In a complete reversal of what normally happens to me when a Geoff Johns comic comes out, I’ve actually taken flak from some readers for not bashing on Justice League enough. In fact, I’ve been fairly supportive of what he’s been trying to do, even if I see what he’s trying to do with the comic as being fairly flawed. Despite that, I still maintain that the first two issues of Justice League are solid, enjoyable reads, confidently introducing us to the world and to the characters while setting up a threat big enough to unite them all. Justice League #3 brings that threat very firmly to Earth, but loses the sense of characterization that drove the first two issues.
When Justice League #1 was released (over six weeks ago), it was met by many comics fans with a resounding ‘meh’. Awkwardly paced and somewhat lacking in any sort of ‘league’, some particularly pessimistic fans were predicting failure for the relaunch based on its opening issue. And then the issue sold an insane number of copies, and the story became “this is a wildly successful start to the relaunch, sales-wise” rather than “this was a mildly successful start to the relaunch, creatively-speaking.” But still, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee has perhaps the biggest soap box in comicdom right now to prove that superheroes are viable in the mainstream, so how does their sophomore issue fare?
In Character Study, I’m taking a look at how the key characters in Justice League #1 are portrayed and see what it all might mean for the brave new world that is DCnU.
In Part 1, I looked at Batman and Vic Stone. In Part 2, I turn the spotlight on Green Lantern and Superman.
By now, the internet has been flooded with reviews for the book that launches a whole new status quo for the DC Universe. And, as many reviewers have commented, this is not your dad’s DCU and you’ve never seen this Justice League before.
So what could I possibly add to the digital cacophony, especially since I had to wait a few extra days for my comics to travel halfway around the world to Australia?
Instead of offering yet another review of Justice League #1, I have decided to focus on what is, for me, the most important part of any story – the characters.
So, it’s finally over – Flashpoint ends today, and with it, the DC Universe as we know it. But every ending is just the beginning of something new, so I’m going to briefly discuss – since lebeau has already handled both books already – the beginning of the DCnU as well, including how DC’s same day digital release process treated me. As always, spoilers ahead…
The new JLA line-up was confirmed in a Jim Lee-drawn piece of promo art. The new line-up includes the big guns from the announcement (plus Cyborg) and the newly revealed members Deadman, Mera, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Atom and Firestorm. Plus 2 mystery women who may or may not be existing characters.
Now that all 52 books in the September relaunch have been announced, I intend to go back an take a closer look at each one. I’ll examine what looks different, what looks the same and what I think the book’s chances are for success. So, I’ll kick things off with the first book announced: Justice League #1.
I often forget about how dark this book is. I think this series is often thought of as a gore fest with dick and fart jokes. It’s not. This series is all about the characters. However, these characters do live in a dark, dark world. This is the “We Gotta Go Now” prologue. “We Gotta Go Now” contained a lot of jokes, but the last issue was full of terror and surprises. We get one last terrifying surprise in this issue. Just a warning, it is unsettling.
Other than that, there’s nothing in this issue that even resembles action. This issue is anything but boring, though. Why? Because the characters are fascinating. The Frenchman and The Female have a nice moment. I’m eager to find out more about them. Hughie and Annie share some pain together. And as for Butcher? Well, he’s become quite scary.
Speaking of Butcher being scary, that brings be to Darick Robertson. A sign of a great artist is versatility, and Robertson has that in spades. Robertson can render a lot more than gore, Butcher’s mannerisms for one. Butcher has this smile that keeps appearing, and it’s one hell of an unsettling smile. That man has done some bad things, and we see some of them in this issue.
We’re only halfway through The Boys, and I’m already a bit sad. I love all of these characters, no matter how horrible they are, and I’m going to miss them when this series ends. Until then, let’s all enjoy the ride.
Why this list? I don’t know; I like lists! This is something I’ve thought about for awhile, but I’ve never had the organization skills to execute this idea. Well, I stopped bothering with some things (Sure, the west half of my house is on fire, but who cares?!?) so I could finally create the awesome list you’re about to experience.
Just to be clear, these are my top ten working artists. All ten of them produced interior work on at least one comic last year. Enjoy!
10. Ed McGuinness
McGuinness is the Wolverine of comic artists. He’s the best there is at what he does. And what he does is draw big muscular cartoony fun! Hulk is the PERFECT book for him. The man was born to draw it. Throw in an extensive Superman (And later Batman) run and you’ve got plenty of pretty beefy heroes to look at. Did I mention that his art is a fantastic model for toys as well? Check it out! Sure, he doesn’t have much range and he’s a bit lazy, but if I ever need anyone to find a vein on my arm, I’ll go to him!
9. Frank Cho
After criticizing EM’s range, I put Frank Cho? Am I crazy? Maybe, but Cho does actually have some range. Go check out his Spider-Man issues with Mark Millar. Sure MJ had big boobs, but his Venom was badass. He also renders some fantastic animals. Who draws Dinosaurs and monkeys better than Frank Cho? And yes, he draws some bodacious babes, but is that really such a bad thing? Yes they’re a bit crude, but it works with an American audience. We’re a bit too uptight when it comes to the female form. Cho just puts it out there. Too preachy? I like big boobs. Better? The fact is his women are tough, sexy, and usually pretty muscular. They can kick the shit out of the men. That’s a kind of female power, right?
8. Steve McNiven
Good, we’re away from the cartoons. Steve McNiven is pretty new to the art scene. Ok, he’s been in the biz for about eight years, but I can count his projects with my fingers. I’ve always considered myself a fan of the man’s work, but his most recent project, Old Man Logan, is what got him on the list. Have you seen that stuff? It’s fucking epic! He’s created an entire future Marvel Universe, aged character designs, and zany stuff like a Venom T-Rex. He’s nailed them all. There’s no doubt in my mind that in ten years when fans discuss the best Wolverine artists, McNiven will be mentioned in the same sentence as Frank Miller and Barry Windsor-Smith. As if that weren’t enough, he also did a stellar job on Civil War, and whether you enjoyed that event or not, at least you were treated to some gorgeous images.
7. Tim Sale
Say what you want about Jeph Loeb, but when he and Sale get together, you get magic. I just picked up that new Daredevil Yellow hardcover a few weeks ago and Sale’s art was absolutely mystifying. His Daredevil is poetic. Sale captured the fallen hero, Battlin’ Jack Murdock, perfectly. Don’t even get me started on his Karen Page. Lois Lane, Mary Jane, Gwen Stacy, Selina Kyle, Tim Sale has rendered some of the most iconic women in comics and yet he always brings something new to the table. Sale is an expert at taking old characters, blowing off the dust, and making them look all shiny and new again.
6. JH Williams III
Whoa! JH Williams III is number six? How the hell did that happen? Because Williams is awesome, that’s why. He’s an artistic chameleon. If you read his three-issue arc in Batman recently, you’ll know that every member of the Club of Heroes had a different art style. El Gaucho is Howard Chaykin, The Knight and the Squire are Ed McGuinness, and so on. On top of that, Williams has some of the most interesting layouts in comic history. If you want to see some expert graphic design, Williams is your man. How he presents his art is almost as intriguing as the art itself. Heck, the only reason why Williams isn’t higher on the list is his lack of content (Or perhaps my lack of reading his content), but with an absolute Promethea volume and his long-awaited Batwoman run coming up, Williams is sure to make my top five soon.
5. John Romita Jr.
And speaking of Williams’ lack of content, here’s a man who has too much content. Romita has been in the biz for nearly three decades. That’s awesome, but what usually happens to artists over time is that their style gets boring. Not so with Romita, his style has evolved. Going from the traditional look of his Iron Man days, to the Kirby/Miller amalgam, Romita has proved that he’s still one of the best. Want proof? While some of the artists on this list (Even those ahead of him, sadly) produce only a few issues a year, Romita is the opposite. In just two years, he worked on a Neil Gaiman project for seven issues, a mega Marvel event for five, a six-issue return to Spider-Man, and an entirely new property with Mark Millar. Throw in directing part of a movie (An illustrated Kick-Ass segment) and you have one fabulous work ethic!
4. Joseph Michael Linsner
This is where you can stop calling my list predictable. What can I say? I feel a deep connection with Linsner’s work. There are times when I think he’s my favorite artist. His style is Cartoony yet realistic. Linsner’s women are cheesecake, yet independent and strong. The man’s work is truly transcendent. I can just stare at for days and days. The Hulk is probably a poor example (Though funny), but please go check out his work. If you feel half the connection with it that I do, it’ll be a wondrous experience.
3. Alex Ross
What’s a “best comic artists” list without Alex Ross? Actually, when I was compiling this list, his name slipped my mind. Terry Dodson was on for quite a while, but eventually (Sorry Terry), an image of Kingdom Come Superman blazed across my mind. How is it, that a character that said so little and was part of so few stories can be as incredibly inspirational as Kingdom Come Superman? I blame Alex Ross. He brings such power and solitude to the grey-haired Man of Steel. It was hammered home this year; KC Superman is the symbol for the man who has unimaginable power, and yet he can’t save the ones he loves. A much bleaker ending than the one Jeph Loeb gave him in Absolute Power, but it’s still undeniably moving. Though Ross spends a little too much time rendering covers and writing nostalgic tales for my taste, Justice, Marvels and Kingdom Come are so well-crafted that he easily earns a spot on the list.
2. Frank Quitely
Remember what I said about Sale and Loeb being magic? Well, that goes triple for Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. See that picture above? Why did I choose that instead of something like New X-Men and All Star Superman? Because you already know those are great, but you may have never heard of We3. You should definitely read it because it’s fantastic, and that’s what every project is that Quitely works on. His art is truly unique and I mean that in the best possible way. Quitely handles everything, action, facial expressions, and emotion, all of it, like the master he is. The only reason Quitely isn’t number one is because his art has greatly evolved into marvelous beauty within the last five years. My number one, however, has always been at the top of his game.
1. Jim Lee
I never thought Jim Lee would be my number one. It makes sense; Batman is my favorite hero, so it’s only natural that the quintessential Batman artist is my favorite. Lee has always demonstrated greatness. Whether your first experience was X-Men, WildC.A.T.s, Batman, or even way back to Punisher War Journal, you were probably impressed. He’s worked on a few bad projects, sure. That won’t stop you from gazing at his beautiful interiors though. Why do you think All Star Batman and Robin is a best-seller? Its gloriously groundbreaking dialogue? I think not. Whether the words accompanying his art were good or not, I’ve always enjoyed Lee’s renderings immensely.
So there’s the list. I doubt you’ll agree completely. “Good art” is purely opinionated. I only wish that if you haven’t heard of one of these talented men (Why isn’t Amanda Conner on the list?), you’ll go check them out. Hopefully, you’re in for a treat.
All Star Batman and Robin #10 (**1/2)
I have a lot to say about this, but I’ll try to keep it brief. Remember when I talked about the altered cover in my Action Comics #869 review? Probably the reason for the change was because it came out in the same week as this fiasco. This is a Batman comic that contains numerous F bombs and C words. Here are some of the actual words and enjoy this original page as well. Did I mention that these words and actions come from a 15 year old girl? Miley Cyrus eat your heart out! I think this is more proof that Frank Miller is not writing a Batman comic. This should be an Avatar book. I think people would accept it more. I feel bad for Jim Lee. He has to draw kids groping testicles now? Jim Lee should be on a different Batman book and Frank Miller should write some indie books. Despite all of this nonsense, I’ve actually enjoyed most of this series. The stories are absurdly fun and Lee’s art looks gorgeous! Speaking of pretty art, isn’t that Frank Quietly cover cool? This issue still looks marvelous, but I can’t say I enjoyed Miller’s writing. This is packed with horrible noir monologues. Analogies, similes, and metaphors used to sound hardcore. Ugh! This issue took so long to read and yet the plot barely moved forward. Lee produces pure beauty and Miller’s writing isn’t completely horrible, but this was disappointing and some shame should go to DC for the editorial misstep as well.
War Heroes #2 (***1/2)
How many of you were pissed when you heard that a Kick-Ass movie will be released only a few months after the comic series ends? Well, Mark “Sellout” Millar does it again! It seems War Heroes will be a movie too. At least they waited until issue #2 came out right? Ok, let’s talk about this issue. What does this have to do with censorship? It contains full-frontal male nudity of course. I know Mark Millar likes to shock people, but this is too much. I remember reading that Millar was going to put anal sex and cumshots in Wanted, but J.G. Jones talked him out of it. I guess Tony Harris couldn’t do the same. A friend of mine who has a nine year old daughter flipped out when he saw this issue on the shelves for kids to see. I’ve also heard on the “Internets” about some trouble that shop owners are having. Do comic distributors deserve blame? I don’t think so, but that’s me. Anyway, Tony Harris is the star of this series. I think Millar knows that too. This is your basic boot camp issue only with superpowers. Instead of putting weapons together they construct planes, instead of lifting weights they lift tanks and so on. This issue is fun and there are some shocks, like the aforementioned penis, but the story isn’t anything spectacular yet. If you’re a fan of Millar’s writing and especially if you like Harris’ art, you should give this book a try.
This inspired my title. Isn’t it awesome? Joe Linsner rocks!
Invincible #51 (****1/2): Oh yeah, you like that highlighted one? It’s got to have first issue appeal then right? Right? Ok, maybe not. Yes, if you haven’t been reading Invincible (You’re a fool!) you shouldn’t pick this up, but instead start on the first trade. You’ll enjoy it though. So yeah I don’t know why Kirkman emphasized the first issue stuff so much, but at least it kind of is a new start. He’s got new threads, new sidekick, and a new girlfriend, oh and a new colorist on the book too. I had a lot of fun with this. There is a lot in it and it’s the usual price. We get a fight with some Kirkman baddies, stuff from last issue gets dealt with, there is quite a few things from earlier in the series that we kind of get little tastes of, and of course those lovely Kirkman character moments. The negatives are the lack of Crabtree (I miss him), the fact that this isn’t much of a jumping on point at least not for a first issue, and of course the very last page. It’ll be interesting to see what most people think of that last page reveal. I’m ok with it, I think, but I’m sure there will be a few moans and groans. It’s an overall great book though.
War Heroes #1 (****): Millar’s plate gets ever larger. Sadly, this is a bad thing because Millar has a certain style that wears thin if you see an overwhelming amount of it like we’re kind of getting now. Millar is known for having a very cinematic style and writing that takes a seemingly conventional idea and makes it fresh and exciting. But we’ve been getting a lot of that with Kick-Ass and even with Wolverine so by now we’re already full of Millar’s particular entree. Having said all that though, I do like this book. The political stuff is a bit too forceful but I still like it and I love that most of it gets wrapped up in 5 pages. I love all the little character moments but like I said it’s very much like Kick-Ass in that this is the “realistic superhero”. I don’t think we get the wonderment that we’re supposed to get, I should have more of a wow feeling when reading this. Still, it’s got that great cinematic Millar feel to it. I wonder if this will be a movie too. Wow, I haven’t mentioned Tony Harris yet. He makes this go from a good book to a great book. The art looks phenominal! Harris was a fantastic choice and Cliff Rathburn’s inks complement it perfectly as he does on Walking Dead. It also looks like this book’s scope is going to expand. I’m excited for the next issue which is always a good thing.
Whew. This one’s going to be a doosey. This is the comic no one likes. First off, if you didn’t know, this is written by Frank Miller and drawn by Jim Lee. This HC is 25 bucks and contains the first 9 issues. 240 pgs for 25 bucks is a good deal, so at least there’s that. This HC also features an introduction from the editor. This is pretty funny. Unless you are new to comics or you’ve been living in a hole (or both), you’ll know that everyone hates this comic. So, it’s funny that the editor’s entire introduction barely mentions this comic at all. He’s mainly talking about the creator’s previous award winning achievements. Not this comic. At the end, he says, “They know what they’re doing. Trust me!” I just found that kind of humorous.
I’ll first address the feeling that everyone has about this book, its crappiness. This comic came out so slowly. The characters are drawn in new and startling ways. This seems so be a parody of Frank Miller written by someone making fun of the man. This doesn’t seem like this is written by him. Or if it does, it seems like an exaggeration of Frank’s old work. An extreme version of Sin City or Dark Knight Returns. There are many sadistic things in this comic. Batman wants Robin to eat rats. Joker gives us an intense look at him mutilating someone. Almost all the characters are being made fun of. From the Justice League, even to the Batman himself, they all seem to being made fun of. This Batman is very different from the one we all know and love.
The messed up thing? I kind of like it. I really hesitated posting this and I could have kept it a secret that I’m reading this thing. Especially since I have recently reviewed Hulk and Ultimates 3, another two books everybody hates. But the hell with it. Somebody has to review the bad comics right? So what if I kind of like a book everybody hates. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone. I still however, have fun with it.
To me it’s just a goofy zany book with glorious beautiful art. I love Jim Lee. He’s one of the guys that got me into comics so I like to support him. And I love Frank Miller’s work, his old work at least. I find it hard not to read a new Frank Miller Batman book. I could go into reasons why I like this book, but that’s pointless. Everyone likes something crappy from time to time. We all have guilty pleasures that we don’t tell others about (I’ll probably be chastised for liking this which is why you don’t tell anybody about it).
The funny and sad thing to me is that I know someone who is new to comics who loves this book. This is the only Frank Miller book he’s ever read and he loves Frank Miller because of it. I’ve tried to get him to read Sin City or Dark Knight Returns and he won’t. For those small few who are reading this and haven’t read those books, go out and buy them immediately! You’ll thank me for it. Anyway, this HC just came out and I just read it. I want to review everything I read, even if I get a ton of flak for it. Most of you will probably give me crap for putting this up, but for those of you who have ever enjoyed a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, or a Steven Segal movie, or like something everyone else hates, you’ll understand me.
2 and a half stars