The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

It’s the most most wonderful time of the year! NO! I do not mean Christmas (Christmas is also pretty rad though!) This week was Arrowverse Crossover Week!

The second best week of the year, after Halloween/My Birthday, where The CW and Greg Berlanti take us on a glorious romp, where Oliver Queen is grumpy at Kara Zor-El Danvers and Barry Allen. Where they world hop as we would jump on a bus! And where secrets that these heroes don’t know yet, but we, we as comic book fans, hold in our hearts are revealed.

This year was never going to live up to last year’s truly exceptional Crisis On Earth-X, where the entire stable of heroes took on the Nazi versions of themselves and their friends and family. (Seriously, how sad was it watching Nazi-Tommy Merlyn try to kill Oliver? Or Nazi-Papa Lance put Sara in a concentration camp?) It was intentionally scaled back to 3 episodes instead of 4, thus leaving the Legends out. (A bummer, everything is better with Legends…) 

But it had a few things going for it too. John Wesley-Shipp playing The Flash of Earth 90! (AKA, The Flash he played on The Flash in 1990. He’s also The Flash on The Flash that’s on The CW on a couple of alternate Earths, and The Flash’s dead Dad.) Introduction of Lois Lane! (Elizabeth Tulloch, who was wonderful!) Introduction of Batwoman! (Ruby Rose, also good.) THE MOTHER FUCKING MONITOR! (Remember, my first real deep dive into superhero comics came via Grant Morrison. This is a guy I like.)

Anyway, it’s important to remember the cornerstones of these Crossovers:

  1. Oliver is Grumpy. And violent.
  2. Barry is peppy, and optimistic and LOVES SCIENCE.
  3. Kara is the Mom friend, and Barry is her favored child.
  4. We must be reminded the Barry and Felicity dated, but now Barry and Iris ARE SO IN LOVE THAT IT BLINDS EVEN THE SUN. Also, Oliver and Felicity have ISSUES. Kara and Alex love each other more than they could ever love an SO.
  5. Cisco and Diggle will be delightful in their own ways. But always, always, delightful. (Jimmy got to be delightful this time too! Good for you Jimmy!)

Anyway, now into this specific crossover. Entitled Elseworlds, we start with the monitor giving Gotham based Psychologist John Deegan a magic book that rewrites reality. Being, kind of a twit, Deegan uses the book to switch Barry Allen and Oliver Queen’s lives. Not a body swap, they’re themselves, it’s just that everyone thinks Oliver is Barry (and he has The Flash’s powers) and that Barry is Oliver (he can beat the shit out of Diggle. Which. No.) Barry is kind of delighted by the switch, until he realizes it’s implications for his life. (Oliver and Iris in bed together) Oliver is annoyed, not just because like, dude just got out of prison (I think? I haven’t watched Arrow in years.) but because the whole huggy touchy feely aspect of being on Team Flash just doesn’t fit his vibe.

So after a brief sojourn in The Flash’s secret meta tunnel, they decide that if they go over to Earth-38, to see if this new reality has even infected Kara.

It hasn’t, and she’s hanging out on the Kent farm, talking about her feelings with Clark while Lois buzzes around being the best. Tyler Hoechlin continues to be staggeringly good as Clark Kent/Superman, (and an evil version in Parts 2 & 3) and this whole segment was like getting a warm hug for me. From starting the visit with an overhead shot of Smallville and Remy Zero’s “Save Me,” blaring, to Clark’s calm confidence brushing up against Oliver’s dark arrogance and Barry’s hyper excitement, you know one thing, Berlanti & Co, get Superman. They get him hardcore in a way I don’t know if anybody since Richard Donner has. (Really, though, that Smallville call out was amazing. I started my journey with these characters through that show.)

Anyway, after some training and arguing and Mama Kara setting everyone straight, Cisco comes and fetches everyone (including Clark! SQUEE!) to fight AMAZO in Central City. They do, it’s wonderful and they learn, quickly, that they need to go to Gotham, for reasons.

They are immediately mugged. (Ah, Gotham!) Then they’re arrested, and bailed out and chauffeured to Wayne Tower. (Kara’s remark that “Bruce Wayne bailed us out? That doesn’t sound like him,” lead me to believe that Kara and Bruce’s relationship on Earth-38 is kinda fraught, which is cool. It actually made me think of Batman/Superman: Apocalypse, which is one of my favorite stories.)  But of course it isn’t Bruce, because Bruce and Batman mysteriously disappeared at the same time a few years ago. (Kara makes sarcastic comments about this too. Kara’s Batman knowledge rubbing up against Oliver and Barry not even being sure he exists is one of the best things here) It’s his cousin! Kate Kane! She’s Batwoman, she and Kara flirt, and talk about long shadows and doing the right thing and it’s pretty excellent. After this fight and the revelation of the Book of Destiny, Kate basically tells the others to get the ef out of her city now, kthnxbi! (Bruce would be so proud. *Sniff*)

In the end of the episode, The Monitor is confronted by The Flashes (Oliver and Flash-90) Green Arrow (Barry) and Supergirl. He’s impressed that they’ve done better than any other group of heroes he’s tested and warns them that a Crisis is coming. Since ya can’t have a Crisis without a dead Flash (I don’t make the rules) Flash-90 gets zapped out of existence. Onto 6 years of bit parts before playing the greatest TV dad ever. (MITCH LEERY RULES!)

After this confrontation, we get another reality rewrite, and a black suited Superman lands to take out a leather jacketed and bandannaed Oliver and Barry.

They fight, and scheme and learn that this isn’t Superman at all, but Deegan! DUN DUN! They decide to go get the real Superman, so they have to find Cisco. And find him they do!

I love Cisco all the time, but I particularly love alternate Ciscos, and this one is no different! He’s a mobster who own a bar and uses his Vibe abilities to break into banks. (Dante’s still dead though.) Oliver and Barry convince him through the power of friendship (or whatever) to go to Earth-38 and pick up Clark. (They also pick up Lois, Brainiac-5 and J’onn) the two Supermen fight and it’s awesome.

Meanwhile, Earth-1 Alex (WHO EXISTS! And has a terrible wig) is guarding Kara who convinces her to A) Come out of the Closet in this reality. (All Alex’s are gay, I guess?) and B) Fight on their side rather than evil Superman.) All is set right when Oliver confronts the Monitor again, and sacrifices something oh, and also Batwoman’s still a thing, and Crisis on Infinite Earths is coming. Back on Earth-38, Clark and Lois reveal that they’re pregnant and get engaged, and that they’re moving to Argo City for a while, because they don’t want to raise a Kryptonian child on Earth. (Fair.) I think they’ll be back soon though.

Some random thoughts that made me clap my hands:

  • The Wayne Tower wi-fi password is “Alfred”
  • Gary from Legends was the bartender at Gangster-Cisco’s bar. Jimmy was his muscle. It was cute.
  • Everytime Barry said, “You have failed this city” I guffawed.
  • When Flash-90 saw Diggle he said, “John! You don’t have your ring!” DIGGLE IS JOHN STEWART ON EARTH-90 AND IF DAVID RAMSEY AS A GREEN LANTERN ISN’T A THING WE GET TO SEE SOMEDAY I WILL NEVER FORGIVE GREG BERLANTI! EVER! You can’t tease that, even the guy who bought infinite good will by making Joey and Pacey a thing, and not follow through.
  • Batwoman should be good. I think they laid an OK foundation here and Rose has a decently fun energy. I’m planning on finally watching Titans this weekend, hopefully neither lets me down as a Bat-verse show the way Gotham did.
  • As Ok-ish as Batwoman will probably be. (And look, Berlanti hasn’t delivered a total turd yet. Even Season 1 of Legends has it’s moments) I want a Lois and Clark show yesterday. My LORD they were excellent.
  • Speaking of Clark, apparently Michael Rosenbaum and Tom Welling were meeting with Berlanti this week. As we have Clark in Hoechlin and Jon Cryer will be playing Lex on Supergirl, I imagine they’ll either be playing other characters (a la Erica Durance, Helen Slater, Dean Cain and Terry Hatcher) or we’ll get a quick glimpse of the Smallville earth during the Crisis. Frankly, I would love a moment where Welling, Hoechlin, Cain and Brandon Routh all connected. Elseworlds was great, but not having The Legends did prevent the Clark meets Ray encounter of my dreams.
  • As usual, this has made me want to catch up on The Flash, so I’ve finished season 4. I’m probably going to watch the first half of season 5 in the next week or so. It might take Stephen Ammel coming to my house and holding me in his beautiful muscular arms himself to get me to catch up on Arrow though. Binging The Flash is nearly always an unexpected joy, even watching a little of Arrow at this point feels like a chore. More on all of that in the weeks to come, I think.
  • I requested Crisis On Infinite Earths from the library this week, and dusted off my copy of Final Crisis, not that I think Final Crisis will ever factor into this version, I just love it a lot. These characters’ dumb little Berlanti Brains probably couldn’t handle the Morrison stuff. (Except maybe the Legends, who basically are his JLA.)

45 Books In 2018 #44: Lasher By Anne Rice

It’s almost always the case that answers are rarely if ever as satisfying as mysteries. So all of the gothic weirdness and questions that made me absolutely love The Witching Hour, were answered, kind of stupidly in Lasher.

What is Lasher? A demon? A ghost? The same brand of dark spirit that possessed Akasha and created vampires? (I’m not going to lie, this is sort of what I was hoping for…the book does mention David Talbot’s disappearance, just as Body Thief mentioned Aaron Lightner needing Deborah Mayfair’s portrait for the family. The links begin to form! The tower has many levels.) Nope, turns out he was just a different species of humanoid, the Taltos, born without a soul, thus not allowed to Heaven or Hell, and reborn over and over again as the genetics of the Mayfairs allowed.

OK, that’s also kind of weird, but it’s not the brand of weird and mysterious and dark that I was hoping for here, which makes the sequel to The Witching Hour (possibly my favorite book I’ve read this year, but we’ll get there) something of a let down. Lasher is almost all answers and very few questions, pretty much the only questions left are how much the Mayfairs knew when Rowan and Michael returned to New Orleans (sort of interesting) and are we going to forgive Michael for sleeping with one of Rowan’s teenage cousins. (Seriously, Mrs. Rice? I mean really?)

There’s still another book in the Lives Of The Mayfair Witches, plus the places it apparently crosses over with Vampire Chronicles, but at the moment, I’m a little bummed out.

As a sequel this didn’t live up, though as a speculative fiction novel itself, it was very good. It’s well written, the plot stays moving, the characters develop in interesting and yet trackable ways. But man, as answers to creepy questions go? It sucked all of the magic out of the story.

Up next is TV: The Book: Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows Of All Time by Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz. I’m jonesing hard for some non fiction and I’ve always really enjoyed both Sepinwall and Zoller Seitz’s writing, so I’m looking forward to it.

45 Books In 2018 #43: The Tale Of The Body Thief by Anne Rice

In which Lestat has a fun body switch adventure. And we learn that Claudia might be a ghost.

Since diving into The Vampire Chronicles I’ve been wondering if Rice was capable of writing another breezy horror adventure in the same vein as Interview, since while I love Lestat and Queen Of The Damned they got awfully bogged down in history and metaphysics.

There’s some of that in Body Theif, but it’s mostly just fun silliness and a bit of gothic angst. Lestat is approached by a disgraced member of the Talamasca, Raglan James, who’s developed the magic power to possess other bodies. He offers our favorite vampire the chance to be human again, they’ll switch bodies for a few days and then switch back.

Since his whole, “Imma be a rockstar and unite vampires and humans,” gambit didn’t work out (THANKS FOR THAT AKASHA!) Lestat’s been feeling the ennui so he agrees if only for the novelty. Of course James doesn’t keep to the plan so, Lestat and his friend (also Talamasca) David Talbot go off to hunt him.

They go on a cruise! They set Louis on fire! I repeat, they COMMUNE WITH CLAUDIA’S GHOST (maybe?) Seriously, this is the kind of bonkers one off adventure that I read long running genre series for. When the characters have settled into themselves and you can just set them off on something, it’s the best kind of book like this.

There’s also the small details here, that the minute Lestat gets a human body all he wants to do is fuck. As usual, with our favorite pansexual vampire rockstar brat, it’s men and women, but seriously, this is his first instinct. Oh, he also adopts a dog named Mojo. (Y’all, I seriously cannot wait for the TV series. Because if they get to this book, it will be the kind of one off season that people either think is totally brilliant or hate.

Anyway, I loved this one, and I’ll stand by it as a favorite (I know I have like six books left in the series, but so far, I like it best!) Up next is Lasher also Anne Rice, not because I’m so into her right now (Though I am) but more because it’s due back to the library this week and I’m out of renewals for it!

1+1=3

There’s a moment towards the end of Springsteen On Broadway where The Boss, after talking about the darkness of our times, the difficulties of absorbing the world as it is right now after making a study of the American soul over the course of his life, and his hope in the youth of our country, plays the mournful Grapes Of Wrath themed masterpiece of a ballad “The Ghost Of Tom Joad,” and the lights go out, as he finishes, and they turn blue as they switch back on, and he plays, “The Rising.” It’s a moment of art and wonder, symbolising the fall and rebirth of the American dream, the inevitability of each generation. It’s a beautifully artistic moment bringing you into the end of an evening where things that were infinitely familiar to me, were stripped down, re contextualized and elevated.

I was born, and I was a Bruce Springsteen fan. I was baptized twice, once with water and Chrism and once in the surf of The Jersey Shore (which, Bruce assures us, he invented, pretty much.) (He also assures us, several times throughout the evening that he’s full of shit.) At fifteen I stood before a bishop and took a new name, confirming my place as an adult in the church, but the year before I’d heard Clarence whale the sax on “Thunder Road,” confirming my life long love of this music.

Springsteen On Broadway is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen, and that includes the ten or so times I’ve seen the man perform live before. The stripped down arrangements of the music, the sheer raw intimacy of the thing, is beyond compare. It’s uplifting and emotionally exhausting, and a singularly illuminating look into a mind of artist, who’s work has meant so much to me.

Anyway, the show goes onto Netflix in 10 days, and I’m immensely grateful for the chance to see it live. (Even if my credit card company isn’t.) I’m sure I’ll watch it many more times, because it’s deeply moving and truly special, an essential entry for any Springsteen fan.

45 Books In 2018 #42: The Historian By Elizabeth Kostova

There’s a handful of good ideas in in Kostova’s novel, that never really gel together. A brainy teenager (with that old Gothic standby of not having a name) tracing a secret long kept by her loving parent, while the other is absent, a secret society of scholars hunting for the truth about Vlad The Impaler discover that the vampiric legends surrounding him are true, and Vlad Dracul’s descendants grapple with the legacy of evil left behind.

None of it quite gets there, as The Historian can’t commit to one of these narratives and tries to get all three in there. While the stylistic choice to mirror Brahm Stoker’s Dracula is a fun one, the diary within a diary within a diary conceit of this book makes it often hard to track.

A globe trotting thriller that’s never quite thriling and a horror novel that’s only scary for a few pages, a semi-sequel to Dracula where he only appears for like ten pages (and they are the best 10 pages of the book) everything about The Historian feels half baked. It’s also from that precious time fifteen years ago where every book seemed like it was trying to ape The DaVinci Code‘s formula of academics uncovering ancient and shocking secrets as they stumble through catacombs in Europe.

I enjoyed it enough that I was able to push through the more banal parts to the actually exciting conclusion, but not enough to really recommend it as a read to most people. It’s a fun read for anyone who’s really into vampire fiction. (Like Me!) It’s ties to Stoker’s original are worthwhile and the way it draws on the actual story of Vlad The Impaler somewhat creative, but it would have been altogether a better book if Kostova had picked one track and stuck with it, rather than trying to cover everything here.

Up next I’m sticking with vampires but we’re checking back in with Lestat in The Tale Of The Body Theif. I’ve missed that arrogant little SOB, I really, really have.