Review: Justice League Dark #22, Batman/Superman #2

This review shall also be known as “The Review of DC’s Books with Glossy Covers.” Makes me feel all weird to see my fingerprints on the beautiful shiny covers.

Justice League Dark #22

JLD22Just in! The newest opinion on the all-new addition to DC’s heralded Trinity War saga, a tale of great clans of superpowered people clashing like Titans in a world where magic and science are at odds, and even the gods have no idea what’s going on! That’s right, folks, perhaps unsurprisingly if you follow comics you know that Justice League Dark #22 continues the cross-over event between the three Justice Leagues which will have the whole of the DCU exploding (or imploding? Maybe crumbling in the clutches of a sinister plan) into Forever Evil.

Miniscule spoilers ahead, Trinity Warriors. JLD regular Jeff Lemire helms this issue, working closely with Mikel Janin to produce a pumped-out follow-up to the events of Justice League of America #6. Where JLA had the world’s greatest superheroes and their allies—and probably all of the world!—confused and afraid, and Superman with a cold, Justice League Dark #22 kicks things into high gear. Slowly but surely, tensions between the superheroes that have been building throughout the New 52 have reached their boiling point.

While I don’t really know to what extent Lemire can be credited with the plotting of this issue, considering that Trinity War is a joint effort among the writers of the three JLs, he certainly executes a bold remix of the Justice Leagues. In the wake of events in Justice League of America #6 and Justice League #22, Lemire shows how each of the Trinity of Sin (Question, Pandora, Phantom Stranger) plays a role in realigning the Justice Leagues’ casts with the particular duties the Trinity are separately undertaking to uncovering the ‘Evil behind the Evil.’ Meanwhile, Xanadu and a man who can only be assumed as that ‘Evil’ mentioned above go through their own expertly written sequences.

On the whole, Lemire is an extremely competent writer, and while the Justice League Dark series has continuously featured all the talents of a good writer visa vis Lemire, his abilities come to the forefront when handling a whole heavy mass of characters engaged in upwards of five narrative foci. This is impressive work, the mark of a true talent—and probably why JLD remains one of my favorite DC books.

Janin, who is neither as well-known nor as experienced as Mahnke (JLA) and Reis (JL), does not lag behind either of them, and he brings his own abilities as a master of the dark and Gothic supers to bear on the JLD side of Trinity War. Especially impressive are his large and full-page panels will feature upwards of a dozen characters; in his hands, these iconic line-ups look fresh with new life. And while it shows ever so slightly that he is not as accomplished an artist (with a stray face, hand, or foot here and there that are awkwardly not top notch) as the other Trinity War artists, this does not at all shame or degrade the value of Justice League Dark #22. Here we have a relative newcomer taking on a major cross-over that will lead to the New 52’s first universe-span event, and that takes chutzpah.

Justice League Dark #22 certainly delivered its bit of intrigue and JL vs. JL fantasy, filled with comic book writing at its finest and robust page layouts that lead the eye straight through the story. And Oh Holy Batman! The reveal at the end had me thinking more investigatively about a comic than ever before…

Story: Jeff Lemire  Art: Mikel Janin
Story: 8.5  Art: 7  Overall: 8  Recommendation: Buy

Batman/Superman #2

batman_superman_2_v6c89j46tk_After the first issue of what promised to be, and certainly was, an incredible team up of Greg Pak and Jae Lee, I was sort of left in WTF-land. I’m not at all implying that was a bad thing, at least not for me. There’s a fine line between comics that make no sense—for example, Constantine #5 as a Trinity War tie-in was completely unmotivated as an addition to the Trinity War narrative, it seemed to only serve boosting Constantine sales and to put Shazam into another book for the week—and comics that take a while to make sense (heck, Watchmen falls into this category!). Batman/Superman is shaping up to be one of the latter; I’ll definitely want to buy the TPB when it comes out, so I can read it as a ‘graphic novel,’ but for now I’m content to get my DC WTF dose from Pak and Lee once a month.

Not a whole lot is said in this issue, so it’s rather difficult to praise Pak for anything like great dialogue, so I’ll have to stick with a purely narrative focus, since a lot of emotion and confusion (each stemming from the other, I felt) is coming out of the combination of limited dialogue and Lee’s artwork. The most unfortunate aspect of Batman Superman #2 is that I really have little clue what’s going on—but I think that’s the point. It’s either narrative brilliance whereby Pak keeps the readers in the same narrative ignorance as his characters (while still giving the fly-on-the-wall perspective of a graphic narrative), or he has failed to communicate something. But, given the continued twists and turns, I’m leaning toward the former.

No spoilers here, but a tid-bit about the plot: Bruce and Clark have gotten to know their Earth 2 selves, and Pak’s given us just a sliver more information about the big bad that’s made this Earth 2 cross happen: The Trickster. And for those who give a hoot about Lois-vs.-Wonder-Woman-as-Superman’s-lover, you’re in for a treat. Seriously.

I should admit that, in the past, I’ve bought comics I don’t regularly follow just to own a Jae Lee cover…because holy shit his art is so unique that I can’t help but stare at every panel. There’s a little bit of nostalgia involved there, too, since his artwork reminds me of the illustrations from the 1980s and 1990s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books, a hallmark of silent reading in my elementary school years.

Lee, aided by colorist June Chung, captures the tonal contrasts between Batman and Superman’s stories, and their characters, really, with Batman’s narrative being so dark as to only catch things in enlightened glimpses and silhouettes, whereas the color is so bright in Superman’s that shadows create striking boundaries that highlight everything in an eerie way. Lee brings a dark side to Superman, and sinks Batman into a darkness so deep that one gets the feeling he is telling the story.

Synopses from DC for issues 3 and 4 throw even more haze on exactly what’s going to happen, and I’m content to wait. After all, gotta give Jae Lee some time to work his artistic voodoo and Pak a breather to plan his next gasp-inducing last-page reveal. I suggest you read this and buy the TPB when it comes out.

Story: Greg Pak  Art: Jae Lee, June Chung (colorist)
Story: 7.75  Art: 9  Overall: 8  Recommendation: Read