1.27.2010

1.27.10 Reviews (Part 1)

Justice League of America #41 (DC): James Robinson and Mark Bagley try it again, for the umpteenth time, and I’m not sure their reboot of JLA is going to be up to the task. First of all, is anyone really going to buy both covers? Does that little trick work anymore? Are there really dudes out there who stroll into the LCS and snatch up the “alternate” cover, snuggle it up with a bag and board and file it away in the long box in anticipation of breaking it out one day to sell? Does that actually still go on in the world? Forgive my snark, I think I’m upset because this just didn’t work out the way I hoped it would. The cover bears the triumphant branding banner “The World’s Greatest Superheroes!” Yes, they ought to be. However, on the inside, on the very first page, in the very first text box, it says “America’s Greatest Heroes.” The devil’s in the details, you know? If you can’t get that consistent, what should I expect? How about incessant switching of POV narration? It bounces back and forth from lines like “they were” to “we awoke.” Ok, so which is it, we or they? On top of that, the POV seems to keep changing, from an unknown, to (I think) Vixen, and then to Donna, even though the same symbol appears on each dialogue box, when typically these JLA dialogue boxes have been coded with symbology to indicate the speaker. The gang laments that Roy “Lost him his arm and so much more” (maybe Jonah Jex was narrating that bit). Aside from the shock and awe of that initial gruesome act, I don’t really get why, with the tech available in the DCU, this is such a big overdramatized deal. You just call Cyborg and get a new one. Not to minimize his pain, but it’s really that easy. They were Titans together and he’s proven for 20+ years that you can have a replacement limb and be a successful hero. You don’t see Vic moping his ass off. This issue seems to post-date Cry For Justice #7, so it’s too bad that hasn’t come out yet and renders this out of sequence, spoiling what must occur in the final ish of that late shipping series. Other than my many quibbles, this is a dead standard cleaning-the-house-taking-out-the-trash-assembling-the-team issue. It’s the kind we’ve all seen a million times before. Everyone gets catalogued in random bouts of exposition: Hoshi is in, Zatanna left, Plas is at S.T.A.R. Labs, Firestorm is out, Roy is disabled, Red Tornado is out of commission, Vixen is leaving, Donna gets pulled in and pulls in Starfire, Cyborg, and Dick/Batman to make it work for herself, we get the GL/GA “Hard Travellin’ Heroes” duo, the Superman stand-ins of Guardian and Mon-El, check, check, and check. Although, no Congorilla – even though he’s on the cover! Bagley’s artistic style is just sort of… there. It’s competent and serviceable, if a bit rushed looking in spots, with no unique features other than Bagley’s Beautiful Buxom Babes (Patent Pending). There’s a humongous and boring digression that telegraphs the introduction of a new villain (yaaawwwnnnnn…) in the form of a Virginia 1777 sequence. The art is pleasing here, but this plot thread dutifully hammers away with painful lines like “They’s up not a few yards, Tom, by yonder big oak… like a fella’d had hisself too much jimson weed.” Thanks, Cletus! It’s interesting to see Robinson try to capture the pointed patois of Damian Wayne and the joke around Dick reading Donna’s intentions, but “Oh, I’ve had my travails” and “Still and all, you got him?” do not play well. “Still and all?” Really? I’m sorry, but nobody talks like that! The script skirts around what could be some cool moments (“You want to be like Superman? Superman was in the Justice League.” That could have been a moment for Mon-El to shine.), but they are relegated to single panels, when they should be given more time to flourish and develop as character moments. As is, it plays like 99% stock set up, with a slim 1% payoff. It tries so hard to be rousing, but all falls extremely flat, with the haunting exhausting memory of so many past attempts that didn’t stick. It’s the same old formula with different creators and slightly different characters. If you keep doing the same thing over and over and over again expecting different results, well, that’s the old definition of insanity. This is exactly what I didn’t want this issue to be like. Grade B-.

Justice League: Cry For Justice #6 (DC): Part Two in our "How To Destroy a Viable Franchise" series continues this week... and well, there’s just nothing like changing artists six issues into a seven issue mini-series. Mauro Cascioli is still on cover duty, but Scott Clark takes over and apes Cascioli’s style, including the slightly washed out coloring effect from the colorist. Why is Congorilla on the cover if he’s not in the book? Same reason Freddy and Kara were kissing on a previous cover when that didn’t happen either? Don’t ask questions like that? Oh, ok… It’s been so long that I’d kinda’ forgotten the dramatic thrust of this thing, aside from Roy’s arm being ripped off and all, but I guess there was never much of a story to begin with. It’s just Prometheus fucking up the JLA because he felt like it, end of plot description. Supergirl seems out of character, now wicked smart as she deduces the Freddy Freeman ruse. But hey, at least she still looks like Jessica Alba in the Fantastic Four movies. Prometheus gives us a big huge exposition dump, twice even, monologuing his way through what’s come, how it’s going to work, what his motive is, and the whole modus operandi. Hey, Prometheus! It’s spelled “override,” not “overide.” I’m just sayin’. The opening page looks odd. Supergirl appears in a bisected panel that cuts of the tail of her speech balloon for no apparent reason. I know Supergirl is vulnerable to magic (she even says so), but I’m not sure that bullets forged by a Greek/Roman God of Mythology count as “magic” in the DCU. Do they? So, Prometheus is pretty brutal here and Robinson is unapologetic about it, indicating that the somber tone will clear the deck for a more cheery JLA. Well, the jury is still out on that. He shoots Kara in the shoulder, shoots Zatanna in the throat or something, blood is flying, and hits Plas with a “discharge to telencephalon via dissolving exocasing with subdermal tetrahydrofuran,” which I think is Robinson CryptoSpeak (Patent Pending) for “melted him.” Prometheus side steps a blast from Mikaal so it hits Black Canary, and generally makes Hawkgirl, Hawkman, Guardian, and Dr. Light look like the Keystone Cops (though the blast hitting Kendra that ricochets off of Guardian’s shield is never actually shown – she just writhes in pain in mid-air for no apparent reason), and Donna gets crucified to a wall using metallic projectiles. The first double page spread is an impressive stack of sixe wide panels, but the text from Prometheus’ suit is always a tad confusing. Clark’s art is a mess in spots, reminding me of Simone Bianchi on Astonishing X-Men. When you step back from it and take in a page as one giant work of art, it’s got some attractive qualities as a quirky whole, but doesn’t flow well at all panel to panel. My eye is often unsure where to go next, and first and foremost you’ve got to tell the story visually. More substance, less style, please. I guess the string of five double page spreads back to back are meant to function as a climactic action sequence, but the art is stiff in many places, like the Donna and Vixen sequence, with no sense of kinetic movement. My desire to be complimentary keeps getting rebuffed. For example, I like the big shot of Starfire and Firestorm flying into the scene, though when I look closer I see Starfire’s right foot being way too long to be in proportion with her leg. Robinson’s dialogue is all over the place, tossing out a callback to 1970’s DC history with Claw The Unconquered and then a really obtuse “Jay” and “Gehenna” exchange which I’m still totally not getting. The cryptic wording continues to riddle Prometheus’ counterprogramming suit. Lines like “--Addition-ally blast element incl. trace elements Jordan DNA--" Uh, ok. I guess I sort of get the gist of that, but it doesn’t make any fucking sense taken at face value. It’s very clunky and awkward. It all plays like Robinson is going for some sort of Warren Ellis pseudo-science affectation with invented terminology like “augmented ototoxic bacteria – result instantaneous bilateral vetibulopathy,” but instead is just garbage pseudo-babble that pushes me right out, crippling my ability to suspend disbelief. I kind of like how Prometheus punks Ollie, as his self-righteous tirade starts to wind up. Two other bits I did like without any reservation included the handling of Shade and Donna Troy. Shade isn’t a hero that can be catalogued and that proves troublesome for Prometheus. That’s clever. That was handled well. More like that, please. Donna proves she’s deserving of Diana’s spot in the new JLA lineup, ripping the metallic projectiles out of her wrists, taking on Ollie’s friendly fire mishap, powering through pain, and nearly killing Prometheus in a bloody fit of rage. Then the two bright spots interact with Shade’s dialogue that begins “Ms. Troy. My ardent dear…” That was pretty classy. Once again, we wrap up with a text piece that belies a convoluted mess of planning, evidenced by the semi-inclusion-we-like-her-oh-wait-just-kidding handling of Batwoman. Robinson meanders his way through a string of consciousness style set of ramblings, mentioning Marvel writers he likes, urging us to pick up Greg Rucka’s Oni Press work, and an absolute lovefest for Geoff Johns. It all strikes me as so self-indulgent and self-congratulatory. This series has been seriously maligned by critics, has shipped late, rotated artists, and has very few redeeming qualities. So far, the main JLA title has been railroaded by the Blackest Night crossover. I don’t really think there are throngs of fans out there clamoring for a look inside the mind of the guy behind the (will probably fail) latest (in a long line) reboot of the ailing JLA franchise. I mean, really, six pages of this? It’s just not that interesting. Grade C-.

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