10 May 2017

Faster than a DC Bullet: All-New All-Different DC, Part IX: Doctor 13: Architecture & Mortality

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2007 (contents: 2006-07)
Borrowed from the library
Read February 2017
Doctor 13: Architecture & Mortality

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher

This quirky volume unites a number of has-been DC characters: Infectious Lass of the Legion of Substitute Heroes, Anthro the First Boy, Captain Fear the pirate, Doctor 13 the Ghost Breaker, Traci 13 his sorceress daughter, I... Vampire!, Genius Jones who can answer any question if you pay him a dime, the ghost of Confederate general J. E. B. Stuart, and Julius the talking Nazi gorilla of the Primate Patrol. What brings them together is that, after Infinite Crisis, all of them are going to be deleted from continuity by the writers of 52, as they clean up the DC universe and streamline out some of its weirdness or forgotten components.

And they never appeared in an adventure again.
from Tales of the Unexpected vol. 2 #8

I don't mean this metaphorically, I mean this literally. This book is about Doctor 13 and company fighting Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Geoff Johns, and Greg Rucka.

They're not wrong, you know.
from Tales of the Unexpected vol. 2 #7

Like I said, it's weird.

It's also funny, thank God. Though serious works of metafiction can exist, of course, I don't think this would work as such. The whole reason these characters are being gotten rid of is because they're goofy. Doctor 13 is a man who debunks the supernatural, which was fine when he debuted in Star-Spangled Comics #122 in 1951, but now that all of the DC's titles take place in a shared universe makes him look a bit foolish if his daughter once battled the Spectre. Azzarello and Chiang play with the innate goofiness of these characters a lot, and that's the book's real charm. For example, I loved that reading 734 books while trapped on a desert island gave Genius Jones the power to answer literally any question.

And is apparently also compelled to.
from Tales of the Unexpected vol. 2 #5

Azzarello even makes fun of himself, with the four 52 writers ("the Architects") appearing in the form of Mount Rushmore-- much like a villain Superman fought in Azzarello's Superman: For Tomorrow.

The book, I should admit, didn't always work for me. Maybe because it was originally published in eight ten-page installments, the book felt jumpy and hectic, and I wasn't sure how everything was meant to fit together. What was up with the crashed airplane in the Alps that originally sent Doctor 13 and Traci off on their investigation, for example? Why do we occasionally get single pages of irrelevant characters, like Funky Flashman running a used supercar lot, or Charlie Brown and Lucy (!) playing football? There are times where it feels like there's action just to have action.

Or this amazing image... which I don't know what it has to do with anything.
from Tales of the Unexpected vol. 2 #2

Still, there's a lot to like about the book. Cliff Chiang's artwork is always great, and this might be him at his greatest-- anything that lets him draw distinctive characters on wacky adventures is always good, and he's so good with facial expressions. I like that Doctor 13 negotiates with the Architects for a reprieve for his daughter, which they grant on the basis that they're geeks, and thus have a thing for hot half-Asian women. And it was a real reprieve, as Traci 13 will go on to be a recurring character in Blue Beetle (hence, my reading of this book at this point).

Hopefully she's broken up with Anthro by the time she hooks up with Jaime.
from Tales of the Unexpected vol. 2 #4

The last couple pages are especially great, as Doctor 13 realizes that fictional characters always only have pasts, never futures; all they consist of are the stories that have been written about them. But that means the one way the newly formed "Team 13" can be defeated is the simple turning of the last page. The Architects might not have gotten rid of these has-been characters... but I did!

And now you've killed them!
from Tales of the Unexpected vol. 2 #8
Next Week: The All-New Atom returns, with a trip to his Future/Past!

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