Justice League #28 – Comic Review

What Justice League #28 offers

The DC universe is currently under attack by villains calling themselves the Crime Syndicate, and Cyborg needs help to stop one of these villains in particular: “The Grid”. The Grid happens to be malicious, artificial intelligence that hacked its way into Cyborgs’ cybernetic body, stole it, and left him for dead.  Cyborg was rescued by Batman, and received a new body.

It’s an interesting little saga. I think Cyborg’s clear desire to take down the AI that stole his body and almost killed him off makes for strong  motivation.

Nested inside Justice League #28, however, is a story about a scientist, and his shiny, new creations: The Metal Men.

Who are the Metal Men? A team of androids built largely out of specific metal parts such as Gold, Platinum, Tin, and Mercury. They can shape shift, and are know for their over-the-top personalities.

What Justice league #28 offers:

  • Strong Artificial Intelligence themes
  • A narrative that values selflessness
  • Flowing, detailed, and moving artwork
  •  suitable for college or high school classes handling science fiction themes – some edutainment, as the properties of metals are described.
  • A collected edition of Justice League comics, including issues following #28, will provide a complete story arc.

Flowing and highly detailed visuals compliment this science fiction story. Shining metal surfaces and bright colours define this  comic book’s art.

The flowing detail of the artwork in this comic book is ideal for telling a science fiction, Artificial Intelligence story. In the same way that this art style worked for the fluid, water settings seen in Aquaman comic books, the shapes shifting metal depicted in this comic book benefits similarly.

There is a marked transition in light between the stories. The present day settings, where Cyborg talks about The Grid, are darker than the flashback scenes, where the Metal Men are introduced.

Extra-large pages are spectacular. The heroes save a crowded street from the clutches of a giant villain.

The Metal Men, and one Metal Woman, show off over-the-top personalities and selflessness, while Doctor Magnus becomes a bigger person

Undoubtedly, the stars of this comic book are the Metal men. Doctor Will Magnus, their creator, moves through some significant character development, however. Cold and unfeeling at the beginning, Magnus learns through his brief experience with the Metal Men that not all people are bad, or out to use what they can from you, and move on. Magnus has experienced several betrayals like these in his life.

Magnus plays the cynic well. His interest in robotics stems from a strong dislike of humans – a bit cliche, but to his credit, Will Magnus accepts change in his life, and handles complex emotion. He deals with grief, frustration, anger, and hope for the future all at once. He becomes a bigger person because of his experiences. A great character.

The Metal Mean themselves  – one of whom is not a man, which calls the title into question – are bombastic, and have over-the-top personalities. Platinum – the only woman – stands out. Platinum is optimistic, and speaks with a rational voice compared to the bitter and tetchy Mercury, and the suave but obnoxious Gold.

Quickly, the Metal Men transition from robot designed for rescue missions  into Artificial Intelligence. They are finally acknowledged as people.

Strong artificial intelligence themes appear, And value is placed on selflessness.

It is the Metal Men’s concern for others – their selflessness – that defines them as unique and human according to Doctor Magnus. Following their sacrifice, Magnus laments them as failures. Cyborg, however, states their “hearts and minds are still here[inside CPU core’s Magnus salvaged]”.

What this says about Artificial Intelligence is that developing self awareness, and then selflessness, is what allows androids to transition into humans. It’s a strong science fiction story, and shows great Artificial Intelligence themes.

There is an interesting parallel between characters. Just as The Metal Men were called to be selfless, to sacrifice their brief lives to safeguard the people in danger, Will Magnus himself is also called. His sacrifice differs slightly. He is asked to risk losing his newly founded friends in a battle with The Grid.

Considering the loss and betrayal Magnus experienced from his parents, The Doctor’s decision is a huge step forward.

Popular Culture References: The Matrix, The Terminator, HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

The interacctions between Platinum and Doctor Magnus resemble scenes from the Doctor Who Season 6 Episode The Doctor’s Wife.

Justice League #28 is published by DC Comics ($3.99 USD). Geoff Johns (W.) Ivan Reis (Layouts) Joe Prado and Scott Hanna (Finishes) Rod Reis (C.) Dezi Sienty (L.) Cover artwork by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Rod Reis.

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Comics Review – Justice League #22: Trinity War

Justice League #22: Trinity War Part One

(This review contains spoilers for Justice League #22)

Created almost three years ago, the new DC universe is about to experience a war of super-heroes. Underneath that war, another conflict continues. This battle is over a fairly fundamental question to human nature: where does evil come from?

Superman, Wonder Woman, and The Batman are leading a team called the Justice League. They don’t belong to any country, and stand together as role models, and a symbol of cooperation. Amanda Waller and Steve Trevor are two people employed by the United States government with a plan. They are, understandably, reluctant to let the powerful Justice League wander freely across the Earth, despite the lives they save. Waller and Trever created the Justice League of America (JLA) as a check to the original League. A third team appeared independently of the others: the Justice League Dark set out to prevent magic and deeply supernatural events from spiraling out of control. Considering the deep supernatural nature of current events, they are pulled, inevitably, into a battle.

Magic and myth play a role in this comic book story: Pandora, of the myth “Pandora’s box”, is trying to force the evil she unwittingly unleashed back into the box it came from. At the same time, the magical champion Shazam, sometimes called Captain Marvel, wants to honor the passing of his arch enemy Black Adam by scattering his ashes over the deserts of Adam’s home country. Pandora and Shazam’s missions, despite their good intentions, appear to cause a fight in the desert between the Justice League, and the JLA.

Throughout the Comic book, this question is raised several times: where does evil come from?

Art

The best visual feature of the book, aside from the detailed and lifelike pencil work, is how uncluttered the actions and events flow across the panels. Speech bubbles and lettering is not a chore to read, and the character’s voices are matches expertly with their body language depicted. It’s entertaining.

Pace is strong: as tensions builds in the comic book story, the size of the panels adjusts. When the tension reaches it’s peak, a full page is devoted to the action. Colour and visual effects make these full page artworks powerful images, which could stand on their own.

Cast

Pandora and Superman have a brief, but important conversation – Pandora believes that all evil in the world stemmed from her opening the box, and unleashing spirits called the seven sins onto the Earth. Superman is skeptical. He states the humans are not evil because someone opened a box. Essentially, the argument is whether evil and wrong-doing has an external, or an internal source.

Madame Xanadu is a card reader and psychic working for the Justice League Dark. She reads a custom built set of Tarot cards: the heroes of the DC universe are the figures, not the traditional suits and trumps found in a tarot deck. Xanadu narrates the comic book, and may have uncovered a deeper layer to the story. Aside from the Leagues and the government, the super-villains of the DC universe may be working toward a common goal. This sub-plot is underplayed to make room for the war.

A showdown between Shazam and Superman is satisfying reading. Shazam can match Superman’s strength, and it’s good to see that DC have taken Superman’s extreme power levels down a notch – he cannot easily knock out Shazam, or the Martian Manhunter ( a member of the JLA with a battery of abilities).

Themes, Ethics, Values.

Where does evil come from?

Greek myths and legends combined with Judeo and Christian writings form the foundation of this comic book. The concept of evil in the form of  sin has been a part of Catholic writings and theology for two thousand years. Pandora believes that Superman can open the box, and return the seven sins to their prison. Indeed, the Catechism of the Catholic faith states that it is the role of God to save humanity from sin through Jesus Christ, the son of God.

Superman is a bit like Jesus because he is viewed as a saviour, and once returned from death. Pandora makes the association too. She asks him to open the box, but that doesn’t work. Superman is corrupted by the evil of the box. What does this say about Superman? DC comics could want a limit on the association between Superman and Christ: He is a super hero, but not an eternal, spiritual saviour described in the texts of Catholic faith.

The issue is more complex than it appears: it takes more than one saviour to pick out the evil parts of the world and put them in a box. That’s the key value being discussed here, alongside the origin of evil in humanity, and even the extraction of evil from human lives. Future installments could cover these questions and themes in more detail.

A Bit more on Justice League #22

Trinity war recruits mythology, and combines it with ideas from theological writing. By having Madam Xanadu – the card reader – acting as narrator, the comic book ties itself firmly to supernatural and fantasy themes. Trinity War (part one) presents an interesting discussion of good and evil, and provides great artwork and mystery.

Justice League #22 is published by DC comics. $3.99 Geoff Johns (w). Ivan Reis (p). Joe Prado & Oclair Albert (i). Rod Reis (c). DC Lettering (l). Cover art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Rod Reis.

Comic Review – Aquaman #14

Aquaman’s family appear as Geoff Johns writes some family history, and kicks off the story that sees Aquaman clash with his brother and the justice league in the prelude to Throne of Atlantis.

Aquaman #14

Ivan Reis has sadly moved on: providing pencils for the Justice League, also written by Geoff Johns. We will still see his rendition of Aquaman in the Justice League, however it is sad to see him move on from Aquaman art. Pere Perez and Pete Woods both contribute strong art to several scenes. In particular, where Aquaman meets his brother – the Ocean Master – in a sunken ship called the Essex. There are flashbacks to their great-grandfather woven throughout these pages, and the visual storytelling shows us the origin of animosity between the “surface world” and Atlantis.

The ship’s captain drove his crew to hunt down Aquaman and Ocean Masters great-grand parents, and we are told a story of a vengeful captain who was completely overpowered by soldiers from Atlantis. Whether this is a warning to Aquaman, or Ocean Master showing Aquaman that he finds conflict with the surface pointless, is unclear. What is also unclear is why Ocean Master is kept in shadows throughout the comic, while the cover (see below) is a fantastic portrait of the supposed villain.

To return to the flash back story, Aquaman’s grandfather resembles the Aquaman of the 1990’s: he has a full beard. His blue scaled shirt also resembles a previous look for the hero. It’s great to see this small nod to Aquaman’s different costumes from the past decades here. Hopefully, we will learn more about this character.

Some interesting point are mentioned in side stories. The Black Manta is almost recruited to the Suicide Squad. He refuses Amanda Waller’s dubious offer of membership, saying “We know about it [the suicide squad]. We don’t like it”. It is a concern that Black Manta might be referring to a group of villains here. An Aquaman character created in 1967, Vulko, also returns. What’s interesting is that he is living in a Norwegian fishing community, and his neighbours are all aware of his Atlantean heritage. It’s a good example of surface and Atlantean people coexisting without conflict.

Whether this can work out on a global scale, however, is another question entirely.

Aquaman #14 is published by DC comics.