Justice League

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

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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