Thursday, April 09, 2009

Rant the Second: My "Scott and Jean"

The High Council of Gallifrey Demands an Explanation for this Bullshit
Another late meme, and another rant that you may or may not be interested in. Basically, over at AlertNerd, a post coined the phrase “My Scott and Jean”- which specifically refers to Scott Summers and Jean Grey of X-Men fame, their romance and her death/rebirth and all the drama associated with it, etc., but generally means one thing in fiction you can’t discuss rationally (or wholly rationally) because of how geekily you are devoted to it. They’re also known as “Geek Sacred Cows”. Since I’m a geek, I don’t want for these things, so one week after everyone has ceased to care, I’ve narrowed it down to three.

1. Maxwell Lord is a sleaze, a scumbag, a shady character. But he’s not all bad.

In Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’ legendary run on the Justice League, Maxwell Lord was introduced as a corrupt businessman with designs on giving the League international status and U.N. backing. He was also working with an alien computer to try and take over the world. He was first intended just as a villain, with artist Kevin Maguire basing his appearance on that of Sam Neill in OMEN: THE FINAL CONFLICT, but by the time they got around to resolving his arc, Giffen and DeMatteis decided they wanted to keep the character around, so he had a change of heart and redeemed himself in a rather touching issue. Since then he became the league’s UN liaison and boss, and generally went back and forth between blatantly self interested, manipulative scum, and someone with the League’s best interests at heart. You never knew where you stood with him.

At least until COUNTDOWN TO INFINITE CRISIS, wherein he became the evil head of Checkmate and blew Ted Kord’s brains out. Now, I understand this was to develop the story that would become INFINITE CRISIS, and when Lord was killed by Wonder Woman later, that set up a bunch of plot threads for her that have yet to die.

Frankly, though, the move never made any sense to me, despite various retcon attempts. Yes, Max was a bastard, but he had limits. He was willing to let a crazed would-be terrorist get himself killed as part of a set up for the League, and in his past came close to killing his own boss, but held back. More importantly, I like him as an ambiguous figure. The entire point was that you didn’t know where you stood with him- it was impossible to say at any given moment whose interests he was pursuing. He was a complex figure, a three-dimensional one, and at heart I’m a sucker for redemption narratives. As an out-and-out supervillain his possibilities were extremely limited- you know from the start not to trust him, because he’s wearing Black Ops gear and trying to control Superman’s mind, so he becomes Lex Luthor with added mind control powers.

The presence of extra-evil Maxwell Lord was enough to drive me away from the “Blue and Gold” arc in BOOSTER GOLD, as many good things as I keep hearing about that series. And he’s showing up in BLACKEST NIGHT, or so rumor has it. So I may sit that one out.

2 (though related to the above). I want Ted Kord alive, dammit.

Ever since the death of the second Blue Beetle in the aforementioned pre-INFINITE CRISIS event, a lot of writers have tried to make sure that Ted gets the respect in death he didn’t in life. The aforementioned BOOSTER GOLD arc apparently dealt with how Ted’s seemingly-insignificant sacrifice actually prevented Lord and the Omacs from getting too far in their plan for world domination or whatever, and how it was a necessary and noble thing, etc. I get that it’s now considered a moral victory- Ted was physically defeated but held to his principles up to the end.

And yet- I dunno. Maybe it’s just that, due to geek sacred cow #1, I didn’t accept that this storyline had much worth to it in the first place. But also, Ted is probably the superhero character I most identify with, and I wanna see him win it all, get the girl (though many shippers would dispute this particular point) and if they have to retire him, have him ride into the sunset. Not quite as dramatic, but it makes more sense for a lighthearted hero like him- especially since he’s easily the nerdiest of the superheroes, an insecure joker who sometimes messes up but whom you can’t help but love.

On top of that, I get turned off by the underlying idea that the time Ted proved himself was the time he stopped kidding around. That he had to get serious and get grim in order to do what had to be done. There’s this impression I get from superhero comics sometimes that superheroing now is considered a business which requires both the discipline of a Navy Seal and the solemnity of a death row prison guard. I don’t think it’s right that the character’s defining moment is his most serious. He needs a do-over.

That said, as I hope I’ve established before, I’ve got nothing against the new Blue Beetle, and if/when Ted comes back I don’t want him to displace Jaime.

3. The Time Lords are more interesting as a living civilization than a lost legacy.

I love the new DOCTOR WHO, and I totally understand why Russell T. Davies decided to blow up Gallifrey offscreen at the start of it. It’s a great deck-clearing situation which also served to give the character some extra motivation and give everyone a mystery going in. But it’s been nearly 4 years to the day, and I think the well’s run dry. The whole “lonely god” aspect of the Doctor has been played out, and though that’s always been part of the character, he needs to veer back towards “eccentric adventurer”, and not having a lost planet to brood over might help.

Also, even though the Time Lords are generally regarded as hard to write and not conducive to great stories, I love the guys. Super-advanced dead civilizations are everywhere in science fiction, it’s a valid and common trope, but frankly I think it’s even more interesting if you’ve got a godlike ancient race that’s still around and still has some power. The Time Lords are also versatile- they can be the bad, corrupt people repressing the Doctor or doing some unethical meddling in one story, and decent folk who need saving from Sontarans the next. I want to see the grandeur of Gallifrey captured as best the production team can (though I was grateful for the flashback near the end of Season 3), and I want to see it explored. And I don’t want the Doctor to be forever the last of his kind and someone who only wanders because he had to destroy his home. The Time War thing is coming dangerously close to defining the Doc’s whole character, and we need to see more that he’s a wanderer and adventurer by choice.

I spent way too long on something that’s supposed to be irrational and inexplicable. Oh well, that’s my contribution to the meme. And I’ll try to have something more coherent next time.

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