Justice League of America #47 continues the 'Dark Things' storyline, an ambitious crossover between the JLA and the JSA written by James Robinson and Mark Bagley.
I tend to be up and down with this arc. There are a lot of small touches that I think are fantastic. The characterization seems to be right on the money. And the action is very good. The main plot, Alan Scott being possessed by the Starheart and the return of Jade, is a good one. As always, and some times in particular with James Robinson, I just wonder if things are going to be wrapped up in a satisfactory way.
Will we learn how Jade ended up in the Starheart? Why she was there? Why she isn't effected by it? Why some others are? Or am I just going to have to roll with it? This is a 5 part story. There are only 2 issues left. Is that enough time for everything to be explained to us? This was the same concern I had with Superman and even World of Krypton. A lot is being shown to us; there better be explanations.
Now judging a 3rd chapter because I fear of a 5th chapter let down seems unfair. So I will do my best to review this issue on its own merits.
As has been a running theme in this arc, we see the effects of the Starheart on the planet. Yes, metahumans are still being affected. But now the planet itself is. Weather is running mad.
And those 'chaotic' elements on the planet can continue to be overwhelmed by the Starheart. Case in point, Congorilla who had just saved thousands of lives is gripped by madness. Luckily, Supergirl is around to eliminate him as a threat.
In the meantime, the JLA/JSA assault team is attempting to infiltrate the Starheart's stronghold on the dark side of the moon. While they stealthily try to slip in the side door, the JSA All-Stars act as a noisy distraction at the front door.
One thing that Robinson has been doing that I have liked is showing how all the other heroes are responding to Dick Grayson as Batman. The use of individual thought boxes allows Robinson to peek into everyone's mind. It allows Robinson some leeway to see what everyone is thinking. Here, I like that we hear Mr. Terrific compliment Dick on being as good a strategist as Bruce.
The plan seems to work as Mr. Miracle is able to get the team inside the castle walls. Of course, Jade is also ... somehow ... able to use her powers to mask the team's presence from the Starheart.
Remember how I talked about the small things making this a good arc. Here is an example. Miracle is explaining how some of the fortress's defenses are used to disorient. The landscape is sort of an escher environment. Now I have seen this in a million comics. But I rarely see the word bubbles also slanted like this. I had to turn the book. Made me feel a little topsy-turvy. It was a nice little touch.
Of course such an orderly building with such complicated defenses doesn't seem to be the work of an engine of chaos.
Maybe there is still some Alan Scott at work here? It is enough to give Jade some hope.
I still don't know exactly what the plan is here other than trying to rescue Starman. Is there a plan here other than trying to talk Green Lantern to regaining control?
Here are more of those small touches that I like.
Is that Doiby Dickles!
I definitely am in the camp of enjoying Robinson flooding the book with little known characters and flourishes from the history of the DCU.
But small touches aren't always enough.
At last we get to hear from Alan Scott/Starheart. It seems that the Starheart was drawn to Earth by the chaos here. And now that it is wallowing in it, the Starheart kind of likes it. It doesn't want to control it anymore ... he wants it to run rampant.
I guess I have to roll with it. But there also are hints that everything isn't that simple with the Starheart. We learn that Dr. Fate is the one keeping the captured JSA'ers in check. And we see the Starheart playing with Starman's chest gem. Could it be that the Starheart isn't as powerful that it is letting on?
All I know is I want answers to all of these things. I hope they are coming.
I was worrying about the ending of this arc; I was worrying I won't get the answers I want. And just as those worries were about to sour the whole book, I was given the biggest 'small thing' in the book. I loved this panel.
How interesting to see all these slices of Alan Scott's history played out in the defensive constructs of the fortress. So to see this rather deadly version of the Harlequin, guarding Starman, ... well this was just beautiful. My favorite panel of the book.
And as I said above, Robinson's characterization is another high point of the book. I really love his Donna, clearly the warrior of the group. She has the same feel that Diana had in Kingdom Come, the ultimate warrior willing to plow through any enemy before her.
I love how she is leading the battle here, pushing the offensive.
Finally nearing the epicenter of the stronghold, Jade is confronted by her Starheart-controlled brother Obsidian.
Obsidian sounds like he is in his right mind, begging Jade to take his hand and set things right. But we know that he in the thrall of the Starheart. There is something nefarious going on here. My guess is the Starheart needs Jade for some reason. Maybe she has a big role to play in the ending of this madness.
But before any sibling rivalry explodes, Kyle Rayner shows up. The Guardians have sent him to the moon to kill Alan Scott, presumably to end the threat.
I don't know if Kyle is that good of a soldier that he would simply murder Scott. I hope he isn't portrayed that way next issue. That said, he has a history with Jade so hopefully there will be some grist for the dramatic mill.
Bagley again seems a little rushed here. Some panels seem a little ragged or rough. The layouts and panel construction is still solid but some panels just seem a bit off. I can't wait to when Bagley can concentrate just on one title a month again.
So lots of small stuff that is fantastic. Spot-on characterization. A plot that seems to be treading water a bit. And a concern for a lackluster ending.
Is this experiment of having Lex Luthor star in Action Comics for a year going to work for me?
If you asked me last month I would have said 'probably'. There were enough interesting ideas thrown out last issue to make me think that an in-depth look at Lex would probably be a good read. While there were some things I didn't understand (the craving of a Black Lantern ring over all others), the idea of a power-hungry power-mad Luthor was new.
If you asked me after I read Action Comics #891, I would answer 'probably not'. For some reason, this issue just didn't grab me. Was this tour through Luthor's dreams really necessary? I suppose in the end it might. While there was some insight into Luthor's thoughts, it didn't seem fresh. As a result, this seemed like a stumble rather than a step forward.
The majority of the issue takes place within Luthor's mind as Mr. Mind (actually Mr. Mind's son ... also named Mr. Mind) guides Lex through the rabbit holes of his mind.
The first dream has Luthor cast as a Prometheus like figure literally stealing fire from a temple devoted to the Trinity of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.
This was something of a highlight in the book as "Lex as Prometheus" is a nifty look at his personality. Like Prometheus, Lex wants to even the playing field between men and super-beings. The scene ends with Lex stating to his 'tribe' that he did it all himself. Sure we know that Luthor is something of a narcissist but this seemed strange to say. But more on that later.
We then see that Mr. Mind is behind the content of Luthor's visions ... sort of. Mind has merely told Luthor to fantasize. That means that these visions, in theory, are Luthor's own albeit tweaked a bit.
Mind is talking to someone 'off-screen'. There definitely is a '4th wall' feel to Mind's comments. At first I thought he might be talking directly to us as the reader, a feeling that was accentuated by his positions in the panels. By having Mind occasionally escape the boundaries of the panels, it makes it seem that he is not constrained to the comic book and that he might be talking to directly to us.
That said, he states that while Luthor is in his dreams that his mind can be rewired. And that is what whoever Mr. Mind is talking to wants to happen. Since I don't necessarily want that to happen, it makes me wonder if Mind is talking to some other character and that we are being fooled into thinking we are his audience.
But on to the next dream.
Here Luthor is now cast as a Dr. Frankenstein-like scientist who has created a 'monster' ... someone who might be ungrateful to his creator, someone powerful.
When the sheet is removed from the creature we see that it is Luthor.
So a couple of thoughts here. One, the easy thing to think here is that Luthor thinks he is a monster, that he wonders how this version of himself was created ... what decisions has he made in his life that has led him to this, being something inhuman. But that seems too harsh. I don't think that Lex regards himself that way.
So the other thought is that this 'I did it myself' thought is present here. Rather than creating something to do his bidding ... rather than creating an agent who will act for him, leaving him untainted ... he needs to act for himself. This theme of Lex acting solo rather than the untouchable boss leading an army seems to be a theme here.
In fact, it becomes a bit clearer after the reveal. In his dream, Lois tells Lex that he works best when he has underlings doing the dirty work for him.
That is not what Mr. Mind wants her to say.
Is it Luthor fighting back?
My gut says yes. If there is one thing we know, Luthor is a man with a strong mind who should be able to shake visions off, recognizing them for the delusions they are.
But why does Mind (or whoever Mind is talking to) want Luthor to keep hearing that he should be acting alone?
With that vision not going the way he wants it too, Mind switches the settings to the Old West. 'Big Blue', an outlaw based on a Superman archetype, is coming to town and Sheriff Luthor needs to stop him.
It is enough obsequiousness for Lex to realize that it doesn't make sense. Realizing he is in some fever-dream, Luthor asks where is the person behind all of this nonsense. When the man doesn't answer, Lex guns him down.
I did like how Luthor responds once he realizes that he is in a fantasy. The gloves come off. He guns down the man without a second thought. Certainly that lack of emotion over the sanctity of human life is true Luthor but we rarely see him get his hands this dirty.
It forced Mind to enter the dream himself and confront Luthor.
But Luthor realizes that there is someone behind Mr. Mind. And know it is his turn to look at the camera and address 'us'. Luthor wonders why a 'transdimensional psychic deity' would be afraid of him.
Are we the deity? I don't think so. It was here I started to think that someone is pulling Luthor's strings here.
Realizing that this is his dream, Luthor tries to take control of the setting. In response, Mind grows to Godzilla-like proportions in the dream world to try to wear Luthor down.
In another nice insight into Luthor's mind (remember these are his fantasies, merely tweaked), Lex rips open his shirt, declares 'this is a job for Luthor', and flies to attack Mind. We always wondered if Luthor was jealous of Superman, we finally heard it in Blackest Night, and now we see it. Luthor dreams of being Superman ... or at least like Superman. Nice.
While he attacks Mind in the dream world, Luthor wills his body to lash out in physical world, kicking Mind off the roof of LexCorp.
And just like that the battle of wills is over.
I suppose the progression of the visions and Luthor's slow shrugging off of Mind's control was played out well, with the timing seeming right.
Now you would think that this whole encounter would slow Luthor down.
Why would Mind do this? Who is he working for? Who is the 'transdimensional psychic deity' who was pulling the strings? Why was Mind trying to hammer into Lex that he should act alone in his quest?
The 'old' Lex might take a moment to contemplate all this, maybe even shelve his plans to go after the Black Lantern power until this threat was better defined. He would never leave himself open for attack. He wouldn't stop until he found out who was behind this affront to his mind. And he certainly would never sully his own hands ... he would have someone else do the dirty work, the wet works.
But this isn't that Lex. He wants that power and he wants it now regardless of this psychic assault. He has charted areas of the power to investigate.
At the very least enough of the 'old Lex' is kicking around; he recognizes that if someone is trying to make him act alone that he shouldn't. He tells 'Lois' he will take her alone. And it looks like he'll be hiring Deathstroke to join him too.
Okay, so I don't think we ... the readers ... are the 'transdimensional psychic deity'. I think that is a feint by Cornell. I think 'a big bad' is trying to get Luthor to obtain this power only to then strip it from Lex. Luthor is being played as a dupe for whoever this threat is. So if that is my theory, then who is the big bad? It may sound like a moldy idea ... but what about Krona? Isn't he sort of transdimensional now? Powerful? Craving some sort of Lantern-like power?
So looking into some of Lex's dreams while maybe getting a taste of a background plotline sounds interesting. But somehow it just didn't grab me as much as I hoped it would.
Pete Woods and Cafu split the art here and shine, adapting to the variety of settings in the book.
I don't know ... in writing the review of the book, I liked it more than when I first read it. Maybe I just miss Superman being here.
With the fervor of San Diego Comic Con in the rear view mirror, I thought I would let you know about my all small convention news.
I will be attending the Baltimore Comic Con on August 28th and 29th. I have to say I am pretty pumped to be heading there. The guest list looks absolutely amazing. Here is a link to the main site: http://comicon.com/baltimore/
I am sure that as the date comes closer, I will be posting more about my specific plans ... commissions to try to get, signatures to procure, etc. The plan will be to blog throughout the days there ... giving a sort of play-by-play of the convention.
For me, the big news is Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle are both going to be there; I hope to be able to meet and chat with them about the title. James Robinson is also attending so I hope to run into him as well. Hopefully time will permit some discussion about Supergirl.
There are a lot of other creators I am going to hope to talk to including Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, Marv Wolfman, Ron Marz, and (if I am lucky) Geoff Johns.
As the dates get closer I'll post more about my plans and strategies!
I know that there are folks out there who find his stuff too cheesecake. But his stuff just pops off the page. I almost always love the composition of his art, the playfulness of his subjects, and ... yes ... the beauty of his work. In particular, I really loved his run of Wonder Woman covers. His Diana was always beautiful, happy, and strong.
So I was pretty excited to hear about 'Cover Run: The DC Art of Adam Hughes; a beautiful hard cover book showcasing his work in the DCU and including preliminary sketches and commentary from Hughes himself.
Of course Hughes did the phenomenal variant cover for Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #23, one of the best variants I know of and a truly iconic cover for this incarnation of Supergirl.
Like many of his more famous covers, this one gets its own entry with more detailed information.
First off, here is the sketch of the cover.
Sorry for the crummy scan. That is the best I could flatten the page on the scanner.
And here is the commentary by Hughes. It sounds like Hughes likes drawing Supergirl!
I also like the direction that DC gave him. "Make sure she is pretty and you can see her Legion flight ring." ... not much there for guidance. So kudos to Hughes for coming up with this design from thin air.
I figured I would include the Valor cover Hughes is talking about as an inspirational cue.
And I figured I would also include my favorite Hughes Wonder Woman cover. This perfectly captured Hughes. She is beautiful, strong, and sexy.
There was often a playful happy feel to his Diana as well; she isn't always the grim faced warrior. I like seeing that aspect of her as well and Hughes was able to capture it.
The book is $40 and a relative steal if you are a fan of Hughes' work. The book also includes sections on his Catwoman run, his Power Girl issues, and his work designing busts and statues for DC Direct. If you like Hughes, I highly recommend it.
Every year, in the days before the San Diego Comic Con, I bemoan the fact that I don't think I will ever be able to go.
And every year, when San Diego Comic Con ends, I can't believe I ever want to go. It seems so bloated. And it seems like comics are an afterthought. Sure there seems to be a lot of comics news, judging by the panels and news reported everywhere. But my guess is if I was there I would feel claustrophobic and frustrated.
While there was a lot of great stuff reported there, including movie teasers, I figured I would post some pertinent stuff for this blog.
In regards to "Supergirl," writer Gates said that "Bizarro Girl has just come to Metropolis and Supergirl and she have a pretty massive fight and then we go to Bizarro World. It's not a nice place. Supergirl will grapple with some of the issues she's having coming out o fthe War of the Supermen." The writer added "It's Supergirl fighting her dark, twisted, mirrored self. It's a different story, especially coming off the New Kryton stuff."
There wasn't much Supergirl coverage in that panel. "Grounded" seemed to dominate the discussion.
Of upcoming Brave and the Bold team-ups, JMS said we'll see the Phantom Stranger and Supergirl, plus Jor-El and Pa Kent. (Not joking, it seems.)
A Phantom Stranger/Supergirl Brave and Bold issue certainly has potential. Hopefully, JMS won't go back in time and have the Stranger dealing with a more Kelly-era Supergirl. (Remember the Marv Wolfman Raven/Supergirl issues which used the 'mad Zor-El' just when Gates/Igle were moving things away from that?)
The 2010 Bill Finger Award goes to the late Otto Binder and Gary Friedrich in recognition for their achievements as writers in the medium. Otto Binder created the Bottled City of Kandor and Supergirl and he told some of the first Bizarro stories. Gary Friedrich was a part of the legendary Marvel Bullpen of the 60s and he created Ghost Rider.
Glad to see Otto Binder, Supergirl's creator, get recognized.
This was news is from the DC Nation panel and sure will thrill the Smallville fans:
Nick Spencer will be writing a Jimmy Olsen co-feature in "Action Comics," and wore a bow tie to commemorate the occasion. "Jimmy Olsen's always been one of my favorite characters," Spencer said. His story will be about "what it's like to be a normal guy in the DCU." Olsen is "determined to live life to its fullest, and that puts him into some crazy situations." Chloe from "Smallville" will appear in the backup feature as an ongoing character.
On the status of low-selling titles "REBELS" and "Jonah Hex," Sattler said, "they're not going anywhere."
I am interested to see the Jimmy Olsen back-up feature. I don't know yet how tightly I want Smallville to be tied to the DC continuity. Chloe has functioned a number of roles on the show - unrequited love interest, sharer of the secret (a la classic Pete Ross), Lois-like investigator (before Lois showed up), and now Oracle-like guru. Which role will she play here?
I had to throw in the R.E.B.E.L.S. news; glad to hear it.
A retailer introduced himself and asked about potential projects with Wonder Woman and Supergirl. Didio indicated that DC was at work researching the potential for those types of books for young girls.
Didio asked the audience about what sorts of books they liked to see besides Tiny Wonder Woman and Supergirl.
So Super Friends, Power of Shazam, and Brave and Bold have all been canceled, so this was more of a Tiny Titans panel. Didio talks about wanting to foster the next generation but has little to say to back that up.
Still, enough people are still talking about Cosmic Adventures, you would think it was a no brainer.
A tease of the costume … and it looks like we have FLIGHT folks!
Lois said “Superman!” it’s all coming to a head.
This is the last season, Darkseid is the big bad, and we probably finally have 'flights and tights'. The Supergirl episode is slated for October 3.
And finally some toy news that I am excited for. Thanks, as always, to blog friend Gene for send me the pics and the info. The Legion will be immortalized as action figures and will be exclusive to Mattycollector.com in a 12 pack.
It looks like Legion figures from a variety of eras. The original three look close to their classic Silver Age. The rest look more like the Cockrum/Grell time period.
My favorite Legionnaire has always been Wildfire, so I am down right giddy that he will be one of the figures.
Here is a close-up of the Saturn Girl figure. Looks sweet.
Anyways, lots more news came out of San Diego. A 'Flash family' book! Batman Inc. by Grant Morrison! Peter David writing Young Justice episodes! Glimpses of the GL movie! Anything I didn't mention get you guys excited?
James Robinson's and Mark Bagley's JLA/JSA crossover 'The Dark Things' continues to roll on through the books.
Justice Society of America #41, the second chapter, moves things forward without revealing too much. In fact this chapter seemed more like a chance for the creators to catch up with the other members of the JSA and set the stage more than it was to move the plot forward.
I can tolerate that here more than I usually do. For one, Robinson has the uneasy task of writing this book knowing some folks haven't read the first parts of this book over in JLA. He has to make this issue accessible to those readers while keeping it interesting enough for those of us who have read the previous chapters. So there is some exposition, reexplanation of the plot but it isn't overly done. Imagiine writing a book where you need to assume some portion of your audience won't have read the first chapter; it can't be easy.
Also, Robinson has to make sure the spotlight is on the JSA members. After all this is their book. So the ancillary scenes are predominantly of them. The main plot ... storming the Starheart's moon fortress is put on the back burner as that involves mostly JLA members and therefore should be seen there.
The book starts on a rather chilling note as we see Miss Martian saying she doesn't think she will be alive for much longer.
So I am thinking here that it would be pretty lousy for Miss Martian to bite the dust. Certainly, it would be pretty lousy to have it happen here as a guest star in someone else's comic. Plus, DC wouldn't do that since she is part of the new Young Justice cartoon ... right?
Luckily my worries were premature.
Despite not knowing exactly what the Miss Martian scene means, we move on.
The Flash, Wildcat, Doctor Mid-Nite and Felix Faust's son are all at the Shade's house in Opal City trying to recruit the villain to the cause.
Others have come before them though. Obsidian and Dr. Fate, controlled by the Starheart, attack and subdue the JSA members. Now why everyone thinks the Shade can help is beyond me. But the Shade is there, on the ground, out of commission.
Now Robinson has been able to play fairly loose in who the Starheart seems able to take control of ... saying it is either elemental or chaotic energy. So why it can enslave Dr. Fate, an agent of Order, seems like a stretch. Even more of a stretch than it taking over Power Girl as a 'sun powered' person ... therefore elemental.
Obsidian uses his powers to teleport the defeated heroes away, most likely to the moon base. Doctor Mid-Nite was delayed in joining the fray as he was giving out medical advice over the phone. As a result, he is unscathed when he enters. As all good heroes would do, he jumps into Obsidian's portal without having any idea where it is going to take him.
So I suppose the heroes have an inside agent now. I always like it when the heroes with the least powers (like Mid-Nite) play some crucial role in these stories dealing with near omnipotent beings.
The rest of the JSA and JLA are trying to keep the Starheart's effects under control around the globe.
We see heroes fighting elemental and magical heroes and villains. We even get a Yellow Peri sighting. Nice!
While that is happening, Mr. Terrific is trying to create some nullifying counter-field to negate the Starheart's influence. I don't know ... I don't like it when technological answers are easily created for incidents like this. Using a blood sample from Jade, he is trying to create something like that. Seems outlandish, even for comic books but suspension of disbelief is part and parcel of comics.
Unfortunately, it seems as though the Starheart's powers are vaster than anticipated. It seems like it is able to activate the metagene in otherwise 'normal humans' leading to more out of control people for the heroes to defeat. In a somewhat long scene, Mr. America and Lightning have to brawl with a prison guard whose latent gravity powers manifest themselves. I suppose it is nice to have these background characters get a moment to shine.
At last we get back to the bulk of the troops on the moon.
It turns out that Batman wanted Starman to get defeated when he sent him to the Starheart's citadel. He was hoping that Starman could give some inside information to the team via a telepath. And that's where Miss Martian comes in.
That earlier scene saying 'she' was dying was actually Starman saying he was dying. Not a big surprise since his power gem was removed by Alan Scott over in Chapter one.
But Starman is able to send some of his observations. Whatever they are, they aren't typical of a villain's lair.
They sound truly chaotic, which I guess makes sense given the source. But are those things really there or merely maddening visions by Starman? It reads like something from Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol. It is going to be interesting to see whatever is really inside that emerald fortress.
Exposed to that madness, Miss Martian goes a bit crazy, reverting to her white Martian form and lashing out.
Power Girl wastes no time in dealing with the new threat, taking out Megann with one punch. Nice panel.
Armed with that limited information, the heroes organize a strike force to take the fight to the Starheart. They pick the group least likely to get taken over by the Starheart's madness. Not exactly an imposing force is it to send against something close to a sentient central power battery and its army, is it?
Plus, I don't know if I would want Donna on the team. Is there anything more chaotic than the Titans or their abilities? And can you really trust Jade, who came to Earth encased in the Starheart? I guess dire times call for bold decisions. But if Power Girl and Supergirl are suscpetible, I would think those two are ... maybe even moreso.
Maybe what we need are Seven Soldiers of Victory!
With those six committed to the fight, Batman reveals a secret weapon and the seventh member of the assault team, Mister Miracle. Maybe he can get them in undetected. Nice little plot twist.
So overall this was a good issue even if it only moved the overall plot forward a smidge. It seems like this was more a fleshing out issue, adding some depth to the proceedings rather than storming forward.
Bagley's art was fine here although some pages had a more rough feel to them than others; I wonder if he was rushed a bit. Still, I am enjoying this Dark Things story arc. Good stuff.
And here are a couple of panels with Camp's comments.
Sun Boy and Lightning Lad kicking butt.
The gray lightning is that way because it's a layer for Nei to use, so she doesn't have to pull apart all the lines. A little behind the scenes info.
So we can tell this is an 'early Legion adventure' by the costumes that the Legionnaires are wearing here and on the cover. I like the behind the scenes stuff like the different colored lightning to help the colorist with effects.
Supergirl and Brainiac 5, probably arguing.
The question mark is a placeholder for something I probably cant spoil just yet.
Hmmm ... what could be in there? It's great to see Brainy and Supergirl puttering around his lab. Could it be a captured Satan Girl? A girl legionnaire afflicted by a 'crimson virus'?
Supergirl meets the Legion of Superheroes.
Very nice reaction shot. Beautiful!
Anyways, I have said in the past that I hope Camp will be the 'official pinch hitter' on the title when Jamal is too busy. His art is slick! I am pretty excited for this Annual.