DC Comics is trying something new. In the wake of their Rebirth initiative, the publisher has rapidly expanded its content to include diverse new imprints such as
Young Animal, Wildstorm, Black Label, Ink, and Zoom. As their lineup expands, it can be hard to figure out what to pick up each week. That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu, entertainment editor Kyle Pinion, and contributor Louie Hlad are here to help you with.
THIS WEEK: Kyle is over the moon for the first Snyder-Cheung Justice League installment, and rather likes the second issue of Man of Steel too.
Note: the reviews below contain **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Justice League #1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Pencils: Jim Cheung
Inks: Mark Morales
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Heh. Check out that title. Did I get your attention? Good.
It wasn’t meant to be a slam on any of Scott Snyder’s work post his initial arc with Greg Capullo on the New 52 Batman, but more that he hit such a high mark of quality there – after all the Court of the Owls is now consistently the work of his that keeps getting adapted, and is typically a go-to “jumping on” story for new Batman readers – that it would be superhuman for him to have equaled it with every swing of the bat.
But ladies and gents, I think he’s done it here, or at least as far as I can tell with one issue…he’s off to a hell of a start.
I have to admit, I had a lot of trouble with the just concluded weekly event No Justice, which read awfully jumbled to me and seemed to only exist to put the pieces in place for the “New Justice” line of titles…except, for the most part, Dark Knights: Metal basically already did that. Sure, you have to dot a few I’s yourself, but No Justice was a lot of sturm and drang that only moved the needle forward a few inches to ensure Wonder Woman teams up with Detective Chimp and Azrael winds up in space, basically.
With that in mind, I approached this first issue a little more gingerly than I might have, but once I settled in, any worries were completely cast aside. This book is the real deal, over the top superhero symphony that Metal was the overture for.
Snyder had a difficult task ahead of him really, an unenviable one. The idea of re-positioning Justice League into the center of the DC-line has been the goal of the publisher for a number of years. But it really has only held that position during the Johns era in recent memory. You’d have have to go all the way back to the Morrison-Porter JLA days for that same kind of centrifugal force before that. Editorial demands, various creative left-turns, and whatever else have all led to the flagship always feeling a bit second-rate. I mean, it was only a year ago that Bryan Hitch was writing this comic.
But suddenly with a new hook (the Source Wall is broken and leaking into our universe), a slightly tweaked lineup (that puts the Martian Manhunter right in the middle of things as the team’s chairman), and a sense that this is the book where truly the biggest of the big events occur, Snyder and longtime Marvel mainstay Jim Cheung (producing his first ever DC work) have shot this book full of new and badly needed life. Even from the first page, which finds the MacGuffin of the piece shooting through time and space, past the DC One Million cast, Kamandi’s era, and the new version of the Quintessence (remember them?), you know right away that Snyder and Cheung are playing on the most widest, most galaxy-spanning canvas possible. And that’s just before you arrive on a two-page spread that discusses the composition of the new Hall of Justice, along with a hidden door that can only be seen if you’re psychically linked to J’onn J’onzz, and a subsequent seven panel splash that finds each member of the team fighting environmentally advanced cavemen, while everyone is doing an impression of Batman.
It’s the little things like that, brushed up against enormous concepts that make the better Justice League runs stand out.
And then J’onn basically explodes a huge chunk of the moon.
Speaking of which, what’s most refreshing about this issue is how it centers so much of its narrative heft onto Martian Manhunter. A character that’s been persona non grata for much of the last 6 years or so, 12 issues of that DC YOU series aside, but Snyder and Cheung basically reintroduce the character, not only cleverly providing background for the proverbial new reader, but also firmly establishing his role within the League as the source of connection between each member, as a source of leadership and also the invaluable role his abilities play within the specific aspects of their overall mission. To a degree, it could be argued the League wasn’t really THE LEAGUE until J’onn rejoined. Snyder and Cheung aren’t saying that specifically, but that’s the read that’s hard to shake.
In the other half of the issue, you have Luthor pulling together the Legion of Doom while outright wiping Vandal Savage off the board. This is a big deal if all is as it appears and Savage is officially out of the picture for the forseeable future – speaking of, using his death as a catalyst for J’onn’s visions of the future (of the series presumably) was a great way to whet the appetite, especially to ensure to everyone that their is indeed a long-term plan in place. I can’t say I recognize much of anything in those panels, they’re so purposefully obscured, but everything before it is so exhilarating that I can’t wait to find out what’s to come.
And just what exactly is going to hatch out of that new arrival to Earth. This book is going to be a huge hit, you should come along for the ride.
Man of Steel #2
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Doc Shaner, Steve Rude, Jay Fabok
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Josh Reed
I think last week, Alex really nailed down the strengths to the Bendis approach to Superman, but the thing that really called out to me more than anything else was how well he handled Superman’s internal monologue. When reading those initial narrative captions, it reminded of the same breath of fresh air that came when Greg Pak first hopped aboard Action Comics years back. There’s just an essential positivity, empathy, and sense of caring that is present with the best Superman writers and it was so relieving, after a couple of false starts that only really gave us the barest sense of what his run would be all about, to find that Bendis had his Superman voice down pat.
I was less fond of the actual threat of Rogol Zar, another bruiser character with a Jim Lee design (I think?) that reminds me of the other big tanks that Superman fought in stories like “For Tomorrow” and Superman Unchained. There’s at least some decent pathos there. And issue #2 is more of the same, but just expanded a little further. The real draw this week for me, beyond getting a better sense of where all of this is going in general, is the opportunity to see two masters at work on the page. Even if I didn’t give a crap about the mystery around Lois and Jon, or the current ennui that Superman is dealing with before Rogol Zar comes to town, I’d probably buy this just to get a look at Doc Shaner and Steve Rude work their magic.
The book is perfectly split between the two artists, with a quick second interlude from Fabok, inevitably leading to his issue that will finally address where Lois and Jon are right now I have to assume. And while I can imagine the musical chairs approach would annoy some readers looking for a certain level of visual consistency, and in the trade it’ll probably fare much worse, I’m not going to complain all that much when you get this big, beautiful smiling Superman taking on Toyman as rendered by Shaner. I could read his take on the Daily Planet cast every week if it were available. The only trouble-spot was with Sinclair’s colors. Sometimes I think Sinclair’s very modern hues work really well, particularly with Lee’s art or with Ivan Reis, case in point last week. But that sort of shadowier approach to light and skin tones doesn’t flatter Shaner’s art as well and a bit of the line art gets lost. Not all colorists are a great fit for every penciller.
Funny enough, his colors look great on Steve Rude, some of that is because Rude provides him with a number of darker environments to play with, and having a number of aliens (and Ambush Bug!!!!) to bring to life allows him to vary things up a bit. And Rude’s retro, sort of Jon Hamm take on Superman is a better fit too. I’m not sure why that is…something about the angles and shadows on his face. But it catalyzes well.
This is also an issue that produces my favorite Perry White page in some time. You’ll know the one when you see it. And you should, because it’s a pretty good comic, and very pretty.
- As for the rest of this week’s pull? I’d recommend picking up the first issue of The Unexpected, which is super weird and confusing and makes reference to one of my favorite Grant Morrison creations. It’s a book where I literally have zero clue where it’s going, and if it had the balls to do what I think it did in its final pages, it’ll rise up a few more notches in my estimation.
- I fell asleep trying to read the new Wonder Woman annual. In theory, I’m very into Wonder Woman as a Star Sapphire again, and some awesomely eerie Frazer Irving art, but I also couldn’t get through it without dozing off. That probably says it all unfortunately.
- While I enjoyed the previous Damian-led “Batman/Catwoman wedding” Special, this week’s outing that centers on Hush and Nightwing did little for me. Also, I guess Batman just left Hush in a hellscape? Alright.