Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Justice League of America #6 Review – Batman Survives…?

Justice League of America #6, Bryan HitchTITLE: Justice League of America #6
AUTHOR/PENCILLER: Bryan Hitch
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: December 23, 2015

***Go all the way back to the beginning with our review of Justice League of America #1.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m starting to get worried about this book. It’s been plagued by delays, to the point that they had to plug different creators into issue #5 and make it a filler issue. Needless to say that’s frustrating, especially when you consider Hitch has put together the best Justice League book on the stands.

With his true nature revealed, Rao goes one-on-one with Superman, and the Man of Steel has more than met his match. And things don’t look so good for Wonder Woman or Aquaman either. Meanwhile, Green Lantern and The Flash remain trapped in the past, searching for answers about what’s happening in their time.

So here’s my question: What does this have to do with Batman? The Dark Knight is the only Leaguer vertical on the cover, having apparently been the last man standing in a battle of sorts. But no such battle takes place in the issue, and Batman doesn’t even appear. So while the issue itself is more than fine, there’s a disconnect with the cover from the get-go.

IMG_1316The confrontation between Superman and Rao in this issue is brief, punctuated by the Man of Steel being sent flying across the arctic with a single punch. Hitch goes as far as to give us a two-page spread of his landing, which creates a massive crater. It’s arguable whether that much page space was merited for a moment like that. But it does create the epic/”wide screen” vibe Hitch is going for. And he gets a little more slack from me, considering this confrontation meant something. We’d been building up to it for four issues (we don’t count issue #5), and it adds to Rao’s credibility as a threat to the League. Interestingly, I remember Scott Snyder and Jim Lee doing a similar long-distance punch in Superman Unchained. But that fight wasn’t nearly as impressive as this one, as much of this series has been built around Rao. That wasn’t necessarily the case with…whatever the monster from that series was called.

Hitch remains very good at making it seem like all the Leaguers stand on equal footing, which is immensely refreshing in a company that overemphasizes Batman to death. Hell, intentional or not, they even did it with this cover! But regardless, Hitch is able to place the plot threats for Superman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, and all the others on equal footing. That’s a sign of great writing.

Justice League of America #6, Wonder Woman, Bryan HitchThere’s something to be said about how religion is portrayed in this series. Obviously you have the Rao character performing miracles as his disciples seek to recruit new followers who are obviously being deceived. Then in this issue, Wonder Woman has some dialogue with the Oraculum on Olympus about being called a god that might make believers frown. These two lines in particular…

“I’ve never been comfortable with that. Being a god. Being somebody others would pray to. Would believe in.”

“Perhaps it is more important that you believe in yourself.”

I’m not sure if there are supposed to be real-world implications here or not. I’ve never been big on religious agendas, or agendas of any kind, in my comic books. But if it’s a good story, which doesn’t beat you over the head with whatever ideals the writer is conveying,  hat usually trumps any sort of distaste brought on by preachiness. What we’ve seen so far in JLA is good storytelling, so I’m once again inclined to be lenient with it.

While he’s got some stiff competition from Geoff Johns over in Justice League proper, Bryan Hitch has managed to put together the best JL book on the stands right now. It’s a book that truly feels worth of the League. In an interview earlier this year, Hitch called referred to his vision for this book as “an HBO series with an unlimited budget.” If you’re a DC fan and you’re not reading this book, you need to do some binge watching.

Image 1 from darkknightnews.com. Image 2 from author’s collection. 

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Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Justice League of America #1 Review – The Team Comes Together

Justice League of America #1 (2015)TITLE: Justice League of America #1
AUTHOR/PENCILLER: Bryan Hitch
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $5.99
RELEASED: June 17, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Yeah…yeah, this feels good. This feels right. This feels like a Justice League book!

Bryan Hitch’s extended love letter to the Justice League begins with Superman’s dead body. A whole PILE of dead Superman bodies, actually. The mysterious and elusive Infinity Corporation has been using the “Stones of Forever” to retrieve Superman’s corpse from the near future over and over again. The theme seems to be that once Superman dies, all is lost. A short time later, the League faces off the The Parasite. But how is The Parasite connected to the Infinity Corporation? And how is the Infinity Corporation connected to the massive revelation at the end of the issue?

Justice League of America #1, interiorThere’s a certain purity to this issue that I love. Geoff Johns’ run on Justice League has done much more right than it has wrong. But at times iit still falls victim to the trend of “over-Baturation,” i.e. overblowing the importance of Batman within the context of the League. There’s no over-Baturation in this issue. The story thus far is very Superman-centric, but that’s because the coming story largely deals with Superman’s mythology. And even then, we get the sense that no member of the League is more important than another. We’re not constantly being reminded how bad ass Batman is, or how many overblown constructs Green Lantern can create. I came away from this issue believing in the League as a team.

And wouldn’t you know it, they actually act like a team! They look out for each other during battle. We see Batman and Cyborg strategizing. They refer to one another by their first names (Which is weird in the context of a battle, but oh well.) They feel like a well oiled machine that’s been operating for over five years. That’s a vibe that Geoff Johns couldn’t create after Justice League: Origin, and one can argue he has trouble with it to this day. To Hitch it comes very natural. He creates an interesting sense of unseen history between the characters.

Justice League of America #1, Aquaman, United NationsWe also get a subplot where Aquaman talks to the UN about a trade agreement with Atlantis. We’re reminded that Atlantis is indeed the largest nation on Earth, and Aquaman assures them that Atlantean technology will not be used against the surface world. This is obviously a seed planted for later. But for the time being, it’s nice to see Aquaman getting some extra emphasis.

I can’t complain much about the art here. There is a panel about mid-issue where The Flash looks a little…stretchy. But that’s the biggest criticism I have here. Our opening scene is beautifully rendered, as we see Superman amidst the end of the world. The Parasite is also wonderfully drawn. In an interesting twist that I personally haven’t seen, Hitch renders him getting bigger as he gains more power. That’s a nice touch, and it really sells The Parasite as a menacing monster.

Justice League of America #1, The ParasiteWe’re only one issue into Hitch’s run. But as far as I’m concerned, Justice League of America is already as high a priority as Justice League, if not more so. My early impression is that this is a good book for longtime fans to pick up, as it restores some of that camaraderie among the League that’s synonymous with stories dating back to the Silver Age, and the very birth of the League. The fact that Hitch could inject that old school appeal into this book, while still staying true to the New 52 and modern continuity, is pretty damn cool to say the least.

Image 1 from fanboysinc.com. Image 2 and 3 from comicvine.com.

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