Saturday, March 10, 2007

[Reading List] Epic Madness

I'm keeping a list of all the books I've read this year over on my LiveJournal. Every once in a while I feel compelled to write a review. I'll put them here, too, after I get a chance to cool off and edit them. - Original Post

Kingdom Come (novelization) - Elliot S. Maggin
Infinite Crisis (novelization) - Greg Cox

I suppose that one is expected to become accustomed to substandard writing when one reads novel adaptations of comics. In many cases of the novelization products of many different corporate properties, there is a ton of drek to sort through before you reach something of literary quality. (I make no stipulations for or against the idea that the percentage is any higher in genre fiction than it is in normal fiction, however.)

One of these books nearly made the grade.

Major corporations with tons of money trying to make more would do well to note that substandard editing should be inexcusable. Even if you are used to excusing it when colorists and artists habitually confuse the race of characters - (how can you let the colorist on Day of Judgement forget that THIS girl is black? Or the recurrent artistic amnesia or inability to portray Connor Hawke as mixed race? My first few experiences of Kyle Rayner, I thought he was asian - they appeared to be drawing face of a character who turned out to be of Irish/Latino blood. To be fair, though, at that time Kyle Rayner hadn't been around for too long and it may not have been sufficiently determined. But, enough social commentary, back to the review.)

Kingdom Come is an excellent novelization of an excellent graphic novel. (I make this assumption from the inclusion of the additional scenes that were only in the graphic novel.) The original work is one of my favorite graphic novels. I never agreed with the few gripes I'd heard that the story was lesser for the sake of the art. I'd always thought they complemented each other well.

It is nearly ruined for me, however, by poor editing near the end.

Infinite Crisis, on the other hand was an enjoyable, if mediocre adaptation of inconsistent material with a good story. I did like it... Until I read it immediately after Kingdom Come, which is infinitely better than it, and could have stood alone as a literary work, had the editor of Elliot's text been AWAKE. I really won't have much to say about Infinite Crisis. It's here, really, just to compare. If you haven't caught all of the events of Infinite Crisis, you might want to catch it, for completeness, to know the story. But it's nothing in and of itself.

You tell me, which is the best death and reaction scene for a minor character?....

"What?" Black Condor blurted in surprise. An alarmed expression came over his face, but before he could explain, a beam of searing yellow energy burned straight through his unprotected chest, emerging from his back right between his wings. Uncle Sam had to jump out of the way to avoid being pierced by the beam
himself.
"Arrrr!" Kendall cried out as he died.
"Condor!" Phantom Lady shrieked. -- From Infinite Crisis by Greg Cox



"I said 'two sugars,' you ignorant cow," were the last words Theresa Freed heard before Vandal Savage snapped her neck and left her draped over the back of her desk chair.
I felt a chill wave across the ether as the Spectre bristled, even before I realized that the brute had murdered the girl. My companion had a particular aversion, it seemed, to the black-bearded immortal with the big hands. The frustration was born of his being somehow beyond the Spectre's reach. -- From Kingdom Come by Elliot S Maggin


To be fair, there is a marked difference in the literary quality of the stories being adapted, but the difference goes beyond that. Perhaps the material Greg Cox was working with wasn't the best, but surely he could have come up with a better writing style and more realistic dialog for the deaths of the Freedom Fighters. I think that the basic quality of the writing of the novels shows a much larger difference than could be accounted for by mere plot. From smoother description, that does much to capture my memory of Alex Ross's art, to smother dialog, which adds words and phrases and interchanges to Mark Waid's originals, generally without throwing the flow of the story off, Maggin's style deepens the experience of the original. It plays to the different strengths of pure text as well as the graphic novel plays to the strengths of the medium of pictures.

I especially enjoyed the addition of reasoning behind Clark's vulnerability to magic. I can't say for sure, but it sounds like an idea straight from Waid himself.

The difference in the quality of the writing is marked. The opening vignette on the chapter titled "Citizen Wayne" is a priceless addition, a depiction of an aging Batman, now happy for the first time. He is someone that I like much better than Frank Miller's tortured psychopath even while he undoubtedly owes much to that earlier character.

Of course, Mr Maggin takes these vignettes one step too far, and, with the failure of his editor, it is his downfall. In one of the last in an entire chapter of little scenes, Nightstar takes Dick Grayson away from Kansas to the Rockies, where he awakens hours later. Somehow, he also shows at the United Nations, when the heroes get there right after Superman comes down from his world-shattering rage.

Now it could perhaps work if the man who is invulnerable enough to survive the explosion and faster than a speeding bullet, and would have to be completely out of his mind in a murderous rage to even CONSIDER hurting a normal person, was either unconscious (which is never shown in either version of the story) or in this murderous rage for hours or days, as it says that several hours later, Dick flags down a truck and it takes Nightstar time to recover. She flys him into the United Nations Courtyard.

It happens, I'm sure, because Nightwing is shown there in the graphic novel, no doubt. But there is a story reason to have him there, to reconcile with Bruce. The reconciliation with Nightstar was much less important, and should have been cut for continuity.

Or perhaps I'm not being fair. It is entirely possible that, on exposure to high levels of radiation, rather than getting leukemia and dying, Nightstar and Dick Grayson spontaneously generated the power of being in two places at once. Stranger things have happened in comics. It's just that usually they invite more comment.

Bad editing. Ruining my happy story by less than 2 paragraphs. The editor must have known, as well, because their name isn't anywhere on it. Elliot, you should be mad at him. If it were you, you should be FURIOUS at yourself, because, otherwise, this was one of the best books I've read this year.

Guess I can't have everything.

All right, guys, until next time - Same Goddess Time, Same Goddess Station!
(copyrighted material used under the fair use provision for purposes of review only)

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