Justice League of America #1
World’s Most Dangerous Chapter 1
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: David Finch
Colorists: Sonia Oback, Jeromy Cox
Letterer: Rob Leigh
31 pages, $3.99
I honestly can’t believe this comic book exists. For one, there doesn’t seem to be a point to it– except to milk customers willing to buy anything with the words Justice League of America emblazoned on the front cover. Second, it’s awful. The whole story boils down to a conversation between Amanda Waller and Steve Trevor. Sure there are vignettes in-between where we meet the members of the new JLA, but the actual story is little more than a poor copy of My Dinner with Andre.
Reading the book, Trevor sounds like the sane portion of Geoff Johns’ mind telling him this comic is a really bad idea. As a writer myself, I know sometimes what we’re thinking on the periphery of our thoughts can filter into the story or dialogue we’re creating– even when we don’t realize it. From the very start, Trevor is continually saying the JLA won’t work. And when you look at the current line up Johns has handpicked, the roster only seems to prove Trevor’s point: Catwoman, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Martian Manhunter, the newest Green Lantern, Stargirl, Katana and… Vibe?
And the only reason this rag-tag band is together? Superman and Wonder Woman’s kiss. Yes, in a dual super punch to the gut and an Amazonian kick to the face, Johns makes sure we get a two-thirds page splash of the kiss on one page, and then a redundant center panel showcasing the kiss on the next. So, not only is this Fan Fic catastrophe attaining a “canonicity” requiring a Men In Black mind-wipe of all of comicdom to get rid of it… But it’s the only good reason given for the formation of this new JLA.
Okay, okay. I know Waller says this JLA will make sure “America’s interests” are protected… And the new team will give the United States a reason to support the other Justice League team(s)… But it just doesn’t make any real sense. Because, you know, American Air Force Pilot Hal Jordan and American Central City police scientist Barry Allen (both major members of the Justice League) have no reason to protect America, right?
All this does is show how the whole “Government needs to control meta-humans!” schtick has become old, tired and unrealistic. It was one thing when this was the overriding theme in the X-Men for decades… Or the excuse current Marvel writers used to nearly destroy the “House that Stan and Jack Built” with their ill-conceived Civil War several years ago. On the heels of all that, the “new” DC version of this old horse just feels forced and extremely unimaginative.
I admit I haven’t paid much attention to the characters in this new team at all– so I don’t know what’s been going on in their lives and what changes were made to them with the advent of the New 52… But it feels like Johns has manipulated the characters a bit to make them “The World’s Most Dangerous Team.” First off, when did Hawkman become a psychopath bent on killing people who aren’t even the villains he’s chasing? Why is Stargirl a superstar? (That question’s a bit rhetorical. Since Johns created her, he’s just remade her a superstar in this New 52 world.) Why is Vibe, a character whose greatest accomplishment (so far) is chasing a kid who stole a candy bar, even being considered for this team? And does Johns just assume everyone is reading Green Lantern and they recognize the New GL… Because he completely glosses over the character in this comic.
I won’t even go into Johns’ pick for the JLA leader. If you haven’t read the comic, you’ll be surprised by it… And not in a good way. Even more ridiculous is the reason they were all picked to be in this group: Specifically, they exist in case they have to take on certain members of the other Justice League team. You need to laugh it off in order not to cry at how bad this setup is.
If that wasn’t enough, the art is a dismal mess. David Finch needs to go easy on the ink. On the first page alone, the only detail you get is in the first panel landscape. Once Finch starts drawing actual people, he inks a shadow darker than is possible with the light sources present– so there’s nothing to look at. I imagine this technique either made the colorist’s job very easy or very, very difficult.
And the art doesn’t get any better. Finch draws a well-lit room with such exaggerated shadows, they create a mood counter to the scene. The problem with Finch’s art– which is worse than when I last saw it in Batman The Dark Knight– is the constant black shadows with little or no details (or muddled detail) that leave nothing exciting to look at… Conveying little or no emotion to the reader. In an entertainment format that’s all about visual storytelling, Finch’s heavyhanded approach comes close to destroying the whole point.
I also really wish DC would stop coming up with new comic book titles. With 19 of the original New 52 already cancelled and 4 more biting the dust from the waves after them– they should stop this 52 gimmick and start concentrating on the books that have lasted… And make them better. Trust me, they need it. Instead they cancel bad comics, then replace them with books that are similar in quality or worse.
It’s sad too… Because people will pick this comic up just because Justice League of America is the title. These fans are going to be “quality deniers” because they just want a JLA comic more than anything. But think of this new JLA #1 like food. Would you want someone’s best dinner or their worst? Even if it’s labeled filet mignon– it still sucks to eat rancid meat. – W.D. Prescott
Kill Shakespeare The Tide of Blood #1
Writers: Anthony Del Col,
Artist: Andy Belanger
Colorist: Shari Chankhamma
Letterer: Chris Mowry
26 pages, $3.99
Kill Shakespeare The Tide of Blood #1 was so unique and engaging, I just had to put down the Comixology app and dig around the Net to learn more about the original run. Because I’m a detail-oriented nit-picker, I couldn’t help but notice the original had been criticized for not adhering to the Bard’s Elizabethan dialect. Frankly, that’s cuckoo! We’re already dealing in a world that’s highly imaginative, well-drawn, and super-intriguing. On top of that, you want a sonnet?
Okay, here’s your sonnet:
Shall I compare Tide of Blood to a Summer’s Day?
By Red Tash
I had high hopes for Kill Shakespeare, The Tide
Of Blood. To me it promised cultured breaths,
And if I swore it stank you’d know I’d lied.
Those who bitch of a pentameter’s death,
For forced adherence would not bring a bit
More artistry to this fantastic mix
Of color, drama, dialogue, and lit.
I read the book– indeed, I read transfixed.
At last! Strong characters, unique–
Even colorist and lettering what
they should be. No corners cut, made me think
“How brave amongst the boring same-old glut!”
Nearly perfect in all respects, except
The art takes few chances. Can’t wait for next!
– Red Tash
It Girl and The Atomics #7
The World is Flat Part 1
Writer: Jamie S. Rich
Artist: Mike Norton
Colorist: Allen Passalaqua
24 pages, $2.99
I’ve been trying to think of a snappy opening to this review for a while, but I got nothing– I’m drawing a blank here. Great comics provoke an immediate response (as do some awful ones) but middling books just lie there and go, “…bleh.”
I used to read Mike Allred’s Atomic Comics about 10 years ago and really enjoyed the Pop-Art madness contained inside… But I fell off the Allred wagon when he did an adaptation of The Mormon Bible (No really, he did… I’m not kidding) and never really got back on again. I still loved what I experienced before that, so I figured I’d give It Girl and The Atomics a go. Now I’m almost wishing I hadn’t, especially since I’d already ordered the first It Girl trade containing the initial six issues… “Jinkies!”
It’s not as if this is a terrible comic (it really isn’t), but I’m just not getting inspired when I read it… And that’s a problem. Twenty-four pages go by and my only reaction is “That’s OK”… Which isn’t the worst reaction after you’ve consumed a piece of entertainment (it’s certainly better than wanting to throw it at the wall), but it is an awful reaction if you’ve chosen to review the damn thing!
I can’t say anyone involved with It Girl #7 is doing a bad job or phoning it in. All the parts are executed relatively well, but it just doesn’t excite or energise me in the way an “Atomic Comic” should.
This is the first part in a new story. Going by the slow pace, I’ll go ahead and guess it’s going to be a six-parter. It Girl is sent on a mission to a lodge in the country to free a mad professor from Mother Von Harbou and her frankenstein-esque sons. Readers get 8 pages of introduction before the story ever reaches the lodge where the professor is incarcerated… Whereupon It Girl is promptly knocked out and the rest of the issue is her trying to escape with the man.
The dialogue by Jamie S. Rich is decent– he seems to have found It Girl’s voice and she sounds the way I’d expect her to. The story’s true problem lies in a lack of plot for the reader to digest. This feels like a comic being written for a trade collection and I get a little bit pissed off by that. In general, the graphic design of It Girl and the Atomics #7 is excellent. It’s just a pity the story is lacking.
The art by Mike Norton is very nice. Even though he’s a bit more conventional and less “pop-art” than Allred, he really delivers. Norton’s mixing up the layouts is all the more important, since he doesn’t get much to work with from the script. The character designs are also good– with It Girl looking as she should. I have to highly compliment Norton on the great facial expressions he gives her. They really are a treat.
Allen Passalaqua’s colouring is just right and looks as bright as an Allred product should look. The same goes for the letters by Crank– they fit right in. It may be this was just a poor issue from a potentially great run, but given it is also a natural jumping on point– I feel It Girl and the Atomics #7 could have been a lot better. – Locusmortis
Action Comics #17
Writers: Grant Morrison, Sholly Fisch
Artists: Brad Walker, Rags Morales, Andrew Hennessy, Mark Propst,
Cam Smith, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story
Colorists: Gabe Eltaeb, Brad Anderson, Jordie Bellaire
Letterers: Steve Wands, Taylor Esposito
28 pages, $3.99
Gotta give it to DC– even their promotional copywriting is slipping (mirroring the decline in most of their comic scripts.) I picked this book up specifically because it was described as the last Grant Morrison issue. After finishing the comic and seeing the “To Be Continued” box– I checked ahead, only to discover DC had the exact same description for both issues #17 and #18.
Way to go guys!
To be honest, I’m quite behind with this series anyway, even though I buy the book every month. I had planned to read all my back issues before diving into this “last” Morrison story, but just never got around to them. I soon remembered why I was dragging my feet…
… Action Comics is boring.
I’ve mentioned my disaffection with this title’s direction on IMJ and in public– whenever the subject arises. Many faithful Morrison fans have done their best to explain to me what the writer is attempting to accomplish with Superman… And I must admit they are some of the most respectful people when arguing their points– even when I keep telling them, “I know what he’s doing. It’s not like it’s subtle. All I’m saying is, he’s doing a poor job.”
I will give some credit to Morrison: He’s weaved together a complex 18-issue story. But I wonder how much of the complexity is needed and how much of it gets in the way of making the comic an enjoyable experience… Since all the intricate details make it hard for a new reader to just jump right in. The problem is even more apparent in this issue, where most of the events unfolding are the results of set-ups seen in the last 16 comics. It all results in a jumbled mess– unless you’ve read most, if not all, of the past issues.
Morrison keeps switching between significant moments in Superman’s history and different Supermen from various points in time. Some of these Men of Steel are not even in the time periods they belong, plus scenes from past issues are apparently taking place within the continuity of this issue’s story. (Are you as confused as I am yet?) Often, the writing doesn’t support the action occurring in the art. (Or vice-versa.)
This issue’s final kick-in-the-ass comes from the back-up story. I didn’t even bother to read it after seeing an editor’s note stating the events in the back-up happen after the events in next month’s issue. Call me crazy, but if a story in this month’s comic takes place after the story in next month’s comic… Shouldn’t it be the back up story for next month’s comic?
In all seriousness, DC’s New 52 Superman never started off on the right foot… And with Warner Bros Man of Steel premiering later this year, one would hope DC will try to inject Scott Snyder and John Layman quality into the Superman family of titles. Batman is their most popular hero these days, but I think many people still think of Superman as the image of DC… Like Spider-Man is for Marvel. In two months, I can only hope new writer Jack Higgins pulls off a miracle– otherwise I think Superman will be lost on yet another generation of comic book readers.
– W.D. Prescott
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artists: Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: Albert Deschesne
26 pages, $3.99
You may notice I listed Nova #1 as having 26 pages of art. You may now be thinking, “Wow! A Marvel comic with 26 pages of art that only costs $3.99? That doesn’t sound very Marvel-like at all.”
Allow me to show you what the first 3 pages of this comic book consist of… Keeping in mind this issue also has 3 double splash pages, 2 splash pages and multiple pages with 4 or less panels.
Combine that news with the first 3 pages you see below and the comic quickly goes from seeming like a good deal to feeling a bit like a ripoff:
But you also gotta remember this is a Jeph Loeb book… So none of this should come as a surprise to anyone who’s been around the industry for the past few years.
Upfront I will tell you this review will not be full of piss and vinegar like almost every one of my other Loeb comic book reviews. There are two positive things I can say about Nova #1: A) I am completely shocked Marvel didn’t try to charge $4.99 for this comic because of the “extra pages”. Though $3.99 is still overpriced, twenty-six pages does look better compared to the usual twenty. B) This may be the best Jeph Loeb comic I’ve read in years… But that does not even come close to making it good.
Nova #1 suffers from everything that’s been wrong with every other Loeb comic book written since his run on Batman/Superman– there’s nothing here beyond the surface of things. This issue is so bland and generic, almost everything offered is something we’ve all seen a million times before.
The main character, Sam Alexander, is a 15-year-old high school student who lives in a small town he believes he’ll always be stuck in. He’s a rad skater, gets bullied and the “cutest” girl in school happens to like him– but Sam is too oblivious to either know or care.
Sam’s father, Jesse, tells his son stories of when he used to be in something called The Nova Corps. Jesse also happens to work as a janitor at Sam’s school and is… Wait for it… An alcoholic. Sigh. Sam thinks his Dad is a big drunk loser and doesn’t believe any of his stories about the Nova Corps. This is all extremely tired and boring stuff. The only bits of action in the issue come when Jesse tells Sam his Corps stories. Again, there’s absolutely nothing new here. Sam comes off as a prick, but that’s always how these types of character arcs start– don’t they?
A Loeb comic wouldn’t be a Loeb comic without some really awful jokes completely falling flat. The last page ends with one of these “jokes” and it does a good job of summing up the issue perfectly. I seriously believe a 12-year-old kid could write a better story than what Loeb presents here.
On the flip side, Ed McGuinness (with Dexter Vines inking) produces some of his best art in a long time. Still too many splash and 4 panel pages, but everything looks great. I would go so far to say the art is the ONLY thing that kept me from thinking I didn’t waste my time reading Nova #1.
The story also feels like it’s being written for a trade instead of a monthly comic, as it’s decompressed as all hell. At this rate, I’m betting Sam won’t even become Nova until the last issue of this story arc. Any stars I’m giving this issue are for the art alone. The writing is a complete waste and will make you want to read or watch something with a bit more creativity, substance and maturity… Like perhaps SpongeBob Squarepants. – Jose Melendez
The Shadow Year One #1
Writer: Matt Wagner
Artist: Wilfredo Torres
Colorist: Brennan Wagner
Letterer: Rob Steen
22 pages, $3.99
Amazingly, I was first introduced to The Shadow through the Alec Baldwin movie. Later, a friend who loved the 1930s radio plays let me borrow a few. So I’m not the biggest fan (I’ve never read any of the classic Shadow pulp stories either), but I do have a working knowledge of the character. Coming into The Shadow Year One, I think I would have liked it better if I had no knowledge at all… And even then, it probably would only have been a slight improvement.
I haven’t read any of Matt Wagner’s work, but Grendel is on my list. I do know he is capable of some great stuff– as I remember Ian (and, I believe Jose and Tom too) talking positively about his Madam Xanadu series from Vertigo. So, as I read this first issue, I wondered if there is another Matt Wagner haunting the comic book industry. Most Year One titles tend to be expanded origin stories, specifically the first year in a hero’s persona. The problem with this tale: In 32 pages, we only see The Shadow for three. The beginning of the story shows a Lamont Cranston who’s already donned the mantle of The Shadow in Cambodia– and the only reason he returns to the States is because a villain escaped there. So, this really isn’t a Year One story.
Another problem comes with the historical context in which the tale takes place. If you are going to have a hero shoot a guy in the head and then bleed out in the next panel, I’m assuming you are going for a comic with “realistic” depictions (which are, in truth, swiftly becoming cliché to me.) But if a realistic comic is what you’re shooting for, then you’re going to have a hard time convincing me Margo Lane– a rich socialite– immediately loses all her money in the Black Tuesday stock market crash… To the point she has to shack up with a gangster only six days later. Being rich, Lane is going to have jewelry and furnishings (among other things) to sell for enough cash to survive– at least for a while. And even if this new #1 comic took place months after this historical event, I still have a problem believing a woman like Margo would let herself become some gangster’s floozy. As much as she is considered Cranston’s love interest, she also rises to become his sidekick. If she can’t find enough resourcefulness to weather the loss of her money, how could she possibly fill that role?
For the most part, the dialogue is also iffy. It feels like Wagner is attempting to mimic the feel of the radio plays… And I think he does a good job of it in a few scenes. But, if anything, his script just draws attention to the fact that this story was not written by one of The Shadow’s classic writers.
I also wish Wagner drew the book. His style has the exact aesthetic a story from the 30s calls for. Wilfredo Torres’ art is often sloppy– character faces are vague and change from panel to panel. There is even a scene towards the end where Cranston makes his first appearance at the Cobalt Club– and I couldn’t even tell it was him. I thought it was the gangster I was just reading about.
All in all, The Shadow Year One #1 is a missed opportunity. A Shadow story talking place at the start of The Great Depression has a lot of dramatic potential– especially during our current tumultuous financial times. This comic could have been a knock out hit for Dynamite… But there is so much wrong here, I would recommend Baldwin’s 1994 movie before I would this book. – W.D. Prescott
Writers: Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn
Artist: Tony Moore
Colorist: Val Staples
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
20 pages, $2.99
“Mom, you know what was weird about Deadpool? Deadpool’s in space and bunch of space chimps are in prison. Not really in prison, I guess, just locked up. Then the chimps tricked Deadpool and tried to kill him.”
“What was weird about that?” I asked.
“It was weird because they started talking.”
“It wasn’t weird that they were attacking Deadpool?”
“No, I mean, usually everything attacks Deadpool.”
“Yeah, of course,” I said.
My son continued, “And then, when he sliced the belly of a dead President ghost, a bunch of jelly beans came out.”
That was one of my favorite gags in this issue. “Did you understand why jelly beans came out?”
“No, I didn’t, but Deadpool got one of them and went ‘Yick, licorice.’”
I have heard nothing but “Deadpool, Deadpool, Deadpool” since my eleven-year-old son discovered the character last year. I have glanced through countless back issues from the comic book store, dressed my kid in a Deadpool hoodie that he wears until even the nose blind scream for mercy, and endured announcements at the dinner table proclaiming that someday I shall have a grandchild bearing the name “Wade Wilson.” This week when a new Deadpool came out, I decided to pay attention.
I’m so glad I did. The art was pretty great, which is totally important and not at all a surprise coming from Tony Moore. I knew Deadpool was awesome by the sheer enthusiasm my son embraced him with, but I had no idea how MAD Magazinesque the humor was in this series. This issue really had me chuckling on every page. I was just about to compare it to the Simpsons when my research confirmed that Gerry Duggan wrote for the Simpsons, and Posehn is THE Brian Posehn of comedic infamy.
The jokes my son didn’t get are going to be used as a jumping off place by yours truly as a teaching opportunity. (Yes, really. It’s called parenting.) As far as writing goes, seldom have I seen such witty fun in comics. There were so many pop culture jokes thrown into this issue, I feel like it needs to be couriered to a few other comic creators with a note that says “This is how it’s done, you insufferable hacks.”
Not only was the story funny, but the letters to Deadpool in the back were the most amusing I’ve read since Maxim. And speaking of letters, even the lettering in this issue is flawless, with a Russian script filling in for the voice of the Soviet space relic in which Wilson battles Reagan.
Amazingly, the last time my husband took one of our boys to the comic book shop to pick up Deadpool, he was lambasted that this character was “never, ever, ever for kids” by the help. He disagreed and got pretty perturbed at the intrusion. I stand by my husband on this one. This is exactly the sort of thing I’d have loved as a kid, and the kid in me still enjoys. As far as I’m concerned, my sons can have anything Deadpool they want, except maybe, you know— real ninja swords. (Yes, they’ve asked. Of course they’ve asked.)
The colors are vivid, the cover’s a great fit for the issue, and even the lead-in recap is cute. I love a story that manages to be self-parodying and exciting to follow at the same time. I sometimes skip over panels of fisticuffs in comics because there are only so many times you can see a punch being thrown before you say “I get it, it’s a fight, let’s move on.” I didn’t do that with this issue, but I did desperately scour it upon re-reading trying to find anything to dock.
If I must dock my rating for something, I’ll take a half star off the top because the last few panels were a little tough to follow. My son insists Deadpool was the victim of (redacted for spoilers) but I don’t agree. Maybe it’s supposed to be vague in that way, I don’t know. I’ll take another half star off because even though the art was terrific, it really didn’t bring anything new to the read. No limits or edges were pushed in any way that I could tell. I will hold an artist like Moore at a higher standard, whether that’s fair or not.
Sorry. Mean Mommy.
The greatest part of the comic was in the journey, not those last few “did he or didn’t he” frames. Definitely worth the cover price and I will be investing in the back issues as soon as I can find them in print. I don’t dislike Comixology but paper still gets more mileage in this house and I know everyone’s going to want to read this one. – Red Tash