World War III: A week that will live on in Infamousy

Well, my Kurt LODers, the week we had all been looking forward to has come and gone – the week of DC’s World War III. It was the story too big to be told in the pages of 52 – the story that would tie up all the loose ends still lingering after twenty-five twenty sixths of the missing year had passed. It was a mega-event you could pick up all at once – like getting Infinite Crisis or Civil War all in one week. In case you missed the Legion of Doom’s coverage on Wednesday, we took you through the events as they happened. But now it’s time to look back.

So…it kind of bombed for me. The things I was most anticipating about the missing year were things like What happened to Aquaman? What was the deal with Supergirl? What happened to the Outsiders? What happened to Dick Grayson and Jason Todd? Well I got those answers, but I seriously got them in about the most underwhelming way possible.

First off, let me say that I really liked Nightwing Annual #2. To me, that was a way of telling the story of what happened in that missing year, but enveloping it within an actual narrative, with character dynamics and all that great stuff. But like the question of the Outsiders, Nightwing’s answer came completely outside of World War III.

Fine, the editors and talents on 52 say that the story just took on a life of its own, and that there really wasn’t room to tell those stories within 52. Okay. But that doesn’t excuse the completely half-hearted explanations of the other big questions. Not only did the Supergirl and Aquaman answers not have anything to do with World War III, they were so straight-forward they were almost insulting. How did Supergirl end up returning to our time? A ha! She…came through a portal. The end. How did Aquaman become that strange tentacled creature? Behold! He…um…just got changed into it. How did Jason Todd become Nightwing? He…put on the costume. And why? Because the Bat family wasn’t doing its job…even though Nightwing has been back to being Nightwing for months now.

There was no drama, no suspense, nothing compelling about those big answers. It’s like asking How did Wolverine get his metal skeleton? and the big reveal being “Someone put it in him.” Talk about a rip-off. 52 was great, but out of the other 4 issues, I would maybe take five or six pages out of them, make 52 five or six pages longer, and charge an extra quarter.

World War III was supposed to be too big for 52, but instead, it felt like they were struggling to make it fill four issues. Take out two pages of Firestorm napping on a rooftop and give me more reason to care about Supergirl returning to Earth. Take out two pages of Martian Manhunter being disturbed by telepathy and give me more reason to care about Jason Todd putting on the Nightwing costume.

That’s enough for me. Here’s what the rest of the posse had to say.

Fin Fang Doom:
I was pretty disappointed with World War III. I was hoping to see five issues of a massive fight. Instead, we got one issue of a massive fight, with four issue of massive exposition. For an event that was touted as Black Adam vs. The World, there was very little of Black Adam fighting. And all the fighting that did occur happened in 52, making the additional four parts pretty redundant.

DC could have gotten away with replaying the fight in greater detail in the four issues accompanying 52 this week. They did that during Infinite Crisis when they replayed the first Superboy-Prime fight in an issue of Teen Titans. And it was an issue that was really worth reading. These four additional issues really weren’t.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if those issues hadn’t focused to a great extent on characters I just don’t care about. And it would have helped if the stuff that happened to those characters was actually related to World War III. The bits with Supergirl, Batgirl, Manhunter and Aquaman seemed completely unconnected to the fight with Black Adam. It would have made sense to put those events in 52 itself, which regularly has side plots that aren’t related to the main story.

That also would have necessitated taking some of the specifics of the Black Adam fight out of the issue and placing them in one of the four supplementary issues. It would have made the extra issues seem more important, and less like a rehashing of things we already knew about. The only part of the final battle that really needed to be shown in 52 was the ending. Everything else, from the Doom Patrol fight to the Great Ten refusing aid to the heroes lining about along the Chinese border should have been saved for the auxiliary (I’m running out of synonyms here) issues. DC could have even saved the final moments of the fight for the beginning of 52 Week 51 and presented the ending to the fight in United We Stand. That way, readers of 52 who skipped the ancillary titles would still get all the necessary information, and the fans who did buy the extra issues would get a bonus of seeing the conclusion a week ahead of time.

It seems to me that World War III could have been a great event for DC Comics. There were some questionable storytelling choices (which I’ll address in a post on Sunday), but I think the real reason WWIII didn’t succeed as well as it could have was simply built on a shoddy foundation. By rearranging the story components they used, DC could have made the four World War III specials must-reads from the fans’ perspective without really making them must-reads in the grand scheme of 52. It could have been the very first modern comic book event that enhanced the story for those who chose to read it and didn’t detract from the story for those who chose not to. Instead we got a great issue of 52 and an underwhelming quartet of superfluous comics.

So close.

Doom DeLuise:
I liked World War III. Wednesday afternoon, I sat down at a table in my living room (we finally were able to afford a table!), with a 2-liter of Sunkist and read through it all. It was a very fun experience, and, in the end, a satisfying one.

Still, though, World War III is far from perfect. My biggest complaint with the main issue of 52 still stands as how bad the art is. It’s dreadful in spots, goofy in others, and just kind of cluttered all around. It’s strange, because the art in the four supplemental issues is really good.

So, why do I feel so, well, unsatisfied? It’s simple, really. Over the course of “52,” we’ve had a lot of build-up for characters that were previously B-listers at best. With the absence of the Big Three, we were left with The Question, Renee Montoya, Booster Gold, Steel, Ralph Dibny, and Black Adam as our main Earth-dwelling heroes. They were all built up as solid players, worthy of being able to replace Supes, Bats, and Wonder Woman in case of a great disaster.

Only, when it hit the fan, the only guy standing up to Black Adam out of our main characters is Steel. Thus, it ends up feeling anti-climactic. Black Adam’s taken down by a group of characters who, up to this point, have been given very little development in “52.” Just one year ago, we saw two Supermen, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, every superhero with the ability to fly, and every single Green Lantern try to stop the menace that was Superboy-Prime.

Compared to that, Black Adam looks like a wimp.

Jean-Claude Van Doom:
My take on DC’s WW3 in one word: Meh.

Don’t get me wrong, the fiftieth issue of 52 was good, exciting stuff, though it didn’t really reach the grandiosity that it should’ve (like him or hate him, Bryan Hitch set a new bar on world wars in the Ultimates 2). Probably the biggest problem was the structure, in which 52 was essentially an overview of the war with Black Adam, so then the other books lost their intrigue.

Also, after waiting a year for some explanations to the OYL changes, very few of the answers lived up to the wait. They all made sense, but it didn’t seem like they were that important. After this year of issues, I really wish DC would’ve stuck with its original plan of revealing these events throughout the series, as opposed to this wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am.

There were plenty of good moments in WW3, but overall it just feels like a stop-gap between Infinite Crisis and Countdown, as opposed to an event of its own.