I’ve written here before about my love of comics and while I had not read comics since around the beginning of the new millennium, I got back to comics about a year ago. At first, I was simply catching up with old stuff or simply finding old comics that I’d wanted to read but had not had the chance to before. But recently, I started reading the comics which are coming out at the moment – the fresh stuff and boy was I in for a surprise
Somewhere in between the time I stopped reading comics and started reading them again, they seem to have somehow gotten a lot more edgier and more realistic. The first of the new breed that I started reading was DC‘s "Identity Crisis". I suddenly saw old familiar characters portrayed in a new light – they weren’t just super-heroes with incredible powers but normal people like you and I, people with powers sure, but also people with their own vulnerabilities and foibles. Not perfect people by any stretch of imagination – simply people. I was enthralled by this new direction that the comics were taking and got a few more comics – read some more and was beginning to like the way things were going.
However, all the new comics I’d read had been from DC. My original allegiances in comic had been more Marvel than DC. Most of my favourites came from Marvel but they’d also been the reason for me giving up comics a few years back – they’d tried to make things more "realistic" by killing off some of the most beloved (at least beloved to me) characters around and I’d just not liked their experiments. Around this time, Marvel was doing another one of their radical changes – a major story arc which (brutally) changed one of the most established super-hero groups in the Marvel Universe. I was thinking of picking up this story arc and reading it when I heard that one of my most favourite characters dies in that arc and that was it, it felt just like when I’d stopped reading comics earlier and I decided to give Marvel a wide berth and concentrate on DC, who seemed to have better story-telling and better direction anyway.
The original Marvel story arc I was talking about (in case anybody is wondering, it’s "Avengers Disassmebled"), ended and they started a new comic, "New Avengers". I picked up a couple of issues of the comic out of curiosity but still didn’t read it since I still didn’t feel like following a story from the company that killed one of my most favourite heroes. Then Marvel came out with "Young Avengers" and since this was a totally new group of heroes and a totally new comic where I had nothing invested in emotionally (yes, I get worked up about comics :p) I decided to give it a shot and I was pleasantly surprised! It had humour, it had freshness and it was even better than the current stuff from DC – yes, others might disagree with me here but I’m talking about me, not others :p It turned out that the guy who wrote "Young Avengers" -Allan Heinberg – had also written for "Gilmore Girls", one of my favourite TV shows! (Incidentally, that could start a whole other thread of thought about how comics seem to be attracting well-known writers from other fields such as Kevin Smith and Joss Wheadon of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fame – Laurie reminded me later of also Orson Scott Card who is writing "Ultimate Iron Man" … but perhaps another time)
What did happen was that I enjoyed the "Young Avengers" so much that I finally gave the "New Avengers" a try and actually liked how they were written and then went on to read a few more Marvel comics and what do you know, I’m hooked again Marvel is doing good stuff with some of their characters and now DC’s got some good story lines going too and then DC announced "Countdown" :p Now, I’m not really sure about "Countdown" – if any comic book fans are reading this, you’d know about DC’s "Crisis on Infinite Earths" back in 1985 where they had a major 12-part series which redefined their universe. Now, 20 years later on their 70th anniversary, DC is doing it again with "Countdown". Heck, they are even calling it "Countdown to Infinite Crisis" :p
I had not read "Crisis on Infinite Earths" till now (though I’d been hearing about it for ages and I’d read both pre-crisis and post-crisis Superman) and I finally did. Now that I’ve read it, the first preludes to "Countdown" seem hauntingly familiar in certain senses – you have the Blue Beetle playing a major role, the villains uniting, the spectre taking a hand and so on – there is even a lot of emphasis on the character of Dr. Light! But will it play out the same? Will this be somebody at DC saying "this is our chance to correct Crisis on Infinite Earths" which was in its own right a correction/update to the DC universe? Or will this play out differently and will we be presented with a new, more mature DC universe? I don’t know … only time, and the unfolding of the story, will tell