Thursday, September 21, 2006

One, Two Punch

Y'know how I said I was working on a post about Detective 823 that I had to be careful writing? This isn't it.

It is about Detective 823, though. (Can you tell I'm procrastinating on the big post?)

So, my major complaint about the issue was the abbreviated ending. The plot's going along fine up till page 20 or so: just as Batman and Robin discover that the plant monster attacking Poison Ivy is made up of the resurrected bodies of her victims (basically putting her on the wrong side of the Swamp Thing origin story), the creature attacks, in the heart of the Batcave, and promises to kill her and anyone who gets in its way. That's a pretty good set-up.

It's a shame that Dini only has two pages left, because the entire resolution is Batman immediately releases some Bat Plant-Repellent and the creature runs away. The end.

The problem, I think, is that Dini decided to lock himself into a single issue format for his run on Detective, where each issue's main plot was wrapped up in that issue. Now, I like a good done-in-one story, but in this case I think the story would have been much better served as a two parter.

Issue one would be basically the same issue, but ending where the creature screams out its name (possibly in logo font)! Issue two would be Batman and Robin, having been put in the uncomfortable position of saving a murderer from the bloody vengeance of her own victims, teaming up with the almost assuredly treacherous but admittedly brilliant Ivy to figure out a way to stop the monster without killing it.

But then I tend to think that two-parters have the perfect pace for modern comics. One issue to explain the plot and get everyone into their positions, ending in a great cliffhanger with a one month intermission for the readers to figure out how our heroes are ever going to get out of this one, and then the second issue to provide the surprising yet ultimately obvious solution, that hopefully involves a lot of kicks to the head. One issue to set 'em up, one issue to knock 'em down.

I do know that some of my favorite stories are the two-parters. The first Zauriel story, for example, does a nice job in the first issue of explaining the four or five problems the JLA faces, including a falling Moon and Rogue Angel General on a tear in San Francisco, and the second issue resolves each conflict, one by one, until peace is restored.

Geoff Johns had a great run on JSA where every other issue ended with certain death ("Oh no, Hawkman and Sand have been poisoned and there's only enough antidote for one!") only to be followed by an issue where the team overcomes the impossible odds in some clever fashion ("Oh, Sand has turned to sand and is thus temporarily immune from poison.")

But mostly, I think the two parter takes better advantage of the serial nature of comics than the done-in-one does, without stretching out a story too much the way a five or six part arc can. The story moves, but it also has the space to get somewhere.

I think.


Brendan said...

That's an interesting observation. When you look at the current state of comics, it looks like publishers/editors/writers adopt either a "done-in-one" format for the stories or write with trade collections in mind.

The result being either quick, easily digestable stories each month that can sometimes feel rushed; or drawn out, more involved multi-part stories that can sometimes feel padded.

For my money, I'd love to see more two-parters as you described. But my guess is the comic business isn't interested in those currently.

Unknown said...

You're assuming that comic books, for the most part, are able to come out on a monthly basis.

A two-parter under certain writers could take about 7 months.

As for done-in-one, I read plenty in the '60s and '70s that work perfectly fine. But I agree that comics shouldn't lock themselves into a "one-or-six" mentality.

A little variety is always nice.

Steven said...

You're assuming that comic books, for the most part, are able to come out on a monthly basis.

Well, yeah. Obviously multi-part stories don't work well if the series isn't released regularly (or, as with the newsstands of the '60s and '70s, distribution is unreliable).

And, to be fair, the kinds of writers who blow deadlines by months aren't exactly writing done-in-ones anyway.