Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Revisions and a Review

Item #1: My second novel is going to be called All the Lonely People. Some months ago I said it would be coming out this month if I couldn't bring it to a legitimate avenue for publication. It didn't come out this month, and I haven't found any agents interested in shopping it or small presses interested in publishing it.

Right now I'm revising it. Again. Afterwards I will give it one last chance against a list of ten small presses. Having put so much work into it since the beginning of the year, it would be silly not to try again. If that doesn't work out (and I guess I don't expect it to), it will be self published. And life will go on.

Item #2: I recently watched Batman: Assault on Arkham, the new DC Comics direct-to-video animated movie. It's only a Batman movie by name, and only due to the arithmetic of the market. Although the Caped Crusader makes a few appearances, his role is largely relegated to that of a supporting character. Assault on Arkham is really about the Suicide Squad (with a focus on Deadshot), one of the greatest super-teams in all of comics (and the precursor to my favorite, the Secret Six).

The result was . . . well, nothing that really warrants a detailed review. There's a lot of blood, a lot of PG-13 partial nudity, and a lot of dubstep. The whole production seems designed by people who were once the teenage Dragonball Z fans who proclaimed the superiority of anime to Western cartoons entirely on the basis of its license to depict graphic violence and bare breasts. Now that they've grown up and can make cartoons for today's teenagers, what they're reaching for is maximum gratuity.

I had thought that the dark, ultra-violent (and actually pretty damn decent) Flashpoint Paradox owed its grimness to its pseudo-Age of Apocalypse setting, until Justice League: War demonstrated that no, actually, this was how all of the direct-to-video DC movies were going to be from now on. Assault on Arkham is par for this new course—which isn't surprising, given that Deadshot, Killer Frost, and King Shark are at the center of the action—but what left a bad taste in my mouth was who gets killed.

Maybe I'm becoming an insufferable moralist in my old age, but it bugged me that most of the Suicide Squad's collateral damage consists of Arkham Asylum staffers. These are working stiffs, not enemy combatants. The story is that the Riddler stole information about the Task Force X program from Amanda Waller, so The Wall sends the Squad out to infiltrate Arkham and get it back. (It might have made more sense for Waller to simply walk into Arkham's front door with her government spook credentials and ask for what she's looking for, but then we wouldn't have a movie.) Her team covertly breaks into Arkham, killing a bunch of totally innocent hospital staff in the process. When the operation hits a snag and the facility goes on a security alert, the team starts killing security guards instead.

In John Ostrander's Suicide Squad comics, Waller sends her team of co-opted supervillains on missions against terror cells, enemy states (which were the U.S.S.R. and Iran when Ostrander was writing in the 1980s), and drug cartels in the name of protecting American civilians and interests. Permitting her squad to carelessly murder uninvolved civilians to protect her program's secrets is absolutely against her character. She's ruthless, yes, and she plays rough. Her team is expendable—there was never any question about that, that was always the deal, and that's how it has to be where high-stakes covert operations are concerned—but Ostrander's Waller doesn't carelessly sacrifice lives, and her first priority is the safety of American citizens. The Amanda Waller we meet in Assault on Arkham is a petty, corrupt government thug, and it makes me a little sad to see this version voiced by C.C.H. Pounder, who voiced the brilliant and true-to-form depiction of the character in Justice League Unlimited.

If nothing else, Assault on Arkham compelled me to revisit the old Suicide Squad comics. Reading it again, I'm still really tickled by this meeting between Waller and Deadshot. (Context: Deadshot has been off the team and on the loose for a while, and his new client has sent him on a mission to kill Waller. Right-click + View Image to read in full size.)

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