Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wednesday Is J.L.A.te For All I Care #176

Justice League of America #2 (2013)
Justice League of America #3 (2013)
Justice League of America's Vibe #2
Justice League of America's Vibe #3

Justice League of America #2 (DC, 2013, $2.99)
I've always had a fondness for the Secret Society of Super-Villains, so I'm happy to see them get a steady, ominous reveal, as opposed to the bait and switch that was Villains United almost (God help me) a decade back. Besides missing Amanda Waller's girth and her ability to walk the fine line of anti-heroism without falling off, it also seems like a good portion of her brains went M.I.A. as well. In a world with a finite number of powerful, viable super-heroes that the government could wrangle to serve their purposes, you don't throw a whole team at a wall to see who sticks versus splatters against unknown hostiles. Then again, Geoff Johns wrote her, so what was I expecting? A lot of that seems to be in service to rebuilding Steve Trevor, so I'm torn between being glad a classic himbo is back in the game and one of the few female African-American comic book icons being ruined in favor of a blue-eyed, blond haired white male. The lead story is rife with "because" with insufficient "why," and what's the point in teasing a conflict with the main Justice League if you draw their facsimiles as obvious robots? Also, David Finch's proportions were awful in some scenes, but I'll still take his dark mood and detailing over most of the flashier Image style artists DC now employs.

There's also a Martian Manhunter back-up story, which recalled a scene from the '80s event mini-series Legends where our hero saved a different president during a time of paranoia against super-heroes. Matt Kindt's script is okay, but he has a problem with repeating words like "gentle" and "country," sometimes in the same line of dialogue, and should therefore take advantage of (assuming he proofread at all.) The real draw in the artwork. I was very much not a fan of the late Scott Clark's efforts on Brightest Day, but I had at one time appreciated his style considerably, and this final effort is a visual feast. I'm sure there's some digital age cheating going on here, but the fine line feathering used on the figures is lovely, and Scott goes completely insane with the crosshatching on not-John Jones/The Manhunter. There are only three images of the Alien Atlas in this entire story, but I fully expect them to be extensively repurposed, because each one is wicked sweet. This here is a Da Vinci demigod of extraterrestrial origin, and I'll mourn for the pages of Clark art we'll never get to see.

Justice League of America #3 (DC, 2013, $2.99)
I'm mildly amused that the first five issues of this series are placed under the heading of one story arc that will surely be collected as such in a trade paperback. It reads more like a Prelude to Infinite Crisis type thing, collecting disparate issues of comics by varied creative teams that all lead into an actual story, despite having the same writer and only two different artists. There's two pages used to establish Stargirl and an adversarial relationship with Amanda Waller, and then that's backburned. The previous issue ended on a cliffhanger, so there's an action sequence and that part wraps up inside nine pages. Then, mid-issue, a new plot is initiated, crosses over with an issue of Catwoman in between panels, reenlists Green Arrow as a team member despite dismissing him unnecessarily last issue, then ends on another cliffhanger. That Green Arrow thing especially needs to be paid off at a later date, like maybe Steve Trevor wanted to disassociate from Ollie to keep him as an ace in the hole against Amanda Waller, or something. Speaking of whom, if there's one thing that bugs me about this book, it's that the characters are drawn so archly, they lack the layers previous demonstrated by other writers and become shrill. For instance, Vibe is a slightly nervous rookie with sound logic and critical thinking in his own book, where here he's a bumbling neurotic moron who is constantly on the verge of dying or accidentally killing others. It's much. I continue to be amazed that David Finch is willing to draw nine panel pages with each panel featuring a ridiculously fine line on details, even if its weird how he'll cram important information into minuscule boxes while offering disproportionate space to trivialities (like the two page spread of an empty conference table in #2.)

As with last month, the Martian Manhunter back-up is an art driven affair that's a pleasure to look at but otherwise could be done without. There are glimpses from earlier in the lives of Catwoman and Martian Manhunter, which perhaps confirms that J'Onn J'Onzz's comfort with killing is more Denny O'Neil than J.M. DeMatteis, but doesn't say much else. The Martian's natural form has been tweaked to be more "kewl" but less distinctive. Matt Kindt does that repetitive script thing, this time with whole lines rather than just words. This is probably the best art I've ever seen from Manuel Garcia though, with complimentary coloring from Jeff Chang. With this character, I'll take inoffensive and easy on the eyes, but with most I'd set the bar higher.

Justice League of America's Vibe #2 (DC, 2013, $2.99)
Vibe stops a robbery and an alien invasion, but not under expected circumstances nor with any appreciable level of difficulty. This issue felt very much like a placeholder or a series of deleted scenes, weaving in and out of sequences from Justice League of America #1 & 2, advancing subplots without a true core story of its own to tell. Pete Woods' contributions to the art improved from the debut issue, but since he was sharing chores with Andres Guinaldo and a slew of inking hands, the overall quality was inconsistent. I'm not at all keen on Gypsy's new backstory, Cisco remains a calculatingly inoffensive bore, and how many reminders do we need that Amanda Waller is in a shady business? At least there's a gentle humor on display in the script by Geoff Johns & Andrew Kreisberg, a rarity in the New 52.

Justice League of America's Vibe #3 (DC, 2013, $2.99)
Sterling Gates doesn't quite keep up the humor of the previous writers (gone so soon,) but he does immediately move Vibe past being a well-intentioned patsy into a more thoughtful and challenging protagonist. The story itself was dull, probably due to the forced inclusion of Kid Flash as part of the "What The Fifty-Two" line wide stunt. Don't get me wrong-- the series to date has been building toward a confrontation with "a" Flash, and the meeting marks a turning point in the plot line, but there's no emotional resonance to the actual interaction between the characters. The fight/team-up is a boon for exposition, not entertainment. I continue to find Pete Woods to be one of the dullest artists currently working on a regular basis, so it's almost galling that he can't even lend visual consistency by drawing an entire issue on his own. However, secondary artist Fabiano Neves has been toiling at Dynamite for years, so it's great to see him on a decent book I'd actually buy. Unlike Woods, Neves draws Vibe as heroic with consistent facial features from panel to panel, bringing welcome elements of Kevin Maguire, Steve Lightle, and Darick Robertson to the table with a slight Bronze Age vibe. It really perks up a saggy, perfunctory tale. Of course, either artist would be preferable to Brett Booth, who begins a run of hideous covers here. I really liked that guy on Backlash, but it now occurs to me that every character in that book wore a full featureless face mask or were furries, so his predilection toward using Jimmy Durante as his primary model wasn't as obvious.

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