Friday, 25 April 2008

Lumpy Custard Blues

Ok, so yesterday I read the latest Grant Morrison Batman (issue #675) before watching the Battlestar Galactica episode 'A Day In The Life', and I can tell you -- the sense of "where the hell did the story go?!" was off the fricken chart.

And so it occurs to me that Battlestar Galactica is quite a lot like the New X-Men/Batman end of Morrison's recent output, with genuinely amazing stories butting up against budget-saving/schedule filling/fill in artist bullshit.

'E is for Extinction', 'Assault on Weapon Plus', 'Club of Heroes' = yes, yes, yes!

Those Igor Kordey drawn 'Imperial' issues or this most recent Ryan Benjamin drawn Batman = ugh, why bother?

Similarly, the Battlestar Galactica pilot/mini-series, or the first four episodes of Battlestar season 3? Some of the best TV I've ever seen. But 'A Day In The Life', with its "Adama mopes over his ex-wife" A-plot and even less interesting "Chief and Cally get stuck in a death-trap" B-story? Again, why bother?

Which is weird, cos I like the cast of Battlestar, especially old craggy-faced Adama. Shouldn't I be more invested in these background-filling, detail-focussed episodes?

With Batman #675, I think a lot of my extremely negative reaction can be put down to the butt-ugly art and awkward staging, which robs what the story of all interest and grace. Imagine if Frank Quitely had drawn the same story -- it'd still be pretty slight, but I'm sure there'd be a hundred bloggers willing to talk up the subtle nuances of the interactions between Bruce Wayne and Jezebel Jet, all of which would be conveyed in their body language.

I think my reaction to the Battlestar episode is more revealing of something beyond a distaste for crappy art. Essentially, my beef with episodes like 'A Day in the Life' (and there are a few in the later stages of season 3) is that all sense of narrative economy is tossed away, and I don't feel like we gain anything for it. Now, sure, in theory this segment of season 3 represents a period of relative rest for the characters, which gives a chance for all their damage to catch up with them. But beyond recognising this on a functional level, do I feel like there's anything in 'A Day in the Life' that couldn't be relegated to one or two scenes in the background of another episode? No. You may feel differently, but hey.

Batman #675, same nonsense, same baffling lack of conciseness -- Morrison wrote All-Star Superman #10, which could easily fit this whole comic into maybe three panels scattered across 20-odd pages. Again, I get it, it's a slow build to an event that'll initiate the whole 'Batman R.I.P.' story. But beyond this brute functionality, does it actually do anything for me? Nope, not a damned thing.

And that's a shame, cos the last couple of issues of Batman had got me excited again, with their stream-of-hallucinatory consciousness shtick and general pulp poetry.

Ah well -- let's hope that 'Batman R.I.P.' is better. And if it's not, then hey -- Final Crisis! Seaguy! All Star Superman! War Cop?! Atomika Bomb?!

As for Battlestar Galactica, well, I just watched 'Dirty Hands', which was more engaging, and oddly topical given Britain's current strike-powered fuel panic and the fact that my flatmate is deep into The Wire season 2 right now (note, these two things are not of equal importance, I know). Plus my friends assure me that Battlestar season 3 closes well, which is exactly what makes Battlestar/Morrison's Batman so frustrating. I never quite want to give up in case something brilliant is just about to happen.

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