Monday, September 14, 2009

Cry me a river....cry me some Justice

Lately I haven´t had many additions to my pull list. I don´t know how it is with you but since the price of comics has gone from 2.99 to 3.99 I haven´t added many new titles to my pull list.

And I´m eliminating some of the ones I´m currently reading half hearted. Any good 2.99 title that´s on the list stays but other books like GHOST RIDER, FLASH or GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY had to go. Okay, in the case of Ghost Rider I just forgot to kick the title off the list when I started at my new comic shop because let´s face it : Javier Saltares totally made the title and it hasn´t been the same since heleft. But the Flash issues have been lying in my bag for almost a year now without any inclination on my part to read them. And let´s be realistic : Paul Pelletier is not coming back to Guardians. In fact he´s already moved to his new project WORLD WAR HULKS .

I really like Paul Pelletier but it´s hell to keep up with him the way he´s jumping from title to title.

Now it´s not so that I´m dumping all the stuff that´s in my bag. I mean I ordered it and when it´s not too horrible I will buy it sooner or later even if it´s as bad as COUNTDOWN. Yes, I knew that it had zero relevance to the FINAL CRISIS series even if it was started as the lead - in to it. Took it anyway. As well as FINAL CRISIS. I have to say FINAL CRISIS, COUNTDOWN and DEATH OF THE NEW GODS all tell the same story while they also totally contradict each other.

Those three can´t possibly co - exist and if you have to choose one then my tip for you is DEATH OF THE NEW GODS. Because COUNTDOWN is just too different from issue to issue and the only highlight are the issues by Tom Derenick who really should be on a regular title after his great stint on SHADOWPACT. Okay, there was one issue which was extremely well written by Paul Dini, Adam Beechem and Keith Giffen. It even has art by Jim Starlin even if it doesn´t look quite as good as on DEATH OF THE NEW GODS.

It´s issue 05 and the reason why it´s so brilliant is that it tells you a story you already know. Maybe I´m stupid or the writers on this were brilliant. My money is on the later. Now there might people who are not familiar with the particular story that is told in the issue but every fan of the particular character ( it´s not one of Jack Kirby´s most prolifient works but it has lots of fans of which some are famous comic book creators ) should know it. I should know it.

From the cover which is really a dead giveaway to all the story elements every piece is something that should tell me which story this is. But I only started to realize that in the last few pages and I was really sure when I read the last caption. Well played Sirs.

Now another problem with COUNTDOWN is that it plays into too many titles so you don´t get the feeling that you have all the pieces. Like with the many tie - ins to CIVIL WAR you get the impression to miss big parts of the story which leaves you unsatisfied. So I can´t really recommend the series. If you want you should at least read issue 05. There might be some other cool issues but so far none comes to mind and that is not a good sign.

FINAL CRISIS. Well it has some pages by Carlos Pacheco and there are some interesting story elements. But all things considered the main problem is that it tried to achieve too many things at once and failed for most of it.

When I first heard of another crisis so soon after the last one I thought it was too soon. And I was right. DC really should have waited a few decades so they could come up with a solid story. What they published instead has a lot of flash but not much real substance and is even rushed in some parts - especially the last issue.

When CrossGen folded all the titles had to be wrapped up in the last issue and they didn´t even manage to do that on all books. On the ones they did they had to compress the remaining story into the last issue - no matter if they had just two left or another years worth - and if you have read one of those final issues you will have a deja vue when reading FINAL CRISIS 7. I also can´t recommend FINAL CRISIS because the quality also is changing from issue to issue and while Grant Morrison delivers his usual great ideas nobody really understood the ending and it really wasn´t that necessary.

Like on HOUSE OF M the story itself was " meeh " while the best part was the immediate fallout. LEGION OF THREE WORLDS is just beyond cool ( one of these days I have to get to the last issue ) and ROGUE´S REVENGE was also a solid title even if it had the horrible Scott Kolins on art. But the end of FINAL CRISIS went just over my head and I wasn´t the only one. I felt cheated and I think Grant Morrison wrote himself into a corner. It couldn´t have been worse if Superman had defeated Darkseid with a hug. So no points for this one either.

Why DEATH OF THE NEW GODS you might ask. Isn´t the Fourth World one of Jack Kirby´s greatest stories that should never be undone ? Yes it is. Isn´t it a really bad idea by DC to kill off the whole franchise and all the great characters involved like Mr. Miracle and Big Barda ( massitta ! ) ? Yes it is. Wouldn´t it be better if it had never happened ? Yes it would.

The reason why it is still my favorite of the three and the one I would pick if I had to choose is Jim Starlin. Nobody destroys universes like Jim. Back when he was at Marvel he did it on a regular basis and he always did it with style. As he did on DEATH OF THE NEW GODS. There are really only a few writers who can write stories about gods really good. Oh, that doesn´t mean that somebody like Dan Juergens can´t write Thor but it will always read like Superman with a hammer.

The gods of the Foruth World - that´s opera. Big opera with lots of pathos and deceit and lies and death. Above all death. Walter Simonson is one of the few who understands that as his run on Thor as well as his fantastic ORION series showed and another one is Jim Starlin.

Jim Starlin writes death like no one else and the more the better. Which doesn´t mean he can´t do the quiet little deaths like in DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL but the bigger the better. A world, a planet a whole universe - that´s when he really starts to run true to form.

Which is the reason why even if DEATH OF THE NEW GODS kills of the Fourth World you wouldn´t want anyone else to do it. The story is rooted deeply into DC lore and even if you don´t have to know it all to understand it it´s nice for the hardcore fans. COSMIC ODYSSEY is one of the stories that are referenced as the reason why Superman and Orion are at each other throats and I really liked that. As well as the fact that as the story progresses Superman reaches the limits of his powers. He´s often seen as a god by mortals but the New Gods are real gods so compared to them he´s ultimately like a child.

It is no secret that Darkseid was the blueprint for Thanos at Marvel and after decades of writing Thanos Jim Starlin really knows how that character thinks.

Which is not that different from Darkseid. Aside from the story - which is also a murder mystery which is also one of the reasons why I like the series - there is also the art by Jim Starlin who hasn´t looked this good since MYSTERY IN SPACE. So this series gets my thumb up as this weeks recommendation. It´s already been collected into a 256 page hardcover which usually goes for 29.99 but which you can get at for 21.99. There is also a softcover trade available but since you don´t get much of a discount from on that one it might be better to grab it at your local comic shop. And as always if you are abroad or in the States just compare prices.

But....I didn´t want to write about the CRISIS. I just got sidetracked talking about the comics that I took on my last visit at the comic shop and that new titles have a hard time to get on my pull list.

I haven´t added a single new book from the last five or six Diamond catalogues. Even titles I really dig like BOOSTER GOLD or INCREDIBLE HERCULES are still not on my pull list. There are more and more books that I order aside from my pull list and some of them will not get on my pull list so I can pick or choose which issues to get. Which in the two cases mentioned above is not an issue ( I missed two issues of BOOSTER GOLD but that was because I waited too long ) but in cases like the new BATMAN AND ROBIN title by Grant Morrison where they already have another artist on issue 4 I prefer it that way.

So I can try out new books and decide later if they are added to the pull list or if I follow them in the trade format at some later time. In the case of DARK AVENGERS and SECRET WARRIORS I read the first six issue story arc and as I thought they have different artists beginning with issue 7. On SECRET WARRIORS it will probably be a permanent thing so this is clearly a candidate for the trade section. On DARK AVENGERS I´m not sure as Mike Deodato might come back after the crossover with the X - Men that is currently underway but I´m not sure how that part is going to wind up in a trade.

I think I´ll stay clear of the issues by other artists and I will check out the issues for the next storyarc if they are by Mike Deodato. But I think it will go to the trade list anyway as 3.99 is just too much to keep it on the pull list. I know, prices for trades will be going up sooner or later but thanks to the lower prices at amazon here in Germany I still might be able to afford a few.

Another 3.99 book I added to my reading pile that is currently not on my pull list is CRY FOR JUSTICE. Yes, today´s post is a bit all over the place - and don´t you love it that way. At least it never gets boring and even I get surprised what the post will finally be about. With all the problems the higher price brings it sounds reasonable to keep the new titles to a minimum and to just do books that are really necessary. So do we really need another book featuring the Justice League ?

With new series or mini series involving the Justice League you have to keep in mind that each one is it´s own kind of beast. There are of course those that everybody loves like Alex Ross´JUSTICE twelve parter but there are also series like JUSTICE LEAGUE ELITE which I think was one of the best JLA books ever while for others it´s the greatest pile of animal droppings ever. Each one has his favorites in that departement.

So of course I was hesistant when I first heard of CRY FOR JUSTICE. Aside from Alex Ross not many artist who do painted artwork work as well inside a comic as on the cover as the case of Del Otto´s SECRET WAR showed. Luckily Mauro Cascioli ( who already did his magic on TRIALS OF SHAZAM ) is one of the few who can do big and impressiva as well as fast and action packed. The art was always a big factor for me when it comes to decide if I pick up a comic and Mauro already impressed me before I knew that it wasn´t some promo art for DC but for a new Justice League book.

What always has to win me over to read a book is the story. How well is it written and is it a story which ramifications to the big picture I find interesting ? Which caracters does it select ? The Justice League as one of the premier DC team books has always been about the mix of characters and the resulting clash of personalities. May it be the fights between Hawkman and Green Arrow which are not only based on general politics but on League politics as well as we all kmow since IDENTITY CRISIS.

May it be the difference AND the similarities between monarchs like Aquaman and Wonder Woman or the camradery of Green Lantern and the Flash.....the most interesting parts have always been when the members interact on a more human level. Which is also where the story of CRY FOR JUSTICE plays. When you look at the members of the Justice League and the power they posess you can forget that they are also human. They get angry, they get sad and they die. And when one of them does they keep his memory alive and carry on. The League endures.

But people can endure only so much and with the bodycount of the League getting higher and higher after the last crisis ( yes, we are back to that topic ) Hal Jordan has had enough. After GREEN LANTERN REBIRTH the GREEN LANTERN title needed a bit of time to really get interesting which was sad because Carlos Pacheco had already left. Things started to roll when ONE YEAR LATER knocked and ever since the SINIESTRO CORPS WAR it´s one of the constantly best written titles DC has. And one of the reasons is that while many may think that Hal´s a boring character as Green Arrow puts it : I know when Hal gets like this --- things happen. Things change. And as legions of DC readers can recall not always for the best.

Sometimes Hal has a short fuse and when the s - word hits the fan things get interesting for the reader. As in JUSTICE LEAGUE ELITE Hal decides to become a little more pro - active about going after the criminals. One of the themes that a book like Justice League has to tackle is justice and what it means. What it means for society, what it means for superheroes like the league members who are somewhere between vigilantism and sanctioned police force. But also what it means for each member.

Of course the way writer James Robinson assembles his particular Justice League team is nothing new but I think it´s fitting that it´s not like in JUSTICE LEAGUE ELITE where you had the big discussion and afterwards the members decided which side to choose. No in CRY FOR JUSTICE you have a falling out and during the course of the history characters meet who are sometimes loners but who become united seeking the same thing : justice. all of them have suffered a loss and they want somebody to pay for it.

Now for some this might seem primitive and an - eye - for - an - eye but one of the main parts of superhero comics has alwas been to punish the guilty " which sometimes means catching the nad guys and handing them over to the justice system. Sometimes it means taking the law into his own hands and meting out your own brand of justice. Which is just fitting where a character like Hal Jordan comes into play. People forget how powerful he really is as well that - regarding to the Guardians of the Galaxy and interstellar law - he is the designated law enforcer of sector 2814 which includes Earth.

He works with the legal system of the world and his fellow justice leaguers - but he doesn´t have to. Whatever he decides goes as long as he stays within the directives for Green Lanterns. He could go his own way all alone but of course Ollie and the fates have decided otherwise. Hal and Ollie are DC´s big buddy duo and James Robinson writes some wonderful and funny lines for them. Continuity is always one of the thing I look out for - not so much in " where did this happen ? " but more in the sense of " is this true to the characters history ? ". And reading the issues you get a feeling for the long and rich history between Hal and Ollie.

History also comes into play in the book in the form of the history of the DC universe as James Robinson takes some characters from the corners that are a bit off the paths we usually travel. It´s no wonder that he adds forgotten Starman Mikaal Tomas, the blue skinned alien who was also in his run on STARMAN, to the team. And I´m saying " the forgotten " because whenever somebody writes about homosexuality in comics he´s never mentioned. Another more obscure character is Congorilla who I didn´t know previously. But I always like to learn about new characters ( which might be one of the reasons why I´m not afraid of continuity ) and for those wo are not familiar with some of the cast members each issue contains an origin in the annotation section of the books.

And of course everybody knows that comics with monkes or apes sell better. I hope it´s also true for this title but I doubt it was the only reason for including him. in the last issue I read - issue 3 - we also have Supergirl, Captain Marvel - which is Freddy Freeman - and the Atom on the team. Each following his own trail to bring someone to justice which ultimately brings them together. By adding Supergirl James Robinson has a member of the Superman family on the book and I hope that he can finally give her some character since they never accomplished that in her solo title.

Captain Marvel is kind of new for me since I haven´t seen him since the trials and the Atom - in this case Ray Palmer - is once again somebody who walks the fine line between grey and black because of what happened during the last crisis and especially in the pages of COUNTDOWN ( see how it all comes together in the end ? ). There are now two Atoms in the DC universe and I hope they keep the new one around for a while. I mean if we can have two flashes ans more than one Green Lantern why can´t we have two Atoms ? At least for a while.

What is a bit weird for me is that one of the villains ( I don´t know if he will be the big one in this series ) is Prometheus who James Robinson wants to restore to his former glory. The problem for me is that the last time I saw Prometheus he wiped the floor with the Justice League. Okay, he was defeated but it was very difficult. Now it seems that in the meantime - while I was away - other writers used the character so poorly that he became a total douchebag and all those stories are now being retconned by saying it was an imposter and a bad one at that.

Works with me since I missed most of that. For me Prometheus was always one for the villains hall of fame so when a writer decides to pimp him - more power to him, I say.

So, great story, great art, great heroes, great villains.....I don´t think there is much to add. Especailly after my little detour to Crisis Wasteland. Being a 3.99 title this will probably not go on my pull list but that´s mostly because as a seven issue limited series the next issue is already after the halfway point so it´s not worth the effort.

There are some 3.99 books at DC like BOOSTER GOLD or DOOM PATROL that have back up features which is not the case in this comic. What it does have are extra pages with a two page origin comic for the different team members as well as a few pages by James Robinson about the series and the story of the characters that also include pencil pages by Mauro Cascioli so that you DO have added value to the book.

In any case I will definitely keep on reading the title to see how it all ends as I suspect that this will have an impact on the regular Justice League book as James Robinson is going to be the new writer on the regular JLA book. CRY FOR JUSTICE gets my recommendation so be sure to check it out the next time you go to the comic store as it´s a book well worth your money.

More info on CRY FOR JUSTICE :

  • preview issue 1

  • preview issue 2

  • preview issue 3

  • interview with james robinson

  • review issue 1

  • I also wanted to write a bit about Chris Claremont´s new x - title X - MEN FOREVER that picks up where he left 17 years ago but that will have to wait. You will have to read about how I came around to read it after I had decided the world doesn´t need this book in the next installment of Germany´s best comic blog.

    edit : Since it has been mentioned in the comments there were rumors that Batwoman was going to be in the book and here is the page in question ( I have marked the important part red ) although I have to say that I can´t neither deny nor affirm that it really is Batwoman.

    New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN :

  • top ten posts

  • more posts of interest

  • No, baby, I´m with you. You and me. Old times, new times, all the time.


    collectededitions said...

    *Technically* (and I'm in no way saying this either [A] excuses the Final Crisis/Countdown/Death of the New Gods confusion nor [B] actually makes sense on the page), but the idea is that Countdown and Death of the New Gods (which fit together somewhat well) happened, at the end of which Darkseid died and fell back in time to appear in Seven Soldiers of Victory, and from there to Final Crisis. But see (A) and also see (B).

    Wasn't Batwoman supposed to be in Cry for Justice?

    SUBZERO said...

    Okay, I didn´t know that about the whole FINAL CRISIS debacle even if it does not help in the least bit.

    As to Batwoman : the series is still going and according to writer James Robinson some team members will appear in later issues. In fact she could be in issue 2 on the last panel of page two ( I have added the page above )..