Wednesday, April 16, 2008

And now, a quick word about Mei Ling

Ya know, I want to set something straight. I have been re-reading some of my recent posts concerning the current story arc with the reintroduction of Mei Ling. They sound cynical and bitter, angry at the direction Fleisher took Jonah regarding Mei Ling, but I want to clear something up.

When this happened back in 1980 I was astounded at how daring it was and I think this is something that could not have happened with a regular superhero book. Taking a loner anti-hero and having him get married was pretty much unheard of back then. The only real mainstream character that was married was Barry Allen. I know that Ralph Dibny was married but he never had his own book. Barry's marriage was a good one, but Iris was murdered and then eventually Barry as well died during Crisis on Infinite Earths. Was there any other title character getting married?

Nope.

And the bizarre thing is that Mei Ling didn't up and die a few issues later, throwing Jonah into a long revenge story arc. She stuck around and even though she seemed to be a constant nagging bitch, I have to say that she wasn't. If she was, she would have constantly brought up her father's death due to Jonah's inaction. What we got to see was a series of instances where Jonah was beset by either his past trying to get even or financial worries that he couldn't handle without reverting to what he knew best. Therefore we saw Mei Ling, in her own way, trying to show her husband that he could change, that he didn't have to live a life of anger. And I keep reminding myself that when I first read these books 28 years ago, each one was separated by 30 days. A 30 day gap between issues provides a breather for the reader so that repetitive characteristics aren't so obvious. We also have to remember that the timeline between the issues ranged from one day to probably months. During this time when we weren't privy to the private lives of the Hex family I'm sure that there were happy times for the Hex household (sheesh, I'm writing like these are real people).

But conflict of some sort is the driving force in storytelling and let's be honest, how many of us would have kept buying the book if Jonah hadn't picked his guns back up? But, just as honest, I would have liked to have seen Jonah face a problem that didn't require a pistol to solve. All in all, this was a brave move by Fleisher to change the direction of the book as well as making a major change to a character that wasn't going to be re-booted. This was a road, once taken, that could not be undone. Fleisher had done this before with Death of a Bounty Hunter, with the Fort Charlotte massacre, and with the entire early history of Jonah.

So, even though I may gripe about Mei Ling (mainly because she sounds like a broken record when read in a Trade format), I want everyone to be sure that I admire Michael Fleisher for his bravery to take a character into unexplored territory and do it in such a way that there was no turning back. So, Michael Fleisher, my hat is off to you, sir.

Thank you for your sense of adventure and thanks for sharing it with us.

1 comment:

SallyP said...

Ok, I see your point. The thought that a Bounty Hunter extraordinaire could settle down and become a humble farmer would never work of course, but it was nice to see HOW it would never work.

But Mei Ling was still a nag.