Monday, March 31, 2014

Justice League of America #9

"Dark Art"

Matt Kindt – Writer
Tom Derenick – Pencils
Tom Nguyen and Allen Martinez – Inks
Gabe Eltaeb – Colors
Rob Leigh – Letters
Rickey Purdin – Associate Editor
Eddie Berganza – Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

The cover is by Doug Mahnke with Eltaeb. It's an alright, although rather generic cover. Mahnke's work is decent, but I would have preferred to see what Tom Derenick could have done — he's not a bad artist. And if you want to get technical — which I do — this cover misleadingly shows the exact opposite of what happens inside the issue. That really bugs me. It's one thing to show something that doesn't happen, but completely reversing the plot for the cover is a sin in my book.

The story continues with Martian Manhunter making his way through the various psychic prisons holding members of the Justice League. He comes across Madame Xanadu, who has creepily turned to black magic to try to save herself.

Stargirl has found a way out of the prison, so she ignores J'onn's orders to stay put and begins looking for him. But as she journeys through each prison, she becomes increasingly distracted with her own memories.

Martian Manhunter enters Aquaman's prison, where the oceans have evaporated and all the sea life has died. J'onn then finds himself in his own prison — a fiery place, where he battles himself.

Stargirl keeps working her way through all the prisons (flying right past the Flash) until she finds J'onn and saves him. But as soon as they escape, Martian Manhunter becomes stuck inside Stargirl's head, and they are surrounded by several super villains.

The Good:

I really don't have a lot to say about this issue. There weren't any major developments for the Flash or other characters I care about, and we only got to see three new prisons. Mostly, this issue was devoted to setting up Stargirl's origin, which is perfectly fine, since she hasn't had her own New 52 series yet — unlike Vibe, Katana, Hawkman, Green Arrow, Catwoman, and even Simon Baz in Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter in Stormwatch. So Stargirl definitely deserves to have some space in Justice League of America devoted to her, but I'm just personally not interested in her.

The Bad:

A couple of incongruities. I know the people in the psychic prisons are acting irrationally, but I can only handle so much of that. My first problem was Stargirl marveling at Wonder Woman's height. Did you forget that you've already met her during the Trinity War, like yesterday? My second problem was Aquaman declaring that "anything that walks on two legs WILL DIE!" Umm ... how many legs do you walk on, Aquaman? I guess I could be talked out of this complaint because of the whole psychic prison thing, but that, combined with the lack of Flash, will make me give this issue a below average grade.

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next issue: All in your head!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Justice League of America #8

"Paradise Lost"

Matt Kindt Writer
Doug Mahnke Pencils
Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, Keith Champagne, and Marc Deering Inks
Gabe Eltaeb and Hi-Fi Colors
DC Lettering Letters
Rickey Purdin Associate Editor
Eddie Berganza Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

The cover is by Ken Lashley with Gabe Eltaeb, and I think it is a really neat cover. It's the iconic symbols of these characters left behind in the Forever Evil disaster. It really portrays the seem of gloom and despair created by this event. I do have a complaint, though, and that's Superman's cape. Didn't anyone at DC read Grant Morrison's run on Action Comics? He repeatedly established that the cape is indestructible, so it should never be in tatters like this. And this problem has been carried through all Forever Evil. Don't you think somebody would have stood up and said, "Wait, you can't draw his cape like that"?

Our story begins with Stargirl recounting the arrival of the Crime Syndicate and asking Martian Manhunter if the Justice League was really defeated.

J'onn J'onnzz wakes up to find himself in a field with Stargirl. He realizes they're in a prison, and Jason Rusch — one half of Firestorm — meets them and says he's been there a long time, but thinks they can escape. Jason leads J'onn down to the other levels of the prison, while J'onn tells Stargirl to stay up top.

The first prison they visit is Wonder Woman's. The Amazon is locked in an endless battle, believing Steve Trevor and Superman will be killed if she stops fighting. Jason rushes J'onn out of there, and they enter Shazam's prison, where the man-child gets to fight robots and smash whatever he wants without any repercussions.

Jason and J'onn then enter the Flash's prison, where Barry Allen is just sitting on a couch in a messy apartment, talking about all the things he's done today. He saved an old woman from being hit by a semi, rescued a man lost at sea, went on three dates with three different women around the world, decided to get his doctorate, saved a race car driver, stopped a robbery, looked up secret JFK files, looked up secret KGB files (which required learning Russian), battled Captain Cold, then compared coffee around the world. Flash says he did all those things just this morning, and he doesn't see why he should ever slow down. Since he has the ability to do everything, then why shouldn't he? But Martian Manhunter realizes that Flash hasn't actually left the room. He's caught in his own Speed Mind, just thinking about doing all those things.

Jason and J'onn then go to Superman's prison, where the Man of Steel is so guilty about killing Dr. Light, he's decided to fly fast enough around the world to travel back in time. J'onn then goes to Green Lantern's prison, where Simon Baz has grown tired of being called a terrorist, so he's become just that, and destroyed a city.

Meanwhile, Stargirl figures out how to escape the prison, but she finds the real world in complete chaos.

The Good:

Great prisons. I really like this concept of trapping the Justice League in prisons of their own making. They are the most powerful people on the planet, and the only ones who could defeat them is themselves. And combining this aspect with them being trapped in Firestorm's head really makes sense to me ... in a weird comic book way. I also thought each prison perfectly suited each character. Wonder Woman's warrior spirit won't let her rest, Superman's need to set everything right will send him on an insane, fruitless mission, and the child in Shazam will get too caught up in goofing around and having fun. Everything just worked here.

The Flash's prison. And of course, my favorite prison was the Flash's. I think the Speed Mind is the greatest contribution of the New 52. It's such a powerful tool for him, but a very dangerous one, as well. It nearly got him killed by Mob Rule, and he was only able to use it effectively when he was lying in a bed. I don't know if Matt Kindt came up with this concept, but he sure handled it well. The only nitpick I could think of would be Flash dating different people when he's already in a relationship with Patty Spivot. But I justify that as the Flash breaking free of all normal social and moral restrictions, and believing he has the ability to date as many women as he wants simultaneously. In normal circumstances, I think the Flash would also have misgivings about combing through secret government files just for the heck of it. But under this mindset, Flash believes he can do everything without any regard for the consequences. It's a pretty scary thought, turned sad and creepy when you realize the fastest man alive is spending all day sitting on a couch, just thinking about doing everything.

The Bad:

Looking at the credits to this issue, I was really worried about the art. It seems Doug Mahnke was rushed on his art, since he needed four inkers, and a couple of teams to color and letter the issue. Usually that severely negatively impacts the quality of the issue, but to my surprise, these guys pulled it off. No, it's not the best art it could have been, but it was solid. I think part of that helps because there were so many different prisons/environments in this issue that it made sense if things were a bit disjointed. And maybe it's because I liked the story so much I was willing to overlook some art problems. And maybe I only liked the story so much because I've gone quite a while without having the Flash actually do anything. Whatever the case may be, I quite enjoyed this issue, and have nothing to complain about.

Final score: 7 out of 10

Next time: Jailbreak!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Forever Evil #3

"Issue Three: Prisoners"

Geoff Johns Writer
David Finch Penciller
Richard Friend Inker
Sonia Oback Colorist
Rob Leigh Letterer
Kate Stewart Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

The cover is by David Finch, Richard Friend and Sonia Oback, and I don't care for it one bit. Most of it is because I can't stand David Finch's style. I understand the appeal of getting somebody like Finch for this dark, Forever Evil story, but I think he's a bit too sloppy to justify the amount of money this issue costs. Everybody's arms and hands seem out of proportion, and nobody's face looks quite right. Plus, nothing remotely like this happens inside. In fact, the exact opposite happens. Anyone expecting/hoping for a big showdown between these villains would be pretty disappointed once they read the issue.

Our story begins in S.T.A.R. Labs in Detroit, where Batman and Catwoman are explaining to Dr. Stone and Dr. Morrow what happened to the Justice League. After the robotic half of Cyborg split away from him, the Crime Syndicate showed up and Deathstorm did something to Firestorm to cause all the heroes to be sucked into the Firestorm matrix.

Batman and Catwoman were able to escape to the sewers with the nearly dead Vic Stone. They took him back to his dad in the Red Room, which contains the most advanced collection of technology, known and unknown, on the planet. While Dr. Stone works on his son, Batman learns that the Crime Syndicate has exposed Nightwing's secret identity. So Batman decides to leave to go help his old friend.

In Metropolis, at the remains of Galaxy Communications — a subsidiary of LexCorp — Lex Luthor, with some difficulty, gets Bizarro to help him connect to one of his hidden satellites. This enables him to monitor the actions of Ultraman, who is currently beating the snot out of Black Adam. But Ultraman begins to bleed after the fight, so he asks Grid to help him find Metallo, who is in Tooele, Utah. (Quick note: Tooele, pronounced two-will-uh, is in the middle of the desert near Nevada, and it's actually fairly close to the Salt Flats. Its remote location makes it an ideal place for military tests and such.) Luthor watches Ultraman fly in a rather unusual path, and he realizes he's avoiding the sunlight.

In Central City, the former home of the Flash, Power Ring and Deathstorm are punishing the Rogues for not destroying the city. Deathstorm removes Captain Cold's powers, and Power Ring destroys the glass the Rogues were using to escape to the Mirror World. This causes them to become separated in Metropolis. While the rest of the Rogues battled the Parasite and eventually went to Gotham, Captain Cold came across Luthor and Bizarro. They then were joined by Black Manta, who had saved Black Adam, and they all realize they hate the Crime Syndicate and decide to team up.

The Good:

The fate of the Justice League. I know the whole point of Forever Evil is to see how the world deals with the sudden and mysterious disappearance of the Justice League. But it was rather frustrating to be operating in the dark with no clue as to what happened. Now we finally have something. It doesn't explain everything, but I think it kind of makes sense. Firestorm is created when one person is sucked into another, so potentially, if someone like Deathstorm messed him up, then he could contain a bunch more people. True, it doesn't make sense how Batman and Catwoman were able to get away and not the Green Lantern, when he was the one keeping Vic alive with his ring, but I've come to accept all inexplicable actions performed by the Batman. He is by far the most popular character out there, and DC needs to keep him out and about. And I guess having a free Green Lantern would give the good guys too much of an advantage here. It still could have been handled in a better way, though.

The Bad:

I actually don't have much to complain about. Yeah, I don't like Finch's art, but it's not unbearable. And the lack of the Flash here was necessary and fitting. There was some overlap with Rogues Rebellion #2, but that was also necessary and rather minimal.  All in all, it wasn't a bad comic.

Final score: 6 out of 10

Next time: We finally get an active Flash appearance in the Forever Evil arc. But instead of it being in Justice League, like one might expect, it's in Justice League of America #8.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #2


Brian Buccellato Writer
Scott Hepburn Artist
Nick Filardi Colorist
Taylor Esposito Letterer
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor
Harvey Richards Associate Editor
Wil Moss Editor

The cover is by Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire. It is better than the first Rogues Rebellion cover, as it actually depicts some action. Plus it shows a fight that does happen inside the issue, even though the fight with Parasite doesn't last that long. The absence of Captain Cold is explained, but the absence of Weather Wizard is unfortunate. All in all, I'm not a particularly big fan of this cover. As always, I wish the cover artist was the same as the inside artist — although I don't think I would have enjoyed a Scott Hepburn cover much more. Shalvey's style is fine, I guess, and I really think my biggest problem here is the New 52 design of Parasite. My first introduction to the character was through Superman: The Animated Series, and I thought he was just fine not being a big, disgusting blob.

Quick disclosure before I begin the recap: In order to keep this blog focused and to prevent it from growing out of control like the Parasite, I have given myself very strict rules to only cover issues the Flash actually appears in. Rogues Rebellion presented a unique temptation. It is written by Brian Buccellato, focuses on the Flash's main villains, and has a storyline that stems directly from the pages of The Flash. So I made somewhat of an exception for these first two issues by counting the statue of the Flash as a passive appearance. But that's as far as I'll bend on my rule. So don't expect me to review the other Rogues Rebellion issues. Sorry. There's just not enough Flash for me.

Anyway, this issue begins in Central City, the former home of the Flash. The Justice League has disappeared, the Crime Syndicate has taken over, and Grodd has all but destroyed the Gem Cities.

The Rogues have just defeated a handful of Firestorm's villains, but now Deathstorm and Power Ring have shown up, ordering the Rogues to finish Grodd's work. But the Rogues are not killers — plus their former leader, Lisa Snart, remains in the hospital — so they refuse.

Power Ring quickly panics, and is the first to strike. They fight for a bit, but the Rogues are no match for Deathstorm, who alters Captain Cold's DNA to remove his powers. Mirror Master tries to evacuate the team through the Mirror World, but Power Ring blasts the glass they were using, which caused them to randomly pop up in Metropolis with Captain Cold separated from the group.

The Rogues are then attacked by a two-bit villain called Archer. He shots an arrow through Trickster's pinky toe, but Trickster gets the last laugh by knocking him out with his rocket fist. The Parasite then arrives, and tells them the Crime Syndicate has placed a large bounty on the Rogues. They try to fight him for a while, and Weather Wizard blasts him with some lightning, but that only makes him stronger. So Mirror Master again tries to evacuate the team, but Power Ring's blast has somehow disrupted his powers, so the Rogues soon find themselves randomly appearing in Gotham City, specifically in Poison Ivy's lair.

The Good:

Lovable Rogues. These guys definitely deserve more attention, and I am very happy this miniseries got the green light. It's also really fun to see the Rogues interact with the rest of the DC universe outside of the Flash world. Flash gets to hang with the Justice League all the time, but until now, the New 52 Rogues have been relatively isolated. Although this issue only gave us one fight with a proper, established villain — Parasite — it did end with the promise of fights with Poison Ivy and all the other wonderful villains of Gotham City.

The Bad:

The art. I'm sorry. I tried to give Scott Hepburn a chance. I really did. And I will be quick to point out that his work in this issue was improved from Rogues Rebellion #1. But I am simply not a fan of his style. It doesn't work for me, and it lessens my reading experience in what should have been a great comic otherwise. Plus, I think Hepburn is rather sloppy. When Trickster got shot by the arrow, it went right through the middle of his foot with a big blot of blood squirting out. I got excited to see someone sustain such a serious injury, but then Trickster quickly said he just hit his pinky toe. But that wasn't what Hepburn drew. And on the same page, Hepburn drew Trickster's left fist flying out to hit Archer, when its the Trickster's right arm that got ripped off by Grodd and replaced with a robotic prosthetic. This really makes me miss the perfect harmony between the text and the art from Francis Manapul's run on The Flash.

Editorial interference. I recently saw someone say that Dan DiDio is responsible for all arbitrary changes in DC and Geoff Johns is responsible for bringing back old ideas. I don't know how accurate that statement is, but it got me thinking. Johns definitely has written many stories that "return" to an older concept. He brought back Hal Jordan and Barry Allen, and now it seems he has his sights set on Captain Cold. But not the New 52 Cold with superpowers; Johns — who has said Captain Cold is a favorite of his — apparently wants the classic Cold back without any powers and a trusty cold gun at his side. Whether this was his doing or not doesn't really matter to me. The main issue here is that Buccellato was required to service his story to meet the demands of Forever Evil. That's the double-edged sword of major crossovers. You get to take part in a big, fun event, but you also have to sacrifice some creative freedom to do it. Ironically, from what I've heard from Manapul and Buccellato, giving the Rogues powers was an editorial edict. So now DC has suddenly reversed course on this. I kind of liked the stories with Cold struggling to adapt to his powers, and I'm not sure how taking them away is an improvement or a hindrance.

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next time: Forever Evil #3

Monday, March 3, 2014

Justice League Dark #24

"Tiny Evils"

J.M. DeMatteis Writer
Mikel Janin Artist
Jeromy Cox Colors
Rob Leigh Letters
Kate Stewart Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor

The cover is by Mikel Janin, which is great because not only did he draw the inside pages, but he also is one of my favorite artists currently. And to make this a truly great cover, it depicts an actual event in the issue that also symbolizes the general tone and feel of the comic. John Constantine is attacked by nightmare versions of the Justice League Dark, and it all relates back to the Crime Syndicate in the end.

By the way, I know last time I said I'd do Justice League of America #8, and that it's been a while since I've updated this blog. Basically, I've been trying to let this Forever Evil story play out a little more to figure out a more correct reading order. In my research, I came across a nice website called, and I will mostly be following their suggested order.

So anyway, this story opens with a beat-up John Constantine waking up in the House of Mystery, surrounded by a bunch of tiny demon versions of himself.

After getting scratched and bitten quite a bit, Constantine manages to get rid of the demons, and tries to figure out how he got back to the House of Mystery. He remembers Pandora's box, the Crime Syndicate arriving, and the Justice League being attacked.

Constantine tried to teleport the team to safety, but he was too weak. He then realizes that the House of Mystery itself saved him. The House then shows Constantine the growing threat of Blight, which is fed by every negative emotion and small sin anyone in the world has.

Nightmare Nurse then shows up and helps Constantine exorcise the residual negative effects from holding Pandora's box. She also offers to help him find his teammates, and since she knows Constantine's not on friendly terms with Swamp Thing, she decided to grow her own instead.

The Good:

The art. I'm kind of surprised at how much I'm enjoying Janin's art. It isn't particularly innovative or unique. But it is very clean and consistent, which makes it a breath of fresh air for me. If you're not going to be as eye-popping as someone like Francis Manapul, then at least make sure your execution is at a high level, and Janin certainly does that. So even if you don't care about Justice League Dark, you should still give the series a try just to see a well-drawn comic book.

Lingering affects from Pandora's box. One of my many complaints with Trinity War was the great ease with which Constantine grabbed the box. Everybody else who touched it instantly began attacking everybody and everything in sight. But then Constantine picked it up like it was no big deal. And the justification — that he was thoroughly corrupt — was not consistent with previous issues of Justice League Dark. Thankfully this issue came along to explain that the box's effects didn't hit him immediately, but they did start to hurt him later on. It almost feels like J.M. DeMatteis stepped up to cover a Geoff Johns lapse. But regardless of who's idea it was, I was happy it happened.

The Bad:

Little to no Flash. We only get a partial image of him in one flashback panel. I understand this isn't a regular Flash book, and they needed to start setting up things for the big Blight crossover, but for the purposes of this blog, I need to see more Flash. But overall, this was a nice issue focusing on John Constantine and the effects of the Trinity War. I also don't know anything about Nightmare Nurse, but a handy editor's note gave me some issues I can read to learn more about her. This issue really had all the elements I look for in a good comic book — just not enough Flash.

Final score: 6 out of 10

Next time: Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #2