A Darth Vader #5 Review – “This is…Blasphemous.”

Darth Vader #5, coverTITLE: Star Wars: Darth Vader #5
AUTHOR: Kieron Gillen
PENCILLER: Salvador Larroca. Cover by Adi Granov.
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: May 13, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Darth Vader continues to be immensely better than any of Marvel’s other Star Wars titles. Trust me, folks. It’s not even close. Why? Oh, let me count the ways…

It captures its main character perfectly. It sprinkles in just enough prequel material to display Vader’s depth, but not turn die-hards off. It has added new characters that add both intrigue and humor. It’s also beautifully drawn, and does enough artistic justice to the classic Star Wars visuals that when it adds something new (For instance: A secret base on top of what can only be called “space whales.”), it’s that much easier to buy it as a part of this iconic universe.

In this issue, Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca bring Vader, Doctor Aphra, Triple-Zero, and BT to a secret base in the Outer Rim, which supposedly houses those the Emperor has deemed worthy of replacing him. But the dark lord isn’t quite prepared for what he finds. In his own words: “This is…blasphemous.”

Darth Vader #5, space whalesOddly enough, Gillen and Larroca play with some visuals from The Phantom Menace here. We see Vader carving his way through a thick door, as various armed soldiers stand by. We then have Triple-Zero, a silver protocol droid just like the one we saw in Episode I, emerging from the resulting smoke. But then we’re hit with a swerve that’s nothing like what we saw in the movie. This is a team that’s great with playing with fan expectations, giving you what you want, but not necessarily the way you thought you’d get it…

On the subject of visuals, that two-page shot of the space-whales is amazing. It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen in a Star Wars movie, but it feels very true to the cruel spirit of the Empire. Vader calls them an abomination. But the ironic thing is, he’s something of an abomination himself. That’s not necessarily a connection everyone will get, but it’s there.

Darth Vader #5, Triple-Zero, Salvador LarrocaI mentioned this last time, but Triple-Zero is a riot. The sheer notion of an “evil butler” type is hysterical. But when you put him amid the chaos of the Star Wars universe, next to a no-nonsense-type like Vader, the ensuing comedy feels very organic.

I’ll try and stay spoiler-free here. But what Vader finds on the base is, at face value, very compelling. Gillen seems to be playing with the notion of the Jedi and Sith being an “ancient religion,” which was introduced in A New Hope. At one point, someone even says: “The Force is obsolete.” This is made all the more interesting when you consider this base is sanctioned by Palpatine, a Sith himself. From an in-story perspective, I question Palpatine’s motivations here. Is he truly preparing for a world without The Force? Or is this part of a larger scheme? I’m inclined to think the latter.

The idea of The Force being obsolete or dormant might also be an interesting piece of forshadowing for The Force Awakens

Darth Vader #5, Doctor Aphra, Salvador LarrocaWe don’t get a lot of time with Doctor Aphra in this issue. But what we do get is enough to keep me invested in her. Tragedy follows Darth Vader wherever he goes. And there’s little doubt that tragedy is what lays ahead for this woman. It’s simply a question of how, where, and when.

But that’s simply one of many elements that makes this series a must-read for Star Wars fans.

Images 1 and 2 from author’s collection. Image 3 from jedi-bibliothek.de.

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Daniel Bryan Repeats History, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Daniel Bryan, WWE Raw, May 11, 2015Thoughts From WWE Raw:

Daniel Bryan relinquishes the Intercontinental Championship roughly a year after he relinquished the WWE Heavyweight Championship. This sucked. It really sucked. It sucked beyond anything that has sucked in recent memory…

It sucks because Bryan had to surrender a championship for the second year in a row. Moreso, it sucks he’s injured again. But what sucks more than anything is that surrendering these two championships tarnishes a portion of his legacy. Perhaps even the fans’ faith in him, and most definitely the company’s willingness to put their faith in him for larger things.

Is Bryan finished in the ring? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, one thing nobody can ever take away from him is the fact that he became a star in WWE. He main evented Wrestlemania XXX, and solidified his status as a bonafide superstar. That will be Daniel Bryan’s enduring legacy as far as WWE is concerned.

John Cena vs. Neville, Raw, April 11, 2015John Cena def. Neville. It was fun to see Neville accept Cena’s challenge one week after Sami Zayn did. Like him or not, John Cena’s been involved in the best match on Raw two weeks in a row. Granted, that might have something to do with the quality of his opponents…

Wrestling pundits seem to be concerned about the direction of Rusev after Payback. I can’t say I blame them. There’s obviously a lot of interest in a babyface turn for Lana. But where does that leave Rusev? High and dry, most likely. And once you turn Lana, what do you do with her? To the best of my knowledge, she’s not training to become a wrestler. So once she’s a fan-favorite, does she find a babyface to manage? Does she sell t-shirts on TV the way Sable used to do? It just seems like a hill that doesn’t need to be climbed. Especially when she’s so good at being a villain.

WWE Announces Elimination Chamber pay per view for May 31, exclusively on the network. This seems extremely abrupt. Why not bring the chamber back at, say…Battleground? It’s still the most bland pay per view WWE puts on all year. Why not spice it up with a chamber match?

Still, apparently the tag team titles will be defended inside the chamber for the first time. Considering how the tag team division looks right now, that might be fun.

Dean Ambrose, Raw 05/11/2015Dean Ambrose def. J & J Security in an handicap match. This felt like a waste of a good hometown pop, especially given the match Ambrose had with Seth Rollins last week. Why not have Rollins and Ambrose main event this week’s show, and have Orton in the main event with Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury? Seems like we’d have gotten just as good an opener, and an even better main event.

Bray Wyatt cuts a promo on Ryback. The best part of this whole segment? Bray says something to the effect of: “Ryback must be so inspiring to you all!” And about 90% of the crowd goes: “Ehhhh, not really.” It’s curious that there’s no match between these two at Payback. Did they opt to save it as a special attraction for this sudden Elimination Chamber event? If so, that seems like an odd choice. It’s not like we’ve all been clamoring for Bray vs. Ryback for months.

King Barrett def. Dolph Ziggler after a distraction from Sheamus. WWE is in the market for some new upper mid-card heels right now. Barrett and Sheamus are seemingly in the front of the line for those spots. I can only assume WWE is moving forward with a Seth Rollins/Kane program in the near future. That means Roman Reigns, Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose, and John Cena are all going to need new dance partners in the near future. These two are in a great position to step up and prove themselves.

Raw, May 11, 2015Damien Sandow debuts “Macho Mandow” character. Hey, remember when Sandow cut that babyface promo a few weeks ago? He was gimmick-free, and cut a promo from the heart, seemingly as himself. It seemed like that was the direction they were going to go with him…

Never mind! It’s back to comedy and parody for him, apparently. It makes sense on paper. Sandow got over more than he ever has doing this Mizdow thing. So now they’ve got him in a similar role, apparently to form a parody Mega Powers team alongside Curtis Axel. (It should be noted The Solomonster talked about this premise a few weeks ago. He’s got a great podcast.)

There’s definitely a degree of sadness to this. Sandow has the talent to be taken seriously as a star. But it just doesn’t seem like WWE sees that in him. As a fan, it continues to frustrate me.

Erick Rowan and Luke Harper reunite as a tag team. This left a sour taste in my mouth. Bad memories of The Wyatt Family breaking up. And all these months later, where has it gotten them? Clearly nowhere, as they’ve simply ended up getting back together.

Images from WWE.com.

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A Marvel’s Daredevil, Season 1 Review – Street-Level Grit and Superhero Tropes

Daredevil-Character-Poster-Matt-MurdockTITLE: Marvel’s Daredevil, Season 1
STARRING: Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Toby Leonard Moore
CREATOR: Drew Goddard
RATING:
TV-MA
NETWORK: Netflix
SERIES PREMIERE DATE: April 10, 2015

By Levi Sweeney
Staff Writer, Grand X

I was beyond excited when I the trailers for Marvel’s Daredevil first came out. Subsequently, I was beyond awed at just how immensely intelligent and incredibly produced this series is. I plowed through all 13 episodes in three days. It was better than I could ever have imagined.

Marvel has delivered what is quite possibly their best executed, best made superhero property since Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Of course, it may not be entirely fair to compare the two, since Daredevil is an experimental internet television series and Winter Soldier is the second big screen solo outing of an established superhero. However, they share one common trait: They both raised the bar for not just Marvel movies, but superhero movies everywhere. But only Daredevil broke entirely new ground for what can be accomplished in internet-based entertainment.

Marvel's Daredevil, Matt Murdock, Charlie CoxMarvel’s Daredevil follows Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), a lawyer blinded as a child but blessed with enhanced senses which allow him to “see” better than a normal person. By day, he works with his law partner Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and his secretary and former client Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). By night, however, he patrols the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, fighting bad guys and saving innocents. And by “fighting,” I mean beating the bloody tar out of anyone he sees doing dirty deeds. But he slowly begins to come across loose pieces of evidence, things that don’t add up. Someone’s trying to unite all of the rival crime outfits under one banner. And that someone has a name.

(Here’s a hint: He’s played by Vincent D’Onofrio.)

I’ve heard this series called everything from “Batman Begins meets The Wire” to “dark and gritty done right.” It’s both, actually. But it’s also so much more. Daredevil explores a corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe we haven’t seen since 2008’s The Incredible Hulk: The grimy, broken down corner where the less-than-glamorous people make their home, where no amount of superhero bling and bang will change the real problems. Of course, this translates to a TV show about a blind ninja fighting a fat mobster whose big secret plan basically amounts to an evil gentrification scheme.

Marvel's Daredevil, Netflix, black costumeBut like Batman Begins before it, victory is in the execution. Unlike Batman Begins, however, Daredevil knows when to be smart and when to be comic-bookish. Probably the most comic-bookish sequence in the entire series is when Matt fights somebody who’s dressed in red-and-black ninja garb. It’s awesome. Then again, the sheer amount of blood and gore on this show probably offsets it quite a bit. But there’s a lot more to this show than any of that.

What makes Daredevil unique boils down to two things: The first is that it addresses real world problems in an intelligent and thought provoking way. Take Wilson Fisk’s evil gentrification plan, for example. In the real world, many reformers are concerned about the possibility of gentrification displacing poor people. While this fear may or may not be misplaced, I’ll grant you this series was intelligent and bold enough to take such a prickly issue and make it the focal point of the plot, and to great success. As a result, Daredevil has been catapulted into the upper echelons of TV entertainment.

Marvel's Daredevil, Netflix, fightThe second key to the series’ uniqueness is how it explores common superhero tropes and plot lines. How did Matt procure his costume? How does he function with all the injuries he sustains while fighting bad guys? What moral justification does Matt, a lawyer sworn to abide by the law, have to engage in violent vigilante justice? As Matt’s priest, Father Lantom (eagle-eyed comic book readers will recognize the character from Brian K. Vaughan’s The Runaways) says, “Another man’s evil does not make you good.” This last issue is brought to the forefront most excellently in the episode “Nelson vs. Murdock,” a particularly enjoyable installment. The show doesn’t always bother to answer the deep questions it raises, but like BBC’s Sherlock, it stands out as one of those rare TV shows that forces you to think.

Wilson Fisk, while never actually called “The Kingpin” as he is in the comics, is more than a match for our hero. Vincent D’Onofrio gives us a definitive version of Wilson Fisk. Depicted as a psychopathic murderer and cunning gangster with the mind of a child, D’Onofrio portrays a very human Fisk. Fisk here is a man who, like Matt, is haunted by a traumatic childhood. When Fisk and Matt collide, it only gets better. Fisk’s lady love, Vanessa, is a classy, wise woman who plays a pivotal role in shaping his development in the second half of the series. (Incidentally, Vanessa is played by Ayelet Zurer, who also portrayed Lara Lor-Van, Superman’s mom, in Man of Steel.)

Marvel's Daredevil, Netflix, Wilson Fisk, Vincent D'OnofrioD’Onofrio may be the definite stand out, but the rest of the cast also know how to pull their weight. Cox brings a strong degree of realism and emotion to his portrayal of Matt Murdock, making us wonder if he’s fighting for good for goodness sake, or because it’s how he gets his kicks. Charlie Cox even worked with actual blind people in order to learn tics and habits characteristic of the blind. Elden Henson is a great Foggy Nelson. He provides good comic relief, but also has an excellent capacity for a wide range of emotions. He’ll go down in the history books with Carlos Valdes’ Cisco from The Flash and Kat Dennings’ Darcy from the Thor movies as one of the great comic relief characters in superhero cinema. And what appraisal of acting talent would be complete without mentioning Vondie Curtis-Hall as Ben Urich and Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple? Both are exceptionally acted, interesting, and well-written characters. I can’t wait to see Dawson again when she comes back to reprise her role for the Luke Cage series.

This show is also great from a purely technical sense. The lighting on this show is beautiful. I mean, look at it! Most of it comes from street lamps, car headlights, police sirens, etc., enhancing the show’s gritty, street-level feel. The sheer innovation behind such effects is staggering. And then there’s the production design. Not a single set in this show looks cheap or reused, even the sets that are used repeatedly. Every time an old set reappears on the screen, I feel like I’m seeing something new in it. The look of the show matches the tone of the story, and that’s an element that works wonders when pulled off right.

Netflix's Daredevil, Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann WollThe only thing that really bugged me about this show is Karen Page. She’s portrayed as a bit more than your average damsel-in-distress. She’s knows her way around a gun, and gets a chance to kick some butt. But she really didn’t hit home for me as a character. She’s not superfluous or anything. She’s important to the plot and gets a lot done with Ben Urich, but I just have difficultly connecting with her as a character. I don’t immediately like Karen Page the way I like Matt or Foggy or Claire. I just don’t get Karen.

Two final things I’d like to highlight are the action sequences and the show’s portrayal of organized crime. Much praise has been heaped upon Daredevil’s realistic yet cool-looking fight scenes. The fight scenes here are choreographed very differently than from what you might find in Winter Soldier or The Avengers. The TV-MA-earning blood and gore aside, the fights scenes here have Matt and his enemies stopping to get back up off the ground and take on the other guy before he’s finished recovering from the last brutal attack. Matt takes more punishment than he dishes out half the time. But man, does he know how to fight! These scenes are structured in a way that casts the combatants as breakable humans, not titanic, superhuman bulldozers.

Marvel's Daredevl, Netflix, costumeBeing a crime buff, I loved the way they portrayed the organized crime entities in this show. They even give us a decent explanation of why the traditional Italian mob is nowhere to be seen. You’ve got the Russians, there’s the Yakuza, and the local chapter of the Chinese Triads. We also see a couple of characters pulled right from the comics: Leland Owlsley (Bob Gunton), a money launderer, and Turk Barrett (Rob Morgan), a two-bit thug with lousy luck. They’re all portrayed fairly accurately, with the foreigners speaking in their native tongues when English-speakers are not present, and each having their own individual quirks. They all have their respective motivations and agendas independent of Fisk. They’re all testaments to the show’s devotion to good characterization.

On the whole, Marvel’s Daredevil is an amazing show. It has great acting, great writing, great everything. I was psyched to hear that it has been renewed for a second season, to be released in 2016. I look forward to re-watching the first season and absorbing all the threads and grooves that made it so enjoyable the first time. Mind you though, this is definitely TV-MA. Make sure the kids don’t find this on your Netflix account. Save it for later. Much later. Trust me, they’ll love you for that when the time comes, because this series is otherwise incredible.

RATING: 10/10

Image 5 from nypost.com. All other images from rottentomatoes.com.

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A Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2 Review – Hello, Goodbye

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2TITLE: Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2
AUTHOR: Gail Simone
PENCILLER: Jan Duursema. Cover by Jill Thompson.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: May 6, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

When I reviewed Batman #40, a few people got on my case for my subtitle being “Dead Again.” It was, “Spoilers, man! Spoilers!”

Well, take a look at your primary cover for Nightwing/Oracle #2. Not much I can do about this one, kids. So don’t blame me!

Indeed, Gail Simone gives us a little bit of closure on pre-New 52 Nightwing and Oracle here. But not before a showdown with Flashpoint Hawkman and Hawkwoman. It may seem like Dick Grayson is fighting alone. But as always, Barbara Gordon has more than a few resources to call on, including one that longtime Simone fans will very much appreciate.

Naturally, much of what I said about the first issue still applies here. So lets hit our bullet points…

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2, Jan Duursema– Nightwing’s costume is too overdone, much akin to what was done in Injustice: Gods Among Us. That said, it’s great to see him back in blue.

– Duursema nails the older version of Barbara. It’s awesome to see her back, and in the hands of the writer who arguably wrote her the best.

– Hawkman and Hawkwoman have a nice bird motif that’s very fitting for Gail Simone, but other than that, I’m not hugely invested in them as villains.

It’s interesting that the Chip Kidd-designed variant covers for both Nightwing/Oracle issues featured art by Don Kramer. Jan Duursema’s art definitely has a Don Kramer vibe to it at times. For whatever reason, I see it whenever a character it looking toward the camera with a determined look. Oracle, Nightwing, and our two Thanagarians all have moments like that. It brings back fond memories of Kramer’s runs on Nightwing and Detective Comics.

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2, BarbaraThis issue has a surprise guest, and if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not going to tell you who it is (Spoilers, dude!). It’s a nice surprise, but there is once drawback to it. But in order to conceal this person’s identity from the reader for a bit, Simone has them dressed in brown robes during a scene with Oracle. That struck me as an odd choice. Why the robes? Is there a risk of them being recognized by the Thanagarians? Even if there is, why keep the disguise on while you’re in a private setting with Oracle? That was a head-scratcher.

The wedding of any incarnation of Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon is obviously pretty cool to see. Sadly, we only see it for half a page. But it’s still pretty impactful to not only see our couple in a matrimonial setting, but some pretty notable guests in the foreground. One might argue this is a moment we should have gotten several years ago. Then again, DC’s recent track record with superhero marriages isn’t exactly stellar…

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2My only nitpick with the wedding scene is Barbara’s dress. That’s a weird thing to pick at (especially considering I’m a guy), but it bothered me a bit. On the cover, Jill Thompson draws Barbara wearing a white dress with something of a computerized texture, which obviously wraps around and envelopes most of the image. In the issue, the lower portion of Barbara’s dress has the same texture. For yours truly, that ventured into hokey territory. It’s simply a matter of something working in the context of a cover, but not in the actual issue.

And with that…here they go, out of our lives again. DC brings them back, just to put them right back on the shelf. *sigh* It’s painful to see this happen to Oracle in particular. That character had so much depth to her, and on top of that, she was so damn cool. Obviously, a lot of good has come from DC giving Barbara her legs back and making her Batgirl again. The recent issues by Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher, and Babs Tarr come to mind immediately. But many longtime fans like myself have never stopped missing Oracle.

What can I say? It still hurts, damn it. It still hurts.

Image 1 from bleedingcool.com. Image 2 from comixology.com. Image 3 from shadowneko003.tumblr.com.

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A Secret Wars #1 Review – A Noob’s Nightmare

Secret Wars #1 (2015)TITLE: Secret Wars #1
AUTHOR: Jonathan Hickman
PENCILLER: Esad Ribic. Cover by Alex Ross.
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: May 6, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m not a Marvel noob by any means. I’ve been a reader for a long time. But full disclosure: I’ve been out of the loop lately. As such, Secret Wars #1 was bewildering to me on a number of levels. But my God, if it threw me for a loop, imagine what it must have done to those poor noobs…

You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones that saw Avengers: Age of Ultron on the first of the month, then came out to the comic shop several days later to see what the hell these Marvel comic books were all about. And low and behold, they found this: A book that pits the primary Marvel Universe against the Ultimate Marvel Universe in a desperate fight to survive as the multiverse collapses. And what’s more, it’s wrapped in a gorgeous Alex Ross cover (Oh hell, they’re all gorgeous.) very much reminiscent of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Secret Wars #1, 2015But indeed, a new Marvel Universe is about to be formed. And to  be fair, Marvel is doing what it can to keep everybody in the know. The book has a plain white expository page that simply says: “The multiverse is dying. Only two universes remain. Today, Earths collide.” That’s a pretty simplistic view of something that’s not simple at all. But it states things pretty plainly. We also get cast page, that diagrams almost everybody in the issue. Hell, the issue even comes with a giant foldout of Battleworld, which as I understand it, is where much of the story will take place.

The issue also has a pretty damn good hook, as Doctor Doom, Doctor Strange, and Molecule Man come face-to-face with the Beyonders, as an unknown narrator talks to us about God, and what happens when we die. Heavy stuff. But appropriate I suppose, considering, you know, it’s the end of the universe. When we circle back to it at the end, it’s fairly strong.

If you’ve been following the Ultimate books and the main Marvel stuff, there are some cool moments to be found here. Captain Marvel and Ultimate Iron Man face off. We see the Triskelion fly into primary Marvel Manhattan. Both versions of Spider-Man seem to simply be caught up in the mayhem, which I find fitting considering their standing within their respective fictional universes. But most of my cool points go to the sequence with The Punisher in the bar (see below). Talk about a scene with a punch line…

Secret Wars #1, Punisher, bar sceneStill, the issue jumps around so much between different characters that it can almost be frustrating, especially if you’re not familiar with who’s who. It’s understandable, considering the scope of what’s happening. But in the span of one issue (An oversized issue, but still a single issue.), we jump from Luke Cage and Iron Fist, to the Guardians of the Galaxy, to Storm and Thor, to Captain America and Iceman. And that’s just one page (shown above in part)! Throw in the fact that some of these characters don’t look the way mainstream culture knows them, i.e. Thor being a woman and Sam Wilson being Captain America, and the cyclone of confusion only gets stronger.

Both Esad Ribic and colorist Ive Svorcina deserve much credit for the much-needed epic feel they inject into the issue. While we don’t see a great deal of it here, Esad’s rendering of the Doctor Doom mask is awesomely intimidating. The desperation, terror, and determination he draws our heroes with is a beautiful thing. And Svorcina makes the issue a beautiful blaze of color, particularly in the way she reflects the colors in the sky off the various costumes. The issue as a whole is a lot to take in. But once you do, you know it’s gorgeous.

Regardless of how you rate the issue, between Secret Wars and Convergence, I’ve officially got event comic fatigue. More specifically, multiverse fatigue. No matter which worlds survive these respective crises, I can honestly say I’m ready to go back to my regularly scheduled comic books. Anybody else up for a non-event comic or two?

Image 1 from pastemagazine.com. Image 2 from gaish.tumblr.com.

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A Justice League #40 Review – His Mama Named Him Mobius

Justice League #40, coverTITLE: Justice League #40
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLERS: Kevin Maguire, Phil Jimenez, Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Scot Kolins, Jason Fabok, Jim Lee. Cover by Fabok.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: April 29, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This issue is HILARIOUS.

It’s not meant to be a funny issue, but it’s still hilarious. In putting together this issue about Metron and the Anti-Monitor, Geoff Johns has spotlighted a problem with not just DC Comics, but entertainment in general: Reboots, retcons, and remakes. This is particularly the case in the world of superheroes. We’re now on our third modern cinematic versions of Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man. And as this issue points out (in so many words), the DC Universe has had five (maybe sixth, depending on what happens in Convergence) continuity adjustments in the last 30 years. Even Marvel is about to do a massive reboot.

Keep all in mind as you read these lines from Metron…

“Although it is unknown to all but a very few, the birth and destruction of the universe has been an ongoing cycle. And overtime, that cycle has accelerated. Because of that acceleration, the fabric of this universe is losing its cohesion. Reality has been taken apart and been put back together too many times.”

Metron, Justice League #40, Justice League #40That last line is hysterical, especially considering the man writing this is the chief creative officer of DC Entertainment! It’s funny, but also somewhat gratifying as a fan, just to see this sort of thing acknowledged in a story. All things considered, I don’t think I’ve ever read an issue this “meta.”

As we learn in Justice League #40, the Anti-Monitor, in his latest conquest to consume universes and realities, has somehow “cracked open” the Multiverse (again, see Convergence) for others to exploit. Metron, the designated observer of the space-time continuum in the DCU, tries to reason with the Anti-Monitor, citing that reality cannot survive another crisis. What follows is a revelation that The Anti-Monitor is on a collision course with one of DC’s most powerful entities. And indeed, the very fabric of reality may unravel.

Evidently the coming conflict (Hint: The story is called Darkseid War.) is a very personal one for The Anti-Monitor. We even find out he has a birth name: Mobius. His involvement suggests cosmic, potentially time-altering consequences in the coming issues of Justice League. Of course, the stakes seem to be just as high in Convergence. How they’re connected, if at all, remains to be seen. But it would seemingly behoove them to connect the two stories in some way.

Justice League #40, two-page spread, Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Scot KolinsWith an artistic team like this one, it’s no surprise this issue is gorgeous. I’m a huge Kevin Maguire fan, so opening the book with his work was big thrill for yours truly. He has such a gift for the little nuances in human expression, and that’s on great display with Johns goes over some of the Jack Kirby Fourth World stuff, specifically the switch involving Scot Free (later Mister Miracle) and Orion). After nine pages from Maguire, we get a two-page tribute to Crisis on Infinite Earths from Phil Jimenez. This is followed by nods to Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis, and Flashpoint by Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, and Scot Kolins respectively. After that, it’s a two-page callback to Justice League: Origin from Jason Fabok. Jim Lee, one of the true masters of the explosive superhero comic book, finishes it out from there. Most of this stuff is really gorgeous. It’s a tribute not only to the artists, but Johns’ ability to take what is essentially a giant info-dump, and turn it into a gorgeous issue.

Supposedly, this storyline has been planned since the New 52 began. I believe that. Justice League hasn’t been perfect. But it has had a certain flow to it, not unlike Johns’ Green Lantern run. We’ll be seeing a lot of heavy hitters on the pages of this book in the months to come. Let’s hope we see a home run.

Image 1 from dc.wikia.com. Image 2 from waitwhatpodcast.com. 

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A Divergence #1 Review – The New Batman, a New Era for Superman, and More Mobius

Divergence #1 (2015)TITLE: Divergence #1
AUTHORS: Scott Snyder, Gene Luen Yang, Geoff Johns.
PENCILLERS: Greg Capullo, John Romita Jr., Jason Fabok.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: Free Comic Book Day Release
RELEASED: May 2, 2015

By Levi Sweeney
Staff Writer, Grand X

This year, we actually got something nice from DC for Free Comic Book Day. Not only do we have three talented writers matched with three equally talented artists, but the three mini-stories we’re given are actually pretty amazing! Snyder, Yang, and Johns are all in top form today, and if these stories are any indication of what’s to come post-Convergence, then I think I might just take a look.

Divergence #1 seeks to set up the new status quo for Batman, Superman, and the Justice League after Convergence. Batman gets top billing, as he often does these days. In “The Rookie”, Gotham City without Batman has thankfully not descended into chaos and fire following the events of Batman #40. It’s actually pretty refreshing to see Gotham at peace for once, though the narrating TV reporter speaks of unhealed wounds. Indeed, Capullo treats us to a beautiful splash page of a crowd of Gothamites shining miniature Bat Signals in the sky, looking positively sullen.

Batman, Divergence, Greg CapulloBut all hope is not lost! The Hillary Clinton-esque Geri Powers appears to reassure the citizens of Gotham City that a new Batman is about to be born. Who’s behind the cowl this time? I think I’ll leave that for you readers to find out for yourselves. But I’ll tell you this: It’s equal parts astounding and amusing. It was also nice to see the seeming end of Batman through the point-of-view of the ordinary, mundane folks like the reporters and cops. The inner circle of the Bat-family is nowhere in sight, except for the new “Batman.”

In “Exposed,” we’re introduced to Gene Luen Yang’s take on Superman. We start with Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen chatting sometime after Clark’s had his secret identity outed by Lois Lane. To top it all off, he’s operating with weakened powers. In my opinion, Superman has behaved in pretty much every single New 52 appearance as an irrepressible jerkhat. This includes Geoff Johns’ run on Justice League, which features Superman and his fellow heroes engaging in petulant bickering while, you know, saving the world.

Divergence #1, Superman, John Romita Jr. So Superman here is kind of a jerk, understandably so. But he then beats up this super-strong thug who tries to kill him and some innocent bystanders. At least he tried to avoid the fight, and he actually saved some people. Jimmy Olsen then plasters pictures of the fight all over social media, and excrement hits the fan for the Man of Steel. He then tells off Lois Lane when she tries to help him.

I like Yang’s story, but I don’t like his Superman. Yang’s a talented writer, but I wish the people at DC would get over themselves and get the message that their heroes don’t all have to be jerks. Superman is one such hero, and he’s a good place to start. At the very least, the story was still pretty fun. Yang’s writing style is free of any grim-and-gritty pretentions, a theme reinforced by the bright, easy-lined artwork of John Romita Jr.

And that brings us to the final story in this issue: “The Other Amazon.” Fittingly enough, this story by Geoff Johns focuses primarily on the lore of Wonder Woman, using it to highlight the origin of The Anti-Monitor, a.k.a. Mobius. The long and short of it is that this rogue Amazon named Myrina gives birth to Mobius, whose father is revealed to us at the end, and we get a preview of Darkseid War. She will apparently be a major player in this latest hullaballoo. I really hope that this will end up being a feather in Wonder Woman’s cap. From what we see here, it certainly looks likes it will be the case.

Divergence #1, Wonder Woman, Jason FabokThe mini-story itself does its job well. It gives us a window into what’s going on in Darkseid War, and makes you want to check it out. It actually looks pretty epic! On the other hand, I’m beginning to get fed up with these Geoff Johns-led super-mega-events. First there was Blackest Night, and then Flashpoint, Trinity War, Forever Evil, etc. I mean really, when will it end? At least Jason Fabok’s art was nice. It manages to be bright and flashy even when most of the background is dark brownish and grayish.

On the whole, this Free Comic Book Day issue was by no means of low quality. DC really invested a lot into this issue, bringing in some real heavy hitters, and boy, did they hit hard. Divergence #1 gave us three engaging, entertaining stories with lovely artwork and solid writing. This is a far cry from last year’s Free Comic Book Day issue, where they just reprinted the origin of Chris Kent. That was just lazy.

Fortunately, Divergence #1 is anything but.

Image 1 from dreamwidth.org. Image 2 from weirdsciencedccomicsblog.wordpress.com. Image 3 from bleedingcool.com.

Follow Levi Sweeney on Twitter @levi_sweeney, or at his blog, The Stuff of Legend.

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