Saturday, August 31, 2013

DC Universe Presents #19

"Living History"

Tony Bedard – Writer
Javier Pina – Artist
Jason Wright – Colorist
Taylor Esposito – Letterer
Anthony Marques – Assistant Editor
Mike Cotton – Editor
Eddie Berganza – Group Editor

The cover is by Merino and Blond, and it is quite possibly the most misleading WTF cover of the whole gimmick. Yes, Beowulf is featured in this issue, but he does not fight or slaughter the Justice League like it's implied here. He doesn't even meet them. And the Flash, featured so prominently here, certainly does not get stabbed by a sword, since he doesn't even appear in the issue! By the way, the solicited cover showed that sword going all the way through Flash. For some reason, that image was deemed too violent, so now it almost looks like the sword happens to be resting behind Flash. All in all, this cover is just a complete mess. Sure, it might be drawn well, but that becomes irrelevant when so many problems are present.

The story begins with Gwendolyn Pierce, a professor of archaeometry at Columbia University, trying to figure out how old an artifact from the Bronze Age is. Traditional carbon dating suggests the golden sphere is negative 300 years old. So Gwen subjects it to a spectrometer, which causes the orb to glow, and from it emerges a white monster thing, that shape shifts to look like Gwen. The shapeshifter takes off, and the large, bare-chested hero Beowulf also emerges from the artifact. He pursues the beast with his huge sword, but quickly finds he's not in a castle, but actually a museum.

Turns out Beowulf and the shapeshifter are actually from the future, which happens to be exactly like medieval times, but with advanced technology instead of magic. Beowulf was battling the shapeshifter, when they were both tricked and sent back into the past.

The shapeshifter sees the Justice League exhibit, and mistakingly believes that people worship the heroes. So it changes into Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Batman, trying to become the ruler of this new time and age. Luckily, Beowulf is able to smell evil, so he quickly found the monster and chopped its head off.

Beowulf and Gwendolyn are surrounded by police officers, but they somehow manage to elude them and return to the museum. Gwendolyn is very quickly able to reverse the effects she caused on the sphere to open up a new portal to send Beowulf back his time. And then, for no reason whatsoever, she follows him to the dystopian, medieval future.

The Good:

Well, I suppose the idea of Beowulf is interesting, and there is a market out there for these kind of stories. I don't think that putting him in the future does any service to the character, though. It almost seems like having your cake and eating it, too — swords, castles, dragons and sci-fi technology! I'm also not a fan of DC resorting to public domain characters. Beowulf was based on a poem from the 8th century. With DC's rich history, couldn't they find (or create) someone original?

The Bad:

No Flash. He is front and center on the cover — dying right before our eyes! — and inside the issue, he only sneaks on to a couple of banners. The shapeshifter couldn't even bother to transform into the Flash. There were a lot of Flash fans (like me) whose jaws dropped when they saw this cover, only to be sorely disappointed, cheated even, by the inside pages. Why can't DC be confident enough in its own actual material to not resort to such gimmicks? I know that the Justice League helps sell books, but if you're going to include the JL, actually include them! Don't do this.

Bad storytelling. So I do feel a little sympathy for Tony Bedard. He only had 20 pages to try to build a whole world and introduce a classic, but updated character to the New 52. However, that doesn't excuse him for setting up situations he can't resolve. Beowulf kills the monster in a very public area, and he is quickly surrounded by tons of police officers. Our mammoth hero gets an unreadable expression on his face — is he grinning, scowling, meditating? — and then on the very next page, we see him riding away on one of the cop's horses. The only help we get as readers is a small caption that reads "3 minutes later..." I seriously thought I was missing a page. But I guess I wasn't, and I'm supposed to fill in those missing three minutes myself. Somehow, Beowulf distracted or slaughtered (I'm guessing slaughtered, he seems like a pretty violent guy) the policemen, and stole the horse, and made it back to the museum before anybody noticed. And he must have created a big diversion, because nobody was following them, as suggested by Gwendolyn's line that "It won't be long before they find the horse outside the museum." Seriously, what the heck just happened?

And thus ends the ill-fated DC Universe Presents. I believed in the concept behind this series, but it was sorely mishandled in all areas, including the name of the book. And now, with this abysmal issue, the series is gone. Hopefully it'll come back in a better form, with a simpler name like Showcase. And hopefully, DC will learn that readers don't like being lied to.

Final score: 2 out of 10

Next time: Good question. I started this blog one year after the New 52 began, so I had plenty of back issues to go through and organize in chronological order. It was also easier when Flash was only appearing in his title and Justice League. But now, I've essentially caught up, and it's become a lot trickier. Right now, I have four main story lines that I need to place into some kind of order. First, there's the Flash's three-issue guest appearance in the Justice League Dark Horror City story. Then there's the seven issues Flash appeared in for the Trinity War, which recently concluded. And, of course, we could never overlook the Reverse-Flash story line, which is still ongoing. And the fourth story I've made separate is The Flash Annual #2, which feels like it ought to take place before Reverse-Flash. Flash is already living with Patty, but there doesn't seem to be any pressing need to find the Speed Force Killer. I'm not sure if Trinity War should happen before or after Reverse-Flash, but I guess I have to go with whichever ended first. So, for now the plan is Justice League Dark Horror City, then Flash Annual #2, then Trinity War, then Reverse-Flash. Unless I change my mind.

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