Justice League #7

JL 7

Justice League #7; DC Comics

One of the better titles (but maybe not best) to come out of the “New 52″ initiative of DC Comics is Justice League. It’s difficult to believe that the title is already at issue #7.  For this issue, the “regular” artist Jim Lee took a break and we had a guest artist, Gene Ha.  I believe that Jim Lee still was the artist who drew the cover for this issue, however.  Geoff Johns remains the writer.

Overall, I think this series has been average.  It pains me to say this, because I truly want to love this title and give it high marks all around.  However, when I am not being a comic-sentimental-sap, I admit that it’s only average fare.  And this is even more glaring when I compare it to the stellar job that has been done with the Batman and Red Lantern titles.  Frankly, Justice League (with its star characters and mega-cool creators) should be much better than this.  Now, I do not say it is a bad title – it is worth the cover price.

I was not sure what to make of Jim Lee’s art when this title started. After a few issues, I felt that it definitely grew on me and I looked forward to seeing it.  However, compared to Gene Ha’s art, I can see I was settling.  Many readers/reviewers disdained this batch of Ha’s art and griped about not getting more Jim Lee work.  Frankly, Lee is very good, but there was something about the artwork in this issue that really appealed to me and I enjoyed it a lot.  In the middle of the comic, there are three pages that depict a “video” conference between Steve Trevor and the Justice League Watchtower.  All of these frames are excellent – and the layout is phenomenal.  In fact, these three pages are really, really well done and all of the stars that I am giving this issue are because of these pages.

Wonder Woman “answers” the video conference call and we see her via Trevor’s monitor.  In the first frame, Ha captures the beauty, sexiness, and charm of Wonder Woman.  In the next series of frames, Ha draws her with expert mastery.  The body language, facial expressions, and so forth in these frames is really good.  I know it may seem to be a “minor” thing to be able to draw a couple of frames of a superhero – after all, shouldn’t all DC/Marvel/Dark Horse/Image artists be able to do that?  But it’s not the drawing of a superhero that is good here, rather the very natural, human, and alive-ness that Ha brings out in the drawing.  I feel like he must have studied a lot of…. people… and must be rather intuitive and perceptive in order to render the drawings so well.

This same skill is seen earlier in the comic with Batman, although I feel Wonder Woman is a more obvious example.  In the Batman frames, the reader can almost feel the frustration/aggravation Batman is feeling.  Can comic book art really evoke a response in the viewer like traditional fine art? These frames in this issue prove that they can.  The stigma against comic book art fails here.

The writing is okay.  Johns gives us some witty moments and some good dialogue.  He also writes a straight-forward story with each character having their own voice and personality. He manages to give each member of the Justice League seemingly equal “facetime” (although, perhaps a little less with Superman) and they all seem balanced in the storyline.  The little asides characters have with each other is amusing.

However, I feel the storylines are so…. decompressed (it’s the word all the comic reviewers are using these days)… that it verges on boring.  There is nothing wrong with it – and I really understand the goal Johns is working toward and how there is a lot of responsibility to make this title, of all titles, accessible and workable.  However, I feel it needs more life in the writing. Not just quips, but a more powerful story. Again, this is not bad, but it is average.  Of course, I am going to keep pulling this and reading along. And wow, I need to find more Gene Ha in the world.

3 stars

Justice Society of America #1 (2007)

Justice Society of America

Justice Society of America, DC Comics, cover #1

I have already given this beautiful cover a “cover of the month” award.  I am finally getting around to reviewing it now, though. The cover was done, obviously, by the inimitable Alex Ross. And is somewhat of an homage cover to All Star Comics #3 from 1940 and the variant is an homage to All Star Squadron #1 (1981).  The 1940 All Star Comics cover was done by Everett E. Hibbard.

All Star Comics

All Star Comics #3 1940 cover

The 2007 issue was written by DC Comics’ star writer Geoff Johns.  The issue starts off with the three big superheroes of DC (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman) approaching Wildcat, Flash, and Green Lantern of the Society after WWIII.  The “trinity” say that the planet needs the Justice Society and that the Society is more like a family and a moral compass than the Justice League is.  So, on the second page of the issue we are already given some of the baseline concept for this volume of the Justice Society of America.

There are two main stories going on in this issue. One is Green Lantern, Flash, and Wildcat acting as leaders of the JSA and selecting veteran members.  They select to draft Stargirl, Power Girl, Liberty Bell, Dr. Mid-Nite, Mr. Terrific, and Hourman.  And then, these members go out to recruit younger members who have some connection to the old JSA.  Wildcat, grumpy as always, reminisces on the old days and is reluctant to help Green Lantern and Flash. Wildcat feels alone and isolated – until the end of the issue when Green Lantern and Flash show Wildcat that he has a teenage son named Tom.    The second story running through the issue deals with Mr. America, an ex-FBI agent who is still tracking down and punishing criminals.

The characterizations are excellently done.  Each character is different – and the reader can tell that Johns spent time giving each of his characters personality, identity, attitude, and background.  I particularly enjoyed the pages introducing us to Maxine Hunkel and Starman.  These sections were really interesting and fun and, in a way, played the flip side to the solemn and gritty Mr. America storyline.

The interior art was done by Dale Eaglesham and it’s fantastic. The art makes the story easy to follow. It is uncluttered and yet dynamic.  The facial expressions are dead-on and the personality of the characters shines through.  The framing of the art is well-done, which is not something I find myself saying very often.  But overall the art has this sort of “classic” JSA / superhero book feel to it – but done in a fresh, colorful manner. If this was 2007, and I read this issue, I would tell you this series will run for as long as the quality remains near this level.  After reading the first issue, I certainly wanted to read the next and I think this issue far exceeds issue #1 of Justice League of America (2006).

It’s Wednesday. They’re serving sloppy joes tonight.  Do you like sloppy joes as much as I do?” – Starman

5 stars

Green Lantern #1

Green Lantern #1

Green Lantern #1 cover (2011)

Continuing on in DC Comics’ “New 52″ reboot, I was very excited to get Green Lantern.  I have never gotten a Green Lantern comic book the week it was released – much less a Green Lantern #1 issue. (I do own #1′s from the 1990 and the 2005 volumes).  I think the Green Lantern title was the title that longtime DC Comics fans were most wary and tentative regarding.  Since 2009 and Blackest Night, the Green Lantern section of the DC Universe has been a driving force for the rest. It has been busily active with several widely-sweeping events, changes, developments, and storylines.  Of course, most of the credit for bringing the recent fame and fortune to Green Lantern goes to Geoff Johns.  (So much so that in 2011, DC released the live-action Green Lantern movie following two animated direct-to-DVD movies.)

However, as part of the “New 52″ reboot, DC is restarting their titles.  Green Lantern, however is one of those titles that DC is giving a “soft” reboot to.  It is a wise decision by DC, since the recent years have involved a lot of heavy continuity for Green Lantern.  I guess the Green Lantern title is not starting from scratch or rebooting in the same fashion as some of the other titles. While I am woefully behind on my Green Lantern continuity reading, I am approaching all of the “New 52″ titles with a generally clear state of mind – letting myself read the comic as if I am relatively new to the DC universe as a whole.

This issue was written by Geoff Johns with artwork by Doug Mahnke.  The cover was done by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado.  Reis has done a lot of artwork for Green Lantern in recent years, and it seems like his artwork has supplanted others’ as the “standard” for the characters, locations, and styles. The close up image of Sinestro on the cover is definitely eye-catching.  Especially Sinestro wearing a green ring and the Green Lantern costume.  The surrounding green-light and purple background offset the reddish face of Sinestro very well. I look at this cover and am excited for the story inside. It is not a very creative cover (Sinestro and Green Lantern symbols made of light), but it is striking.

In Justice League #1, we learn that five years ago from the present, Hal Jordan met Batman and Jordan was, at that time, a member of the Green Lanterns.  We are told, through a dialogue between Hal Jordan and Carol Ferris, that Hal Jordan is no longer Green Lantern.  Apparently, Jordan is also impoverished, jobless, and still very anxious about what is going on with the Guardians, Sinestro, and the Green Lantern Corps.  Ferris offers Jordan some advice, but true to form, Jordan ends up really vexing Ferris.  As a new reader, I can’t help but feel some of Jordan’s frustration – still, it seems he’s brought this all on himself, whatever “this” is.

Off in space sector 1417, at the planet Korugar, we see Sinestro observing the chaos on the planet. He is suddenly attacked by yellow-lantern wielding creatures who accuse him of betraying the Yellow Light. Sinestro kills this creature and the next frames we see of Sinestro are on earth as he tells Jordan that if Jordan wants the ring back, he will have to obey Sinestro.

Obviously, this storyarc is going to take its time to unfold. While the issue is accessible to new readers, it is quite apparent that there is a lot of history, terminology, and character development that the reader is missing out on.  This issue is very in media res and one cannot help but have questions about almost everything that is shown.  What is the Yellow Light? Is Sinestro good or bad?  Why isn’t Jordan a Lantern?  Hopefully, some of these things will be answered in upcoming issues or “new readers” are going to keep on being lost.

It is definitely a worthy idea to start off the series with Sinestro on the cover as a Green Lantern and the first frames of the issue showing us Sinestro repeating the Lantern Oath.  This is good stuff – and regardless of any questions or frustrations that new/old readers might have, I think just Sinestro alone is enough to have them come back for several more issues.  There is another frame that I won’t discuss here (it would be a bit of a spoiler) that involves the Guardian named Ganthet.  That frame is also interesting and drives some curiosity for the next issue.

The artwork inside is solid.  It seems Mahnke can handle drawing scenes both in deep space and on earth in mundane places. The character’s faces are expressive and adhere to general standards, but there is something…. unnatural about their mouths. It is a subtle thing, and perhaps I am just seeing the art incorrectly, but their mouths seem a bit static and straight for all the words and excitement in the frames. Nothing too major to complain about, though.

3 stars

Justice League #1

Justice League 1

Justice League #1

There is probably not another item that has been more talked about in the world of geek this week than this issue of Justice League.  And rightly so.  If you do not know the significance of this issue and the changes to the DC Universe…. I suspect you’ve been off-planet. Since there are dozens and dozens and dozens of reviews to sort through online regarding this issue, I imagine readers will get tired of reading.  After all, its a thin comic book, but yet the commentary and opinions regarding it could fill huge tomes. I feel almost too obvious by writing a review of this issue, but I would be remiss if I did not.  I avoided all the reviews/talk/spoilers for this issue prior to my own reading of it.

I was so excited to read this issue that I had to force myself not to read it right away. I waited a few hours before I trusted myself to peel open the cover.  I wanted to make certain that I was going to be in the right state of mind to read this comic – no interruptions, not being rushed, not hungry or tired or having to use the bathroom. I wanted no distractions or outside influences.

First, the cover. This was done by Jim Lee, Alex Sinclair, and Scott Williams.  For the “New 52″ (which I am pretty sick of reading or typing), DC “adjusted” many of their characters. Some people have been using the words “rebooted” or “redesigned,” however I think these words are not accurate to explain DC’s intentions in messing with their traditional characterizations.  The characters are not entirely different – there don’t seem to be (on the face of it) wild and shocking fundamental changes. Therefore, I say “adjusted” because the characters are younger and their uniforms and costumes are updated.  On the cover, we can see seven members of the Justice League, including the big three of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. I think the youthfulness of the characters is most present in Superman and Wonder Woman. The teaser images for this cover show a blue background, so when I found out the background was actually the gold color I was somewhat taken aback. I don’t like the background. I understand why gold was the choice – based on a palette and the surrounding colors, however I really don’t like the gold background.

The Justice League of America (2006 volume) first issue cover was done by Ed Benes and (again) Alex Sinclair. Neither first issue cover is something that I love. 2011′s is full of action while the 2006 cover is static. Either way, these are not covers to drool over. When DC released images of the second printing cover, I have to say I prefer the second printing and wish it had been the first printing release.

Jim Lee is the interior artist – one of the comic industry’s big names. He’s drawing for Geoff Johns on this, DC’s self-proclaimed flagship title.  The two of these creators together is something of a superhero team-up for comic readers, so I think the expectations for this title are high.  Since its a “new universe,” I threw out all that I knew about Jim Lee and Geoff Johns and Green Lantern and Batman and Superman and all the rest. I just opened the cover and prepared myself to enjoy a great comic.  That being said, I swept the slate clean and “pretended” that I had never seen Lee’s art before. On several reviews I read the adjective “cinematic” used to describe his artwork in this issue and after some reflection, I think that is a very accurate description.  Of course, what the heck does cinematic mean in terms of comics?  Well, I will go further than those other reviews:  it means action shots with camera-angles from all around.  The characters are jumping off of the page and the scenes are widescreen, high fidelity, panoramics. I think these elements are very clear with the three panels on the first page. It’s a close up, a pseudo-bird’s eye view, and a pseudo-worm’s eye view close up. The entire page oozes action and movement and in your face artwork.

Because the issue is spewing action all over the place, some of the dialogue seems a bit stilted. Not bad, not incorrect, just a bit stilted. I love the banter betwixt Batman and Green Lantern  – there are some insta-classic frames on these pages.  However, a lot of these pages seem like they’re coming directly at the reader, no pausing for breath, no setup. Truly, there are pages here that translate perfectly to the movie screen. The dialogue is good on its own, but its context seems slightly jarring.  Still, it is entirely enjoyable. Johns does not seem to fill the frames with words, being (in this issue) a wee bit minimalist and letting the art do the work.

The pages involving Vic have a slightly smushed feeling to them. I feel that they are rather sandwiched between action-packed pages that do not connect well with the interlude that is Vic on the phone.  But, back to Green Lantern and Batman and Metropolis now. Guess who we meet on the last page? And Superman makes a (to be expected) action-packed entrance.  I feel in the past, Superman became a bit tame and lost and dopey. Here is an “adjustment” to character; previously, I feel Superman would have gracefully landed on the ground and shook hands in a dignified manner with Batman and Green Lantern. Oh, not so in this issue! And its like a fresh breath of air – exciting and new, precisely what DC intended. However, my problem with Superman is that he looks very young. I know the intention was to youth-en the major characters, but Superman looks like he’s a kid. He’s not as block-headed looking as some artists have drawn him. I spent some good minutes looking at Batman and Superman and comparing the two:  Batman has the very satisfying square jaw and brooding look while this youthful Superman has a very playful and almost truculent look to him. At first I did not really like Superman’s look, but it grew on me.

Most of my critiques and observations are almost picayune. Overall, this issue is a perfect starting point for new readers.  It also succeeds because it does not alienate the dedicated hardcore fans.  Anxious die-hards can breathe a sigh of relief because the beloved characters are treated with love and respect. Part of me wonders what it would be like if this was the first issue of Justice League ever. You know, as if this was everyone’s introduction….. what would readers think of it?

In fact, the entire issue got better on the second read. By the fourth read, I was thinking that I might need to get another copy because I will be wearing this one out. The worst part of this issue was that it did not come with issue #2 straightaway.  I need issue #2. Hurry!

5 stars

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