SUPER-FLY FANDIMONIUM by Max Lake – Justice League International #1 Review

Justice League International was my favorite book as a kid back in the 80s. There was an eclectic and unusual group of heroes and things were played for laughs. After being in the spotlight following Justice League Generation Lost , the JLI is now back in a new book, Justice League International #1, with Dan Jurgens writing, Aaron Lopresti on pencils, and Matt Ryan on inks. Justice League International shows promise with the first issue, but is very much thrown together quickly—which is intentional—but it still suffers a bit for it.

The JLI is basically a team that is just thrown together at the United Nation’s whim in response to the Justice League and increasing threats (if the UN is forming a Justice League International, it makes me wonder if/how DC’s other UN team, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents, fits into this plan). Heroes are selected by an international panel, and then literally assembled almost immediately (as they were apparently already assembled prior to the team being green lit). Everything seems like it comes together hastily at the expense of too many “hows” and “whys.” True, this keeps the story moving. But there are things like veteran JLIers acting like no JLI team has existed before, as some characters are thrilled to be on the team or act like they haven’t worked together in the past. For example, Booster claims not to be familiar with his teammates and Guy Gardner writes off Booster as a loser, saying he’s worked with him “a couple times.” While I understand a need to keep things fresh for the relaunch, it seems a little sad that the characters barely know each ¬other and their shared history is gone.

As the team comes together there are understandably tensions among this International ensemble. Most prominently, the Russian Rocket Red verbally spars back and forth with the Chinese August General in Iron. But there is hardly any time for much more than quibbles as the team heads out to their first mission only to get it handed to them. Things happen so quickly I have virtually no reasons to care about the characters other than my previous attachment to them from my childhood onward. As for Lady Godiva, I have no idea who she is or what her powers are. I know she can’t fly and that she was in Flashpoint…That’s about it.

Sure it’s a first issue, and pretty much the gang’s all there from the start (Jurgens has said the team lineup changes after #1, presumably with additions) leaving little time for character development. But here again, the rapid pace seems to take its toll on the book. At the same time, after reading the issue a couple more times, the team actually suffers from heading out on a mission practically minutes after getting together. They come to realize they don’t know each others’ powers or have any group tactics, and it’s easily one of the reasons things get so hectic at the end of #1. It’s a rough start for this Justice League, and it shows. I think that’s actually kind of neat.

The art by Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan does a good job depicting our heroes and rendering the various places where the action takes place. Each hero looks very distinct and many have new costumes though nothing that different than what came before. While the art is pretty good, it is nothing to write home about when there are titles such as Batwing #1 and Swamp Thing #1 that came out the same week with stellar art. JLI’s art doesn’t look bad, it’s just nothing extraordinary, which suits the first issue well.

The lineup is pretty cool (though I kinda resent Plastic Man being teased in the issue, but he does not get to join), and there are a couple chuckle evoking lines. But it’s a totally different ballgame than the JLI of the late 80s/early 90s. Things are more serious, and the stakes get pretty high pretty quickly. I was not overly impressed with #1, but I liked it enough to check out #2 to see how this new JLI survives. So if you’re a fan or you’re new to JLI, the book does a fair job of introducing the premise (not so much the characters) and overall seems to be a decent team book in the making. I thought the start was a little weak, but it seems that Jurgens intended this JLI to have lots of troubles starting out. They certainly do, and while it makes for a scattered team book, it is entertaining.

SUPER-FLY FANDIMONIUM by Max Lake – Animal Man Review

Animal Man is hardly a household name. So obscure a hero that he was part of a team called “The Forgotten Heroes,” Animal Man remained on the fringe until the late 80s, when Grant Morrison started the first Animal Man series. Since then, Animal Man has been a somewhat popular hero in recent years, though recently was often seen in the company of Starfire and Adam Strange. Now with a new series by Jeff Lemire and Travel Forman with Dan Green assisting on inks, Animal Man strikes out on his own once more in a bold new direction; Animal Man #1 delivers a book that is both super heroic and horrifying in nature, and it’s a quite a good read, albeit a little unsettling.

The book starts out with an interview, revealing that Animal Man is now a public hero, an animal activist and recently, a movie star. Despite all this, his primary concern is his family and there are a few scenes with Buddy at home. Things start to get weird when he is called into action to stop a man who has taken hostages at the local hospital.

The plot is intriguing and Jeff Lemire seems quite at home with Buddy Baker (AKA Animal Man) and his family, but just as at ease in making things crazy for Animal Man. The story reads like a typical super hero tale and does a good job of introducing Animal Man as well as his wife and kids and the premise. But just as you think it’s a normal super hero book, things get really strange, and start to become pretty terribly horrendous. The source of all the problems seems to be coming from Buddy’s daughter Maxine, who is manifesting strange powers of her own.

Travel Foreman’s art is striking, for good or for worse is entirely going to be at the discretion of the reader. I’ve heard from people who hated it and some who loved it. I’m somewhere in between. The art seems a little distorted and is definitely weird—especially in the opening scenes with Animal Man with his family. I liked it at first, but it’s so different I felt the style was a little difficult to overcome at times. For example, there’s one scene in the hospital where Buddy is being examined where he looks like he has scars and pock marks on his face instead of lines of expression. But getting to the final pages where Animal Man has a nightmare, the art’s twistedness suits the moment perfectly and sets the tone for this horror series. If this is what we’re in store for, I can certainly get over the awkwardness which scenes of normality display. Though Foreman does work on the inking, Dan Green assists and the ink work compliments the overall art well.

I have mixed feelings on Animal Man’s new costume. It definitely suits Animal Man’s new role as a public figure, but I miss the goggles. It looks like Animal Man being Buddy Baker is public knowledge, so maybe he doesn’t feel the need to hide his face any longer. Touching on other fashion issues briefly, Animal Man’s son has a mullet, which in 2011 is a little disconcerting. Do kids still have mullets these days?

Lemire keeps the plot moving and the story at a brisk pace. Although the opening interview is unconventional, it covers a lot of ground and gets the ball rolling well and the following action keeps up throughout. The last page is truly frightening and sets the stage for the rest of the series, which looks like will map out a troubled time for the Baker family.

Despite some initial trepidation on Travel Foreman’s art, I came out of Animal Man #1 liking what I saw and the overall tone of the series. I’m a big fan of Lemire, so I definitely plan to stick around for at least a few more issues as I want to see where this is going. I also like Animal Man a lot and think this new take on the character suits him well. Even more than Swamp Thing #1, Animal Man #1 is a good mix of super hero escapades with chilling and disturbing elements seeped in. It’s like Vertigo PG-13.

So give Animal Man #1 a try and see what you think. There’s a great story, some art that is certainly unique, and in that regard standout among the DC New 52 books so far. Whether or not you’ll like it is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder. But even if you’ve never read an Animal Man story before, Animal Man #1 gives a great intro to the character, hits the ground running, and hooks you with a lasting impression. If #1 is any indication, there are some great adventures ahead, and this is definitely a book in the DCnU to read.

SUPER-FLY FANDIMONIUM by Max Lake – Detective Comics #1 Review

Detective Comics #1 is quite a milestone among the New 52, as Detective Comics are the original words abbreviated by the company name “DC” and there has not been a new issue #1 since 1937, and never a #1 with Batman in it. Along with the renumbering of Action Comics, having a new Detective shows how dedicated DC is in doing this relaunch and just like Action, Detective Comics #1 delivers a great jumping on point for fans new and old with a great take on a classic character.

Batman himself hasn’t changed much, and is in hot pursuit of the Joker. Batman says something to the effect that the Joker has been around for six years, suggesting Batman may have been active a little bit before Superman popped up in the DCnU. However many years the Dark Detective has been operating in Gotham City, he is still considered an outlaw by the police. In fact, it’s worth mentioning that in nearly every New 52 title, the heroes in each book don’t exactly have the best relationships with police or the public, even five years after Justice League #1. Despite Batman’s tense relation with the cops, James Gordon still has his back and the two discuss the case.

The rest of the comic has Joker craziness, a visit with Alfred in the Batcave, Harvey Bullock up front and center with the GCPD and a mysterious plot afoot with a new villain. It all adds up to some pretty great Batman. It’s a fantastic introductory issue as well, as it doesn’t rely heavily on recent Bat-events to tell its story or weigh it down. From the get go is the classic Batman Joker rivalry and their struggle plays out throughout the issue. I also really liked that the issue hit the ground running, with Batman after Joker in a hurry. As soon as you pick up the book, you’re in the story, and you don’t need to know a thing about Batman to enjoy it, making it another perfect entry level book for new or lapsed readers.

Tony S. Daniel is no stranger to doing double duties on Batman, and he’s doing a phenomenal job here. It’s very well written and the art is incredible too. Not only is the art high quality, it is consistent. Daniel captures the sprawling gothic landscape of Gotham City and its inhabitants well, with night scenes looking especially great. Batman, Joker and other characters all look really detailed and expertly rendered. There is a great use of shadows that add the overall dark feel of the comic, and the inks of Ryan Winn work well with Daniel’s pencils. The color by Tomeu Morey is also popping.

Whereas I didn’t really get the sense Bats’ costume had changed much in Justice League #1, it looks much more revised and body armor like here, which I like a lot. There are some other cool touches such as the fact that Alfred has hair! Yes, it’s just a widow’s peak, but still cool. James Gordon’s hair isn’t white either, which is consistent with his look in Batgirl #1. It seems the de-aging of the DCnU was across the board for everybody.

As I said at the outset of this reviewing process, I haven’t been able to justify buying any Bat-books lately, but I definitely want to see the outcome here as it could change the status quo for one character forever (though it probably won’t knowing comic books). It’s also one of the best Bat-books to come out of the first two weeks of September, so I think I plan to add this to my pull list. If you like Batman at all, are interested in seeing why the character is so cool, a Bat-addict, or you’re a lapsed fan like me, Detective Comics #1 is a fantastic first issue that cements why Batman is one of the best fictional characters of all time.