Thursday, March 8, 2012

Comic Review -- Justice League #4-6 / Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, & Scott Williams

Justice League #4
I like this cover, even if it suffers from "didn't happen in the comic" syndrome.  While Hal and Aquaman do some verbal sparring, there's never any real physical conflict between them.  Still, Jim Lee does his customarily awesome job of making his heroes look epic and badass, as he does with Aquaman, who actually totally wins me over in one scene of this issue.

The impromptu team-up progresses as Aquaman joins the fray, proving to his new teammates that being king of the oceans holds some distinct advantages in the combat arena.  A newly-formed Cyborg assimilates some of the mysterious cubes in the alien invaders, and inadvertently transports himself into the fray of assembling heroes.  But before they can get their bearings, the invaders' titan of a leader shows up, calling himself Darkseid.

The progression of the plot is good, as we get to see everyone's personalities and the interpersonal dynamics involved begin to really take shape.  It's good to finally see everyone getting together and forming an alliance, albeit one out of desperate necessity.  Clearly these are some powerful heroes, with powerful personalities and biases, but they are slowly coming together.  They may bicker about who's in charge and why, but they already know to fight together against a bigger enemy.

I personally loved Aquaman showing up Green Lantern when asked what he could possibly bring to the table of assembled heroes.  He's never been my favorite hero, but I've also always suspected that to be due to poor utilization by writers of his power set and personality.  After seeing him throw down on Darkseid's minions so thoroughly, I'm eager to see what else Geoff Johns and the other New 52 writers do to make him more favorably viewed.

Favorite scene from this issue: Hal telling the truth about himself after coming in contact with Wonder Woman's lasso, and his reaction to Batman laughing at him.

Artistically, I loved the final page shot of Darkseid as he announces himself.  It's all shadow and blazing eyes and brimstone badass-ness, very much befitting such an apocalyptic foe.  I also like the extra uses of splash pages as the action gets more and more epic and intense.  Aquaman's sharks devouring aliens, Darkseid's emergence and intro... things are definitely getting hairier, and the art really plays that up.

Overall, I'm in it for the long haul.  Between the grand scale of the storytelling and the dynamically beautiful art by Jim Lee, there's little reason not to want to see where this story goes.  Highly recommended.

Justice League #5
Decent cover, even if it's missing Batman and Flash from the assembled team pose.  Still, it symbolizes the team's coming together in the story, and looks appropriately grand.

Darkseid's emergence has temporarily knocked out the heroes.  He captures Superman and contemptuously casts a pugnacious Green Lantern aside.  Batman reveals his identity to Green Lantern, and tells him to put his issues aside and work with the other heroes, then allows himself to get captured by Darkseid's aliens so he can go after Superman.  Green Lantern rallies the remaining heroes with a plan, and they head after Darkseid.  Batman, escaping his captors, finds part of the city converted into some hellish processing plant.

This issue sees the Justice League essentially getting their bearings, realizing that Darkseid is going to be anything but a pushover, and understanding that they'll need to work together to bring him down.  There's only a little bit of action, but the pacing keeps things developing at a good clip, and some of the dialog choices really keep the reader entertained.  Green Lantern acting all feisty and going vainly at Darkseid was quite amusing, for example.

We get an interesting sort of "candid" moment between Batman and Green Lantern in this issue, as Bruce reveals himself to Hal in the name of getting Hal to get over himself and focus on being a team player.  It works in the story, but I'm left feeling a little puzzled by the whole thing.  Batman is notoriously cagey about many things, especially his own secrets, so giving up the big one just to make a point feels pretty out of character, at least to me.

Favorite line of the issue goes to Wonder Woman: "It's settled then!  WE BLIND HIM!"  She reminded me of a Klingon in that moment.  A very hot Klingon, but still.

Art-wise, there's visual candy all over the place.  The visuals of Flash and Superman trying to avoid Darkseid's guided missiles were intriguing, and slightly amusing in their Tron-ness.  I also enjoyed the pose of the assembled heroes when Green Lantern tries out his war cry.  The reveal at the end of the issue is breathtaking in a horrific kind of way, as we see the sheer scale of Darkseid's destructive intentions.

Overall, I'm not overly impressed with this issue, but it does bridge the narrative to what I'm expecting to be an exciting finale.  It looks good, but the action is slowed somewhat.  Still, the overall story is very well told, and I can't wait to see what happens next.  Highly recommended.

Justice League #6
This is a breathtaking cover, in that way that makes your stomach lurch.  The JL, bowing before Darkseid?  Fortunately, it's another of those "not in the issue" covers.  It's very well rendered, and indicative of how formidable an opponent Darkseid is.

The Justice League finally take the fight to Darkseid, working together and hitting him as hard as they can with everything they've got, while Batman tries to find and rescue Superman.  Cyborg manages to use the mother boxes to transport the team and Darkseid to Superman's location, and Batman talks him into getting his bearings so he can assist in sending Darkseid back from where he came.  Cyborg is finally able to shut the tubes created by the mother boxes down, ending the threat and destroying all of Darkseid's props as he is expelled from Earth.  They are hailed as heroes, and commit to publicly forming an alliance.

I really did enjoy the narrative bookends employed for this story, where a writer frames the conflict in catastrophic, end of the world terms.  He's in the middle of the fray, his family about to die with him, but for the emergence of these metahumans on the scene, heroically risking all to ensure that there will be a tomorrow for Earth and its people.  It's a little cheesy, but the impact is really felt at the end of the story where he calls them the greatest superheroes in the world.

I'm also impressed with how little Darkseid actually says about his intentions.  It frustrates the heroes, leaving them to wonder what motivates this titanic force of evil to lay waste to the earth.  This adds considerable weight to his presence as an intergalactic hardcase.

It's always fun to watch the personalities at play between the heroes, and in this issue it's especially obvious. Green Lantern's petulance, Flash's diplomacy, and Batman's forward-thinking all make for amusing moments.  That Wonder Woman and Aquaman are hands-on warriors also makes for an interesting bond between them as they engage Darkseid in melee combat in succession.  I think this issue does a good job of playing up their individual presences, as well as their collective awesomeness.

Artistically, Jim Lee continues to illustrate die-hard action and epic heroes with aplomb.  One excellent example of this is the Justice League's fight against Darkseid, as they take turns engaging him and work together to do so.  Everything looks crisp, dynamic and high-stakes.  The two-page splash of Superman flying into Darkseid to knock him into the mother box tubes was a delight to behold.  Finally, the pose near the end of the story of the team is satisfying, as is the cover of them on the final page, where the writer's book comes to print.

Overall, a satisfying end to a fun origin story.  I'll be curious to see if they come back to the present day--remember, this story takes place 5 years before the "present day"--or if they build directly from this endpoint.  This story is a must-have for Justice League fans, readers of the New 52, or anyone who enjoys Geoff Johns's storytelling and/or Jim Lee's epic artwork.  Highly recommended.

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