Justice League of America #5
World’s Most Dangerous Part 5
Writer: Geoff Ego
Artist: Brett Bliefeld, Norm Rapmund
Colorist: Andrew Dalmouse
Letterer: Rob Leigh
28 pages, $3.99
I thought Age of Ultron #10 was a flaming heap of shit… That is, until I read Justice League of America #5. This rambling, schizophrenic, senseless mess could only have been created by someone who doesn’t give a shit and has been phoning their work in for years.
Hello, Geoff Johns.
Comparing JLA #5 with Age of Ultron #10 is more apt than you might think… But at least the Marvel failure was magnificently horrible– whereas Justice League of America is as boring as a gloomy Welsh Monument.
Here’s what I said about JLA #5 in my Previews Hits and Misses™ column: “There’s a coffin on the cover– so a superhero has obviously died… And here I am actually writing this like I give a fuck.” And, of course, it turned out I was correct: No fucks were given when I saw that cover– as it was one of the most blatantly obvious bait-and-switch moments in recent comics history. Ok, (Spoilers here, kids!) Catwoman isn’t dead– the coffin was for Martian Manhunter all along! Wow, no one saw that coming! You really wrote the shit out of that idea, didn’t you Geoff? (Actually, you are the definition of a fucking hack.)
There are PLENTY of bad things about this pamphlet, but probably the worst: It is the fifth best-selling comic in America this week. If people are actually liking this vomit, then I’m not surprised the comic business is in such a parlous state. If fans are going to keep buying this shit without question, it’s no wonder why Johns can afford to puke out tired, obvious plots and plaster teeth-grindingly pointless exposition across every page.
I was going to write a detailed page-by-page plot dissection, but I just couldn’t be bothered. If I boil the comic down to its essentials, it goes something like this: Talk-Talk-Talk, Fight-Fight-Fight, Oh look, it’s Doctor Light!, the end.
When reviewing most recent DC comics, I’ve made a point of giving a shout out to the editors who rewrite everything into the corporate gloop they deem us fans to be worthy of… But since Geoff Johns is the boss– who the fuck is going to dare to rewrite him? That means he gets a pass on every lame idea he has and the one time we need DC Editors to do their fucking jobs properly– they don’t because they’re afraid of getting shitcanned by the Ego-in-Chief.
Comics are not just about writers though, so I can’t let penciler Brett Booth get away without taking his fair share of the blame. To describe his work as incompetent would be an understatement– imagine if Rob Liefeld tried drawing blindfolded with a broken wrist and you’d be close to what Booth churns out here. The panel layouts and camera angles are fucking awful… I feel like someone’s spiked my drink with roofies when I try to follow this trash. It’s all so random and disorienting– there’s absolutely no flow to the story at all.
The panel featured in this review is a case in point to how rubbish the art is, as Martian Manhunter picks up Signal Man and uses him to hit Copperhead. The thing is, in order to do that, he uses his left hand to reach around behind himself to his right side and pick up Signal Man and then hit Copperhead with a backhand motion. Now I don’t give a fuck if you’re a shapeshifter or whatever, you would need to completely rearrange your pelvic bones, your elbow and your wrist bone structure in order to do that… And why the fuck would you bother doing that in the middle of a fight, when you could just USE YOUR RIGHT HAND INSTEAD?!?
It’s stupid lazy thinking like Booth exhibits that really annoys the shit out of me. To make matters worse, the colorist/finisher had to use 2 separate blur effects to give the illusion of movement to this awful drawing. I’d say the colorist was just as puzzled as I was when he was confronted with the art for this splash page.
The only person I can praise is letterer Rob Leigh, who had to put all of John’s voluminous drivel onto these pages.
It’s not that I purposely go out and pick bad comics to review (Well, that’s not strictly true– sometimes I do) but that is not the case this week. I’d have much preferred to review something good, but I’ve already recently reviewed the comics I enjoyed this week– and I (unfortunately) can’t review the same comics month after month. However, I did read Wake #2 and Daredevil #27 and they are both FUCKING BRILLIANT. Ignore Justice League of America and buy one those comics instead– especially if you’ve got a few extra dollars burning a hole in your filthy little pockets. – Locusmortis
Scarlet Spider #18
Wrath Part 2
Writer: Chris Yost
Artists: Carlo Barberi, Ale Garza,
Colorist: Rex Lokus
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
20 pages, $2.99
Why isn’t Scarlet Spider considered to be THE Spidey comic? It’s supposed to focus on Kaine (one of the infamous Spider-Man clones), but it reads more like a comic starring Peter Parker— even if there are a few notable contrasts between Kaine and Peter… Like how Kaine is a killer. If the murders were to disappear, I think readers would be left with a compelling story worthy of the original Spider-Man.
This issue jumps right into the middle of a conflict with the X-Men. Kaine has “killed” Wolverine and is now dealing with the repercussions. Somewhere in the middle of all this, I definitely got a whiff of… Game of Thrones! (Don’t ask– but certain plot points seemed very familiar.) Character interactions are great… And Kaine’s “voice” matches what I think Peter’s would be in the same situation. The quips between Wolverine and the Scarlet Spider are awesome. The young girl Kaine is protecting is a fun new character. She fits seamlessly into the plot and has a personality that allows for great interactions with other characters. Amazing character chemistry creates an entertaining comic book.
The art team of Carlo Barberi, Ale Garza and Walden Wong is stellar. I could actually tell Kaine’s facial expressions through his mask– which enabled me to “hear” the inflection in Kaine’s inner voice. Usually when I read inner dialogue, it just drones on. Having the art reflect tone obviously enhances the reading experience. Rex Lokus’ colours fit the mood of Chris Yost’s script… Bright tints support lively scenes and dark hues foretell impending danger.
After all the good stuff, I still had a hard time with Scarlet Spider #18 not being a Peter Parker comic. With the right modifications, this could be one awesome Spider-Man story. This book shows Chris Yost’s potential… And how the writer would be a perfect fit for the main Spidey comic– and the perfect creator to bring back Peter Parker and undo years of damage perpetrated on the Wallcrawler by the less than “superior” Dan Slott.
I want to make it abundantly clear: Scarlet Spider #18 is a great comic book. (I’m even willing to mostly overlook the plot foray into Games of Thrones-land.) Here’s what’s unfortunate for Marvel: I have now been given a glimpse of what the publisher and 21st Century Spider-Man comics can be… And I will never allow the company to rest on their mediocrity again. If only Marvel would throw out the overpaid hacks and place the deserving talent where they need to be… We could stop thinking about how much we hate comics and bring on the love again. – Nick Furi
Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Jae Lee, Ben Oliver
Colorists: June Chung, Daniel Brown
Letterer: Rob Leigh
25 pages, $3.99
Not long ago, DC announced two all-new ongoing series: Superman/Wonder Woman and Justice League 3000. I found the news depressing. With this move, DC’s comic book roster will almost exclusively feature superheroes– increasing my feeling of being force-fed the same stories over and over. Worse, these new titles will replace daring and quasi-indie comics, which I counted among the good innovations brought on by DC’s New 52.
In light of my feelings, it would be easy to think Batman/Superman would fall under my same reprobations, as its basic concept clearly doesn’t seem like the most original idea ever. But I was actually excited to read this title. First, because DC has so far been unable to correctly showcase a realistic relationship between Bruce and Clark. (The pairs’ main New 52 interaction point is the Justice League comic– which nowadays falls under the unfortunate supervision of Geoff Johns, one of the biggest bunglers in modern-day comics). Secondly, this comic is being penned by Greg Pak— newly announced to be the next writer of Action Comics as well. I was curious to see Pak’s take on Superman, a hero who is currently in real need of a good creator.
So does this first installment deliver on the promises inherent with teaming these two disparate characters? In short, it does deliver somewhat– but I also predict it will falter and downright suck if the subtlety of the writing doesn’t pick up quickly… As some serious efforts are needed to increase the level of meaningful characterization.
The biggest problem in Batman/Superman #1 lies in Pak’s treatment of the two heroes’ psychologies. The story is set in the past, as both characters are barely beginning their crime-fighting careers. Alas, Pak falls into a very common trap here: According to modern comic-book logic, young heroes = brash restlessness. Think about it: In order to create the illusion of youth and inexperience, virtually every origin story today depicts its characters as super-pissed assholes with a bad case of self-importance.
In order to prove how “street-wise” he is, Pak shows Bruce coldly watching children fighting in the street, relishing the spectacle. When the kids are told to stop battling by a passerby, Bruce explains one should never protect an innocent from being bullied– for the person will get hurt even more when the bullies come back. Well, that’s just swell. Isn’t it the point of Batman to stand up for the weak? I know what Pak is trying to do here– he wants to prove Bruce pragmatically knows the tough realities of the streets, but this is a poor, forced demonstration.
The trend of young = furious as shit continues as Batman snaps a civilian’s wrist during a mission. In fact, both the Dark Knight and the Man of Tomorrow mentally tell themselves they’re angry in this comic, and continuously let their hatred think for them. At the end of the issue, Superman beats someone so badly– you’re forced to wonder if he is going for the kill.
Another trap Pak gleefully falls into: Forcing Batman and Superman to fight each other. Heroes battling heroes is such an awful, worn cliché. I am so sick of it. Why do creators blindly accept the idea that two people sworn to protect the innocent aren’t going to talk to each other first– before the fists fly? Here are two heroes who always talk to their enemies before using their brawn. (Batman with Joker and Two-Face… Superman with Lex Luthor.) Having them come to blows with each other– without uttering a single word– is highly unlikely.
But there are some good qualities to Batman/Superman too! Despite its many unoriginal ideas, there’s a good twist to the first encounter between Bats and Supes– and it involves an unplanned trip to Earth-2! Universe-traveling can be gruesome if not managed well (characters meeting their mirror-selves is not a really new concept, Lewis Carroll did it a long, long time ago), but it’s still a nice plot point in what would have otherwise been an unremarkable narrative.
Strangely, the art matches the writing– in that it can be as charming as it can be unraveling. Jae Lee draws in an eerily poetic fashion, but his drawings are often very scarce– relying too much on inking and offering zero background detail. Gotham is especially disconcertingly penciled, as whole panels of streets are simply represented by what seems like dire tree branches in the backdrop.
As much as I see what Pak is trying to do by exaggerating his heroes’ brashness, I also understand what Lee is going for here. Gotham is a baleful place, rotten to the core and full of bad omens… As if it’s only fair to have strange, distorted figures in the backgrounds to metaphorically embody the dark spirit of the city. But as much as I appreciate the gist of Lee’s ideas, they come off as a bit cheap. More often than not, the comic looks like it’s depicting shadows moving in fog, as the disturbing lack of backgrounds makes everything feel hazy. Sometimes though, Lee surprises us with wonderful layouts– notably with a sophisticated page displaying a “Roaring Twenties” aesthetic. Simply gorgeous! Still, I don’t think his style fits a superhero comic well… His art would actually suit the more indie-flavored I, Vampire much more.
The presence of a fill-in artist (Ben Oliver) also makes me scratch my head– as I don’t understand how a resident artist who doesn’t completely finish his first assignment thinks he will be able to manage the pace of an ongoing series. Ben Oliver’s style doesn’t clash too much with Lee’s, but it also doesn’t have nearly as much temper and oddity.
Batman/Superman #1 is a good start, but it’s also far from stellar. It has many flaws, but they aren’t disconcerting enough to make the comic distasteful. I can’t stress enough how crucial it is for this title to pick up its game in the next few issues… Otherwise, it will become just another bland, shitty New 52 comic. Right now, there’s hope to have for this title. If Greg Pak ups the ante with tighter plots and subtler characterizations, this comic may very well be worth reading. – Simon J. O’Connor
Writers: David Schulner,
Aaron Ginsburg, Wade McIntyre
Artist: Juan Jose Ryp
Colorist: Andy Troy
Letterer: Rus Wooton
22 pages, $3.99
I fell into a familiar trap the other day: I found a genre/story idea I enjoyed so much– that I went trolling in other mediums thinking I would find things just as good. Ian’s rave review of Orphan Black (in the IMJ Widget Section and during the last IMJ Nation™ Podcast) led me to a superb television show– easily one of my new favourites. And because cloning and other sci-fi elements run rampant through Orphan Black– I blithely thought I’d be getting the same experience while reading Clone #8.
Here’s the short version of my review: I went into Clone #8 very excited and left extremely disappointed.
The amount of detail in the first panel wowed and energized me… But by Panel #2 I was already seeing a quality decline. Juan Jose Ryp’s pencils never stopped being detailed, but his shading technique became overbearing and distracting. By the end of the page, what ever energy I felt earlier had completely dissipated. Juan uses intricate dotting to shade and add detail… And he goes completely overboard– every character and object gets the same treatment. If this technique was used in moderation, it would create an interesting style. To be blunt, there was just too much of it for me– ultimately causing the entire book to suffer.
One other nitpick I had with Juan’s art: The character Amelia has “Man Hands.” (See more Seinfeld allusions in my Larfleeze #1 review below.) I know this is minor, but it also served as another reason how Ryp’s art took me out of the story.
By the third page, I was hit with several misogynistic rape-filled moments. It’s bad enough readers see this once… But I get hit with this idiocy on three separate occasions before the writers decide Amelia needs to be rescued by one of the male clones. (I should note her husband, Luke, is a clone too.) But scripters David Schulner, Aaron Ginsburg and Wade McIntyre save the worst for last– after almost being sexually assaulted, Amelia decides to kiss her protector… Even though she knows it isn’t her husband. I don’t pretend to know how anyone would react in this situation, but I would think having an intimate moment after just about being raped seems more than preposterous. Shame on these writers.
By this point, not much else mattered to me. I’m already going to give Clone #8 a terrible rating. The story is very lackluster and I don’t give a flying fuck about any of this… With the horrific art and near-rape taking me completely out of anything else this series may have had to offer.
I’m done with Clone… So much so I am also done with trying to find new clone stories. I’ll just go back and re-watch Orphan Black– where the female characters are strong, command the utmost respect and can take care of themselves.
– Nick Furi
The Extremely Large Dog
on the Edge of Forever
Writers: Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis
Artist: Scott Kolins
Colorist: Mike Atiyeh
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
20 pages, $2.99
I did not have high hopes for Larfleeze #1, since the character itself is extremely one note– lacking substance and depth. And let’s face it… His constant droning vocal patterns are ridiculous too. Even with that, I had the tiniest hope this comic wouldn’t be terrible– as Keith Giffen and J.M DeMatteis are usually great at finding absurd ways to use ridiculous characters. If anyone could make an entertaining series based on such a simple protagonist, it would be these two guys.
Giffen and DeMatteis’ Justice League International stories still stand as some of the funniest comics I’ve ever read. (Batman one-punching Guy Gardner is one of the GREATEST MOMENTS in all of comics.) Here’s the biggest difference between the JLI and the Larfleeze series: Despite playing most of the book for humor, the JLI’s cast remained multifaceted– while Larfleeze only has that one layer, making him extremely boring.
Larfleeze #1 reminds me of an atrocious version of the TV Show Seinfeld. It truly is a comic about nothing… As absolutely nothing of consequence happens in this pamphlet until the final, lackluster pages. Larfleeze is traveling atop a space rock with an alien assigned to be his butler. Having lost all his possessions, Larfleeze no longer has the will to live. Yet he spends the whole comic telling his origin story… And honestly, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass.
To further fuel my disdain, the butler asks Larfleeze how much of his story is true and Larfleeze responds, “About half.” HALF?!? Really? Let me get this straight… This comic is primarily filled with a character origin that’s only half true? This could be meant as one massive joke, but I don’t think it’s funny. It feels more like a slap in the face– as I now feel none of this comic’s contents are relevant… And I most likely wasted my time and money reading this rubbish.
The team of Giffen and DeMatteis are known for bringing the “Bwah-Ha-Ha” to comics… And, in truth, I did chuckle once or twice during Larfleeze’s backstory– but that’s it. The butler is completely unfunny and seems to exist only so Larfleeze can interact with another character. This entire idea would have been much more fun (and organic) if we had followed Larfleeze across the universe– as he desperately searched for new possessions.
The following statement appears on the first page, “How much harm can they (Giffen & DeMatteis) possibly do on a comic book called Larfleeze?” The truthful answer? Plenty. By the end, I wanted to excise my prefrontal cortex with an ice cream scoop– that’s how much I wish I could wipe my memory after reading this shit.
But Giffen and DeMatteis weren’t the only creative assailants here. There is so much orange in this comic, it looks like someone shat oranges all over my book. Mike Atiyeh’s obnoxious use of colour from page one had me wishing for temporary blindness– or sudden blunt force trauma to my head. (That’s my best Locusmortis impression— do you like it? Like Locusmortis’ opinions, mine are all true too!) I also didn’t enjoy Scott Kolins’ art. This was not a great outing for the man… Maybe because Larfleeze is unpleasant to look at for prolonged periods of time– or more likely because the art looked sloppy and inconsistent from the first panel, with frequent proportion issues.
In the end, the main problem with Larfleeze #1 is Larfleeze himself. His inaugural appearances may have been enjoyable because he was a new and unexpected character… But six years later, Larfleeze is nothing more than a one-dimensional cosmic joke. – Nick Furi
Journey into Mystery #653
Seeds of Destruction Part 2
Writer: Kathryn Immonen
Artist: Valerio Schiti
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
20 pages, $2.99
Every time I read this story, the less I like it… And the flaws jump out more and more with each repetition. Apparently this title has already been cancelled by the Marvel Powers That Be, and if this comic is any indication of typical issues, then I can see why they swung the axe on it.
Sif is the current lead in this book– and while I’ve liked her in the past, I just couldn’t get a handle on her character in Kathryn Immonen’s story. If this was a Manga, I’d definitely call Sif a Tsundere– as she blew hot and cold throughout the issue. In particular, her interactions with Beta Ray Bill reeked of bad soap opera.
Another thing that bothered me about Sif: Her dialogue and, in particular, her accent. She talked like a typical American (no offence to our American readers)– whereas I expected her to speak like a bloody Asgardian. I want the “thee’s” and “thou’s” and “thine’s”… I don’t want Sif talking like some fucking Desperate Housewives’ character. The contemporary dialogue given to her just sounds wrong and I found myself being thrust out of the story because of it.
The plot itself is kind of threadbare, as not a hell of a lot happens. This being the second part of a four-part story, it really does feel like all the important stuff either happened in Part One– or is being saved up for Part Four. Immonen jams all the boring “character stuff” into Part Two– essentially to pad out the story. Beta Ray Bill’s ship crashes into the asteroid where Sif is tending to Gaea and he rescues her from the wreckage… They talk and argue, almost kiss– then argue some more and yada yada yada…
Artist Valerio Schiti has a rather unfortunate name when pronounced in English, but I’ll try to avoid any faeces-based puns when referring to him or his work. In fact, when it comes to backgrounds and flashback scenes– Schiti’s stuff is pretty good. But in the “talky” scenes (which comprise most of the book), his character poses are very stiff and look like they come from photo-reference. The character likenesses are also quite poor. Beta Ray Bill looks fucking awful. (His head needs to be a lot more “horsey-looking,” ya know!)
I feel like Schiti is an artist who isn’t quite ready to pencil a Marvel comic. He needs to hone his craft a bit more before taking on a Big Two series. The colouring by Jordie Bellaire doesn’t do a lot to help Schiti’s art either. The colours just aren’t very sympathetic to the art– when they should be flat, they’re bright… And when they should be bright, they’re flat. Bellaire’s coloring seems to treat the foreground characters the same way it does the background scenery– meaning the characters don’t really “pop” much.
I believe Immonen is capable of writing great comics– this particular issue just isn’t her best moment. I’ll definitely keep my eye out for her in future… But perhaps the next time I pick up one of her books, I’ll make sure it doesn’t have Schiti art. – Locusmortis