Tag Archives: Jim Lee

Justice League Origin HC: Review

Justice League Origin HC

DC Comics 2012

192 pages

$25

Well the first batch of the New 52 collections is in.  I have read 3 of the first group and the results are one incredible book and two spectacularly bland ones.  JLI was just not very interesting.  It failed to connect me to the characters or the story.  It did manage to make me interested enough to get the second collection, but that could just be the anal fan in me.  August General in Iron and Rocket Red were the only interesting parts of the book.  Batman the Court of Owls however was an outstanding read.

The first collected volume of the rebooted Justice League was more like the former though.  It seems that this book is only really interested in big and loud.  To be honest, it barely manages that.

Collecting the first 6 issues of the monthly book written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Jim Lee, this should have been a better book.  It NEEDED to be a better book.  Johns has set a standard in the past of telling a good, fun and smart story with strong and engaging characters.  This story was never going to be all that great just by the nature of the reboot and the needs to get things rolling, and it is clear that this is just act one.  I still would have like more meat.  There is no part of this book that I could honestly call an improvement over any of the recent JL books.  Addressing the characters, things get a bit dicey.  This, I will freely admit, is my opinion.  As with any review, much of what is said is created by the natural biases, fair or unfair, of the reviewer.  That said I am not fond of these versions of our heroes.  Batman and Green Lantern are the first we meet, and Batman is largely unchanged.  Given the reboot’s nature with him and GL, I didn’t expect much.  He is still the smartest guy in the room, he is just a bit more “in your face” about it.  Green Lantern is just a jackass at this point though.  I know this is 5 years ago, and is just the starting point, but I wanted to bitch slap Hal.  He can be forgiven for being a jerk to Bats and the others, but he and the Flash are supposed to be friends.  He is a jerk pretty much all the way through this.  Guy Gardner is rarely such a tool.  The Flash (the Barry Allen version) is much better, but not very well-developed.  Wonder Woman makes the most sense.  Her manner and attitudes are exactly what I would want to see from an aloof warrior Goddess.   She is above and yet in awe at times.  I was against the promotion of Cyborg to the JL.  Johns and the gang really seem to have a boy crush on him.  His addition here mostly works well, though.  He fits nicely into the story, even though his presence telegraphs the resolution of the current threat. Aquaman is not anywhere near as interesting as in his solo book and is just as odd and aloof in his behavior as Wonder Woman, only in a more snotty way.  This being set in the past; continuity wise probably has something to do with that.  This is also the likely reason for Superman to be so brash and quick to anger.  The problem with all this bitchyness (yes, I know that is not a real word) is that we know where it is going.  Supes cannot stay like this or he wouldn’t be Superman.  Most of these characters are going to become the essential icons we already know, and this makes the story seem like a waste.

Jim Lee is a nice artist to look at, and on that alone it is a very pretty book.  Scott Williams inking him always helps.  The colors are rich and interesting and make this book eye candy at its yummiest.  Now if only Lee could tell a story.  Like several of the Image guys, storytelling takes a back seat to a pretty picture.  Lee, like Marc Silverstri and Erik Larsen have made huge improvements in this area, but this book sacrifices all of the storytelling and strong visual structure of earlier Lee works like Hush, for the splashy, glossy smack in the face his recent work has become known for.  There are whole sections of the book where the line changes and the art looked rushed.  The layouts are convoluted in some areas and the overall feel of the book becomes too frantic to be able to express the visual parts of the narrative.  I like Jim Lee as much as anyone, but he is on this book because of his name and position at DC.  Lee’s name sells books.  Unfortunately there are other artists that would have been much better suited to tell a good story.

 As for that story, it is clearly just the set up for more to come.  If DC’s FCBD offering is any indication, there are huge changes coming already, and I am looking forward to things settling down some.  Maybe the next arc will be better structured, and give us some depth to these “new” versions of our familiar heroes.  If I give the impression this was not a very good book, this is not strictly accurate.  I just expected more, or at least better.  The New 52 seems to me at least, to be characterized by the attempt to make these heroes seem more real to a new, more jaded audience.  What comes across more often is that they don’t like themselves or each other very much.  Not just here, but in several of the new books.  Conflict and character have been replaced by action and bitchyness.  I hope my initial impressions of the New 52 as a whole are incorrect, and that we will see more strong books like The Court of Owls. 

There is a lot of room for improvement in JL as it stands now.  There is a lot of fairly mindless fun here, though, and anyone wanting pure escapism without too much effort on their part is good to go.

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The New 52 Starts here-ish. Justice League #1: Review

Justice League #1

August 2011

DC Comics

$3.99 comic only/$4.99 With digital comic included.

A long wait for the New 52 or DCnU (DC new Universe) as it has been called.  With the end of Flashpoint setting off the end and the beginning for DC Comics, and all the hype surrounding this reboot/restart/cajigger or whatever you want to call it, the expectations for these new number ones could not be higher.  For every whining fool out there that swore he would never pick up a book from DC (the popular phrase was “oh look, 52 jumping off points!”) there must be at least one that is interested to see what is going to happen.  With an initial print run of over 200,000 and 2 reprint runs already scheduled, this book is going to be the big seller for august (or Sept, depending on how they calculate it)  and one of the biggest of the year.  DC’s attempt to grab back market share from Marvel is off to a promising start, at least from a sales standpoint.  (SIDENOTE:  does anyone else recall the halcyon days when a book that sold ONLY 200,000 was not a great seller?  Ah for the return of the 70’s and 80’s!)

This book, by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee is fun, I will say that much.  But I have to be honest, it is ultimately disappointing.  I was really hoping for a huge game changer.  Not just in story, but in the whole approach.  I had been hoping that this book might change the way we looked at comics.  Something that was such a clear shift of perspective in how we read and perceived comics, that the entire industry might follow suit. No.  That didn’t happen.  What did happen was a decent comic that will make me pick up the next issue, and ultimately that is what the goal is.

The book is a sort of soft boot for the rest of the new 52, as this book (and Action #1) take place 5 years prior to what will be current continuity for the rest of the books.  This issue really plays out as a team-up between Batman and Green Lantern.  Where Batman seems more and more like the Dark Knight Returns version, all-knowing and all-confident, with everyone around him managing to look like fools or amateurs in comparison, the Hal Jordan Green Lantern is a bit of a clown.  No experience and no subtlety, pushing with all his power to keep up with Batman, the Lantern comes off as an arrogant lightweight.  There is also a brief look at the pre-cyborg Vic Stone.  Does anyone but Geoff Johns really like this character?  I certainly don’t think he belongs in the Justice League.  As the issue ends, we see Superman, clearly post-Action Comics, but before his solo series starts presumably.  Not the intro for the most powerful hero in the DCU.  Next issue promises Batman vs Superman, but I don’t really expect much that I have not seen in other books.  I am hopeful, but not very.

Many of the moments that need to be done well are not.  They are glanced over for bigger action bits.  The first instance where Green Lantern realizes that Batman is “just a guy in a suit”, with no special powers, should have been a strong character moment, but Lee is just not that subtle.  While there is some visual storytelling going on (more than usual for a Jim Lee book), I really missed those smaller moments that define what the characters are going to be.  This is the chance to make real change and develop these guys into something special.  More than just a retelling, and right now, that is what this feels like.  It is a retelling of a story we have never heard.

A quick word about the digital version.  I looked briefly at the book on my friend Kurt’s smart phone and was impressed.  The panels, formatting and the interface were easy and seamless.  There was a lot of versatility in the way you could read this.  One way the digital score over the paper version is the depth of the color and the black levels.  This looks much darker and richer than the printed comic.  It is a natural limitation of the print medium.  The best comparison I can make is what we all saw when we first opened the books in the 90’s that were utilizing the better paper and computer colors.  Like when you first opened Spawn #1 (ugh!) and were blown away by the visual quality of the product, if not the actual art or story.  I think the biggest likely benefit from day and date digital, will be the people, not that want one or the other, as those demographics will not change.  Many of us are in one camp or the other now.  Where the benefit will be felt is from the people who want both.  And there are those people out there, more I suspect, than anybody realizes.

This is a fun book.  It just isn’t worth all the build up.  But given the hype and press these have gotten, I am not sure that anything would have genuinely impressed me.  Sad to say, but true.

I am still very excited to see Action #1.  It holds most of my hopes for the main body of the DCnU, and after that, it will be up to the fringe books, like Justice League Dark to keep me on board.

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Women creators in the big time…

Wow, DC really can’t do something big without stirring up the storm can they?

Art by Amanda Conner

With the relaunch announcements grabbing more headlines than the real news (that being the day and date digital releases) DC has managed to not see one issue coming.  Or they see it, and just don’t care.  Where all da wimmin at?

Gail Simone is writing 2 of the new monthly books and Jenny Frisson is doing a cover.  Just one cover.  There is more out there in the world than Rob Liefeld.  Did we really need to bring him back?  There was not ONE other woman out there that could write Hawk & Dove?  This is a book that will more than likely, be on the short list for cancellation within 3 issues.  Maybe that is why no one would touch it.  There are, to my knowledge more female artists out there than writers, but I know there are more than just the wonderful Ms Simone!  In the artist end of things I am even a bit more surprised.  There are some real fan favorites (artists and writers) that have nothing on DC’s schedule in September.  Amanda Conner, Katie Cook, Nicola Scott, Trina Robbins, Louise Simonson and the list goes on!  True, some were probably offered something and were not interested for reasons of their own, but just Gail Simone and Jenny Frisson?

There was a point in the past I would have said that this was just the women complaining, then I grew up some and try to look at it intelligently.  Or at least as intelligently as I am able.  True, there are not all that many women in the field these days compared to the men, and a lot of that is a cultural issue.  Women have not been mainstays of the industry in any point in its history.  The days when a Dalia Messick could get work because she went by Dale are gone.  The internet makes all of that kind of insulting tomfoolery transparent.  There has always been a serious  lack of women but I believe that it can never be truly equal.  There just are not as many women as men interested.  The reason for some of that has shifted.  It used to be simple enough:  girls didn’t read comics.  That is no longer true.  Many books, and not just the ones you would assume, have larger female readership.  And it is not that women are not artists and writers.  One look at the bookstores will tell you that.  Now I wonder if it may not be the fact that there are other, more attractive mediums/markets to go into.  There is a talent drain that has happened slowly over the years from comics in the traditional mainstream sense, to other medium peripheral to the traditional comic book.  Web comics seem to have a much better ratio of men to women.  A couple of the standouts here would be Danielle Corsetto (Girls With Slingshots) and Lora Innes (The Dreamer).  In other media there is quite a draw also.  Design, book illustration art of all kinds that would draw someone, not already interested in comics further away.  In fact, I think it may be a safe bet that if someone, man or woman, is not a comic book fan to start with, they are not likely to enter the field professionally.  As the medium slowly fades away (yes, it is slowly fading away) fewer young people are influenced by it and chose it as a career path.  So there is that factor, but it does not explain this huge shift.

As I look at this more, I really do wonder if this isn’t something different.  This level of exclusion is SO out of the norm, that I wonder if it might not be deliberate.  This is not to say that I think Geoff Johns, Jim Lee and Dan Didio are sitting in the dark halls of the DC compound planning ways to exclude Ms Frisson et al, but there can be an institutional mindset that can be so much a part of the industry, that even the newer blood is not immune.  It does not have to be a conscious choice to be something that is made to happen.  The “old boys” network is not just for the long serving, and it need not be worked at.  At some point, to reverse this trend, a deliberate choice to go the other way may be needed.  No, not quotas or preferential hiring.  The need for a meritocracy is still there.  Bringing in female writer “X” just because the is female does not solve the problem.  In fact, it will make it worse.  Nevermind the inevitable male backlash, the issue here is that bad books by less than stellar talent, again male or female, will drive readers and other talent away.

What is needed, I think, is a concentrated search for new talent ALL the time.  Just like any kind of marketing or recruiting, you tailor it to fit a demographic.  Just like you want to sell a car to a thirty something male with no kids and a lot of disposable income, you can target any segment of the market you want.  You can choose to bring in new talent in very much the same way.  Even the days of the old Marvel Try out book are well past, and no longer likely to be of use.  (Any one who thinks products are not marketed that specifically needs to wake the hell up!  I knew an ad guy for a car manufacturer many years ago that was quite proud of a campagne he helped design that marketed one specific model of a car to gay men over 40.  And it sold to that demo just as planned.)

I remember there was once a lot of talk about the big two recruiting in the art schools, but that never seemed to materialize.  Now you get portfolio review at cons.  The attitude that the talent will show up when needed does not bring the top talent, it brings in whatever comes through the door.  Comic as an industry has always been more than willing to cannibalize itself.  I think that comes from the trash product mentality from the earliest days of the medium, and it is unfortunately still with us.

Get it together DC.  For that matter, the entire industry.  While some publishers are better than others, and most are better than DC in this case, there is a long way to go.  The diversity created by women and men sharing the creative duties can only help comics.  This all just seems so short sighted…

 

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Just Like DC, I am starting over with a new #1!!!

Don’t worry though, I will be returning to my “legacy numbering” in a couple of years, when sales drop off or a new crossover occurs to me.

Amazing how negative the reactions to this have been so far.  Do we as fans have as short a memory as the industry as a whole?  Is there an issue of a comic this month starring “generic guy”?  Yes?  Then who cares what the numbering is?  Justice League will be starting with a new number one by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee (it will either be awful/late all the time or the most amazing 6 issue series in history).  Yes, you heard me, 6 issues before Lee either leaves or is so late there are fill ins.  I think there is amazing potential in that book.  But this is just the newest in a really long line of JLA number ones.  It is one of the worst, and that’s even before you start counting the other series that were multiple per month titles.  Birds of Prey #1?  They have not managed to get a book yet that will sell well after the 3rd issue, despite some world-class talent.  The longer Gail Simone run a while back is as close as they got , and it was always closer to the bottom than the top.  Too bad too, it has generally been one of the better DC books.

So, yes, there will be 52 new titles in September.  And if you don’t think there is significance in that number, you are drinking the wrong kool aid.  So many books have re numbered, then gone back again and again that it really makes no difference at all.  It would be news if they stopped publishing a character entirely for a few months, but even that is a rare occurrence.  Hell, even when Superman died, there were piles of Superman books!  “Yes, he is dead.  And now we are going to do one book with no Superman for one month, but he will still show up as flashbacks and memories.  Then we will tease you forever with several Supermen (4 if memory serves) and then tell you it is none of them.  BAH!  Finding change in comics that lasts is like trying to nail jello to a tree, and has always been that way.  Fans seem to think that SOME change is acceptable, but other change, that when you look at it, is identical, is bad.  If DC has said “there will be a new series of Justice League by Johns and Lee (better yet, called it “All-Star JL”) and quietly let that be the only book, no one would be saying anything but positives about it.  The other books really are not different.  You can never win by giving the fans what they want as they will always rebel against it as “not QUITE what they had in mind”.  Just as an aside, when I say “fans” I don’t mean “you”.  I mean the group of us.  All of us.  We are generally pretty smart, sensible people individually, but as a group we are short-sighted, and have no long-term memory at the best of times.  So there will be new branding on 52 character’s books.  Some of these are likely to be new books entirely, meaning an all new title for a fella that has not had a book in a while, say Deadman.  Others will be re-branding old books or the same book with a new number and creative team.  Bets will be flying as to which ones become limited runs and how quick.  If the 52 has any significance, they will likely last as long as they need to so they can move the arc along.  Believe me, this is not being done as an end unto itself, but towards another goal entirely.  I’m betting the overall number will not move much as there is a goal here.  I have no interest in Flashpoint, but what will come out of it with the reboot, has me very interested.  If only in the hope that there will be real change that sticks around for more than 10 minutes.  I know that is not likely, but like all fans, i always hope that what I am going to read next is the coolest thing I will EVER read.  Just like the one after than and so on.

One last note on the book here that CBR mentioned.  See the caption for what they sparked in my head…

Could Action #904 end up being the highest consecutively numbered book on the stands?

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