Justice League Volume 1: Origin

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Before I started reading this trade, Mistah J described it as, “Geoff Johns’s pitch for a Justice League movie”.  I honestly can’t think of a better description. Luckily for Johns, it works incredibly well here.

The writing is sharp and witty, with each character bringing a distinct personality to the table. I’ve read plenty of lesser Justice League comics in which the overall story may be good, but the individual character development is lacking.  Characters are sometimes left behind for the sake of the larger story.  Being a fan of the individuals characters themselves, I tend to favor those types of stories, so Johns’s take on the Justice League was right up my alley.

The story here is not complete, no doubt continued in later trades, but this collections helps to jump-start the entire New 52 run.  With the timeline rebooted, the League is no longer the old and trusted team they once were. Instead, we’re greeted with a new incarnation, with all of the distrust and quippy dialogue one would expect from such encounters.  My personal favorites here are the exchanges between Batman and Green Lantern. While there has never been any love lost between Bruce and Hal, Johns brings a great balance between humor and animosity to the meeting of these two heroes.  For some reason I really enjoy watching the heroes spar, especially when they first meet. Given that they each have such strong, distinct personalities, it only makes sense that they would butt heads while trying to figure out how to navigate working together.  The realism in this is fascinating, and makes the comics that much more enjoyable.

I’m not very far into the New 52 continuity at this point, but it seems clear that much has changed. Whether it’s for the better or worse has yet to be seen, but it certainly feels different than anything else I’ve read within DC’s continuity so far.

-Jess

 

 

Justice League of America: The Injustice League

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In case the title and picture didn’t give it away, this trade is about a newly formed Injustice League.

Spearheaded by Lex Luthor (who through his unfortunate placement in the above picture has been relegated to the back cover – something he would never stand for), the Injustice League reforms with a vague but believable goal in mind: take over the world, and allow crime and such to be part of society.

Simple enough. I love a good, old-fashioned “let’s take over the world” story.

I liked the way the Injustice League was selected, with Luthor teaming up with Joker and Cheetah to determine who should be admitted.

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This scene mimics how the JLA was reformed, with Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman meeting to determine who should be extended an invitation. It seems fitting that each of those heroes’ primary foes should be instrumental in forming the Injustice Society.  There’s a nice symmetry to the whole thing that I rather enjoyed.

Honestly though, what in the world would possess Luthor (or anything for that matter) to willingly work with Joker? He’s unstable, even by crazy standards.

The bulk of the story is pretty straightforward: not bad in any way, and certainly enjoyable, but just somewhat formulaic.  Members of the League are captured, other members must break in to free them, the bad guys are captured, etc.  I’m not knocking this trope; it works. With storylines like these though, I tend to focus on the writing. If the scenes are going to follow a classic pattern, I want the writing to stand out to me. Luckily, this trade lived up to my expectations.

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I really love it whenever Batman says, “I’m Batman” as way of an explanation. It’s the only explanation he needs for anything, really, and I’m surprised that anyone even questions how Batman knows or does anything at this point.His skills are just that good.  Every time Bruce utters, “I’m Batman”, I feel like he’s thinking, “Seriously, you’ve known me for how long? Is there anything I can’t do??” and it makes me really happy.

Basically any time Batman shows even the briefest hint of levity makes me really happy.

The writing was sharp, funny without trying too hard, and the story seems to be just beginning. Although the Injustice League is captured seemingly when they’ve just begun, Luthor lets slip that he had a whole other plan in motion, one which hasn’t been stopped at all.  Obviously a lead-up to whatever happens in the story down the road, I’m willing to bet it’s something on a fairly massive scale.

Overall, a great addition to the Justice League of America series.  Other than Firestorm being officially admitted into the JLA (more like forced in because Batman said so), there aren’t too many big changes in this comic. It’s a great story nonetheless. I’m hoping future appearances of the Injustice League show the villains interacting with one another a bit more; I’m always a fan of how they play off one another.  Until then, I’m happy to sit back and wait to see how Luthor’s master plan unfolds, whatever it may be.

-Jess

Justice League of America: The Lightning Saga

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I’ve mentioned before how certain comics make me happy to have such a solid foundation, given how many references they make to past storylines and events.  Well, this is the granddaddy of all comics in terms of needing to know the history.  While reading, all I kept thinking was how insane it would be to read this without having read all the previous trades/storylines I did.  Seriously, thank you Mistah J for crafting such a well-thought out and comprehensive tour through comics. I wouldn’t appreciate this story nearly as much if I didn’t have all of that foundation knowledge.

The comic draws upon numerous storylines from the past to craft a brand new saga in the era of the Justice League.  Building upon previous issues, it is revealed that seven members of the Legion of Superheroes, a superhero team akin to the JLA from the 31st century, has been sent back in time.  They’ve been placed under spells to forget who they are or why they’re there, but a handy-dandy failsafe phrase unlocks their memories.  The League joins forces with the Justice Society of America, and together they search the world for all seven members of the Legion.  Superman is especially vested in this search, as he was close personal friends with the Legion, once upon a time.

The Legion is found, but it’s soon revealed that they had a mission of their own, and despite the League and Society’s best attempts, their mission is successful:

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Wally West and his entire family are brought back.  The JLA and JSA still have no idea why the Legion felt it so important to bring him back, but there he is. Interestingly, Batman is a bit surprised by this, having thought that a different hero would be returning. Based on the images, I’d guess he thought it’d be Barry, which I admit I wondered as well.  My curiosity was only further peaked when the Legion makes the following cryptic comment:

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I can’t help but think Barry Allen might be making a return. I have no proof of this, other than this brief exchange and Batman’s comment, but it’s enough for me to hang my hat on. This storyline’s far from over, with one Legion member being left behind, being told that his mission “is just beginning”.

While this entire story was highly entertaining, my favorite issue in this trade was its concluding story, Justice League of America #0, a precursor to the revamped JLA series.  In it, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman all meet up, looking to put their disagreements behind them and start a new team.  The issue beautifully drifts between times, focusing on various important events from the past, present, and future.  The teasers in the “future” scenes were fun, as well as just vague enough to keep us all guessing, but what I really enjoyed were the “past” moments.  They referenced so many seminal moments in JLA history, almost all of which I had previously read.  It allowed me to fully appreciate the weight of the League’s history, much more than I ever could had I read this story on its own.  The sense of legacy is clear in these pages, and the accompanying art style works wonders to reflect the rich history of these characters.

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These side-by-sides give me chills, I love it.

This comic was a brilliant addition to the JLA lore, leading into a future storyline seamlessly while still being engaging in its own right.  This latest JLA really emphasizes the sense of time in its story, explaining that the League has been through many incarnations and many trials, but that some things remain steadfast throughout it all.  It’s a heavy sentiment, but this comic pulls it off seamlessly.  It’s a great way to reintroduce the League after the events of Identity Crisis and the subsequent fallout, and left me dying to know what this latest incarnation of  Justice League of America has in store.

-Jess

 

Justice League of America: The Tornado’s Path

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I figured the Justice League would get back together at some point. After all, in the DC universe, there’s always some wacko trying to take over the world or end all life as we know it.  A superhero response team is kind of a necessity.  Their return was inevitable. What was surprising was just how well-written their reformation was, and how it seemed to tie in perfectly to what’s been going on in other trades.

To sum up what happened, let’s look at the members of this incarnation of the League.

  1. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman – Yes, I’m lumping these three together because they only ever appear in-panel as a trio, and because they share a common story.  Their inclusion in the League was never even a matter of debate (at least for me).  These three are of almost mythological proportions, even within their own world; of course they’re going to be a part of the League.  That being said, their meeting to discuss potential members was incredibly entertaining, if only to help explain who they vetted out or who they believed was ready.  These three share a lot of history, and it made sense that they would have a decent amount of say in who joins a new JLA.  Also, they made sure to vote that they each wanted the others in, and that was just plain adorable. Even if they wanted to, try telling Batman he’s not allowed to be a member. Go ahead, see what happens.
  2. Black Lightning – He’s finally getting his moment in the spotlight. I admit to not being incredibly excited about his inclusion, but it’s nothing personal. I just don’t know very much about the character, so there’s not a whole lot for me to get excited about at this point. He has some cool points in the comic, but he feels like one of those characters who can be really interesting if well-written, but can just as easily fall into obscurity when paired with the likes of Superman or Batman.  We’ll see.

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3. Red Tornado – A bulk of the comic focuses on Reddy’s journey to becoming human. With the help of Deadman, his consciousness/soul is transferred into a human body, and for a few blissful days he knows what it is to be fully alive. Unfortunately, it was all a trick for Solomon Grundy to gain access to his android body. In the end, Reddy’s life is on the line and he has no choice but to be put back in his android form.  By the end of the storyline the status quo is returned, but the journey was exceedingly well done. Poor John wanted nothing more than to be human, and to have tasted it for so brief a time, only to have to sacrifice it to save his own life, must have been torturous.  The comic gives the story the weight it deserves, and left me caring much more about Red Tornado and his quest for humanity that I had previously.

4. Black Canary – She’s not the focus of the story, but she kicks major butt in every scene in which she appears.  Be it threatening bad guys or watching as Roy comes into his own, Dinah is a solid member of the League (and almost felt like another no-brainer, given how many incarnations of it she’s been a part of).  Even more impressive is that she’s name chairwoman of the League, a roll I can’t wait to see her fill.  I really, really want to see her put Batman in his place after he goes off on one of his snits and decides he knows what’s best.  Please tell me that’s in her future.

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5. Arsenal/Red Arrow – Roy was always sort of this ancillary character to me.  Yeah yeah, Green Arrow’s son, same trick shot schtick as his dad, etc etc.  Here though, Roy is given his own personality, making him fair more entertaining that he’s been in previous comics. Obviously filling the role his father once had not only as archer, but jokester of the group, Roy fulfills what can only be dubbed his birthright by finally adopting the name “Red Arrow”, paying homage to his father and becoming a legitimate hero in his own right. He doesn’t quite fully believe in himself yet, as is obvious above when he thinks his invitation to join the JLA is a joke.  His uncertainty is endearing, and provides a great foil to the otherwise excessively confident group.  Also, his obvious crush on Kendra is totally adorable and I want to read so much more about it, please and thank you.

6. Green Lantern – Hal’s inclusion seems like a no-brainer, but given his history I wondered if the League would be able to accept him as a member again (read: if Batman would be able to accept it).  Surprisingly, the two seem to have reached at least a minor truce, and Hal seems to be one step closer to redeeming himself in the eyes of the world.  He serves more as a mentor figure to Roy in this comic, rather than having any major plot points of his own, but that’s okay. Hal has done plenty in his lifetime, and just having him in the group makes a difference, even if it’s just to bring his tremendous amount of experience to the table.

7. Hawkgirl – Like a few other characters, Kendra doesn’t have much of a storyline here. She flirts with Roy and has a few one-liners, but the story was never centered on her.  Honestly, I’m just happy to see a few more women in the League, and I’d like to read more Hawkgirl storylines. My knowledge of the Hawk-family is sorely lacking, and if I can gain a bit of insight from the new Justice League comics, it’s all for the better.

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8. Vixen – Vixen is one of those characters who always pops up in random trades, enough that I know who she is, and yet I don’t really know much about her as a character.  This comic helped change that. Not only does brad Metzer writer her really well, helping explain exactly how her powers work without relying on her summarizing them, but she’s allowed to finally be one of the heavy hitters, taking out Amazo in the above panel after he all but wiped out the rest of the League.  Prior to reading this trade I never would have thought Vixen had any right being a member of such an esteemed group; now, it’s clear that she’ll be a valuable asset, and I’m hoping to learn more about her as the title continues.

This comic surprised me, not only because of how much I enjoyed the story, but because of how well-written all of the characters were.  There’s an inherent difficulty in writing a story with so many main characters, and I’d imagine it’s even more challenging given that the story is spread out over a number of issues.  Metlzer finds the perfect balance of including just enough scenes with the side characters, while allowing others to be the primary focus.  What’s more, he gives more page time to the characters that truly need it.  Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are great to read about, but we all know they’re going to be in the League, and we all know exactly who they are. A Justice League comic needs to introduce its lesser-known characters so that people will actually care about more than the core members.  In this Brad Meltzer succeeded, making me eagerly await the continuation of this series.

-Jess

JLA: Crisis of Conscience

In the wake of Identity Crisis, it seems pretty clear the JLA is fractured.   This comic expands on that, delving into the deeper implications of the League’s involvement in wiping both criminal and allies’ minds, as well as the fallout from someone returning those memories to everyone.

The Secret Society of Super-Villains (the silliest, yet also kind of my favorite group name ever) is given back the memories that were taken from them, specifically the true identities of every superhero from the JLA.

wp-1470360360420.jpg Remembering what was done to them, the Secret Society vows to destroy the League, as well as everyone they hold dear.  Numerous battles ensue, in which the JLA attempts to capture the Secret Society while also dealing with the fallout from these memories being restored.

At the heart of the situation is Batman, who now knows that his mind was wiped by Zatanna.  Feeling as though he can no longer trust the League, he shuts them out and proceeds to work alone.  Normally I’d say this type of behavior is a typical Batman over-reaction, but in this case I can kind of see his point.  Bruce doesn’t have any superpowers; his power is his mind.  If he can’t trust his own mind, what can he trust?

The JLA manages to capture the Secret Society, but it doesn’t erase everything that’s been done.

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The League is splintered, with most of its key members having left.  The League, at least in its current incarnation, is clearly over. It’s not too surprising, given that this is a lead-up to Infinite Crisis, where I have a feeling a lot is going to change.  Still, it’s always sad to see an existing team disband, especially when it’s over such controversial issues as shown here.

One of the most fascinating characters in this short trade was Zatanna, who is expressing some serious guilt over what she did.  She tells Superman that she can’t do that sort of magic again; not because it’s not possible, but because it comes at too great of a price. In a rather poignant conversation with Wonder Woman though,she is reminded that sometimes, there is no other choice in order to protect the people you love.  Ultimately, Zatanna realizes this is necessary, and visits the Secret Society once again.

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Who knows what is going to happen after this, but whatever it is, I have a feeling it’s not going to be good.  A lot of characters lately have been at a crossroads, clearly leading to a major shake-up in the DC universe.  This just adds another layer to the intricately woven storyline, helping to unite all of the characters together.

This was a brief trade, but it served a key purpose. We saw the fallout of Zatanna’s mind-wipe, as well as the disintegration of the JLA.  There’s clearly a loss of trust among our heroes, with each breaking off and trying to find their place in this new, gray-area world. So much has happened recently, and yet it’s clear that the story isn’t over.  What is clear is that a major paradigm shift is starting, and at this point I have no idea how it’s all going to play out.  For better or worse, I’m excited to see where it all goes.

-Jess

The OMAC Project

Talk about a wallop of a comic.

As mentioned in my previous post, I actually read the first half of this trade prior to reading Superman: Sacrifice.  The overlapping moment of the two is the biggie: the moment in which Wonder Woman kills Max Lord in order to free Superman from his mind control.  The first half of this comic talks about what led everyone down that path, while the latter half focuses on Checkmate dealing with the aftermath of Max’s death.

The beginning portion of the comic focuses on Ted Kord, alias Blue Beetle, as he does a little detective work to figure out who’s been stealing his fortune.  He asks a handful of old allies for help, including Max Lord and Batman, but he gets the brushoff from both.  Determined to solve the mystery on his own, the clues lead him to Checkmate, the secret government agency that’s been shrouded in mystery since its inception.  Here he learns that Checkmate is no longer operating under the law, but has a much darker, more sinister purpose.  Max Lord, head of the organization, has employed Brother I, a monitoring satellite and computer program that Batman designed, and reconfigured it to serve his own needs.  Essentially, he believes all meta-humans are a threat to society, and must be wiped out (ignoring the fact that he himself is meta).  He offers Ted the “join me or die” speech.  Ted refuses, and unfortunately Max keeps his word.

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Brutally murdering Blue Beetle, Max continues his quest to purge the world of meta-humans, employing his OMAC fighters to destroy any who stand in his way.

As the JLA learns what has become of Ted, they seek out his killer and slowly uncover the sheer scope of what they’re up against.  OMACs have been popping up around the world, killing metas without preamble.  We soon learn that these are no mere robots, but innocent people who have been infected with a nanobot virus which allows Brother I to control them, while also giving them superhuman powers with which to destroy any metas they encounter.

And surprise surprise…once again, this is kinda sorta ALL Batman’s fault.

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Essentially, nothing is private anymore. Batman designed a security system so tight that every move, every breath can be monitored.  It just so happens that the monitor is now the enemy, making it nearly impossible to fight.  The element of surprise is out, and seeing as how they don’t want to kill the innocent people within the OMACs, they’re left with few options.

Seriously Batman, could you maybe stop with all of the contingency plans?  They backfire on you. Every. Single. Time.  Or at least start having contingency plans in place for when your contingency plans go wrong.

No wonder there’s so much crime in Gotham. He probably spends more time planning for worst-case scenarios than dealing with the problems right in front of him.

The team utltimately comes up with a plan, and while a few more metas are lost in the battle, they’re able to stop a vast majority of the OMACs without harming their human hosts.  Of course, Brother I is still at large, along with approximately two hundred thousand additional OMACs.   Clearly the fight is not over.

Retreating to lick its proverbial wounds, Brother I initiates a new sequence, titled protocol: Vengence.  The comic closes with Brother I releasing footage of Diana killing Max Lord for all the world to see.

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It looks like my earlier prediction about Max not really being dead was completely wrong.  It also looks like Diana is going to have to answer for what she did.  Perhaps not in a court of law, but certainly in the court of public opinion which, for a superhero, is arguably even more important.  She’s already seemed to have lost the support of the JLA; there’s no telling how the public will react now that their greatest fear has come to light – a meta-human has killed.  They don’t know that Max was meta as well, and by the time that comes to light they likely won’t care.  The public will turn against her, and there’s no telling how this will affect Diana and the rest of the superheroes in the world.

All in all, an incredibly solid comic.  I wish Blue Beetle hadn’t made a sudden reappearance only to be killed off, but at least his death served a purpose in the larger story.  These recent stories feel like they’re leading to something big, and although I’m not certain what exactly that is at this point, I have a feeling it’s going to be a major game changer for everyone.

-Jess

Formerly Known as the Justice League

Can I just say how excited I am to be reading this comic? Now truth be told, it’s a little out of continuity with the comics I’ve already read, since I already read the sequel, I Can’t Believe it’s Not the Justice League Mistah J just didn’t own this.

Color me surprised when we emerged from a comics shop one day and he pulled this out of his bag. I was more than a little excited.

This trade collects the mini-series that preceded Can’t Believe… and explains how the Super Buddies came into being (ie: how Max Lord convinced everyone to join his little ragtag team of misfit superheroes.)

Much of the comic consists of Max doing just that, along with a few minor battles.  For me, the fights are never the main point of the story. The witty banter and humor is what makes this so utterly readable.

The story unites Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Fire, Captain Atom,Elastic Man, and Mary Marvel within the Super Buddies title, a group virtually nobody has any faith in.

Truth be told, you can’t really blame them.  This group is hardly well put together.  That’s not to say the group is entirely made up of weak links.  Almost all of the bright spots of action in the comic involve Mary Marvel flexing her muscles and showing just how tough she can be.

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I love sweet little Mary Marvel kicking butt. It’s one of my favorite things ever.

The comedy and cultural references abound in this trade, making me smile repeatedly.  I was especially happy to see a random I Love Lucy reference make its way onto the page.

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What I especially love about this trade, however, is the inclusion of the JLA.  So many of the JLA stories of the time are darker, more grim takes on our superheroes, with each facing life and death battles on a constant basis.  By dropping them into this more light-hearted comic, we get to see the characters written in a more comedic tone.

This is never more entertaining than when Batman is present.  After all, he is the exact opposite of everything this comic stands for.

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I love seeing our brooding dark knight cracking jokes, and it’s even more fun when they become more overt.

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I think Plastic Man speaks for us all. It’s really, really disturbing when Batman tries to be funny. It’s so completely out of character for him that I can’t help but wonder if Sassy Alfred decided to take the batsuit out for a spin, and that’s who we’re really seeing.

Don’t laugh, is it really any more absurd than the thought of Batman cracking lame jokes??

Levity is this comic’ strength, and it never forgets it.  Jokes abound page after page, with nary a moment of somber reflection.  Truth be told, the action doesn’t stand out all that much (what little there is of it) but I find that perfectly fine.  This isn’t really a comic about superheroes saving the world; it’s a comic about superheroes winding up in absurd situations in their spare time.  It’s bizarre and irreverent and it just works.  I’m honestly really sad that these were only mini-series and that they weren’t picked up as a continuous series.  There’s more than enough material here to power a comic for numerous issues, and there are always other heroes and villains to throw into the fray to keep it fresh.

Sadly, as far as I know I’ve read all that exists on the Super Buddies.  Although I wish there was more, I’m happy to take what I can get, and there is more than enough enjoyment in these trades to keep me satisfied.

To close, just a few things I absolutely loved about this trade (because I feel like making a list, damnit.)

-References to Hoppy Marvel, apparently a BUNNY member of the Marvel family. Um..I need to read more about that, RIGHT NOW.

-Ralph Dibney being way too upset when he finds out that, physically speaking, on a scale of 1-10, he’s a 4.

-L-Ron, who rivals Alfred for sassiest comic book character ever.

-The self-aware commentary, such as when Captain Atom insults his own writer and artist.

-Batman, as referenced above. Giffen & DeMatteis should write Batman all the time.

-A freaking reference to Marvel’s Iron Man (with no names listed so as  to avoid copyright infringement. They’re smart people, over at DC)

There are definitely more, but I keep getting distracted by thoughts of Hoppy the Marvel Bunny. Captain Marvel must make a killing with an annual Easter special… and if they don’t, they have the wrong writers.

I’ll gladly step in and write a comic about Hoppy saving Easter from Darkseid. Just putting that out there.

-Jess