Thursday, July 19, 2012
For the first time, however, a book has come along that is such a mess as to make it almost impossible to review as a book itself. Static Shock: Supercharged is a terrible, terrible mess of muddled and conflicting storylines; the cluttered, distorted artwork only makes matters worse.
The difficulty apparently stems from conflicts between writer John Rozum and artist (and later writer) Scott McDaniel; it's unclear who's dictating the plot at what point, but by the climax of Static's first storyline in the sixth issue, the book has stopped making sense from page to page, with characters appearing from nowhere and spouting incomprehensible nonsense.
Reports say Rozum left the series early and that McDaniel wrote most of it himself, which would place most of the fault for this book at McDaniel's feet (McDaniel is the first-named writer in the credits), though surely both creators, plus editor Harvey Richards, share some blame. That the book's final issue conflicts not only with DC New 52 continuity but the internal continuity of the story up to that point suggests that more than a few people had abandoned their responsibilities by the end (Static was mercifully cancelled prior to the DC New 52's Second Wave, making Supercharged the first and only DC New 52 Static collection).
Rozum, in a post about his experience, claims he had to speak out about his difficulties on Static Shock so that he would not be tarnished by poor work that wasn't his. This is sensible, though the loser is undoubtedly the reader, who reads Static knowing that even if they enjoy the book, there's still a cloud of conflict hanging over it. What may redeem Static, however, counter-intuitively, is that McDaniel still appears proud of and stands by his work.
Indeed Supercharged, including the parts that McDaniel claims, is not well done, but it emerges slightly ahead of what's meant to be one of the DC New 52 flagship titles, Superman. Writer George Perez has been quite vociferous about his negative experience launching Superman for the DC New 52, going so far as to say, "The people who love my Superman arc, I thank you. What you read, I don’t know." For collection readers who might have been excited to read Superman: What Price Tomorrow?, this is a splash of cold water; it's hard to enjoy a book when one knows the person who wrote it doesn't even like, and even harder to justify buying that book and knowing some of that money goes to the writer's royalties, when the writer has gone out of his way to spoil the reader's potential fun.
Rozum and McDaniel's conflict is not quite of this type, though readers might still wish Rozum could have found a way to address the conflict quietly. Amidst Rozum and McDaniel, Perez, Jim Shooter's unhappiness with his Legion of Super-Heroes run from a few years back, Chris Roberson similarly bad-mouthing the work he did on Superman: Grounded, and others, it seems almost miraculous that writer Chuck Dixon exited DC Comics in 2008 over some disagreement, but hasn't said a public word of ill about it. The reader can intuit some unhappiness inherit in Dixon's Robin: Violent Tendencies, but Dixon's silence ensures his early Robin and Birds of Prey work remains intact.
Similarly, there's no telling for what reason J. T. Krul leaves Green Arrow: The Midas Touch after three issues to be replaced by Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen, but it's a peaceful transition, one that preserves the book and makes for a cohesive reading experience from beginning to end. Tempers certainly appear to have been hotter on Static Shock, but Green Arrow is a good model for what Supercharged could have been (the book's poor writing notwithstanding) and again, the loser in all of this is the reader.
Comics creators have an unprecedented amount of access to today's fans, and this is largely a positive thing; however, books like Static Shock are a reminder that the microphone can just as easily be used to enrich the reading experience as it can to deaden it entirely.
What Rozum and McDaniel have in common, whether they realize it or not, is that whomever wrote what part, from Static Shock: Supercharged's beginning to its end Static Virgil Hawkins remains a likeable teenage character trying his best to do good. Supercharged bevy of ill-defined villains will never be seen again, but for all its problems, the book does not ruin the Static character himself. Whether Static can ever headline his own series is debatable -- one would have to worry, at this point, about the "Static curse" -- but if there's any justice, this book's failure won't keep Static from showing up elsewhere in the DC New 52 universe.
[Includes original covers, sketchbook section by Scott McDaniel with Jim Lee]
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