A longtime showbiz journalist and fan's thoughts on comic books, movies and other cool stuff.

Tag: Justice League

Reviews: Hulk #1, DD #5, Cold War #1, Last of the Greats #1, Aquaman #2, Justice League #3

The Incredible Hulk #1 was better than I expected. Not having read the book in years, I missed out on and don’t understand most of the Red Hulk stuff or what mental state Bruce Banner and the Hulk are in these days. I therefore expected to be confused, but wasn’t, though I’m sure it helped that I recognized the Mole Man’s underground minions. Writer Jason Aaron did a good of job of putting it all together and making sure there was some actual action in a first issue. The art by Marc Silvestri et. al was quite good — definitely Silvestri’s distinctive style but amped up with some nice detail that came through quite well in the inks and was well-complemented by Sunny Gho’s colors. That said, I”m not interested enough in the Hulk to make this a regular read at $3.99 a pop.

Daredevil #5 is another terrific issue from Mark Waid and Marcos Martin. This reads very, very smoothly and is clear enough that I think the average reader could pick it up and understand pretty much the whole thing. It looks incredible, too. Martin and colorist Javier Rodriguez deserve very high marks for making such a great-looking book.
Cold War #1 is a new, period espionage thriller from John Byrne that I was mildly disappointed with because I thought Byrne had done such a great job on the revived Next Men series. This isn’t quite as good as that, as it’s just a bit too restrained and dated. The dated part is on purpose, as though this is a series Byrne has wanted to do for decades, i.e., a time when this kind of thing would have been much more relevant. It’s still a nice modern Byrne comic, though, with solid art and decent storytelling. It just doesn’t have the kind of zip that a book like this should have.
The Last of the Greats #1 by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Brent Peebles is for me a tough one. I like the concept, which is that seven alien beings came to Earth and used their powers to solve many of mankind’s problems in return for demanding control and fealty from the people of Earth. People then turned on them, and all but one were killed. The issue begins with six humans coming to the last of these aliens, dubbed the “Greats,” and asking for his help with a fairly big problem. But I think the execution is talky and exposition heavy, and think this could have been much more compelling by show more than telling.
On to the DC relaunch books, Aquaman #2 was about the same as the first issue — a story that’s slick and commercial if not particularly deep — but it was the cover that struck me the most. My first thought was it was a recolored version of the cover to Star Wars #64, my least-favorite issue from the original Marvel series. It’s close enough to be an homage — or a swipe if you’re so inclined — but it’s far too distracting for me and I don’t know I will remember much else about this particular issue.
Justice League has been getting better with each issue and #3 is the best yet. Finally, we get to meet Wonder Woman, and she both charms and kicks ass. The action kicks into high gear with a huge invasion from Darkseid’s minions, while writer Geoff Johns delivers a nice chunk of the ongoing Cyborg origin subplot. It’s interesting to note the ways in which Jim Lee’s art has evolved as well as the ways its stayed the same. The finale’s introduction of Aquaman gives him a hairstyle, facial hair and costume straight out of 1996. Some other details, like the cops on the first page also look a bit dated. But the way Lee draws his heroic figures — both men and women — has improved tremendously from his days on The Uncanny X-Men, with anatomy and posing that’s overall more realistic and more solid looking. Wonder Woman here is a far cry from the somewhat plastic looking sexy Psylocke from way back in the day. Anyway, issue #4 looks like it’s going to be a barn-burner.
That’s only a fraction of the stack I’m looking to get through, so I may just stay up late and read funny books until my eyes pop out of my head to get a look at more New 52, the Fear Itself epilogues and more X-Men: Regenesis.

Ranking DC’s New 52

We’re now about halfway into the second month of DC Comics’ The New 52, and I’m now at the point where I have to pick and choose which books I really want to follow and plunk down my own money for. So I made a list and found it quite interesting.
The good news is that I am buying more DC Comics than I was before the relaunch, when I was pretty much just getting the core Batman books. 
Starting with the books I liked enough to stick with, these are the titles I have bought the second issue for already:
  • Action Comics
  • Animal Man
  • Batgirl
  • Detective Comics
  • O.M.A.C.
  • Batman and Robin
  • Batwoman
  • Batman
These books I definitely plan to buy the second issue of:
  • Justice League
  • Wonder Woman
  • Superman 
  • I, Vampire
That’s 12 so far, just one title less than a quarter of the New 52 offerings. 
These books I am very likely to pick up, availability and funds allowing: 
  • Supergirl
  • Aquaman
  • Batman: The Dark Knight
  • Superboy
  • Green Lantern Corps
  • The Flash
So if I pick up those books, that means DC got me back for 18 of the 52 books. Again, that’s not too bad — it’s a lot more than I was getting. 
These books just missed the mark for me, and I could reconsider:
  • Green Arrow
  • Swamp Thing
  • Deathstroke
  • Green Lantern
  • Blackhawks
  • Teen Titans
I admit that I had picked up Green Lantern #2 at the store last week, but changed my mind and put it back once I saw Love and Rockets: New Stories, Vol. 4 was out. 
These titles were the mediocre group of the bunch — not bad, but also neither interesting enough or good enough to make me want to come back. And I’ll admit, some of these surprised me.
  • Batwing
  • Hawk and Dove
  • Justice League International
  • Men of War
  • Static Shock
  • Stormwatch
  • Demon Knights
  • Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
  • Grifter
  • Legion Lost
  • Mister Terrific
  • Resurrection Man
  • Birds of Prey
  • Blue Beetle
  • Captain Atom
  • DC Universe Presents
  • Legion of Super-Heroes
  • Nightwing
  • All-Star Western
  • The Fury of Firestorm
  • Green Lantern: New Guardians
  • The Savage Hawkman
  • Voodoo
That’s a full 23 our of 52 books that fall into that category, nearly half of the line.
And then, there’s the titles I actively disliked or thought were flat-out terrible.
  • Red Lanterns
  • Suicide Squad
  • Catwoman
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws
  • Justice League Dark
Again, not bad, but the relaunch hasn’t really improved the quality of DC Comics, despite all the hype. I wish that the publisher had taken the time to dig deeper in terms of talent and offered up more surprises. They only get one shot at this — at least for the time being — so I would have liked there to be more comics that I could wholeheartedly recommend to both lapsed fans and new readers.

Reviewing DC’s Justice League #1 in print and in digital

I haven’t reviewed new comics in a while, though I’ve had a few requests and will get some comments on those books up in the next day or so.

In the interim, DC’s New 52 kicked off yesterday with the release of Justice League #1. I got a copy from DC, and found it to have some good points and some bad. I also tried the digital edition on my iPhone and that spurred lots of ideas on what works and what doesn’t about that format.

But first, the comic itself is good but not great.

Jim Lee and Scott Williams deliver some fantastic looking art. It’s attractive and highly detailed and colored well by Alex Sinclair. And while Lee’s never been the very best storyteller in comics, he’s also much better than he used to be and the book is an attractive and easy read.

As usual, Lee’s designs for Batman, Green Lantern and Superman are powerful and modern. I especially like the intense detail Lee and Williams give to Green Lantern’s powers.

I almost think the art is too detailed, though that may just be my middle-aging eyesight speaking. When this gets collected into a slightly larger format like a hardcover, I think it’ll look even better because there will be a bit more room for these details to shine.

The script by Geoff Johns is a bit more mixed. This issue takes an approach similar to that of the first episode of a TV series. We start knowing nothing, get a big splash of action with Batman, and then introduce some conflict as Green Lantern shows up and the pair head straight for a confrontation with Superman. There’s also a sub plot introducing Vic Stone, who eventually will become Cyborg. The issue is quickly paced and reads well, though some of the dialog is a bit stiff.

And that’s it. That’s all that happens. There’s some decent action, some decent characterization and a solid finish, but there’s just not quite enough story here to build the anticipation that I think would make readers truly excited to come back for issue two. It’s close, but if this was a double size issue that featured at least a glimpse of all the characters on the cover and conveyed a sense of where this was going, it would have been a much stronger read.

I expect reactions to this book will be all over the place. Something like this brings so many pre-conceived notions and inflated expectations with it, that there is no way it will play the same way to any two readers.

So the copy I received from DC was the digital combo pack version, which costs a dollar more than the regular version and includes a code for downloading the digital version of the comic.

I have not been a regular reader of digital comics. Part of it is just that I prefer to read comics in print and part that I haven’t really enjoyed my attempts to read comics on a computer screen. I don’t have an iPad, which seems to be the ideal device for reading digital comics, and my iPhone is great but I just can’t see myself reading many comics on so tiny a screen.

Still, I tried it out on my iPhone and it worked quite well. The code, which is printed on the inside back cover, is a fairly long 32-character alpha-numeric code. I can imagine some folks might get frustrated at having to type in such a long code for each digital comic, but it worked for me on the first time. I entered the code at the website on my laptop and Justice League #1 was assigned to my ComiXology account and available to read on my iPhone instantly.

Reading the comic on the iPhone was a good but not perfect experience. The art looked good and the way the phone transitioned from panel to panel was intuitive and easy. I kind of liked turning the phone every so often to get the displayed panels to fill the screen. What things got problematic was on the larger images — panels that take up half a page or more. It was just not easy to see what I was looking at in those panels. I expect the iPad would not have the same issue.

What this digital experience left me wondering, though, is why DC is packaging its comics in two editions. Why charge an extra dollar for the digital code instead of just making them packaging them together in a single product? I think comics are expensive already without having the option of paying even more for another edition of the same thing. When I buy music, either on CD or digitally, I have the right to listen to it on my computer, my iPod, my car stereo, my living room, etc., for no extra cost. I’d be far more likely to read digital comics if they came with the print comics I’m already buying at no extra charge.

Similarly, I would think anyone who pays the full price for a digital comic should have the option to get a print copy if they want it. And It’s not at all clear to me if DC (or anyone else) is offering digital subscriptions similar to the way iTunes sells a Season Pass for TV shows. A reasonably priced digital subscription plan that included print copies is something I would think hard for people to pass up, while at the same time having the potential to boost readership in both print and digital.

With the first huge wave of first issues set to arrive next week, I find myself hoping for surprises. Everyone’s going to read Grant Morrison’s Action Comics #1, but what I would really like to find is a few hidden gems from further down the list. I’m playing wait-and-see on these books and want to look at them before I decide which ones to pick up. But I really hope this experiment makes room for the kind of fun, strange and interesting mainstream comics that the major publishers have had trouble making a go of in recent years.

Beyond that, we’ll see.  

Miller back-and-forth unfortunate reminder that ‘Justice League’ pic is still stalled

The strange case of the “Justice League” movie gets even stranger.

Dark Horizons posted recently that director George Miller, of “Mad Max” and “Happy Feet” fame, had told a Sydney TV show that he was off the “Justice League” movie. But when I went looking for the original item on that site, nothing came up. Now, it’s come out that some of Miller’s reps have contacted Coming Soon.net and said Miller never appeared on the show and there’s no truth to his being off the movie.

Even with Miller still on the project, things don’t look good for this project with constant delays, and casting controversies galore making it less likely every day that it will see the light of day unless something big happens to push it forward.

And without some kind of progress or encouraging plans, it’s only going to get worse. Now, not having read a script or having any idea how this movie is envisioned, it’s impossible to say whether it’s any good or not. It may be absolutely terrific. But the public perception remains that DC/WB don’t know how to make a good superhero movie that isn’t a Batman flick.

The same problem doesn’t afflict Marvel Studios, where their string of successes (and even the less than successful pics they’ve made) and ability to turn characters like Blade and Iron Man into hits gives folks confidence that we’ll see their schedule roll out on time with “Iron Man 2,” “Thor” and “Captain America” all leading up to “Avengers” in 2011.

That’s also a strategy that works for fans, because it’s how the comics were done — with each character being established in his or her own title before the big team up. Right now, confidence is low that WB can make characters like Wonder Woman, Green Lantern or Flash work on the big screen, making fans even less likely to think a Justice League movie with all of them will do justice to the characters.

On the other hand, putting “Justice League” on hold may not be the best idea if WB can’t find a way to get these characters to the screen any other way. If fans have to wait too much longer for more DC movies, there’s always a danger that the interest in superhero movies could cool and they may never get their shot. And in that case, nobody wins.

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