Sunday, January 21, 2007

Bad Idea / Good Idea, and when continuity matters.

Last year, I made a post about how every single character, no matter how lame, how silly or how old, was someone’s favorite. (In case you’re curious, it was this one )

What prompted that post was my concern for one of my old favorites, Robbie Baldwin, aka. Speedball. When I did the post, I hadn’t read anything of Civil War, but I knew that things were not looking good for him and the New Warriors. Despite my misgivings, I caved in and bought Civil War 1 and was appalled as to how they were written because, frankly? None of them sounded in character. However, I understood the need for a huge catastrophe, and thought, ok. I hate that Namorita and co. are dead, but hell, the situation called for it, and while I rather have the Dan Slott version of what happens to small towns when supervillians and superheroes duke it out (Aka. the ‘Hulk has never taken an innocent life’ defense), I understand why Marvel thought they needed to be a bit grimmer.

At least no one was getting raped.

Then I got Frontline, and was pleasantly surprised to see that Speedball had survived the blast due to his powers. And that he was saying what everyone should’ve noticed since the fourth page of Civil War: It wasn’t the heroes that caused the blast. It wasn’t the heroes who were responsible. It was Nitro.

For 8 issues of Frontline, that was Robbie’s only defense (Btw, I love She Hulk, but her appearance as Speedball’s lawyer was abysmal. No matter how much she wanted to push the Registration on him, she should’ve never advice him to plead guilty. He was innocent, doing all the things every single other superhero has ever done. But I digress).

Due to a lot of traveling, I missed getting Frontline 9, and so, Frontline 9 and 10 were waiting for me in my pull list the next time I went to the comic book store. I flipped through them –a habit I have- and upon hitting the last page of Frontline 10, I promptly canceled my subscription.

I can’t buy a book where the character I’m following does a 180° change of mind without any explanation or real reason. Robbie’s powers mutated –why? It’s anyone’s guess- and he killed four people. That I can buy. That I can sort of understand. The fact that suddenly he’s blaming himself for all the Stamford’s deaths is absurd. He wasn’t the one who blew up then, he wasn’t the one who purposely blew up next to a school yard.

Not to mention, that, really, Penance’s suit is the worst thing I’ve seen in a comic book in a long, long time.

But what really, really nags me of all this is that continuity wise it makes no sense. Not that there are a lot of things in Civil War that make sense in continuity, but this particular one is, frankly, one of the worst I’ve seen.

Way back in the 90’s, there was this completely stupid crossover done by Marvel, in which every single hero was attacked by his evil clone. The Infinty War crossover was one of those things that I didn’t understood at all because I only got to read the issues of the series I was reading, including New Warriors 27, which surprisingly was a Speedball solo issue.

That’s right. Speedball vs. Blackball. Even the cover claimed it was because no one demanded it.

It was also the issue when Robbie’s dad, the DA on a town where masked heroes *were* illegal, found out that his son was a superhero. His mom had known for a couple of issues before, when the New Warriors saved her from the Force of Nature.

Now. Robbie arrives to Springdale after his double. The town has been half destroyed to the point of that the orders on Speedball are ‘shoot to kill on sight’. What does Robbie do when he realizes he’s been accused of something he didn’t do?

“I can’t surrender myself- They’ll never believe it wasn’t me who did all this!. Especially cro-magdad—he thinks Speedball is responsible for everything wrong from the trade deficit to Hammer’s last album! I can’t hold out either—if they start shooting at me, the ricochets could hurt this family--!”

Exclamation points aside, we can see his two priorities : Finding the right culprit and not letting the family behind him to get hurt.

WHEN the police start shooting as he flees, he realizes he can’t let the bullets bounce off him as he usually does, and he actually manages to stop them with his bubbles. This was back when Nicieza was doing all kind of weird experiments with Robbie’s powers, making him a whole lot more interesting. The panel with the cops watching the bullets fall is priceless.

But the big pay off of the issue, and the reason why it popped into my mind as soon as I started reading about ‘Penance’ and later, thanks to scan daily, the actual dialogue of the scene when he puts that torture kit they’re calling a suit, was the final confrontation between Speedball and his dark side, at his house, when his darkside is threatening his mom.

Now. This was the 90’s. The decade best known for suffering heroes, unending angst and ‘cool’ and ‘dark’ stories. And Speedball faced his dark side, conquered it, was quite bothered as to how he managed to conquer it, which stayed with him more or less until he was replaced by someone else pretending to be him. Even so, the guy pretending was a perfect copy of Robbie, and was the one who brought closure to Robbie’s relationship with his dad.

Sure, it took roughly 30 issues, but it dealt with Robbie’s issues with his anger, his lack of control with his powers, his relationship to both parents, and a final resolution to the ‘Art / Law’ debate. That’s character evolution, and the excuse that it was the same writer doesn’t work since it was dealt by three different writers as far as I remember.

Going from “I’m not guilty” to “Accepting guilt would be accepting my friends are dead” to “It was all my fault, 121 points of pain” in the lapse of 10 half issues? Not so much.