Forever Evil by Geoff Johns and David Finch – A Book Review

This book is the culmination of years’ worth of storytelling.  Truly, it is the result of multiple plots nurtured since The New 52’s dawn.  Did it satisfy?  Yes.

Without spoiling too much, the events of Trinity War led to Forever Evil, which means that the Justice Leagues are incapacitated.  Save Batman and Catwoman, they are completely out of the picture.  So when the Crime Syndicate invades the planet and promptly gains control, there is no one left to challenge them.  Or is there?  Lex Luthor releases his own personal Superman, recruits Captain Cold, Deathstroke, Black Adam, Sinestro, and Black Manta, and even convinces Batman to join his efforts, and this unlikely band takes on the Crime Syndicate and their Secret Society of Super Villains.

I enjoyed this book.  I like Johns take on Lex Luthor, and I believe Luthor’s motivation to appear the hero.  Johns brought about a renaissance with the Rogues back in the early 2000’s, and his new take on Captain Cold is equally engrossing.  Always entertaining, Johns introduced some old favorites to The New 52, and even set about a new direction for several popular characters.

I will say this, though.  While I always have a great time with Johns, the book felt a little too much like Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers.  Super hero comics are largely derivative, and everything old tends to be new again, but I found it hard to consider anything I read as breaking serous new ground.  Of course, I guess one could argue that Luthor was president before Osborn’s ascension to power.  At any rate, I’m a DC guy, have been since 1980, and it was a blast seeing new takes on old favorites—especially the Crime Syndicate with the additions of Atomica and Deathstorm.

Let’s move on to the art.  David Finch is an amazing artist, no doubt.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, his work never seems serviced by color.  In other words, his pencils are truly astounding, but, after they are colored, his art always looks a little busy to me.  However, comic books are a sequential medium, and Finch does well moving the action and story from one panel to the next.  I would love to see this book in black and white sometime.

Overall, at 240 pages, this book is well worth the money.  It resolves several plots and also sets up several more for the future.  It gives most of DC’s preeminent villains a moment to shine, and positions Lex Luthor to be more than just Superman’s antagonist.  If handled correctly, like with Norman Osborn, this multifaceted bad guy could become one of DC’s most fascinating characters.

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Aquaman Confirmed For Batman v. Superman, and You Better Not Laugh!

So this will be the most geeky post you read today, if not the entire month.  Jason Momoa (of Game of Thrones, Conan the Barbarian, and Stargate: Atlantis) has been confirmed at Aquaman in the new Batman v. Superman movie, which is sort of the sequel to Man of Steel.

I can’t claim to be a Jason Momoa fan.  I’m really not that familiar with his work.  However, I am an Aquaman fan.  Yeah, I said it.

Aquaman gets no respect, and for the life of me, I don’t know why.  Peter David’s run on Aquaman completely won me over in the early ’90s.  This was when he grew a beard, lost a hand, replaced the hand with a hook, and donned gladiator armor.  Because it was Peter David, it worked.  (Check it out if you haven’t.)

Then, slowly but surely, they brought back the orange scale armor and green pants, lost the beard, shortened the hair, and even gave him his hand back.  But they kept the warrior attitude.

All too often people think of Aquman only as the guy who can talk to fish.  But let’s run down his powers and characteristics.  He’s the son of both a human and the queen of Atlantis.  He was raised by the father, but discovered his heritage as a young man.  After his father died, he went in search of Atlantis, and was named rightful king.  He is the king of the Seven Seas, which, as you know, accounts for 75% of the planet.  He can telepathically push aquatic life to do his bidding – this includes sharks, whales, etc.  His body is super dense which enables him to withstand the ocean depths, this gives  him incredible strength and also makes his skin impervious to most human weapons.  Furthermore, because of the dense muscles that allow him to swim hundreds of miles per hour, he can also leap incredible amounts of distance while on land.  Plus, during his current incarnation, he has an unbreakable trident which is a relic form ancient Atlantis.  Aquaman is more than capable of living outside of water for long spans of time.

Aquaman wants nothing more than to bring peace to both the surface world and his kingdom.  He is an environmentalist, a warrior king, and a hero when serving with the Justice League.

Let’s not forget Aquman’s queen, Mera.  Mera is a warrior as well, also an outsider of Atlantis, and a woman for whom you do not want to trifle.  She can control water, shape it as she wishes, move it as she wants.  She is a formidable character in her own right, a character more than capable of carrying her own series.  When coupled with Aquaman, they are irresistible.  I sincerely hope they cast Mera in Batman v. Superman as well, for she would amaze movie goers.

So, are you convinced?  Do you now see Aquaman as more than the guy who talks to fish?  A few years ago, DC Comics (sort of) rebooted their universe.  Geoff Johns, who is known for revitalizing old favorites, decided to make Aquman his pet project.  I’ve read the first four volumes, and I loved them.  Johns is building a mythology around both Atlantis and Aquaman like never before.  Check out the first volume – it’s called Aquaman: The Trench.

If done well, Aquaman could be like Lord of the Rings under water.  There is an epic story just waiting to be told.  If someone dedicated themselves to building a world for Aquaman like James Cameron did for Avatar, the potential is limitless.

 

 

 

Justice Society of America: Thy Kingdom Come (Part I) – A Graphic Novel Review

I’ve always enjoyed JSA, mostly because Geoff Johns has made a point to keep one foot in the past with the title while keeping the other foot firmly planted in the future.

With the Justice Society of America re-launch, the team has a new mission statement of making sure the world has better heroes, and so they are first tracking down legacy heroes and training them to deserve the mantle they’ve assumed.

Thy Kingdom Come is particularly fascinating because it reintroduces Superman from Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come series.  In expert juxtaposition, Johns makes a point that while the Earth-2 Superman thought Earth-1’s heroes weren’t heroic enough, the Kingdom Come Superman finds Earth-1’s (New Earth’s) heroes inspiring and invigorating.  Any writer will tell you that good writing means making use of unusual perspectives, and Johns does just this with KC Superman.

Furthermore, I love the KC Superman because he has an edge to him.  He’s damaged goods.  After all, he watched his world’s heroes demean and destroy themselves and did nothing until the (relatively) very end.  He wants a fresh start as well, a chance at redemption, and that makes him very compelling.

But among such heavy themes and dangerous adventures, Johns also brings about quite a bit of joyfulness.  Boxing matches between Wildcat and his son, fundraising at the local firehouse, and ski trips are just part of what makes this team such a delight to follow. 

Johns also mixes established, semi-established, and brand new characters in this book and gives each a chance to shine in an appealing and engaging manner.  To have characters over half-a-century old such as Flash and Green Lantern interacting with brand new legacy characters such as Wildcat II, Cyclone, and Citizen Steel brings an unpredictability that is missing in several other DC titles.  Throw in semi-established characters using familiar names like Hourman, Liberty Belle, and Starman, and you’ve got something exciting, amusing, and captivating.

For me, Justice Society of America continues to be a must-read and I really look forward to where the title is heading with its heavy referencing to Kingdom Come and multiple-subplots.

Justice Society of America, Vol. 1: The Next Age – A Graphic Novel Review

Geoff Johns gets it. He just does.

There’s really nothing else to say, but since this would be a weak review without more exposition, I’ll keep going.

In my mind, there’s no truer paradigm of the mainstream superhero than Johns’. If you want proof, read his entire run of The Flash; or, read his work on JSA; OR, simply read his JSA reboot, Justice Society of America: The Next Age.

The Next Age picks up right where JSA left off. Most of the fan favorites are still around, as well as some inspired choices for new teammates. Furthermore, Johns has found a new mission statement for the Justice Society of America, one that is trying to teach the new generation of heroes how to be just that.

Johns understands the superhero team dynamic. He understands the archetypes necessary for such a team to be charismatic. Johns realizes how to make us care about his characters, how to present edgy–but not gratuitous–stories, and, best of all, Johns comprehends how to manipulate pace, deliver great dialogue, and present captivating foreshadowing.

In The Next Age, the Justice Society of America round up some young heroes who may need some positive role models and training, deal with a mysterious entity killing off the bloodlines of other heroes, and are introduced to an element that forces Wildcat to get out of the ring and into the human race. Since monthly comic books are by nature serialized, it also sets up oodles of possibilities for the months to come.

Consequently, let’s not forget about artist Dale Eaglesham. I love comic books equally not just for their stories, but also for their art. It’s a visual medium, and Eaglesham renders heroic looking, but not hyperbolic, figures. He chooses gripping angles within his panels, and, like Johns, he seems to have an innate sense of what makes a superhero comic both tense and fun. The hardcover edition of The Next Age even offers some breathtaking pencil sketches from Eaglesham during the design process.

We can debate all day as to whether or not Johns is the best writer in the comic book industry, but as far as pure super heroics and team dynamic go, there is no one better, and Justice Society of America: The Next Age is proof positive of that.

Justice League of America, Volume I: The Tornado’s Path – A Graphic Novel Review

Let’s just get this straight: I love the Justice League of America. I always have, and I always will. I loved the Detroit stories, I loved the “Bwah-ha-ha” era, I loved when Jurgens tried to get it more serious, and I loved it when Nuklon and Obsidian joined the team. When Morrison came along, I thought the comic book gods had smiled upon us, and when Waid took over from Morrison, I thought all was still right in the world. When Joe Kelly came along I was thoroughly impressed, and then, after he left, well, things got a little rough for a while. However, who comes in to save the day but the otherworldly Geoff Johns. And then, well, it got rough again.

However, when I heard Brad Meltzer had been tapped to reboot the title, I was more than ecstatic. Meltzer earned my undying loyalty with Green Arrow: The Archer’s Quest, and Identity Crisis was very strong as well. I realized from those two works that Meltzer’s strengths are definitely characterization and the interpersonal relationships between characters.

So, when I gave in once again to my weak will and read the message boards as to what people thought of his work (because I’m a wait for the trade kinda guy) on JLofA, I was disappointed that they were largely saying negative things (I know, the message boards being negative, big surprise). This concerned me, because I couldn’t believe Meltzer was doing a poor job.

Fact is, he didn’t do a poor job at all.

The Tornado’s Path works in almost all aspects. Meltzer is harkening back to my favorite era of the league, before the Detroit era, and that’s when they were one big happy family hanging out and acting like the greatest super hero team in the world. But, he puts his own twist on it. Instead of the team coming together and then breaking off into splinter groups to deal with problems, like in the old days, the series begins with them teaming up into small groups and then coming together to form a larger whole.

There were some complaints that this slowed the action down, but this baby had plenty of action from the get-go. Sure, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman spend half the book simply talking with each other, but the rest of the team is out there in splinter groups getting things done. This allows Meltzer to establish the rest of the team and help the reader get a feel for them. It’s not like anyone doesn’t already know what the Big Three are about, right?

I also heard a bit of rumbling because Meltzer has all of his JLofA members calling each other by first name. This didn’t bother me at all. I mean, these people are friends, that’s what’s Meltzer is trying to establish. If you were friends with a police officer, would you always call him Officer Smith? Probably not. The code-names are there to protect their identities, but if the team already knows their identities, why would they continue to use code-names when in private?

The Tornado’s Path is basically a storyline to reestablish the Justice League of America and to bring Red Tornado back into the forefront of the DCU. I’ve always thought Reddy was cool, but after Zero Hour, things got a little weird for him for a long time. Thank God Johns finally brought back the very-human Reddy, and Meltzer took that even one step further. Are there some plot holes in The Tornado’s Path? You bet, but nothing that impedes the sheer exuberance of seeing the JLofA done right. We’ve got lots of heroes, we’ve got lots of villains, we’ve got lots of characterization, we’ve got some mystery and humor to go along with the action–this one’s got it all.

And finally, I’d like to talk about two things: One–I am one hundred percent in favor of Meltzer’s lineup. The Big Three is an obvious choice that I’m glad they made. Hal Jordan makes a lot of sense as he’s becoming a bigger and bigger deal in the DCU. Black Canary is also a logical choice because of her status in the DCU among characters, and it’s high time she became editorially more important. Hawkgirl makes sense because she fills in for Hawkman as Red Arrow fills in for Green Arrow, thus keeping the Hawk vs. Arrow classic feud in an all-new and interesting way. Red Tornado HAS to be on the JLofA and I’m glad somebody finally realized that fact. Vixen is a cool character with a lot of room for growth, so she’s a good choice for giving the writer some breathing room. Black Lightning has long been one of my favorite characters, and it’s time he FINALLY is getting some respect. I prefer his red and blue costume, but I can deal with the shaved head and bodysuit. And finally, Meltzer is the only one who’s ever made me care about Roy Harper in the least. I’m excited to see where this character, who has been around since 1941, goes in the JLofA.

Two–In my opinion, you have to read the collected editions of Meltzer’s work for it to truly shine. He is a novelist, remember, so his pacing is geared towards intro, climax, and conclusion with lots of characterization in between. I loved The Archer’s Quest, which I first read in collected edition, but Identity Crisis wasn’t as good for me, and I read that in the single monthly installments. Trust me, those who said The Tornado’s Path was too slow may have a leg to stand on if they were reading the monthly issues, but if you read the collected edition, you will be amazed at what a page-turner it really is.

The Justice League of America is in very good hands, indeed.

52: Volume I – A Graphic Novel Review

I’ll admit it, I read every spoiler of this series on a weekly basis. I know how it ends, but even that did not diminish the sheer pleasure I derived in reading 52: Volume I. Reading the collected edition of this series cannot possibly mimic the experience of reading it on a weekly basis, but let me just say that the work most definitely holds up as a collected volume. It progresses smoothly with little to no breaks in consistency, and considering that the men writing it were working as a team and cranking this monster out for an entire year, AND never missed a deadline, well, that just makes me appreciate the work even more.

Make no mistake: Volume I is mostly setting up things to come. Even so, I am fascinated with the characters they’re focusing on. They’ve chosen to spotlight characters that are not in the upper echelon of the DC pantheon because, after all, 52 is supposed to take place during a year without Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman. I love them using lesser-known characters because the reader realizes anything goes, which obviously lifts the level of suspense. But even by the end of Volume I, these lower-tier characters had already won me over.

I also need to tell you that while the writing is rock solid, the art changes from issue to issue (as you can surely understand). I found the art more than adequate, but for some people it may be distracting.

I truly believe you have to put yourself in the shoes of the creators with this work and keep an open mind on some of the production issues that they had no control over. They pulled off an amazing feat, and best of all, the quality is superb!

The Flash: Lightning In a Bottle – A Graphic Novel Review

Yeah … so … um, I swear I’ve been meaning to write a review of this collection for about a month now, and just when I sat down yesterday to write it, well, we got some news about Bart Allen and The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive Issue #13. I promise you, the recent news did not alter my thoughts on this work whatsoever.

When this new series began, I honestly didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why they ended one of my all-time favorite runs with Geoff Johns’ Wally West as the Flash. What initially put Wally on the path to greatness, after a bit of a rocky start, was Mark Waid’s fun and fanciful writing, and Johns just kept that sprint moving.
So, even though I didn’t understand why they were relieving Wally of his duties, I also didn’t get very upset about it. After all, Wally was once Kid Flash, and he had to step into Barry Allen’s boots, and, though it took many years, he eventually became a top-tier character in terms of roundedness and dynamic. I didn’t see the point in tossing Wally aside, but I also had faith that Bart would come into his own one day. I love the character of the Flash, no matter who’s in the mask, so I was going to stick with it.

Oh, but the fanboys cried havoc! I kept hearing the news series was terrible; Bilson and Demeo, the new writers, didn’t have a clue what they were doing. Blah, blah, blah. As is my habit, I waited for the trade.

Guess what folks? It’s not bad.

Granted, it’s not up to the level of Geoff Johns’ or Mark Waid’s run, but those guys are seasoned all-stars. I thought it was a nice intro to a new series with some interesting plot points, art ranging from the very good to the serviceable, and while Bart wasn’t as fun as he use to be as Impulse, or, to a lesser degree, Kid Flash, he also seemed to bring an interesting perspective to the character that I felt would be interesting to follow.

Did I like Bart as much as Wally? No, but once upon a time I didn’t like Wally as much as Barry, and that changed in the early nineties when I was in high school. Bart had been around for a long time, I felt fairly confident he would come into his own and the writers would get into a groove with who they wanted him to be and where they wanted to take him.

Well, if you’ve heard the news, it’s all a moot point. I don’t want to give anything away, but the second volume of this series will be the last. I’m looking forward to reading it, and, with the news of Mark Waid returning to a Flash book picking up where the other series left off, I’m fairly stoked to read those, too.

But, don’t let the disgruntled readers fool you. Lightning In a Bottle is not bad and, if you’re a Flash fan, despite who’s wearing the uniform, I think you’ll enjoy it.