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JUSTICE LEAGUE 19 REVIEW – The Distant Drums of Trinity War

Justice league 19 coverJUSTICE LEAGUE 19 REVIEW
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Ivan Reis & Gary Frank
Publisher: DC
Reviewer: Rob Patey ( aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

As I expected, after last month’s recruitment session this JUSTICE LEAGUE serves to utter the quiet murmurs that will crescendo into a cacophony of chaos in coming months.

Longtime fans won’t experience much shock or awe at the Gatefold WTF moment of BATMAN taking down SUPERMAN with a hunk of homegrown Kryponite, what is shocking is that once you get inside the opening pages BATMAN isn’t the one wielding the green death. We don’t know who it is actually, all we know is a clandestine figure with open access to all Bat-Cave systems knew exactly where to find Batman’s cache of JUSTICE LEAGUE busting weaponry. If I was BATMAN I probably would have mislabeled the suitcases in such an event (i.e. put the Kryponite inside the case labeled for the Flash), but I also understand that page counts are sparse these days and a page of the nefarious burglar opening suitcases doesn’t make for the most exciting moments in comics.

Now, what was truly WTF worthy is the second story in this book where SUPERMAN and WONDER WOMAN enter the global political theater. In a moment sure to enrage FOXIans and other right wingers, Supes and Wondie decide to enter the sovereign nation of Kahndaq to end a hostage situation after the US was specifically told to stay out.  That’s not the part that will piss off disciples of Limbaugh though, it’s the duo’s rationale for this raid.

Khandaq has stood as “that” ethereal Arab nation for a longtime at DC – sometimes it’s been Iraq, other times Afghanistan – not geographically, but politically. After the raid, Supes and WW have a moment of introspection where they justify events by saying all of the unwanted occupations and bombing of innocents haven’t changed a damn thing over the years. That’s a pretty bold statement by Johns and even bolder is how this changes the tide of comics. The last time SUPERMAN thumbed his nose at the American way in ACTION 900 there was a comic outcry. Now with the two biggest heavy-hitters singing a similar tune someone will need to step as the antagonist to this choice. Dangerous ground; is quipped by Batman who was spying on the couple, this is how villains get started.

What’s interesting is that Bats approaches the two with a velvet glove instead of the aforementioned hunk of Kryponite and whatever the hell he has tucked away to subdue WONDER WOMAN. He also brings up the fact that their hidden relationship is anything but. This was a great character moment as Bats shows genuine concern for their well-being versus simply being an information stream control freak. Despite the pleasantries, I’m sure I’m not the only one who will hear the Trinity Wars’ battle drums off in the distance. Months ago we all thought this upcoming schism would be caused simply by forbidden love; this moment just upped the stakes to a battle of ideologies for all comic characters.

The rest of the issue follows a similar set-up cadence, but with less gravitas and more fun. With some league members investigating the bat-cave to find out who walked away with the Kryptonite, Firestorm and Lady Atom are left alone in the watch tower. That is of course after Atomette finishes her dungeon raid in World of Warcraft. Great little character moment made greater for those of us who truly wish we could shrink ourselves and actually step inside Azeroth. As an MMO player though, I will wish her ill will for blinking out half-way through the raid – unacceptable whether late for an appointment or not. She gets payback though, as Despero crashes the down the doors of the satellite on the last page.

Reis delivers great pencil work, especially during the rising tension behind the trinity. Pain and anger adorn Wonder Woman’s face in every panel. Reis also does a great job of portraying Superman with a hanged lasso whipped expression on his face. Don’t judge, we’ve all been there.

The SHAZAM back-up continues to deliver on all fronts. Again, I truly hope there’s a plan here to meld the JUSTICE LEAGUE and SHAZAM threads, I would hate to think this gold has festered at the back of the bus for so many months with no good reason.

JUSTICE LEAGUE has had an awakening creatively since “Throne of Atlantis,” and while the past issues have been a respite action wise, it’s clear this is simply the walk before some great running in the near future.

JUSTICE LEAGUE 18 – Cyborg Must Use Bing!

justice league 18 coverJUSTICE LEAGUE 18
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Jesus Saiz and Gary Frank
Publisher: DC
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

Why hello JSA, I missed you.

Like a conductor stuck playing VFW gigs, Johns steps back into commanding a full orchestra of heroes in this latest installment of JUSTICE LEAGUE. The last time our maestro had this many action figures to play with was in Pre-52 JSA. Fear not though, the gremlin like expansion of that team will not be plaguing JL,  because after some fun and genuinely funny commotion,  only three contestants will remain on, “Who wants to live on a space station?”

With ranks dwindling by the epic event, Cyborg’s clarion call across the DC Universe at the bleakest moment of Thrones is finally answered. A new section of the Internet he invented called the Grid can pinpoint the location of every hero on Earth at a moment’s notice. Zatana, Firestorm and Black Canary are the first to be asked by the stalkerish Web 9.0, ” What are you wearing?” It was also at this moment the drool cup on Batman’s cowl swung into activation. Hey anyone remember that bug Bats planted on Superman’s back when he and Wonder Woman were playing grab ass in Kansas? No? Ok, guess it wasn’t important. Moving on.

The invitees who are touched by a Cyborg to try out for the JL are a motley and strange crew. Perhaps The Grid only has a plug-in for Bing. Aside from the aforementioned three the likes of Blue Devil, Black Lightening, Goldrush, Nightwing, Element Woman, Vixen and a Metalmen andrette named Platinum are invited to sit at the table.

Madness ensues as we learn the New 52 Will Magnus is more ineffective than Talia Al Ghul’s 12 Steps to Raising a Happy Child.

As Magnus’ failed experiment, Platinum, tarnishes everyone’s faces, the recruits get to show their stuff in true and surprising problem solving style though. A most welcome change from bash em up escapes. After all, all life is sacred, even when it’s broken and createdp by an ineffective simpering scientist. On that; I was seriously surprised by these Magnus moments and also Barry’s channeling of Wally West. One I can live with the change, but Barry no cute quips please even if you are being molested by a Goldfinger harem escapee.

The three that make the final cut are Firestorm (making super friends fans everywhere rejoice), the uninvited stowaway Lady Atom (I find her endearing already) and Element Woman (more kooky than a tenured college professor).

Once the party has ended and the moon bounce returned, our new justice league is faced with its first threat from some very l33t hackzors.

Ill allow the league this one issue respite, and even the ensuing next few issues of training wheels as the team works the kinks out. Learn from Atlantis though, BIG events because a BIG team deserves them.

Saiz did an excellent job, but he forgot to look at the cover and ensure Cyborg properly raged his way through recruitment instead of being calm and cordial like he was.

Shazam…I love you, please become your own book already. It’s so good and goes by so quickly I refuse to even review it. Sorry.

JUSTICE LEAGUE 15 COMIC REVIEW – LEAGUES ABOVE THE PAST

JUSTICE LEAGUE 15 COVERJUSTICE LEAGUE 15

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis & Gary Frank
Publisher: DC
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka  Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

No other title in the New 52 has polarized fandom like JUSTICE LEAGUE. From one side the popcorn eaters have said it’s a tantalizing thrill ride that thankfully hasn’t gone too deep into morose waters of heavy emotions from the team and global angst. I believe the word “fun” is the term they often use. Also, the K-5 set have gone absolutely gonzo for JUSTICE LEAGUE, making Johns and Lee comic books’ Phineas and Ferb.

Then there are the comic erudite, those who have read so many books that they expected JUSTICE LEAGUE to not only traverse new grounds, but to do so in a way that would bring forth an originality of content that would leave Grant Morrison agog. My complete objectiveness has allowed me to see both sides. I was forgiving of the first few issues mainly because of the excitement surrounding the New 52. I didn’t feel we could pass judgment until an antagonist surfaced.

Well, that villain came and went in one page. Literally! With one two-page splash decrying “I am Darkseid,” a Parademon Cocksicle sticking out of the ocean, and a one page trip to Apocalypse, the world’s greatest heroes banded together and no one was really sure why, least of all our heroes. Again, I was forgiving, trying to look at the whole universe and DC’s mantra to offer books to fans of all ages. I figured if the kids dig it, groovy, I’ll simply go wade in more adult waters.

Then arc 2 turned the tide, but not in a good way. The five years before excuse went away, yet coming forward a half-decade offered no maturation of this team. And nothing jibed with each hero’s solo title. Barry and Hal were still the two Corey’s. Azzarello has been portraying WONDER WOMAN as a dark God slayer and protector; in JUSTICE LEAGUE she liked ice cream. SUPERMAN is all over the map from title to title; in JUSTICE LEAGUE though he just moped and hit things while SUPERMAN and ACTION battled for “whose personality is it anyway?”  And the second arc’s story was just meh. Not a ton of fun watching the world’s greatest heroes Battle their psyches.

Then came the kiss that made the fans of Lois Lane spontaneously combust from blood boiling rage, but it also moved the needle ever closer to an intriguing team dynamic for JUSTICE LEAGUE. Couple this wanton super affection with BATMAN slapping a Bang Bros. secret camera on Superman’s back and we began to see wafts of the Johns we know and love.

Some will say this change was spurred by Lee hitting the happy trails. I don’t think any of us know how Lee and Johns developed the story, so this is true speculation. If Lee was plotting things though, with the art coming first, this theory more than treads water. Johns needs smaller panels with faces to thrive. Big bodacious poses just ain’t where he’s comfortable. So with the right artist in place and some real personality for the remaining team members we enter the first big cross-over for JUSTICE LEAGUE with “Throne of Atlantis.”

JUSTICE LEAGUE 15 delivers on its 42 Point Font cover exclamation – this is indeed A BOLD NEW ERA! And it succeeds for every reason the past 14 issues have faltered.

Epic destruction is the order of the day. After a missile test is sabotaged it sends a barrage of ballistics that give the denizens of Atlantis the Long Johns deep fryer treatment. However, not every mermaid and merman end up cooked, there’s still plenty left to initiate Phase I of the Atlantean Attack plan to…wait for it…drown the Eastern seaboard.  After watching countless hours of the Japanese Tsunami on YouTube I figured I would pretty desensitized to comic destruction. Ivan Reis does wonderful work though trumping reality with epic size waves that send Metropolis and Gotham (sing it with me) uhnda da sea, uhnda da sea…Lois, it’s better down where it’s wetter just wait and seeeeeee. If you appreciate good art, there’s a two page spread that one could stare at for five minutes – you’ll know it when you see it.

One could argue that we’ve had big images in JUSTICE LEAGUE prior and that the Darkseid run had thousands of parademons. The problem though was every single page was a bombastic spectacle, with issue 15 the epic is juxtaposed with the closer views of real life. Arthur helping Batman catch a criminal. Superman and Wonder Woman finally going on a date in their civvies (with a very nice explanation on why glasses are such an effective disguise). And of course the grand reveal that Aquaman helped craft the plans that drowned several million people.

Another phenomenal aspect of this JUSTICE LEAGUE arc is the grand villain, the King of Atlantis and Aquaman’s half-brother, the fully Atlantean Orm. All right, I’ll admit I’m cheating here. All of the Orm build-up happened over in AQUAMAN’S title, but honestly what fan of DC isn’t reading AQUAMAN right now? He’s the most interesting thing in scales since Daryl Hannah took a bath in Splash and he’s probably the most three dimensional character in the DCU right now. Also, JUSTICE LEAGUE should be an amalgam that brings books, titles and events together, instead of trying to be the fulcrum from which the universe expands.

For once SHAZAM wasn’t the best thing in JUSTICE LEAGUE, but make no mistake the back-up that should be a full title, continues to deliver. Billy lets adulthood get to his head and we leave with the first encounter between Billy and Black Adam.

Throne of Atlantis is to action, what Death of the Family is too horror – together they show that the superhero genre has many places to go yet other than deconstruction.

JUSTICE LEAGUE 14 REVIEW – JOHNS IS GETTING HIS GROOVE BACK

JUSTICE LEAGUE 14 COVERJUSTICE LEAGUE 14

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Tony Daniel & Gary Frank
Publisher: DC
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t it Cool News)

It took a year, but I think Johns is finally finding his groove on this book. Well, let me be more succinct: I think Johns has finally found his groove to appeal to a broader range of comic consumers.

To say this book was a failure the first year is myopic and stupid, it was THE bestselling book for the first six months after launch. Also, kids are eating this book up with one of their stupid little safety sporks. The main grumblings have come from us old timers who compare the title to the volumes sitting inside our brain vaults. Even with the thin and often inconsistent characterization compared to the JL members’ main books, the New 52 JUSTICE LEAGUE after launch was 10x better than where the book was post FINAL CRISIS. Hell, I remember two issues in those dark days where in one issue the Holy Trinity were swapping hero pictures like baseball cards to form a new team. Exciting huh? Then there was the cover where the Big 3 were walking away from the JL logo with their shoulders slumped…some say it was a good-bye and fresh start…I firmly believe it was shame.

With the New 52, JUSTICE LEAGUE at least had a plan. All comic aficionados should appreciate this.  However the plan was heavy on art and very light on heart, Johns was given little space to do what he does best – turn a trope into a human. Not human human, but you know what I mean. Without humanity to these superbeings, we should all just keep rereading the Golden Age and call it a day.

Issue 14 succeeds for one reason and one reason alone…contact. No not the Jodie Foster movie. What I mean is the contact between SUPERMAN and WONDER WOMAN. If you read JUSTICE LEAGUE on its own, these are the loneliest characters on the team. They are Gods amongst mortals. Every fellow member of the team was once human in some capacity, they can at least relate to the human condition even if they no longer are mere mortals. SUPERMAN and WONDER WOMAN are true outsiders, yet they revere and long to be one with the human race. As comic collectors we always felt these two should be together and I applaud Johns for making this a courtship versus a wham bam thank you ma’am. Like most couples, the woman is never satisfied…I mean WONDER WOMAN isn’t satisfied with only knowing the Super and not the Man. So Supes introduces her to Clark. The part where he takes her to Clark’s favorite diner would have been awesome; it was a nice “show and tell” of the reason why Superman helps humanity. I say “would of”, because they wore their costumes. It’s tough to have a conversation when you are the two most powerful beings on earth. Would have gone civvies for this scene. However, the moment when they go to the Kansas farm that was perfect in tone and emotion.

The Cheetah storyline also ends before this event. It was all right. Daniel’s a more than welcome addition to this book, but one of WONDER WOMAN’S B-List villains simply doesn’t seem sponge worthy to me. Sorry.

Before we get into the SHAZAM there is an ominous last two panels that set BATMAN on a path he’s been down before and has always led to ruin. Will be cool to see how they twist it in the New 52.

Finally we have the backup SHAZAM story. SWEET HOLY FUCKITY FUCK WAS THIS GOOD. It makes zero sense to me why this isn’t a solo book yet. I can only guess it’s because SHAZAM is going to join the League in 2013. At least I hope so, because I want more, much more. For this vignette we see Black Adam discovering the world for the first time and his arrogance is amped up to 11. A little murder, a discovery that magic has been stolen from the world and the resurrection of the first sin of man, Sloth, made me scream at the page when this quick moment was over.

This issue proves JUSTICE LEAGUE is salvageable for Fangeezers. My personal opinion, they need a big bad guy to fight. The fallacy with the Darkseid arc was no development of Darkseid. Likewise the two arcs after never really explored the psychology of the villain. Slow it down guys; we’ll be patient with you I promise.