Sunday, December 9, 2012

Justice League #2

Like The Flash #0, the first six issues of Justice League takes place five years before the proverbial "now" of The Flash #1, so I'm going to have to take a little detour before I jump into the amazing Francis Manapul/Brian Buccellato run. I'm not going to review Justice League as heavily as The Flash — I'll try to just look at how the Flash is portrayed in it and judge it off those merits alone. Sadly, the Flash didn't appear in Justice League #1, so I'm going to begin with Part Two. I think this is kind of fun because I'm now coming in with as much knowledge as the Flash, so I'll have to hope whatever happened in Part One is explained here.


Geoff Johns Writer
Jim Lee Penciller
Scott Williams Inker
Alex Sinclair Colorist
Patrick Brosseau Letter
Rex Ogle Associate Editor
Eddie Berganza Editor

The cover is by Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair, and it is a very good cover. There is probably nothing more exciting in the DC universe than a Superman-Batman fight, and this has Green Lantern thrown in for good measure. Another key element to this cover for me, is that it portrays something that actually happens in the book. The only little complaint I have is that the Flash is not there, when his appearance is kind of the biggest thing that happens in this book.

The black-and-white cover shows Jim Lee's pencil work, which is good, but a bit too messy for me to follow. I can't tell what's rubble and what's a Green Lantern chain, or where Superman's knee ends and Batman's begins. This cover shows me the value and importance of Scott Williams' inks. While Jim Lee is one of the best in the business, without Scott Williams backing him up, nobody would be able to tell what he was drawing.

The variant cover is by Ivan Reis, Andy Lanning and Rod Reis. It's not bad, although it's nothing incredibly special. Yes, it does feel a bit posed, but there is some good movement here and we have a nice displays of the heroes' powers and weapons. My favorite detail is having Batman's shadow look like a bat. My least favorite part is all the lantern logos floating around Green Lantern. If Ivan Reis thinks that those little things show up every time Green Lantern uses his ring, then remind me to never read a Green Lantern story drawn by him. That would get pretty annoying.

Our story starts in the Central City Crime Lab, where Barry Allen is arguing with Director Singh about the decision to have everyone work on the Flash case. Singh says he'd love to get back to solving murders, too, but chief has ordered for everyone to focus on finding out who the Flash really is. In the background, we see the lab covered with pictures of Flash with some handwritten notes, wondering things like if he's invulnerable and how much he eats. We then go back to Metropolis where this is happening:

Superman is fighting Batman and Green Lantern, and it's not going well for them. Batman has emptied his utility belt and Green Lantern's shields aren't strong enough to keep out the Man of Steel. So Green Lantern decides to call his friend Barry Allen's cellphone. Green Lantern asks for help, but Barry refuses, reminding him that they last time they teamed up they saved Central City from a talking gorilla, but they destroyed a museum in the process, which has caused the whole police department to focus on the Flash. But Green Lantern is pretty desperate, and he yells out, "Flash! This guy is going to KILL US!"

So Flash shows up, spins Superman around real quick and shoves him down to the other end of the street. Superman jumps right back up and tries to hit the Flash, but can't. As Flash is dodging, he says he thinks this is all a big misunderstanding, and he tells Superman to stop bothering because nobody's ever managed to touch him. But Superman eventually does hit him, by swinging his fist, which Flash barely dodges, then flicking out his finger and sending Flash flying down the street.

Batman finally stops the fighting by telling Superman they're not working with the monsters, but trying to stop them. Green Lantern's ring said the monsters were alien, so they went to Superman to see if he knew anything. Batman also shows Superman a box he took from one of the aliens. Flash sees they're done fighting, so he starts to clean up the damage they caused, but some helicopter arrive on the scene. Flash doesn't want to be caught with the vigilantes, as he makes a point to never break the law. Superman is worried Lex Luthor will be with the military, so they all retreat to the sewers.

Meanwhile, at S.T.A.R. Labs in Detroit, Dr. Silas Stone is working on another cube, identical to the one Batman had, but Dr. Stone is interrupted by his son, Victor. The two argue about Victor's football future at college, and Dr. Stone says sports are obsolete in a world of superheroes.

Back to our heroes, Superman has led them to an abandoned printing press. They start to try to figure out what the box is and Flash asks Green Lantern if the aliens who gave him his ring know anything about it. Green Lantern says they don't, and he suggests Flash quickly disassemble it, but he refuses, fearing it could be radioactive. Superman's x-ray vision doesn't work on it, so Flash suggests dusting it for fingerprints and looking for DNA. Batman says he sounds like a cop and Flash admits he is and works in a crime lab. Green Lantern says, "Barry, you're exposing your identity!" Flash answers: "And you just called me 'Barry,' genius!" Just then, the box starts to glow and makes a big BOOM sound, opening a portal opening to hundreds of alien soldiers. The box in S.T.A.R. Labs does the same, severely injuring Victor Stone in the process.

There is a little backup feature, which show excerpts of an interview with Amanda Waller and Captain Steve Trevor about his trip to an island of Amazons and how he met someone named Wonder Woman.

So that was my first foray into Justice League. I had heard so many people were disappointed with it, that I was very hesitant to buy it. But now that I've given it a try (a year after it came out), I think too many people just had too high expectations for it. I realize now that this first Justice League arc pretty much had to play out in a very specific way with very little room for innovative freedom. Geoff Johns and Jim Lee were really the only creators who could be considered for this project, and their choice in characters was equally natural and obvious. Of course you had to have Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash and Wonder Woman. Aquaman was a less-obvious choice, but Johns felt he could make him cool again, which he has done in the Aquaman book. The only surprise to the team was Cyborg, but even that makes sense when you consider DC's desire to diversify a little bit by including a black teenager to the team. And naturally, the only possible villain for this story would be Darkseid. The story itself then writes itself after taking all those considerations. You start by introducing the two characters with movies coming out (Batman and Green Lantern) have them fight aliens and each other, then slowly start introducing everybody else, always making sure they fight each other a little bit first before giving them plenty of ruthless aliens to beat up. It's rather similar to what the Avengers movie did, but it works. A lot of people were expecting more from DC's flagship title, but it really was required to play things relatively safe, especially with this story taking place five years in the past. All in all, I don't think Justice League is too bad.

The Good:

The art. The very first comic book I read was Batman: Hush, drawn by Jim Lee. Seeing that amazingly detailed and larger-than-life artwork was one of the main reasons I picked that book up. So I'm familiar of Lee's style, and I'm definitely a fan of it. I feel like the majority of comic book artists try to draw like him, but many fail. My other favorite artists are usually the ones who move in the other directions and try something completely different (like Francis Manapul). But I certainly take a lot of joy in looking at Lee's bold and dynamic pages. Yes, he sometimes draws everybody a little too stiff and muscular (even normal background characters tend to be a bit too beefy), but nobody can say that this artwork is not good.

Flash vs. Superman. This is a fight that nobody really talks about. We always want to see Superman fight Batman, and we always get that. But whenever we talk about Superman and Flash, it's always just in a dumb race around the world, which always stupidly ends up in a tie. But here, we finally get to see what would happen if Superman wanted to punch the Flash. Yeah, it'd be tough and it'd take him a while, but Superman would eventually figure out how to land one on Flash and that one little blow should be enough. Yes, this fight got off to a cheesy start with Flash spinning Superman around, but everything after that was pretty much perfect.

The Flash's attitude. We got to see him a few different scenarios, which was really nice. First there was Barry, upset that he can't work on a murder case and conflicted because his alter ego is the reason why. Then there's overconfident Flash, who has recently realized just how powerful he is. When he showed up to fight Superman, he was smiling, fully believing he could take down the Man of Steel ... until he was proven wrong. We also saw the image-concsious Flash, who didn't want to be considered a law-breaking vigilante or be the cause of more property damage. He was the only hero who thought to clean up that destroyed street in Metropolis. We also got to see a smart Flash, who always seemed to be thinking. When they're trying to figure out what the box is, he's constantly moving around it, looking at it from different angles and throwing out different ideas. Later in The Flash, we'll see him learn to think at super speed, but even without it, I like to consider him a smart guy and natural quick thinker. Anyway, the Flash was written very well here and even had a funny moment with the secret identity line.

The Bad:

Continuity flaw. Geoff Johns needed to find a way to quickly introduce the Flash, so he created a small previous adventure where Flash and Green Lantern teamed up to save Central City from a talking gorilla, who we all assume to be one of the Flash's top enemies, Gorilla Grodd. But in The Flash, five years later, Grodd meets Flash for the first time. Obviously Johns and Manapul weren't communicating.  Of course, you could argue that the first talking gorilla was Monsieur Mallah or the Ultra-Humanite (there are a handful of talking gorilla villains in DC), but neither of those characters fight the Flash regularly. I think Johns intended Grodd because he was a well-known villain and hardcore Flash fans could read that and go, "Cool! Flash and G.L. teamed up to stop Grodd!" I suppose I could blame Manapul for not taking that line into consideration for his book, but I'm going to put the majority of the blame on Geoff Johns here. He should have left the first reference of a major Flash villain to the Flash book. The closest equivalent to this I can think of would be to have Bane casually mentioned in Justice League and then have his origin shown a year later in Detective Comics.

The Ugly:

Epic fail. No, that's not Two-Face, that's Barry Allen. Apparently Jim Lee wanted to have half of Barry's face in the shadows, but Alex Sinclair's coloring just didn't make it dark enough. And why didn't Lee draw the eye, anyway? The only reason I'm making a big deal of this is because this panel took up the entire bottom of the first page and was a pretty important shot of Barry, as well, showing him struggling with the conflict the Flash has created. Yes, Jim Lee is the best, but he made one huge mistake this issue, and that happened to be with Barry Allen, who is the subject of this blog, so I have to penalize the score for this.

Final score: 6 out 10

If I were judging this book as a whole, it would probably score a lot higher. But as a strictly Flash story, it's only a bit above average. This also would have done better a year ago, when the continuity error didn't exist, but until someone goes back and shows that early adventure with Green Lantern and it doesn't conflict with modern continuity, then I have to penalize this book.

Next: Wonder Woman!

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