Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Justice Society's “Plot Buffet” and A Very “Cheeky” Justice League "Unlimited"

Hello loyal reader. You would be well within your rights to feel like that FanBoyWonder has been neglecting you. The holidaze are always a busy time of year for us—both at work and home and this year has been a real pain in the rear.

We are heartened just a little in hearing that other writers we know have been suffering a similar loss of writing inspiration and/or creative mojo. Worry not as we’re not going anywhere but our output may be a tad slower during the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, just to prove what we haven’t totally lost our poison pen, here’s our take on the two big Justice titles this week—the only thing we found worth picking up for the week of December 5.

Justice Society of America # 11

The Upshot from DC Comics: The epic storyline by Geoff Johns and Alex Ross, THY KINGDOM COME, continues! Adjusting to this strange, new Earth, the Superman from Kingdom Come discovers he may have more in common with the heroes of the Justice Society than he believes. Plus, Flashes Jay Garrick and Wally West pull out the cosmic treadmill!

Fortunately for Geoff Johns, he is such a proven writer that his stories often (but now always) gets better with each read through—such was the case with this issue. Our first read of JSA #13 left us feeling let down following the big introduction of Kingdom Come Superman last issue.

We closed the issue at first glace thinking the story was all over the place. The beautiful Alex Ross cover should say it all—we see KC Superman but while he is at the center of the scene, he is swarmed by a plethora of other JSA characters—center but not dominant.

This issue was something of a plot buffet—a sampler plate of various storylines with the promise of the main dish to come later.

Okay, what’s not to love about seeing the two Flashes on the old Cosmic Treadmill not attempting time travel but to traverse the multiverse barrier to a parallel Earth—stop us we’re having a 1985 flashback (for those of you either in Pampers or not yet alive at the time, that was the year of the CRISIS of Infinite Earths—Grandpa FBW).

Then we have the assembled Justice League and Justice Society at the JSA Brownstone to meet this strange visitor from another planet.
Wonder Woman has verified KC Superman is “not lying” via her magic lasso while Green Lanterns Hal Jordan and John Stewart have had their power ring’s verify KCS is 100 percent Kryptonian (apparently Alan Scott’s magical starheart model power ring doesn’t do DNA analysis—but he’s got a cape so he’s cool).

Most important, the Justice League’s Superman vouches for his older counterpart—not via his microscopic vision but with his heart—“I believe him” followed by “I appreciate that” from his counterpart.

Unfortunately these are just about the only words we see the two Supermen exchange, although KCS does say that he can’t go back to his Earth because it’s been destroyed (or so he thinks??).

Still, Two Men of Steel in the same room NOT fighting and we feel a bit teased at what little was exchanged between them but we’ve also seen the cover to Justice Society of America #13 Promises, promises.

Still to this point in the story has had the characters confirming what the reader has already known for ages—KCS is a good guy and that a new multiverse exists.

Meanwhile, KC Superman’s arrival is a bitter pill for Power Girl to swallow. As another refugee from a parallel universe, she is mourning the loss of her cousin Kal-L, the “Golden Age”/Earth-2 (and original) Superman and his wife Lois.

In an eerie scene at their secluded graves, PG is in tears, reeling from the sight of this Superman that looks and sounds so much like her cousin (right down to the grey hair). In a very subtly played scene, PG uses her x-ray vision to look down and the reader sees the two coffins carrying the decaying mortal remains of Kal-L and Lois Kent.

Okay—the detached fanboy geek in us took over at first. When we saw the partially, but unmistakably decayed Kal-L’s corpse, our first thought was, “hey, Kryptonians decay just like humans do—hope no one tries to steal his corpse to get some Krypton-2 DNA.” We’re not proud of it but the thought came and went in a flash—we’ve fully disclosed, let’s just move on.

It took us a couple of reads to really get the power of this scene. Face it, how many would want to see the decomposing remains of our deceased loved ones??—but it’s something those of us without X-ray vision don’t have to worry about. But to be sure, Kara Zor-L looked at the unlookable and saw that cold, heard truth—her family is truly gone.

This was the heart of the story as was the two pages where KCS in civilian clothes walks among the crowd in Times Square watching their reaction to seeing the JSA flyby above—not panic or fear as he is used to on his Earth.

Unfortunately, these moments were sandwiched in-between Johns’ introduction of more “legacy” heroes with this story—namely the new Judomaster (last seen in Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey) and later Mr. America.

Okay, we’ve heard it from Johns before—he wants JSA to be more than a team but a true “society” as this first super-hero team has connections to just about every hero in the DCU in one way or another. It makes sense.

Yet we felt this pursuit of “legacy” heroes was a real intrusion into the real story. And quite frankly, there are too many characters already being neglected and now Johns wants to bring more into the brownstone?

It was a HUGE disappointment to see KC Superman rip open his shirt to reveal his own “S” shield and the next splash page to be Judomaster. KCS just shows up into the action with JSA six-pages later.

We consider it a major failing of this issue that we didn’t’ get to see a fully-costumed (meaning re-caped and repaired outfit) KC Superman take to the air with the JSA.

However major kudos goes the art team of penciller Dale Eaglesham and inkers Ruy Jose and Drew Garaci, not just for their usual understated but elegantly serviceable visuals but for Eaglesham’s attention to detail with the visual presentation of the two Supermen.

In the splash page with JLA Superman and KC Superman, the reader sees where Eaglesham has gone to great pains to replicate and be faithful to Alex Ross’ rendition of KC Superman (not unlike what George Perez did during the CRISIS when rendering the Earth-1 and Earth-2 Supermen).

This was NOT just a carbon copy Superman with a different “S” shield and grey temples.
Instead we see KC Superman is stockier and barrel-chested as a strong middle-aged man would look compared to his thinner, more chiseled counterpart. Good job.

Bottom Line: Johns manages to walk the fine line of keeping the story arc in low gear without losing momentum—thanks to some key character driven scenes that comprised the heart of the issue. So from let down to a mixed bag—not terrible but didn’t blow our doors off either—yet we’re heartened that we haven’t lost our excitement for this story arc.

Justice League of America #15

The Upshot from DC Comics: It's the brawl of the century, delivered by writer Dwayne McDuffie (Justice League Unlimited) and artists Ed Benes and Sandra Hope, as the Justice League of America takes on the Injustice League in the final chapter of "Unlimited"!

We spent a lot of words on JSA but we’ll be briefer with this issue of Justice League. For all of new JLA writer Dwayne McDuffie’s gift for dialogue, he doesn’t bring much to the plotting table—at least from what we’ve seen so far with is first story arc Unlimited.”

Coming from the instant classic Justice League Unlimited animated television show, we had high expectations but what we’ve been reading amounts to a glorified version of an old Super Friends episode—almost to the point where everyone announces what they will do before they do it.

To McDuffie’s credit he does have a gift for dialogue which makes for some amusing scenes and even better, he attempts to remember and incorporate events that occurred during other writer’s arcs into his story—such as Cheetah taking her whack at scumbag rapist Dr. Light.

But there just wasn’t a lot to “Unlimited” and it barely rated as an amusing waste of time. It was helped not at all by the fact that Part 1 of this story arc did not occur in Issue 13, the first Justice League of America issue for McDuffie, but in the gimmick one-shot JLA Wedding Special (which we refused to purchase).

This stinks (and the operative word here is “stink”) of editorial-directed plotting. Assuming this is the case, McDuffie seemed to play the hand he was dealt as best he could and at least there was some action and not all talk like Brad Meltzer’s disappointing 13 issue run.

Helping McDuffie not at all is the art. While the visuals are clear as day to see, penciler Ed Benes’ art is drawing attention for all the wrong reasons (we’re exempting Sandra Hope from blame as she just traces what she’s been laid out).

In short, Benes' best ASSets have become a liability on the book. We’re talking about the numerous and plentiful thong and ass shots included throughout the story—five such cheeky shots with Black Canary alone.

Hey will the reader that correctly counts all of this issue’s thong/cheek shots win an old fashioned Marvel Comics no-prize???

But we finally put our finger about what bothers us about Benes’ style. It’s all posing. There is very little sense of genuine action or kinetic energy. Even in battle scenes, everyone is positioned into place and energy blasts or other visual effects give the illusion of action.

At the tip of Benes’ pencil, everyone is a very pretty puppet who moves and fights like action figures—stiff and unbending (unless to display their thong), not living, breathing carbon-based life forms. Perhaps if he keeps “mooning” the reader will pay no mind to that little man behind the curtain.

To paraphrase the Bard (with our apologies), the ass-cheek thong shots proves that the ASS lies not on the page dear Benes but in yourself—ASS-MAN!!!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Justice Society Classified Is True Justice Denied To JSA Fans

It’s getting to be embarrassing but on the day that this week’s new books come out, we have finally gotten around to reviewing the books from last week. Boy we do love the holiday rush.

Without further delay here’s our take on our picks for the last week of November as we are shoot from the hip.

JSA Classified #32

The Upshot From DC Comics: The holidays are a difficult time for anyone, and heroes are no exception—particularly those who have lost loved ones in the battle for justice. But heroes rarely have a moment to mourn, as original Green Lantern Alan Scott finds, when he most forego the annual JSA Thanksgiving dinner to save a little girl from an ancient evil.

The Justice Society of America has always had a troubled relationship with DC Comics. The JSA’s very existence in the modern comic book age is an inconvenient reminder to Baby Boomers readers who cut their comic book teeth during the Silver Age and those who followed that their beloved Justice League is …at its core…a re-tread, a copy of the team that came before it.

Consequently, for the past 30 years, the JSA has been treated as neither fish nor foul by DC management. Each time DC has attempted to remove all traces of the Justice Society and the Golden Age at large, the marketplace (the fans) rise up and demand their return.

Which brings us to JSA Classified. Unlike its counterpart JLA Classified—which is little more than repository for stories bought and paid for and that should have stayed in the file drawer—JSA Classified features originally commissioned solo stories of current JSA members—so far the same handful of JSA members.

The moral of the story is that DC seems to care enough to tell original JSA solo stories—but it really doesn’t care enough to tell good stories by top talent that have lasting plotting and continuity impact.

Instead faithful JSA fans (and buyers of Classified) such as FanBoyWonder must endure perpetually forgettable tales by junior varsity storytellers.

Speaking Junior, this issue’s scripter Junior Thomas gives us a 2-part tale of original Green Lantern Alan Scott, who ends up fighting his old foe Solomon Grundy and in the end as we find the immortal Vandal Savage.

This is the third time in the life of this series that has featured Green Lantern Alan Scott and the second time that GL has taken on Vandal Savage. Hey we like the Golden Age GL and he more than deserves the spotlight but there are a plethora of other deserving JSA members who have yet to get even ONE story arc into Classified.

The only thing that made this story somewhat readable was Johnson’s scripting of Green Lantern mourning the death of his daughter Jade. It’s about time that this was acknowledged SOMEWHERE.

Jade has always been favorite character of ours—all the way back to when Roy Thomas and Jerry Ordway created her and the rest of Infinity Inc. back in the mid-80s but her death during Infinite Crisis was pointless and a waste of a great character.

As we’ve noted previously, JSA Classified, if done right, can be and SHOULD be a true storytelling companion to the main Justice Society of America title.

As main JSA writer Geoff Johns is poised to introduce even MORE legacy members to the Justice Society he has noted that his take on JSA is that it is not a team but a true “society. With so many characters walking around, it’ doesn’t leave a lot of room for character development…at least not for very many characters.

Yet JSA Classified, if coordinated closely with the main title, can fill the void and tell the stories that deserve to be told in the main JSA title, but where there is no room.

Hey DC, here’s a license to boost Classified’s sales to infinity and beyond—How about an issue or two featuring a solo story with the JSA’s newest member—Kingdom Come Superman?

Of course, we’re just the loyal, paying customer….what do we know?

Green Lantern Corps #18

The Upshot From DC Comics: Part 10 of the "Sinestro Corps War" storyline. In this issue, the Guardians of the Universe have chosen a new Ion, and his first mission is to confront one of the deadliest member of the Sinestro Corps...the newly christened Superman Prime!

Yet again, we have a situation where that clusterf**k called Countdown has again gotten in the way of the only DC Comics “event” that has actually been good this year by spoiling the outcome.

The big showdown between Superman Prime and the new Ion of the Green Lantern Corps, Sodam Yat of Daxam, was a foregone conclusion even before we read the first page as it’s been revealed that Super-Prime is flying around the multiverse with a black suit and a bad haircut.

New GLC writer Peter Tomasi is a competent writer but former GLC writer Dave Gibbons deserved to finish out this part of the Sinestro Corps storyline. Countdown spoilers aside, this was a very busy issue—in part to overscripting by Tomasi—but even with the overabundance of inner monologue, the fight between the Ion and Prime was quite unsatisfying thanks to quite obviously rushed art by Patrick Gleason and Prentiss Rollins.

These guys are usually much better than this but we get the sense this battle, this chapter of the Sinestro Corps storyline was an 11th hour add-on designed to rundown the clock. After 22 pages of meaningless fisticuffs, returns the situation to status quo and even if the greater continuity gods had destined Ion to lose, we had hoped for a better showing.

The salvation of the issue was the inter-sliced flashbacks of a young Sodam Yat on the planet Daxam.

Although he is part of a very closed, xenophobic people, young Sodam’s encounter with an alien taught him about life beyond the stars and his alien friend’s demise at the hands of the Damamites just hardened his resolve to leave the planet to explore—until a Green Lantern ring chose him and his life in the Corps began.

The art during these origin flashbacks by Jamal Igle and Jerry Ordway was top notch. Despite the shaky start, we think Tomasi will be able to build upon the solid foundation that Dave Gibbons has built and take this title to the next level.

Trials of Shazam #10

The Upshot From DC Comics: Sabina and Freddy race to find the hidden Mercury…as this test is about gaining his speed ability! And if Sabina finds him first, she'll be equal to Freddy in the ultimate Trials for Shazam's power!

Last issue we had remarked that the plotting and scripting of this series has been so good, so competent, that we actually wondered if someone else had been writing under Judd Winick’s name—as we can’t believe this is the same guy who wrote that god awful Titans East Special last month.

Well Winick couldn’t help but insert some his trademark annoying dialogue in there but he does keep it to a minimum otherwise the series is progressing along as the Trials of Freddy Freeman has become more of a race between Freddy and Sabina for the Power of Shazam.

We understand how the traditionalists are upset at this most radical interpretation of the Marvel Family/SHAZAM mythology but out of the box thinking was required.
But we think the perfect solution lies in reverting Billy Batson to the traditional Captain Marvel that we know and love and allowing Freddy Freeman to follow the path that Trials takes him—so as he avoids being a redundant blue costumed Marvel who can’t say his own name.

While we are quite pleased with the art of Mauro Cascioli, we are displeased that original mini-series artist Howard Porter can’t or wouldn’t see through the entire 12-issue series. It wouldn’t have killed DC to give us some sort of explanation.
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