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Review: Justice League #44

JL44Everybody is fighting everybody in the latest issue of Justice League as the universe hangs in the balance. The “Darkseid War” is in full effect and no one is safe from the life altering events at play. Brett already gave a fantastic review of Justice League #44 here. Now, it’s time for a second opinion.

The majority of the issue is non-stop action as the two titans of the Anti-Monitor and Darkseid continue to clash on Earth. In between these massive set pieces, a large amount of story growth and character development occur, which continues to build on the seemingly endless momentum the Darkseid war continues to have. The issue opens with Batman, or Bat-god if you prefer, digging deeper into the mystery of the Anti-Monitor’s past with Green Lantern. These scenes are really the only slow moments in the story and they become a nice reprieve from the non-stop movement of the rest of the issue. It is with this scene, Geoff Johns allows the story to grow for both who Batman is becoming and who the Anti-Monitor was. The rest of the issue progresses at a breakneck pace but, it still allows a lot of intriguing development for the Flash, Wonder Woman, and Superman. This does not even touch on all of Darkseid’s children battling either, as they each work through their own individual narrative. With all of this happening each character is grown in an interesting way, making the most of the short time they appear in the story. The final twist is also extremely noteworthy and the places this will take countless characters involved is very exciting and reinvigorating for many who have been stuck in the same mold for a long time. This is the real strength of this issue. Each character is at an interesting cross roads and waiting to see where they go next makes every subsequent issue that much more exciting.

Although, the large amount of characters does cause many people to be pushed to the side. Shazam, Steve Trevor, and Cyborg are almost completely ignored during the battle and Power Ring’s scene does not really introduce anything new we have not known about her before this point. Also, there is a very forced cameo of the Joker in the beginning that seems very out-of-place and adds nothing to the narrative. With this many characters and limited space, those panels could have been used to grow the actual people involved in the war. The final issue with this comic, is that there is a bit of heavy retreading of past stories in Wonder Woman’s inner monologue that seemed to be describing what the art was showing rather than letting the artwork speak for itself.

That artwork is the normal Justice League, Jim Lee, DC house style that we have seen since the Justice League relaunched with the new 52. It is by no means bad, but it is what we have come to expect. The action does look phenomenal and, with so much going on, and so many characters in certain panels, artist Jason Fabok does a great job keeping it all contained and organized. The layouts work very well to help build the tension and sense of dread as the Justice League continues to fight for the Universe’s survival once again.

Overall, this is not a perfect comic book by any means but, there are so many strong character moments, and such an intriguing ending, that Justice League #44 becomes a must read. If for no other reason then to set yourself up for what comes next.

Story: Geoff Johns Art: Jason Fabok
Story: 7.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Justice League #44

Justice League #44 CoverDarkseid versus Anti-Monitor! A corrupted Superman versus Lex Luthor! Myrina Black versus Grail! This chapter of “Darkseid War” has it all—plus an ending that will change the League forever!

There’s really only word to describe DC Comics’ “Darkseid War,” and that is epic. Writer Geoff Johns is a master of the giant epic story that spans too many characters to count, and locations far and wide. This is no exception.

Anti-Monitor vs. Darkseid. Superman vs. Luthor! Too many epic battles to describe, and events that feel titanic. All of it narrated by Wonder Woman. It’s that Wonder Woman narration that really gets it interesting, as Johns frames what we’re seeing really well, not just by her, but also through Batman, and the two parts together creates a fascinating tableau. The characters are titans, and Johns’ writing just makes them, and all of this, that much bigger.

Johns is helped to bring it all to life through the art of Jason Fabok. Fabok continues to knock it out of the park in what is absolutely some of the top art out there. The close ups on individuals’ faces, the action, the use of angles, it’s all absolutely amazing. Just beautiful to look at, art worthy of the story, and vice versa.

A character transformed. And that ending! This is one comic that’s not to be missed.

Story: Geoff Johns Art: Jason Fabok
Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Fan Expo Interviews: Meredith and David Finch

Fan Expo Toronto will be taking place this year between September 3rd and 6th, and Graphic Policy had the opportunity to talk with a few of their featured guests before the beginning of the convention.  David and Meredith Finch have had a pretty exciting year go by, having worked on some big names in the industry as well as some less heralded endeavors that were pretty awesome as well.  We got a chance to talk with them about their past year and what to expect in Toronto

finch002Graphic Policy:  You two have had a pretty busy year, between taking over the creative control of Wonder Woman, working on parts of the Darkseid War, and some indie successes with Zenescope’s Little Mermaid.  What were your own highlights?

Meredith Finch:  November 2014 saw our first issue of Wonder Woman hit the stands.  I have to say that was a highlight for me.  We worked so hard on the book for so many months beforehand, it was nice to finally see that come to fruition.

David Finch:  I just worry about putting out the best work I can, and I’ve been very lucky this year to start working with Jonathan Glapion, and Brad Anderson.  They’ve taken my work to another level.  I’ve had the chance to control the panel flow and pacing with Wonder Woman, and that’s been very gratifying.

GP:  On the subject of the Little Mermaid, fairy tales have become a pretty big genre in comics in recent years, but why haven’t they made their way into the mainstream superhero comics yet?

MF:  I think that we don’t see more traditional fairy tale characters in mainstream superhero comics because a superhero comic is, in and of itself, a fantasy.  Our ancestors told fairytales to explain things that were seemingly magical or to provide a moral foundation for childhood behavior.  We use mainstream superhero comics in much the same way.   So I guess I would consider superhero comics much more a modern day extension of fairytales rather than something that excludes them.

finch003GP:  The Darkseid War is a pretty big deal for the Justice League, but its scope is also a lot different, focusing on epic moves.  Do you prefer this kind of epic approach, or something more like Wonder Woman which focuses more on one character and her own character development?

MF:  I love that there is a place for both to exist in the industry.  I think that it’s obvious based on what we are doing how much I love developing a character.  Perhaps as I get more experienced I’d be more inclined to take on a more epic project like Darkseid War, but there aren’t many people out there who can bring to the table the storytelling finesse of Geoff Johns.

DF:  I go back and forth on this one.  I really enjoy single character books because I can really explore and get to know them, but the big expansive books are a blast too.  I have a tough time getting bored when I’ve got lots of varied things to draw, and crossovers are great that way.

GP:  You were recently involved in a costume redesign for Wonder Woman, but costume redesigns for characters are often not well received by the fans.  Why do you think that this is?  And what did you do to counteract it?

MF:  Comics used to be a very new and innovative artistic medium.  I feel like today it is much harder to overcome the sense of nostalgia that is attached to characters and the costumes they have been wearing for decades.

DF:  The costume was very well received from what I saw.  I don’t worry about counteracting negativity.  I especially enjoy working with writers that are fearless in the face of that stuff.  Trying to make everyone happy is a great way to put out boring books.  

finch004GP:  Wonder Woman and the Little Mermaid are interesting in that they have so much pre-established history in terms of what is known about them.  How do you approach beloved characters like this to put your own spin on them?  Do you research them a lot?

MF:  I do as much research as I feel is necessary to understand who and what the characters mean to me.  I definitely was heavily influenced by Disney’s Little Mermaid character.  I love that movie.  But I also wanted to be true to Zenescope’s vision of who and what the character was.  It helped that their Little Mermaid has a monster lurking inside of her.  With Wonder Woman I mainly focused on Brian and Cliff’s run.  They really defined who and what the character was for the new 52 and I let that be my major influence.

GP:  On the same topic, how do you approach characters that are based in a different era, as both the Little Mermaid and Wonder Woman have elements in their background which could seem to be almost anachronistic in the modern day?

MF:  I really try to keep my focus for my story primarily on the women themselves.  Everything else is just a tool to be used as necessary to me.  I do however, think that the fact that both characters have anachronistic elements to their story is part of what I find so appealing.  It helps with the whole fish out of water feeling that we all can relate to.

DF:  Great concepts are timeless, and I think both characters have that going for them.  Then the trick is focusing on the elements of the concept that relate to our times.  

finch005GP:  Do you think that there is a shift underway in the presentation of female comic characters?

MF:  I think you would have to have your head under a rock these days to not be aware of the major shifts that are happening today in comics as they relate to female characters and the creators behind them.  Woman represent almost 50% of the industry now and they are definitely demanding equal representation in the medium.

DF:  Absolutely.  Women are embracing comics in greater numbers lately, both as readers, and as creators.   That’s having a big impact on female character portrayal across the board.

GP:  Do you ever find yourself liking a particular character more after being exposed to them?

MF:  As a writer… absolutely.  The more I have time to delve into a character and what makes them tick, the better I get to know them, the more attached I become.  Right now, Wonder Woman and her cast feel almost as much like family as my real kids.  I love having the opportunity to shape who and what they will become.

DF:  The better written the character, the more engaged I am with them.  That just makes sense, I guess.  I do find it can take me a while to understand what I character is about, but once I do, I’m rolling.

GP:  What are you looking forward to at FanExpo 2015?

MF:  Canadian fans are the best.  I can say that because I’m Canadian.  There is such a great energy to the Toronto show.  The only shows that come close to that type of energy are San Diego and NYCC.  See you soon Toronto!

DF:  I’m looking forward to the fans.  That sounds like a pr kind of answer, I know, but Toronto has a great core of comic fans, and I see lots of familiar faces every year.  

Review: Aquaman #43

am043car Aquaman has been by tradition a hard hero to handle.  Although he has his fans, the character is one that has been marginalized and even ridiculed because of his appearance, his adventures and even his powers.  Of course, those that do so are usually just looking for an easy punchline and not actually invested in his stories, or even fans of comics for that matter.  All of this changed with the new 52 as Aquaman was given a new spin, a new respectability that made him far more mainstream than he had ever been.  Gone were most of the jokes at his expense, and the diehard Aquaman fans finally got a chance for a few “I told you so” moments as their favorite hero gained the spotlight under Geoff Johns.  The problem with Geoff Johns approach is that it was a step above and beyond recognizing the hero as something more than what he was, and separating him from all of the same problems that defined him as a niche hero for so long.

Under the new direction of writer Cullen Bunn it would seem as though the same missteps are being revisited.  Gone are the solo adventures of Arthur, and returned seems to be the same old script.  Arthur is king of Atlantis but cannot rule it.  Mera loves him, but is forced to hate him as well for reasons beyond her control.  Arthur is off on his own adventures without the support of any help … and so on.  This issue contains much of the same, and for those who are not diehard fans of the character it is easy to see why many would not be interested much in the series anymore.  There is a temporary alliance with his enemies, and a decent battle but not much else, save for the twist at the end.

It is the ending which actually gives this some hope.  Although this is told in a somewhat confusing manner at times between the “Then” and “Now” it still manages to give a glimpse of what Cullen Bunn might be capable of here.  After it should not be expected that he write exactly like Johns, and there are glimpses of him doing right by this series, even if his introduction to it is a lot of what has been seen before.  For the moment, it is worth a chance and worth a look, although it could still really go either way.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: Trevor McCarthy
Story: 7.6 Art: 7.6 Overall: 7.6 Recommendation: Read


Review: Justice League #43

jl043In the past several years at DC Comics, Geoff Johns undeniably has been behind some of the biggest successes.  Although the big event crossovers that he has led have tended to focus around the Green Lantern Corps during his run on those titles, with the relaunch of DC into the new 52 his interest has lain with the Justice League and its main collection of DC’s most popular and most powerful heroes.  That having been said though, that while Johns’ work has led to some of the best 5-star epic story lines, that they are not necessarily always extremely original.  After all, when his formula works it doesn’t need too much to make it work elsewhere as long as the players and the stories underneath are different.  Such is the case with Justice League, with such an impressive collection of characters to work with that have been assembled in this book, it makes sense to throw them all together in a way which will be for a big flashy story.  So far Darkseid War has worked at that, especially with the twist ending at the end of the previous issue with Batman taking over the role of Metron.

This issue plays out a bit differently, although it fits into the same kind of Geoff Johns formula.  Batman as Metron discusses the virtue of the Mobius Chair and whether he should sit in it at all.  At the same time the heroes are hesitant about the arrival of both the Anti-Monitor and Darkseid, as they have to prepare for the worst scenario that they could conceive of.  Elsewhere Superman and Lex are continued to be forced to work together as they have to struggle for survival in their own corner of Apokolips.  Although the issue starts slowly, there is the promise of a lot of action as the issue comes to a close, as pretty much every major player in this story arc gets thrown into some kind of battle.

There might be those who read this and recognize some of the hallmarks of a Geoff Johns epic story.  After a big plot twist at the end of the previous issue, it seems as though Johns could not resist doing the same here, although the effect is less impressive.  At the same time, there is a good reason that Johns keeps getting handed the reins to such ambitious projects and this issue is proof of his abilities.  Such an issue as this almost has to exist as there needs to be some setup for what is to come, and this issue might therefore seem to be a bit more low key to others which have come before, but also most certainly those that will follow.  At the very least, although there are fewer fireworks here, it is easy to see where this fits in the bigger picture of the story arc, especially as Johns takes the times to devote a bit of effort to characterization even in the midst of this big show.  In the end, it all works, even if it we have seen some of the same before.

Story: Geoff Johns Art: Jason Fabok
Story: 8.6 Art: 8.6 Overall: 8.6 Recommendation: Buy

Geoff Johns Reveals Justice League: Gods and Men

JL_GODS-MEN_BM_1Justice League writer Geoff Johns has revealed his plans for series of one-shots spinning out of his current “Darkseid War” story arc.

Scheduled for October, Justice League: Gods and Men is a series of six single issues focusing on key characters in the “Darkseid War” and extends their individual conflicts against the backdrop of universal Armageddon, with Darkseid squaring off against the Anti-Monitor:

Batman – Armed with the godlike power of the Mobius Chair, the Dark Knight has taken on the role of Metreon and plans to use the infinite knowledge of this device to turn Gotham City into a completely crime-free zone!

Superman – Corrupted by the weird energies of Apokolips’ fire pits, Superman has been turned into an angry, violent brute. And only one man can possibly save him: Lex Luthor.

Green Lantern – Oa has been conquered and transformed into a Parademon factory and the Green Lantern Corps is no more! Only Hal Jordan remains to follow a distress call from the last active Lantern seen fighting on Oa: John Stewart

Lex Luthor – At last, Lex Luthor, the new ruler of Apokolips, can do what he never could accomplish on Earth: hold the fate of a world in his hands. But his one failure from the “Darkseid War” continues to keep him from the peace he craves – and only a crazed Superman can help him get it!

The Flash – The Flash takes on the role of death’s harbinger, the Black Racer. And the beneficiary of his first visit is Aquaman!

Shazam! – Instead of accessing the powers of the old gods, Billy Batson now commands the combined powers of the New Gods like Highfather, Mantis and others trapped within the Source Wall. And that’s power that no mortal should possess!

Review: Justice League #42

jl042Epic comic book stories will often have a pretty predictable formula, and especially when it comes to Geoff Johns.  Although the stories obviously change, there is nonetheless common developments among them.  For instance, the introductory issue for the Darkseid War promised something epic, and the first issue was action packed and yet also promised more action for the second issue.  This being formulaic though, the second issue did not really deliver on that promise from the previous issue, but rather instead there is some of what should actually be expected, plot developments that are unforeseen.  If one looks back on some of the bigger Johns’ crossovers and story arcs, it is the same, but then again he has created some of the biggest and best epic stories in the past ten years, so evidently it is a formula that does not need to be tinkered with too much.

Grail has brought the war to Earth and the Justice League, and although seemingly very much out matched Wonder Woman stands alone against them after her colleagues have been beaten.  Superman aids Luthor’s recovery, while Darkseid makes plans for how to break the two of them, and on Earth, Mister Miracle and Myrina Black make plans to both start and stop the war, through the only way that she knows how, an alliance with the Anti-Monitor.  All of this is further confused when Metron shows up and intercedes against the plans of others, although this has an unexpected outcome.

There will likely be those who think that this issue is weaker compared to those that led into it.  In a sense it is, because this story arc is based on big epic moves, and this issue doesn’t really contain any.  What it does provide though are the plot elements required for this story arc to become something pretty amazing.  In other words, there are no “wow” moments here, but it is setting them up, and in a pretty impressive way.

Story: Geoff Johns Art: Jason Fabok
Story: 8.7 Art: 8.7 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Justice League #41

JL 41 aThe start to Geoff John’s latest Justice League story not only manages to thrill; it also raises the stakes to become something more exciting than it’s ever been before. Indeed, Justice League #41 makes the years of previous issues all feel like build-up to what is happening now. So many characters, some warm and familiar heroes, others new to the game of fighting injustice and still to prove themselves, have made their way to this point in the story, each established as something bold and worthy of attention in their own ways. Darkseid needs defeated, and the group of people expected to accomplish that goal are more fascinating than they’ve been this entire run. Justice League #41 is an epic comic book filled with character, action, and, above all else, excitement.

There’s a load of exposition in this double-sized comic that doesn’t directly follow the Justice League heroes. This sets up the immediate story, which charms as a simple crime-scene investigation, but also the larger story that spans planets and paints a picture of a gigantic war that all of humanity should be concerned with. The interesting storytelling continued from the last issue, detailing the war of two planets, is expanded upon here from the present to set the stage for what’s to come, and it still rocks with a tale that reads like scripture. It’s also brought down to Earth some here, as a focus on a particular caped hero takes readers on a more personal route through all of that heavy plot.

Whenever the microscope is put on Batman, Wonder Woman and all of the rest, Johns takes the time in his script to remind readers why these characters are so special and worth celebrating. Grand, sweeping narration led by the team’s leading woman muses on what it is that drives these heroes, bringing things back to simple childhood moments that are emblematic of larger motivations. Once that’s finished, the fun banter one comes to expect from a blockbuster superhero story is on display, but not without more subtle and touching character beats, the best of which forcing Shazam to face mortality in a way he never has in his short time alive.

The character drama and overall interaction is lovely. The tension between Superman and Lex Luthor continues to grow and the latter’s role in the league grows ever more complicated, thanks to a twist that ties into the latest conflict. Hal Jordon slides back into this book elegantly while simultaneously serving as a crutch for the new, young lantern Jess to fit more comfortably. The only noteworthy flaw in this whole book is the unfortunate lack of Aquaman, who is almost entirely absent from the events of this book. For an issue that is so celebratory of the team and such a culmination of everything before, it’s especially problematic not to see him.

Around half of this comic is a shining example of superhero action done right, with Jason Fabok’s art exploding off of the page to a degree more than competent as a replacement to artists like Jim Lee and Ivan Reis. Splash pages are plentiful and filled with color, striking amounts of detail, and pitch-perfect movement and expression. It all has an impressive shimmer to it as well, thanks to the fine coloring duty of Brad Anderson. The villain at hands lays into each hero in battle individually, not just through specific physical attacks but also psychological. It’s even in the action that the characterization shines.

Despite all of the troubles concerning New 52 continuity, Johns has managed to craft a new wave of Justice League lore DC Comics fans can be proud of. Justice League #41 is the amalgamation of a few years’ worth of comics, and the kind of thing geeks dream of.

Story: Geoff Johns Art: Jason Fabok
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Justice League #40

jl040At its roots there can be said to be no better team book in comics than the Justice League.  As the hero team which more or less spawned every other hero team, either as a reaction or counter-reaction, the League was the first to define the application of superpowered individuals together, and its approach to the medium is seminal.  Although it was later passed by other team books (X-Men and Avengers) there is something about the group that speaks to a greater story.  As has been said before, DC is the realm of the myths, whereas Marvel is the realm of the everyday.  This means that Marvel stories can be more approachable, but when DC throws everything it has at its heroes, the greater stories result.  Throw in the fact that series writer Geoff Johns often does best when he goes big, and this is the setup for what could be one of the more memorable stories in the team’s history, and definitely one that has been begging to be told since the New 52 relaunch.

Such is the setup for the upcoming Darkseid War, but this issue does not take the expected turn towards a super throwdown.  Instead it focuses on an unlikely conduit for the development of the story, the enigmatic Metron.  He is perhaps never shown to be more enticing than he is here, shown as a ttrue observer, acting only in the case of events which could cause him to lose the ability to observe.  Such has been the case before when he brokered the infamous peace between the Highfather and Darkseid, resulting in the exchange of Orion and Mister Miracle, and such would seem to be the case here as he intervenes on behalf of Earth and the oncoming battle with an unexpected foe.  In the process he revisits some of the notable events of DC Comics history, the best of the best of the crossovers, referencing Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinite Crisis, and Flashpoint (and the not so great Convergence.)  In so doing he sets the stage and makes some interesting revelations about the fate of Earth and those that threaten it.

Simply put, those is Johns doing what he does best.  While he might occasionally stumble with presenting approachable characters, there is no one better at putting together a big story like this among comics big two.  He pulled it off numerous times on his run on Green Lantern, and Flashpoint was a decent enough entry in the sequence of the universe changing crossovers.  It is a shame that Covergence is getting all of the focus at the moment and that something like this was not approached instead (as it would have been easy to change to the plot of Convergence to fit this plot.)  As it stands this is a near perfect lead in to the Darkseid War, and one that should get the fans excited for what is to come.

Story: Geoff Johns Art: Kevin Maguire, Phil Jimenez, Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Scott Kolins, Jason Fabok, Jim Lee
Story: 9.6 Art: 9.6 Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy

Darkseid War Begins April 29

The first chapter in the epic “Darkseid War” saga begins with Justice League #40, on sale April 29!

The dreaded Darkseid squares off against the Anti-Monitor in a battle for the cosmos, with the Justice League smack dab in the middle! Written by Geoff Johns, issue 40 also introduces a new villain that has a strange connection to Darkseid and a certain Justice League member… In addition to killer art from Justice League regular artist Jason Fabok, this issue also includes contributions from an all-star lineup of guest artists, including: Phil Jimenez, Dan Jurgens, Scott Kolins, Jim Lee, Kevin Maguire and Jerry Ordway!

darkseid war

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