is poised to deliver a massive shock to Batman fans.
That’s Damian Wayne, in a cover that is horrifyingly reminiscent of Morrison’s own arc, Batman R.I.P. Given the ultimatum issued to Bruce in issue #6 of Batman Incorporated by Talia – sacrifice Damian or Gotham will be destroyed – it appears, and I say this with heavy heart, that beloved character Damian Wayne is going to be killed.
I’ve already had to say goodbye to the Joker, one of my favorite forces of evil in any medium. I’m not ready to say goodbye to even more people. I’m not ready to say goodbye to Damian, to Sinestro, to Hal, to John, to Guy, to Kyle, to Kilowog, to Ganthet, to all of these wonderful characters that I love dearly. I am not ready. I will never be ready.
Damn you Grant Morrison. Damn you Geoff Johns. Damn you.