"Yeah, can we just try to drive home the point that Aquaman's a total bad-ass every chance we can? Great. Thanks."
JUSTICE LEAGUE #14
Tony S. Daniel
Backup Art by:
Tony S. Daniel
Have fans had enough shenanigans to last a lifetime with this hacked-together driftwood that DC is producing with recent issues of Justice League? You know you're in trouble when your main event story arc is so waif-like it feels like it's being bullied by the backup story with Shazam! (which for some reason makes one think there are sick times in store for the beleaguered Billy Batson). The art, as ever, is pretty in a refined sugar kind of way.
Honestly, there isn't much to say for the story of the Justice League up to this point. Stuff is happening, sure, but there's rarely any extension of tension in the content. The whole thing feels forced like absolutely nothing else Geoff Johns has ever written, and much like the Star Wars prequels, these issues cannot be undone. They're canon now, we can only move on. It feels like Johns is removed even further from his comfort zone with the (temporary) removal of Hal Jordan from the team, and the focus on a (forced forced forced forced) relationship between Wonder Woman and Superman felt like it lacked the passion it might have had with, say, years of actual build-up, as it has been rumbling in the background of the main arc for a minute now. But the final page/panel of this issue is the greatest and most frustrating tease of all, as it seems to imply that something has been going on under the surface of these hollow automaton pose-a-thon caricatures the entire time.
But that's just a tease, maybe. Nothing to see here yet, kids, move along.
What is this goofy mess? Superman looks, like, twelve years old. Heck, Jason Todd has more crow's feet than him.
RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #14
A genuinely guilty pleasure of this reviewer is the smart and slick surprise sleeper, Red Hood and the Outlaws. Whether taking on Obese Asian Mob Mistresses, fighting smoke ninjas, or taking on alien menaces, the jumping bean of the major arcs in this series seems to lead us into a nostalgic singalong. With Starfire (amnesiac nymphomaniac alien princess) and Arsenal (that, um, goofy bro with the trick arrows and a big mouth) backing up Jason Todd (Robin II, aka Red Hood, aka dead man walking) in his misadventures, there's no way to successfully summarize the main thrust or moral to this comic book. And it wouldn't work any other way. That... and Pascal Alixe's art could make anything look cool.
Red Hood and the Outlaws succeeds where many other titles along the same vein or corner of the DC New 52 essentially fail. The failure of Teen Titans, or The Ravagers, or whatever other mess being spawned by Image-hacks of Christmas Past, is that the overarching plot crushes any real chance at characterization, which in turn kills investment in the overarching plot. Instead of fleshed-out dialogue and events, flattened stick-puppets in flashy costumes react verbosely again and again to some (likely misunderstood) villain with nigh-infinite powers and an endless array of schemes within plots within schemes, amounting to bupkiss, since nobody involved is easy to access or relate to.
In Red Hood and the Outlaws, we're put in third person limited omniscient perspective with essentially a cast of three characters, and each character's motivations are explored alongside the demons and angels of their personal backstories that inevitably pop up.
With this issue, Superman shows up and the standard superhero slugfest ensues. Except it doesn't feel forced or stupid. Scott Lobdell has grown increasingly comfortable with this comic, as evidenced by the spunky manner in which he chooses to approach it. It's not stale, it's not automatically painful, and where it lags, Pascal's art kicks in and distracts. Well played, overall, and consistent with what it promises.
You know you're in trouble when the slobbering alien starts firing yellow dwarfs at you.
GREEN LANTERN NEW GUARDIANS #14
Variant Cover by:
Good old Kyle Rayner. More approachable than any other Green Lantern in the sector, and possibly the savior of the entire universe, soon enough. For some reason I have a soft spot for Green Lantern: New Guardians. It's quirky and moves at a brisk pace, exploring the potential for cosmic DCU done right. The art is consistent and quiet at times, then dazzles with the technological wonders of computer content playing with the chromatic content generated in the Green Lantern sector of the DCU New 52. It feels less forced than some titles and characters, you aren't forced to jettison decades of hard-won memories in the nostalgia fields just to enjoy the actions taking place. Characters are explored, up-sized, fleshed-out, and turned around each issue, and the cast of characters is such that the protagonist of any story might be explored tangentially to the overarching plot, namely the Guardians of the Universe are evil as hell and have raised a Third Army, rendered Hal Jordan and Sinestro moot, and are even now finding new ways to make readers hate them every issue. It's all building up to something big, and the spine of that mega-event is New Guardians. Expect its spotlight to brighten soon.
The classic "Fat Mobster type strikes a deal with a Demon", you know, the usual. No bigs.
DC COMICS PRESENTS #14: Blue Devil & Black Lightning
It's nice that DC has seen fit to use DC Comics Presents as a testing ground for all the characters that don't get their own continuous series. Black Lightning had an interesting investment in the Final Crisis storyline of universes gone past, and Blue Devil found himself in the breakroom of the Justice League Headquarters not a few times over the years. Now the two of them team up to stop a demon and his soul-trafficking mobster with a skin condition and a glandular problem. Overall the art gets kitschy when everything slows down, but in certain pages the kinetics of it give the action an enhancement. Not a bad story, but by the numbers with just enough developments to keep a reader reading. Maybe.
Joker's back. And he's playing mind games with Catwoman to an absolutely ridiculous extent.
This issue of Catwoman is aggravating, due to its ties to the current crossover in Bat-titles "Death in the Family"... yet compelling in its own right. This particular issue goes with the new format of all Batman related titles, namely "Let's all have a heart-to-heart with the Joker", better known as "Death of the Family", wherein the Joker, having had his face surgically removed off-camera, somehow develops superhuman-like powers, not unlike Wolverine, where he can simultaneously be everywhere at once and at the same time develop elaborate death traps, break the neck of every policeman in a station save one, kidnap Alfred, recreate every single action he'd ever made up until this time and monologue until you want to claw his face back off. Here he continues with his amazing new Joker powers by conning Catwoman into paralyzing herself and get a bunch of bat-symbols all over her. Nothing really feels like it's heading anywhere, and by the time we get to our stop on this ride, we may have already fallen asleep. Catwoman started fresh and still has a bit of that in it, but not for quirky cross-overs that feel like "talkies".
All the overlapping conversations of 100 Bullets are finally revealed in Wonder Woman, for some reason.
WONDER WOMAN #14
Variant Cover by:
Brian Azzarello is doing a good job with Wonder Woman and retooling the mythology of her new place in the DC Universe. The overall reverence for the gods and goddesses, fitting, one would suppose, is the circulatory system that makes this book function. Gone are all the mismatched peculiarities and baggage of the previous volumes, now at least her motives are clear and present. The interactions with all the offshoots of deity and godlings and established scions has been ongoing since this series began, and it seems to sit in its own remote location in the DCU New 52, far away from continuities that would muss it up. This is positive, for the time being, allowing Azzarello to enrich Diana in the manner in which she deserves. Where the Justice League's Wonder Woman feels more teeth-gritting and over-archetyped, the Wonder Woman in her own title is more regal in her bearing, fearless but not beligerrant, and overall inhabiting both her godly namesake and another thing entirely, a far cry from when she was a gimmicky drama queen or a murderous misandrist.