Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Spotlight hero

Every comic blog has to champion an obscure character[1], and if you don't count Cir-El, Fantomah, Moon Girl, Sun Girl, or any of the others I've written about because it's not like writing about obscure comics heroines is a recurring theme or anything, or alternatively just stick with the one in current continuity, the winner is Doctor Light.

So I'm thinking of doing that hugely fannish thing of reading and blogging every single appearance of Doctor Light in order. But before I do, I thought I should comment on her recent run in the Justice League of America, since it's about as close to current as I ever do.[2]

It starts strongly with Justice League of America #27-30, a tale by Dwayne McDuffie that goes a long way toward telling the story we've been waiting around for since Kimiyo was depowered in 2006. McDuffie can't give us Kimiyo's triumph over EDL[3] as he has in the meantime been turned into a candle by the Spectre, but he does craft a story that fills in a lot of the gaps, and sees her repowered with the help of Milestone heroes Icon, Hardware, and the Shadow Syndicate, and given a snazzy new revamp of her costume.

McDuffie also manages to hint at the kind of power that Kimiyo has not been shown to use in a very long time. Even before she is repowered, and without the new costume that is supposed to focus or enhance her powers in some vague technobabble way, she is shown moving at light speed. Even the Flash only does that on special occasions and needs a good run up; Kimiyo can do that from a standing start. We later find that although she can absorb nearby light sources for power, she is also still connected to the star Vega, which gives her an incredible source of raw power, and possibly qualifies her as a fusionkaster[4]. Basically McDuffie establishes her as the heavy hitter she was always intended to be.
Sadly, this run on Justice League was one of the last things Dwayne McDuffie wrote before he died, but it is a fine example of his strength as a writer and his commitment to diversity, crafting a team that is perhaps one of the most racially and sexually diverse incarnations of the Justice League. He is followed for one story by Len Wein, who writes a decent Kimiyo; she is abrasive toward the frivolous Plastic Man, who she is teamed with, but eventually comes to appreciate his good qualities.

And then the rot sets in, as James Robinson arrives to helm one of the least liked runs of Justice League in recent history.

Remember how I said McDuffie couldn't give Kimiyo a cathartic triumph over her rapist because the Spectre got to the scumbag first? Well Blackest Night means that Robinson can dig him up[5] and tell that now superflous story. But wait, it gets worse. I can only read what happens as somehow a desire to in some way retell the whole rape story, perhaps for those who came in late or something? I don't know. either way, he has EDL being all rapey, and, after licking a dead little girl, attacking Kimiyo, who for the purposes of this story is inneffectual against Black Lantern Evil Rapey Doctor Light, even though the black Lanterns' big weakness is her primary powerset, and tearing her clothes off.

Anyway, after several pages of BLERDL being all expositional, he threatens Kimiyo's children, and she remembers that she can channel a star and fries his ass. It is not only an ugly and obvious telling of a story that now didn't need to be told, but in its effort to hit every wrong note when telling a rape story, also manages to be visually voyeuristic.

Robinson almost immediately replaces the entire team with a combination of white [6] heroes from the Teen Titans and generic Justice League, and while Kimiyo hangs on until #43 she's mostly just standing at the back and filling out crowd scenes. When she does speak she has no recognisable character traits. She's put on a bus off panel, leaving to look after a sick child. Given the way Robinson writes her when he does make her the focus, it's difficult to be too disappointed to have her leave the team.

She's seen twice more, filling out crowd scenes to show how important the story is by having lots of heroes show up, first in #51 and then again in #56, where the artist[7] gives her a costume that is different from either of the two she has worn previously in this series, which seems a bit lazy. She might only be a cameo here, but she was a member of the main team only a few issues previously.

So as the current era of DC fades into the west, I'm glad to see Doctor Light get some good resolution to her story arc and membership of DC's top team for a while.  The good characterisation given to Kimiyo by Dwayne McDuffie is a satisfying conclusion, and anything beyond that is irrelevant.

And so, having told the end of the story, while we wait for Kimiyo to show up in the DCnU, I shall next go back to the beginning, way back to Crisis on Infinite Earths #4.

1) It's in the rules.
2) She guest starred in several issues of Supergirl recently, too, but I haven't read them yet.
3) Evil Doctor Light
4) See Nexus by Mike Baron and Steve Rude
5) Even though there was no body. How do you get better from being a candle?
6)Okay, technically one's green and one's blue, but they are still white.
7) Following his example, I couldn't be bothered to look up his name.


Robert 'staredcraft' Willing said...

First of all I'm glad to see you doing more Dr.Light stuff, I have always loved that first article you did.

Secondly I talked to Robinson himself a while back and he told me straight up 1) he IS a true blue Kimiyo fan however he wanted to get her out of what he felt was a japanese stereotype of being angry asian which I respect. and 2) he DID have LOADS moer planned for her but then DC editorial made him change teh cast again just after he was to have had it set up and he had no choice but to write her out. I personally found his take on her not THAT bad and we've seen worse of course.

Marionette said...

I have to say I'm not aware of this stereotype that annoys Robinson, and I can't offhand think of any other bitchy DC heroines, so taking that away from her doesn't work for me, especially since he a) gave no reason for her change in personality, and b) didn't give her any characterisation to replace it.

I've actually started a follow-up piece to this that focusses on Kimiyo's appearances in Superman titles during Robinson's run, but I haven't read them all yet.

Robert Willing said...

Well "I" have seen examples of Bitchy Japanese women who care more about perfection. Also I feel he WAS trying to go for her being more kinder/motherly aspect to herself. Basically he wanted her anger to NOT be her defining trait. Again I'm NOT picking sides entirely (Since I actually heard him out on all this) I'm just playing devil's advocate.

Also I wil ladmit I feel Sterling Gates during Supergirl did handle Kimiyo as a nice bridge between her bitchy self and what Robinson was doing. He had her be kind but stern, she knew what had to be done and was willing to do so, but she wasn't so cold she had no remorse.

Look I just see it that Robinson DID probably have MUCh more planend to expand her personalityh. Remember he had to drop her like THREE or so issues after Blackest Night when he changed her, AND he had to end his Superman stories far too early too for JMS. He's admitted he DID have a plan and would love to continue to use her. With his sinserity and the fact he clearly is a Kimiyo fan, I wouldn't mind for him to be the one to do a rework from the ground up take on her for the DCnU...but that's just mean.

Just keep that in mind, Robinson had a plan, it was pulled out from under him