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Redheads Review
by Marilee Stephens

Mari: Well, ladies, I hope you've had a chance to read that story I recommended to you…

Lee: That "Crown to the Aged" story that your friend, Louise Freeman-Davis, wrote… right?

Mari (nodding): Yep… That's it… So what did you think…

Jane (excitedly): I loved it… It was greatfabulous

Lee (rolling eyes): Oh… no… The Titans freak is at it again…

Mari (looking at Lee in consternation): Lee… That's not fair… I thought it was an excellent story as well… And besides (a slightly evil grin fleets around Mari's mouth)… Jane's only a Titans freak on a secondary basis… She's primarily a Wingnut/Firebug…

Lee (shaking her head in disgust): Yeah… right… whatever

Jane (in a bit of a sulking tone): And besides… I said I thought it was great… I didn't say I thought it was perfect…

Lee (hand clutched over heart, feinting shock): No! You're kidding! I just can't believe it… Let me guess… You're upset that Starfire's not in it…

Jane (casting an evil-eye in Lee's direction): No… Besides, that wouldn't be Louise's fault… That would be Mr. Ross's, and Mr. Waid's, and to a lesser extent, Mr. Maggin's fault… Louise was only working in the "guidelines" of the initial story set out by those writers…

Mari: Yes… And that is a problem when working on building a story that was initially conceived by someone else… Of course, you could say that most fiction based on previously developed characters has this problem, but there was a greater extent of it here. She was working on giving more depth to areas that were just touched on in the original Kingdom Come graphic novel and the subsequent novelization. But, with that in mind, I think she did an excellent job in filling out a number of those background glimpses of characters that weren't really explored in the original work…

Lee: Yeah… I give her that… She really fleshed out some of what, to a large extent, had been merely background characters. Admittedly, there was a bit more focus on the Titans and their kids than several of the other characters in the original material, but not a whole lot…

Jane: Hey?!?… You sound like you weren't impressed with this story…

Lee (contemplatively): Nah… It's not that. In fact, I thought the story was pretty good… But there were some things that bothered me…

Mari: Like what?

Lee: Well, it sort of grows out of some of the things that I liked… They were done so well that the few areas that I thought… Well, it wasn't that what Ms. Freeman…

Mari: Dr. Freeman…

Lee (perplexed): Huh?

Mari: It's Dr. Freeman… Not Ms. Freeman… Louise has a Ph.D.

Lee (shrugging shoulders): Oh… Okay… Anyways… I thought Dr. Freeman did a great job with looking into the kids and why they were doing what they were doing…

Jane: Yeah… She managed to provide the Titans kids with different, and unique to each, rationales as to why they would join with Bats' group… And yet make each of those reasons make sense in terms of the character that had been hinted at in the original KC work… I mean, you just have to look at what was done here with Tula's backstory…

Mari (interrupting): Yes… That was very well done in my opinion… Frankly, I liked how Louise moved past the initial "generations" theme I had gotten out of the KC books, and moved into even more of a "legacies" concept…

Jane (questioning): "Legacies"?

Mari: Yeah… You know… Like in how Tula's case, her separation from her father grew out of the current theme in the Aquaman book of "brother against brother", though, technically, Garth and Koryak aren't brothers in the physical sense, but more in terms of the differing physical to emotional relationships they've had with Arthur… Louise took that idea of the Aquaman "legacy" and made it work in the story of why Tula hated her father… I mean, c'mon… Who can hate Garth? He's a sweetheart… And yet, it was shown in the KC book that she wasn't a "fan" of his, persay… But by using the established backstory for the Aqua-mythos, Louise managed to give Tula's backstory an added poignancy that hadn't been implied in the KC work…

Lee: I think I see what you're getting at, Mari… Heck… You get the same idea of "legacy" from the backstory she gave the young Flash as well…

Mari: Precisely… I mean… Think about it… By making Bart Allen Park's "Max Mercury", not only do we see why Park acts the way that she does, but we get a glimpse at how Bart would grow from being the rather impulsive…

Lee and Jane (in unison while both grimace): "Impulsive"!

Lee: Oooo… Mari… Did you have to…?

Mari (grinning evilly): Of course… Anyways… to get back to what I was saying… But making Bart Park's mentor, we get a glimpse at how the Flash legacy worked in helping both of them.

Jane (smiling): And you gotta admit… It's hilarious to think that Bart was going to get all the crap he put Max through back at him at some point… Not *too* ironic…

Lee: I suppose… But yes… Dr. Freeman did do a good job at giving interesting backstories and complex characterizations to the Titans kids… But in contrast, I'm not sure she did their parents justice…

Mari: I'm not sure I know what you mean.

Lee: Okay… It was just a feeling I got while I was reading… But I wasn't sure just *why* the older Titans sided with Superman here…

Jane: I don't know about that, Lee… I thought she outlined Red Arrow's and Robin's reasons fairly well…

Lee: Maybe… Well, I might say so for Robin… But Red Arrow's motivation was a bit superficial, if you ask me… Yes, I can see him wanting to deal with people like Genosyde… But after a while, just from my reading of the Titans… I would have thought that he and the others would question much more what was going on… And then, there are the other Titans… What are they doing with the League?

Mari: Well, I'm not sure you're being fair to Louise here, Lee… Frankly, I would agree with you that the Titans would question more what was going on… And they did in KC itself, remember… The scene on the satellite…

Lee: That's true…

Mari: But also, Louise is working in a given framework here… That of the Titans following Superman and Wonder Woman. She couldn't very well break with that story…

Lee: Again, that's true… I guess I just didn't find enough focus on the older Titans, compared to the younger ones… Heck, even in terms of the amount of actual writing given to them…

Jane: Yeah… But think about it… With the young ones, she has a blank slate, or pretty much a blank slate, set out in front of her… She needed to take the time to fill out those characters more… And, to some extent, it was probably easier to work with those characters, as the little bit of characterization that could be gleaned from the original work left large areas to work in. With the older Titans… Well, that's not the case…

Mari: I think that's very much the situation. Heck, you just have to look at the different and interesting relationships that she developed between the younger set of Titans… Each of the different "pairings" there was also unique to the two characters involved… From Bobby and Amanda's platonic relationship… Which brought to mind, at least for me, both the relationship Donna and Dick have, but also the one that Donna and Kory had (Robert having to keep Nightstar reigned in and such)…

Jane: Yeah… That was cool… Though I'm not sure about the bit about Nightstar having *no* prior training. Even if Dick hadn't been involved, I'm sure before Kory died, she would have insisted that Amanda have some basic combat training skills… Considering how she had grown up and all…

Mari (ignoring Jane's interruption): … to the crush Park had on Bobby… Which again, made sense, as he was the only male figure in their little group, and she was still at an age where crushes matter… To the different reactions Amanda, Bobby and Park had with Tula… Such as Amanda's impatience, Robert's "guidance counselling" and Park's… defiance… For lack of a better term…

Jane: Yeah… These relationships were really well thought out… Though I do think that Lian got the short shift in that regard…

Mari: True… But then, she really wasn't involved with the others in the story as much, simply given the role she had of being Batman's mole in the JLA. Though there was enough there to at least imply that she and Nightstar had once been close… or at least, Nightstar had trusted her enough to pierce her ears… Something I wouldn't let my closest friend do… And the bit about the "Three Musketeers" when Amanda recruited Bobby…

Lee (impatiently): Excuse me… Is there a point to all this rambling?…

Mari: Yeah… yeah… There's a point… That being that Louise had the freedom to develop these relationships… They weren't defined. The older Titans' relationships with each other are defined… Their backstories are known. So I think Louise *had* to spend more time with
the younger set, or they would have been total ciphers…

Jane: And by taking the time to outline the younger Titans backstory, she did allow us to see how the older Titans developed to where they are now. Frankly, I found the bit about the Wildebeests' abduction of the kids to be very revealing. It showed not only what the how close the Titans had been to their children and how innocent the kids had been at one point, but also how tragedy, then and later on, had sown the seeds for the eventual rifts between the parents and kids. And I thought she did a great job in weaving this background material into the story, without it breaking the rhythm of the story… Heck, by using Gar to help locate Tula, she was able to bring us up to speed on why he and Vic were so different in KC from their current incarnations, and why Kory wasn't in KC, again building, rather nicely in my opinion, on the backstory of the rift between Amanda and Dick…

Lee (sighing despairingly): I knew she'd get around to the whole Nightwing/Starfire/Nightstar bit eventually… Knew it was too much to hope we could avoid it…

Mari: C'mon, Lee… You knew that wasn't going to be the case… Knowing Louise's own preferences with regards to certain characters and relationships, I knew that the "Bat"-family portion of the story was going to be given major emphasis. Heck, going by KC itself, it would have to figure prominently… If only to the fact that it was the one most depicted in the original story. With Bats being one of *the* major players in the story… And Nightstar being the Titans' child most shown in the book, and in my opinion, given the most fleshing out, even in the original format… Besides, as I said earlier… Louise's story deals not with generations, but legacies… And the Batman/Robin legacy is probably the best known one in comics… There would have to be some focus on the whole issue… Even if I didn't know that Louise was a Batfan/Wingnut…

Jane: Speaking of which… I thought Louise provided an interesting contrast in the relationship Lian had obviously enjoyed with Oliver and Dinah over the years, and the lack of relationship Nightstar had with Batman… Even if Louise didn't go very in depth with it, it was a nice little touch…

Mari: There were a lot of nice little touches, and I think I'll come back to that later… But I do think you've hit an interesting point there… Though, if I read Louise's own fiction correctly, I imagine she would think that Dick would have allowed Bruce to play a role in his daughter's life. This extreme estrangement comes out of Mr. Maggin's novel… But by juxtapositioning the fact that Lian had obviously grown up knowing Ollie and his family well was an interesting bit to add.

Lee: Still, you would have to wonder why Dick would not have Bruce in his daughter's life before this… Whether it's Dr. Freeman's idea or not…

Jane: Yeah… But she does touch on the reasons… The loss of Kory, and Dick's subsequent retreat from the superhero world… The fact that in Dick's confrontation with Bruce, he mentioned about Bruce dragging Nightstar into his world… Makes you wonder what Dick has been thinking all those years…

Lee: Yeah, but that gets back to my original problem… I do think Dr. Freeman *tried* to address why certain things fell the way they did in the KC story… And her attempt was even very valid… But I'm not sure how well it played out…

Mari: Again, Lee… I'm not sure how much of that you can put on Louise's shoulders… She was working in a more confined "world" than a writer normally would. And, though I don't know this for certain, she might have been writing to include story facts that go completely against how she herself reads a character… simply because of this narrowed field. Maybe that's why she didn't go as in-depth with the older Titans as she did with the kids… It was hard to see the older Titans in the roles they had been placed in in KC. I know I found some of the decisions they had apparently made in KC hard to understand myself, given my own readings of their characters… Even with the scene in KC where they did question Superman's intentions amongst themselves… They didn't do anything about it. That doesn't fit my vision of the Titans… Maybe it doesn't fit Louise's either…

Jane: Yeah… And you have to admit… At the end, she did have them see the light… Which really isn't implied in the original KC material. And we get more focus on the older Titans and their views at the end, when she could "play" around with them a bit more…

Lee: Well… I can see that… I still think that the younger set got it easier… Heck, it was almost as if we were supposed to see them as the "good guys", and the older set as the "bad guys"…

Jane: Really… I didn't get that sense… Well, at least not to that extent.

Mari: Though… I can see Lee's point here… Frankly, there were times that the older Titans weren't painted in that great a light here…

Jane: Well… Okay… I have to admit, that was my one big complaint with this story. Dick would not hit his daughter… Especially not as a child…

Lee: See… Now, when it's her "hero"… Now she gets upset…

Jane (heatedly): Hey… He's not perfect… I know that! But he wouldn't hit a kid… And then to have him almost do it again in that scene between him and Bruce and her in the bat-cave… And to have Roy hit Lian at the JLA's headquarters…

Mari (placating): Jane… Calm down… I think you really have to look at the circumstances involved… Maybe, deep down, on all those occasions, both Dick and Roy were questioning their own decisions. Maybe to see the two people they should be closest to, their own children, question those decisions, made them even more uncertain. In my experience, when you're second-guessing yourself… and second-guessing yourself under times of extreme emotional stress, which these times were… it's more likely to lash out at others…

Lee (in a feigned tone of innocence): Or maybe they're both just lousy fathers…

Jane (leaping up): Take that back… Of course they're not…

Mari: Lee! Jane! Behave… Lee, that was uncalled for. It was made clear in the story that they weren't lousy fathers… At least for the most part. Lian had had a good working relationship with Roy for years, and Nightstar even commented that until her mother's death, her father was everything she had wanted in a dad… No… Circumstances led to those incidents… But using such actions, I think Louise showed exactly how trying the circumstances were… Such that both Dick and Roy acted out of character. It was a bit brutal, but it did convey the sheer magnitude of how things had gotten out of control…

Lee: Yeah… Okay… I do think that Dr. Freeman had quite a way of using events and statements to convey emotions and characterizations without having to spell everything little thing out… She definitely has a talent for say in one line what others might take a paragraph to convey. Like some people we know (as she casts a sardonic look in Mari's direction)…

Mari: Hey… I'm verbose… I admit it… But you're right. Louise does have a knack for that. It was a number of the little touches that really made this story work well for me…

Jane: Yeah… That line of Nightstar's about "Batman getting into bed with any of Ra's people" and then the discovery of who Ibn is just killed me… I was cracking up…

Lee: Nah… the one that had be smiling was when Lian referred to Dick as "Sherlock Hemlock", and the referral to the melting of the Barbie Dream House… Yeah… It was in a very "heavy" scene… But it was needed there. And it did provide a sense of familiarity between the characters…

Mari: Frankly, I thought the end of the scene where they had found Tula was very cute…

Jane: Yeah… Well… I didn't get it. I admit, I can miss things… But until you told me about the "one-eyed, one-horn, giant purple people-eater", I had no idea what Gar had turned into… I was thinking "Puff the Magic Dragon"… You know, the one that "lived by the sea"… Considering they were over water and all…

Mari: The last line did give it away that it had something to do with colour, though, Jane. And Louise did discribe the creature Gar turned into…

Lee: Aw… Jane's just dense…

Jane's face develops a seething expression and her hands clench into claws

Mari (noting Jane's change in temperament): Would you two just cool it! Please! But that scene had a number of nice character bits, like Park's desire to see Antarctica… That was cute…

Jane: And it did show that she wasn't quite as clueless as she could have come off, just by the sheer fact that she noticed the fact that Bobby was cold, and got him a coffee… I thought that was sweet. And then the bit with Bobby's mythology test. That whole "I knew Lord Hermes" bit… that was nice in showing how these kids' lives, no matter how "normal" their parents might have tried to make them, just could not be "normal". Barbie Dream Houses and sleep-overs not-withstanding.

Lee: Yeah… There were several nice bits with the kids' characters… Unfortunately not so much with their parents…

Mari: I don't know… Sure, there's wasn't as many… But there were still some… The picture on Dick's nightstand… The way Vic still referred to him as "Wings"… The way that Dick and Donna defended the Titans to Superman and Wonder Woman, and how they then all protected Lian, even when they knew she had "turned" on them…

Jane: Yeah… It's obvious that they're not the "bad guys" that you seem to want to make them out to be… In fact, I can only think of one character that Louise wrote that came off as a "bad guy"…

Mari and Lee (in unison, after exchanging looks): Wonder Woman…

Jane: Yeah… How did you know?

Mari: 'Fraid I had the same feeling…

Lee: Well… Yeah… Wondy really didn't come off too good here…

Mari: Still, again… I think this has more to do with how Wonder Woman was presented in KC originally… Frankly, she wasn't drawn as really sympathetic there either… Louise had to work within that framework again…

Lee: I don't know, Mari… I hate to say it, but while I didn't agree with WW's portrayal in KC to any great extent, I at least understood it…

Jane: Maybe… But in all of KC, I found WW's portrayal the least sympathetic… Superman's… Batman's… They I understood as coming from their own inherent natures… WW's was too far from my conception of her character…

Mari: Me too… And that might be something that Louise had to deal with here. Frankly, I never understood why at the end of KC, Diana wasn't just "pardoned" for her actions… She was actually rewarded. That *didn't* make sense to me…

Jane: Me either…

Lee: True… But getting back to Dr. Freeman's story, I found that her Wonder Woman even more extreme than I found the original presentation of her in KC. Now, admittedly, there wasn't anything Dr. Freeman presented that didn't jibe with the KC version…

Jane: But isn't that the point. In KC, we got to see the motivations for Wonder Woman and her actions… And in seeing those motivations, then understood her actions. She was one of the main characters in KC. Here, she isn't… So we only see her actions… Not an in-depth look at her motivations. Frankly, if you look only at the original KC presentation of WW's actions, without knowledge of her motivations, I think you would see a presentation very much like Louise's.

Lee: Possibly… But without those motivations, Dr. Freeman's portrayal of WW does suffer, as she comes off as an extremist… A bit paranoid and without much redeeming compassion. We don't even get that with Superman… As he comes off as being "nicer" simply because he doesn't push on stuff like what the problem was with Lian and such, even though Dick points out that he knew what was up… Diana didn't get any sort of mitigating portrayal here… And as a result, I think, for this one character, Dr. Freeman's story fell flat… To me, KC showed that in the end, none of the character's were completely right… But also that none were completely wrong… Here, Diana comes off as completely wrong…

Mari: Well, I'm not sure I totally agree with your assessment of KC itself… But that's besides the point. Frankly, Wonder Woman is a background character in this story. She wasn't the focus. So while her portrayal might be a bit… "shallow"… for lack of a better word, I don't think it affects what Louise was trying to get across with this story… Again, I think Louise was really examining the whole idea of "legacies", and the relationships that evolved out of those legacies… Though she might disagree with me on that… And while Wonder Woman does have ties to Donna, which Louise did play with a little bit, currently they're not as strong as Dick's to Bruce, Roy's to Ollie, Garth's to Arthur… She used the three generations included in this story to great effect that way. But, with that in mind, I don't think the Diana/Donna/Robert triangle works well in that regard… Because the relationships aren't the same.

Jane: Speaking of relationships… I have to admit, I thought there was some interesting points introduced with the Batman/Robin/Nightstar relationship…

Lee (gazing heavenwards): Oh no! Not again!

Mari (with narrowed gaze): Lee…

Jane (sticking out tongue at Lee): Just a minute… Let me explain… I found it interesting in that scene between Nightstar and Bats about Luthor and such, that Bats would use such lines about her following his orders, or she could just leave… I mean… Isn't that a bit like what he was supposed to be going up against… The JLA's "It's my way or no way" line… And then to use the opposite tack in his response to Dick about what the JLA's doing with "marching to their drumbeat and no other"… Just a tad hypocritical there…

Mari: Interesting… I hadn't thought of that… Though I do think that Bats is just referring to his team being subordinate to him, and not *everyone*, which is what the JLA expects… What I found interesting was the parallels between Bruce and Dick, and between Dick and Amanda… Maybe Dick didn't realize it, but he was pulling a lot of the same stuff on her that Bruce pulled on him…

Lee: True, though she didn't respond like he had in the past… Though I suppose that was due to the part of her that came from her mom, in terms of emotionality and such…

Jane (smiling): Maybe… I thought that part of her really came out in the bit with Ibn… Lord… What a flirt… Not a tack her dad would take at all…

Lee: Well, that bit… And her impatience at dealing with Tula and such… The interesting bit I found though was in Batman's final conversation with Red Robin… Nightwing… whatever he's calling himself. Here Bats was telling Nightstar about having to follow his orders, and then he tells Dick that he needs to stop following orders and think for himself. You're right, Jane. Maybe Bats was being a bit hypocritical.

Mari: Or maybe he was just looking at each situation and going for the best route… That is what Bats does best. He knew Nightstar was a bit of a loose cannon… Keeping her under control was required. Face it, he didn't have a chance to get to know her before this. But he also knew that Dick could think for himself, especially in these situations. He was playing the best card he had for each situation… I thought that that was very good characterization on Louise's part.

Lee: If you say so, Mari… But it does take us to the final bit…

Jane: Yeah… The fight…

Lee: Which… while well done…

Jane (incensed): What? What's your problem now?

Lee: Okay… C'mon… It fell into place too… "sweet"…

Mari (perplexed): "Sweet", Lee?!? Nearly everyone died…

Lee: Yeah, but before they did, nearly all the rifts were healed…

Jane: Nope… Didn't see anything with Park and Wally, even though that was covered a bit in the KC books and novel. And Tula and Garth never did get a chance to talk… I don't see that as all the rifts being totally "healed". I thought it was great that the older Titans seemed to come to their senses… It made them seem more like the characterization of the Titans that I'm used to reading…

Mari: Yeah, and Louise did set up Tula's "conversion" of her attitude about her father quite well in previous sections… If anything, it was a bit sad that she never got the chance to get to know him and tell him so. The fact that Donna and Robert weren't together at the end… The fact that Wally never got to even really know Park, since he had been "gone" since she was a baby… For the ending to have been really "sweet", there would have to be all these things taken into account… They weren't, so it was more poignant… At least to me…

Jane: Yeah… And the epilogues just added to that poignancy… Wally and Bart's talk was needed, if only to give some closure…

Mari: What I found interesting was that the last bit didn't showcase a Titan, considering that was the focus of the story, but Bats instead… But it laid out well how the different legacies touched on in the story had played out… Though I want to see the scene where Bruce does try to explain about Amanda and Ibn to Dick… That could be hilarious…

Lee: Okay… I still think the end was a tad too… pat… I mean, couldn't one relationship remain slightly antagonistic…

Jane: What would be the point of that, Lee?

Lee: I don't know… Does everything have to end up happily… Or as happily as something like the ending of KC can?

Jane (disgustedly): Lord… You are *such* a cynic…

Mari: Well… Cynic or not… Lee's entitled to her opinions… But I think that Louise did a great job here… Though I do wonder if that was supposed to be Alfred or Norman McCay at the end…

Jane: I'm going for Norman… He was the central point of KC… It would be nice to include him here, if only in a cameo, to tie back into the inspiration for this story.

Lee: Yeah, but would Norman call Bats, "Master Bruce"… And why would he be in "ghostly" form… As far as I know, Norman's still alive…

Mari: Well, I tend to go with Norman as well… But I don't think he was needed here to tie into KC's main theme. If anything, I think the scripture quotes Louise included in each section did that extremely well… I thought I knew the bible to some extent, but she managed to pull out some that I didn't know, but that were totally appropriate for each of the sections… That was very nicely done, and tied into the KC theme, as well as the family/legacy theme of this story extremely well… But then, I thought ending the story with Bruce in prayer… A man, who frankly, in recent years has been portrayed as having very little faith, was a nice tie-in to the original KC story. I guess I just thought the whole story, even with the few minor faults it might have had, was extremely well done in terms of writing style, characterizations and tying the events into the main Kingdom Come story. It worked on so many levels…

Jane: Me too… It's one of the best fan-fics I've ever read…

Lee: Oh, I liked it well enough… I still have a few reservations… But I still thought Dr. Freeman did an excellent job here, working within a number of constraints given… It will be interesting to see the upcoming Kingdom Event week's stories jibe with the one she gave here… Though that means more reviews for us… doesn't it…

Jane: Yep… Yep… Yep…

Lee (sullenly): Oh… Drat…

This column is © 1998 by Marilee Stephens

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