Monday, September 23, 2013

Comics and the perpetual second act

Except for this one Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures issue I mysteriously had around the age of seven, I've never really read comics, nor have I had much of a desire to. As much as I enjoy speculative fiction, the superhero genre* has never been at the top of my list. Maybe it's the all-caps sound effects, or maybe it's the costumes. I've never understood why serious crime fighter-types like Wolverine and Flash dress up like traffic signals, particularly when superheroes seem to value their anonymity.

Perhaps this is one reason I loved the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy so much.

But every once in a while, particularly in the wake of a new superhero movie, I'll look up details about the longer storylines and character arcs for some of these franchises.

Somewhere between the second death and resurrection or the third identity crisis, I get lost.

Thom Dunn of Tor.com sums up the issue nicely. Comic books dig their heels in at the second act and stay there. Even when big, third act moments happen, they can be undone when the broken back heals, when someone is brought back to life, when the secret behind the secret is revealed, or when the series is rebooted. And like greengeekgirl, I find it difficult to get invested when that's the case.

Maybe sticking with something you love through various iterations and reversals is just another kind of enjoyment. It's just not for me. But then again, I generally don't re-read books or re-play video games I've finished.

I haven't read The Dresden Files yet, but people gush about it. One of the key praises is how Jim Butcher keeps raising the stakes in each novel. That he's managed to do that over fourteen (and counting) novels is impressive, but I suspect it would all mean a lot less if the big events could be reversed in the fifteenth. The series will end some day, and that's part of what makes it compelling.


*Caveat: Plenty of graphic novels have nothing to do with superheroes. Saga was part of my Hugo packet this year, and I loved it.

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