Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why Oracle doesn't work...

Q: What's worse than when you press 'POST' and everything crashes?

A: When you reset your system and find out that during the twelve minutes you spent writing your recent blog entry, none of the site's automatic back-up functions worked, and the entire effort was wasted.

It sucks.

Now back to our regularly scheduled commentary about Oracle...

Barbara Gordon was always destined for greatness. As a youngster she joined the crime-fighting duo of Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne under the guise of Batgirl. Others have taken up that mantle since, but she was the original, and it came to a shattering end during The Killing Joke when Barbara was paralyzed (and sexually assaulted) by The Joker.

Other people would have been broken by this.

Barbara found a new way to serve her purpose in the world, becoming the foremost technology expert in the super-human community. She combined exemplary data analysis skills with highly developed information search skills and world class hacking to take on the identity of Oracle.

As the often mysterious Oracle Barbara has worked with and for The Suicide Squad, The Justice League, Batman (and family) and ultimately The Birds of Prey. Her network of connections is as impressive as anyone else in the DCU......which is where my problem begins.

Too often I find myself reading Birds of Prey (a series I recommend in spite of this objection) and marveling at how casually the writers ignore the power of being the super hero community's information super-highway. With connections like she has, there is absolutely no excuse for Barbara to be dispatching Lady BlackHawk into a crisis that endangers somebody's life without first attempting to contact a member of the "Big 7."

Martian Manhunter
Green Lantern

....and for those of you who will argue that calling for the help of a 'man' in some way undermines the purpose of Birds of Prey and diminishes the book....


Don't get me wrong. A series in which she routinely calls in the most powerful women in the DCU would be much more difficult to swallow, and would often serve to undermine the chemistry of the series, so I'm not suggesting that it needs to happen. What I am suggesting is that continuing to disregard her connections and ability to bring the most powerful people in the world into play undermines her credibility as a character. If I don't acknowledge that she has that at her disposal at least occasionally, then I start to wonder if her role as the information resource to that community even matters.

At that point....I wonder if Oracle even matters.

Did you know that there are strongly dissenting opinions on Oracle's worth and value as a character? Read her Wiki entry to get your head around the arguments. I can tell you that I stand firmly in the camp which believes that Babs serves the righteous much more crucially as Oracle than she ever could as Batgirl. BUT.....and this is the point I'm trying to order for that to remain true, you have to underscore her resourcefulness and connections more effectively than the writers have been doing.

If information is power......she should be Superman.

These days she seems a lot more like Plastic Man.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A world full of Batmen?

There is power in an idea.

Grant Morrison's recent New Gods opus that was wrapped delicately into the fabric of Final Crisis, and eventually spilled over into the death of Bruce Wayne and his subsequent return, is rife with the ideology that ideas, if they are powerful enough, can take on a life of their own. The foundation of this is rooted in Darkseid's ultimate vengeance on humanity through a time-lost Bruce Wayne.

As we have come to expect, Bruce outwits his opponents, and the world is saved from the wrath of the New Gods. He is not, however, unchanged.

His struggle against Darkseid implants in Bruce one firm, unshakable truth; ideas have power.  And he is in possession of one of the most powerful ideas that mankind has ever created; BATMAN.

And so my love/hate relationship with Morrison continues because the new idea he's infused into Batman is.......brilliant! I'm hooked by the concept, and the first three issues I've read (Batman: The Return, Batman & Robin & Batman Inc) have all served to provoke a thirst for more of the story. Can Bruce's resources accomplish what must be done? Will others join his cause? Who will he recruit and entrust with the mantle in far-off lands?

How it plays out is anyone's guess, but in concept.....this is a powerful idea.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Is Buffy's soulmate secretly Batman?

Last night I watched a comic on television.

I watch Angel.

I can already hear a host of people preparing to launch into a diatribe about how Angel is a television character first and the comic came later. Probably more than half of those people would like to condemn me for having an interest in anything related to the Buffyverse (admittedly I found a lot of the longterm storyline ideas of these series to be smart.) To both of these groups I would like to suggest that they back up, take a breath and see Angel (at least at the beginning) for what it is; Batman with super powers.

I watched the show a little when it was on television, but decided the other day that I wanted to start watching something from start to finish and I'd just finished Stargate SG-1. I was looking for something different. Less Sci-Fi and more Fantasy. I settled on Angel for no particular reason and popped the first episode on TV. As I was watching (along with my daughter and wife) I commented that Episode 1 really smacked of a super-hero story. About five minutes before the end of the episode Angel comes to Cordelia's rescue, puts saving the damsel above defeating the villain, and takes some bullets in the back while he carries her to safety.

My wife looked at me and said.....'He's Batman.'

My first reaction was amusement. Batman doesn't have super-powers silly woman! But as I thought it through, I came to appreciate her insight. The first episode is overflowing with Batman references and imagery and really could be the last book in Batman Year One. We have a dark, dangerous metropolis (Gotham City) that is alive with crime and danger. We have a young man (Bruce) who has begun to understand that he has a mission in the world (to help the helpless - to stop evil - etc) who is trying to figure out how he's supposed to do it (looking for the epiphany moment.) He's dark, brooding and isolated from the rest of the world (sound like Batman?) There is a girl he loves, that he can't be with because it will put his mission in jeopardy. His life is forcibly invaded by people who want to help him (Alfred, Robin) and when he's not out prowling the rooftops of the city (hmmmm) he's sleeping in a lair beneath a building he owns (like a cave?) Oh, and he spends a lot of time dressed all in black.

I don't remember the series well enough to dig deeper right now, but I'm very interested in seeing more and refreshing my memory. How long will the comparison last, before the writers find Angel's own groove and the similarities end? While I was looking at the topic, I did some Wiki reading.  Here's what Joss had to say about his own creation:

 "Angel was the one character who was bigger than life in the same way that Buffy was, a kind of superhero." 
I think the moment that best assessed for me his status as a super-hero came right before he saved Cordelia. She was trapped by a very old, very powerful Vampire who heard Angel approaching and when he emerged from being shrouded in the darkness (sound familiar?) the Vampire warned Angel off. Cordelia got a look of terrific satisfaction on her face as she commented "Wait. You don't know who he is, do you?" to the villain.

It had that feel of the heroine of the comic who knows a secret that the villain doesn't. That 'ah-ha' moment when she knows how much trouble the villain is in, even if he doesn't.

Seeing RED Part II

Last weekend I watched Red.

I should clarify that it is almost completely unlike the short limited series, whose general concept was the inspiration for the story. With that all said, it was a fun ride and I enjoyed it tremendously. I understand that it is neither deep nor meaningful, but sometimes that isn't what I'm looking for in my entertainment. Malkovich was hysterical, and Willis was his intense best flawlessly depicting a man who would be otherwise unassuming if you couldn't almost sense the hard, willful person hiding beneath the surface.

I think the coolest moment was the police car scene. If you've seen it, you know exactly what I mean. Just....COOL.