Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Dammit, DC Comics, Stop Infecting My Dreams/Other Fandoms
I had a bizarre dream that only a mind as obsessive about pop culture as mine could come up with unconsciously. In a dream, I was looking through a game store and saw a new game called "Metal Gear Solid: Rebirth". The front box had series hero Solid Snake at his proper age, as opposed to the prematurely elderly state we saw in MGS4. The back explained that Snake was healed by nanomachines, and that he was on a brand new adventure. If I recall correctly, Meryl was by his side; apparently she had dumped her new, kind-hearted (if uncomfortably incontinent) husband Johnny Sasaki for her teenaged crush.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR METAL GEAR SOLID 4 FOLLOW
This came as a surprise to me in the dream, because MGS4 clearly ended with the implication that Snake was as good as dead. His body was continuing to age due to the breakdown of his cloned physiology, and while he wasn't going to turn into a Foxdie WMD as previously expected, he still had only a few months remaining. Hideo Kojima intended MGS4 as the end of Solid Snake's story, and possibly the entire Metal Gear saga as well. All the subsequent games have been prequels or remakes, and the rest of the supporting cast either got a happy ending or were killed off. Unless Konami goes behind Kojima's back (which is unlikely, as the success of Metal Gear has been based heavily on its creator's artistic vision), this is not going to happen in reality, and it would be terrible if it did. It would be a slap in the face towards the original games, the members of the audience who actually understood Kojima's vision, and even towards game makers with new ideas. All in the name of trying to preserve nostalgia, rather than creating new games and properties that create future nostalgia.
Perhaps this dream was influenced by the news of the DC relaunch, as the other half of the American comics industry's Big Two has a stiff one for regressions and repetitions. While they have hired great creators and allowed them to take several franchises in interesting new directions (most notably with Batman and Green Lantern, in spite of the latter bringing back Hal Jordan as the star), they've become obsessed with a constant, Nietzcheian return to the same. Even before the relaunch was announced, Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash who died way back in 1987, came back from the grave and shuffled his successor Wally West back to the sidelines; we saw this in a mini-series called Flash: Rebirth, by the same creative team as Green Lantern: Rebirth (which did the same for Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, albeit in a superiorly executed fashion). Similarly, the Green Lantern: Secret Origin story by Geoff Johns that updated Hal's backstory for modern continuity was followed by a Superman: Secret Origin, also by Johns. Secret Origin was followed by J. Michael Stracynski's Earth One OGN, another re-telling of the Man of Steel's early days.
The pattern repetition continues in many facets of the company's superhero publishing. The relaunch itself is a more drastic variant on One Year Later, the Post-Infinite Crisis event that had every book jump ahead one year and give their characters a new status quo. In the DCNu (as it's become known), Aquaman will have his third revamp since 2003, the second being the One Year Later run by Kurt Busiek-- if you count Aquaman's return in the Brightest Day maxi-series as another relaunch, this marks four for the character. Ditto for Hawkman and Hawkgirl. The Flash will be getting his fourth relaunch in that time, which includes the abortive Bart Allen Flash, the Wild Wests family, Barry Allen's return, and the upcoming series. This isn't even touching the unfortunate racial implications of these relaunches/regressions; for example, Ray Palmer coming back as the Atom following the death of Ryan Choi, or Wally West's multiracial family being supplanted by Barry and Iris Allen, who'd look totally appropriate at a country club.
On an individual level, many of these series were good, and many of the DCNu titles will assuredly be good. On a larger level, though, this shows an obsession with trying to preserve the same properties, continually trying to bring them back while using the minor status quo variations as the illusion of change. Maybe DC will never get any great new characters, as their star franchises are those swindled from their creators many decades ago-- today the industry is developed enough that original properties are kept by their creators. But can they at least not take those properties in an endless circle?
The Metal Gear Solid 4 analogy is especially appropriate given that game's revelations about the series at large. The Patriots, the shadowy organization responsible for all the ills of the world, are revealed to simply be super-computers. Everything they do fits into their programming, and they're stuck in a recursive loop. This explains why the Metal Gear sequels all follow the same pattern; Snake is always called upon to fight rogue super-soldiers trying to liberate the world from the Patriots (unfortunately for the world, this is planned via nuclear holocaust). Snake will always be assisted along the way, once by a FOXDIE virus covertly implanted into his body, and again by a mysterious Cyborg Ninja with a Patriot-designed exoskeleton. MGS4 is filled with subtext about how the Patriots' methods (re: sequels) are driving the world (and video game franchises) into the ground; the Beauty and the Beast Corps that Snake fights are grotesque mergers of previous bosses, with the animal names from MGS1, the weapons from MGS2, and the personalities from MGS3. All with a bit of too-disturbing-to-be-arousing T&A underneath.
In other news, have you seen the new Harley Quinn costume? Perhaps the Patriots have moved to reality, except they're interested in superhero comics instead of the military-industrial complex. At least Snake gets to rest in peace.