Friday, May 11, 2018

Comic Shop Comics: May 9th

Justice League: No Justice #1 (DC Comics) It can be difficult to experience a new comic book in a vacuum, without going into it with thoughts, guesses and opinions based not only on what knows about the characters and creators, but also what one has been seeing for months in solicitations or online discussion. For me, it's impossible, even as I pay less and less attention to comics "news" sites. So I've been thinking about this weird-looking weekly miniseries for awhile now, which seemed premised as a sort of Most-Star Squadron, with members of the Justice Leagues teaming with members of the Teen Titans and some villains and other heroes to form color-coded squads with weird names like "Team Mystery" and "Team Wonder."

The short preview story that appeared in last week's DC Nation #0 was so in medias res that it didn't little to clear anything up, just showing those teams in action as they battled their way across Brainiac's homeworld of Colu that it didn't really reveal anything other than what was in the solicitations (except, perhaps, how artist Jorge Jimenez would be drawing some of the characters appearing in the upcoming Justice League relaunch).

Well now we get some clarity, as the event actually kicks-off. It is being co-written by Scott Snyder, James Tynion and Joshua Williamson. Snyder is to be expected, as he wrote Dark Nights: Metal, which was essentially a Batman-centric Justice League story, and was slated to be writing Justice League upon relaunch (Which excited me to no end, as Metal was one of the best League stories since at least the post-Flashpoint reboot). As for Tynion and Williamson, the former of whom co-writes with Snyder a lot and the latter of whom wrote Justice League Vs. Suicide Squad, their presence made a lot more sense upon the announcement of two new Justice League series, Justice League Dark by Tynion and Justice League Odyssey by Williamson. The artist for this issue, and the whole series, is Francis Manapul, who previously drew parts of Geoff Johns' climactic "Darkseid War," and classed the joint up considerably when he did so.

The book opens with the Green Lantern Corps gathering around the Source Wall, with Hal, John, Guy and Kyle in the center, and all but Kyle getting a few lines. Interestingly, Guy and John both seem to blame Hal and, as Guy puts it, "your friends on the Justice League" for breaking the wall at the end of Metal. Indeed, Metal's epilogue set up the upcoming Justice League by positing that with the Source Wall broken, things from the other side could no access and threaten the DC Universe, and it would be up to the League to stop those new threats (I found Kyle's silence, which isn't dwelt upon, interesting as well. I may be misremembering, as I haven't read Green Lantern or any Lantern books with any regularity since Johns left the franchise, but didn't one of the books contain a storyline in which Kyle was able to travel to the other side of the Source Wall and come back...? Something that was always thought to be impossible-ish...?)

Next is a neat two-page spread of 21 tight panels, jumping from three different battles to Amanda Waller in front of red computer screens flashing "Crisis Alert." It appears that Brainiac has launched simultaneous attacks on all four--are there really just the four now?--of DC's super-teams, The Suicide Squad, The Titans, The Teen Titans and, of course, The Justice League (but not Batman's "of America" team, which is apparently already out of business, even though two of its non-Batman members show up on two of the Teams). Brainiac "wins" within a matter of pages, and various characters awake in his spaceship, all of them now dressed in different versions of their regular costumes (I was, as I've said, disappointed; the costumes are essentially similar to their original ones, just with more lines in unusual places, a few light-up discs attached and the tint of their coloration skewed weirdly; personally, I think I might have preferred these temporary costumes be differently-colored versions of their regular costumes. For example, if Cyborg's redesign was consistent throughout the others. But whatever...I am assuming I'll get used to these in a few more pages, and then everyone will go back to their old costumes by the fourth issue).

The seemingly random nature of the assembled characters is at least explained in-story: Brainiac realizes the potential of Earth's superheroes, but he thinks they "waste it in comfortable formations" based on bonds their "fragile emotions" have engendered among them. So he defeated all the world's defenders to a) prove his point and b) abduct the heroes he needs. He has then formed them into the teams that make victory against the new threat most probable.

As an aside here, it's fun to think of who he plucked and from where. Most of the current Justice League's line-up was taken, while Aquaman was the only one left on Earth (The League's Lanterns, Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, weren't present in the fight with Brainiac, nor at the Source Wall with the GLC). From the Teen Titans, he took Robin, Beast Boy, Raven and Starfire; again, most of the line-up. From the Suicide Squad he took only Harley Quinn. And from The Titans, the grown-up sidekicks plus Omen, he one. Huh. I guess he beat them all up just for fun. Then there are all the random characters: Martian Manhunter, Zatanna, Doctor Fate (although I don't know which one, there have been three or four since Flashpoint), Lobo, The Demon Etrigan and The Atom (Choi, it looks like). And then the villains: Lex Luthor, Deathstroke, Sinestro and, most randomly, Starro, fresh from his star (fish) turn in Metal.

In the real world, it will be interesting to see the rationale for these characters as the stories develop. Certainly some are likely just there for fun (Starro) or their popularity (Harley, maybe Deathstroke), and others to the ground work for the upcoming League line-ups, but a lot of the above characters do not appear to be on the new League line-ups (For example, one might expect to see Fate or Etrigan on Justice League Dark after this series, but only Wonder Woman and Zatanna from this event are). Further, the solicitation for the fourth issue mentions that "some heroes will be lost forever," so I suppose it's quite possible that some of these folks are here to act as cannon fodder.

As for what Brainiac needs them for, and why he's re-dressed them all, it appears that the hole in the Source Wall allowed Marvel's Celestials The Millennium Giants The Omega Titans to enter the universe, where they will begin eating planets Galactus style, deciding which of them gets to eat which planet based by the dominant fundamental force in that planet: Entropy, Mystery, Wisdom and Wonder. Brainiac's plan to abduct a bunch of super-people, break them into ideal teams, outfit them with nodes that imbue them with the appropriate energy to match the four forces of the four planet-eaters and thwart them; to ensure the Justice League's cooperation, he set it up so that Earth will be the Galactuses next stop if they eat Colu.

It seems like a decent plan but it all goes to hell in time for the cliffhanger ending, as a scene from Justice League Vs. Suicide Squad comes into play and Brainiac is unexpectedly removed from the equation.

By banding all these diverse characters together (and by diverse I mean from various places; there are three times green-skinned people as there are brown-skinned people among the assembled characters, and as many orange-skinned, pink-skinned or giant, psychic starfish as there are Earthlings of color), this issue has the feel of an crisis-style event comic, with characters from different corners of the DCU all bumping into one another (sometimes literally), arguing and discussing their pasts and futures, together and apart.

So there's a lot of exciting stuff going on here, perhaps particularly for DC Comics fans--I've no idea what this reads like to someone not already soaking in the DCU--and the artwork is perfect. I could ask for more--better costume design, a more representative cast--but I'm satisfied with what I got, and am looking forward to the rest of the month.

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