Justice League #37 – Comic Review

In the face of a viral outbreak, most of the Justice League are infected. Superman and Batman search for patient Zero – the infected who could help the League devise a cure. Lex Luthor’s attempt at redemption, and the lives of thousands of people across North America are in danger.

How responsible is Luthor? Justice League #37 offers:

  • Character Development: Lex Luthor struggling with past bad decisions
  • Strong action artwork
  • Themes of infection
  • Science information: Virology history and information

The artwork has weight, and scenes where Wonder Woman battles patient zero have strong sense of space. Heat vision makes for a dazzling distraction early in the comic.

While the comic might have some grim interior scenes, where infected Justice League heroes wait for a cure, dramatic fighting scenes and gothic outdoor scenes add weight to the artwork.

Wonder Woman joins the battle against the infected. Her appearance gives the comics a sense of space and gravity. Patient Zero – Doctor Armen Ikaraus – was a scientist at Lexcorp. In the ruins of the Lexcorp lobby, Wonder Woman leaps from the top left of the page, down onto the monster’s back. The direction indicated by her pose, combined with the movement lines, gives the comic a sense of space.

An earlier scene, where Superman and The Batman first encounter the infected, shows off a flash of bright orange energy. Adaptation has always been a feature of the villain Amazo. The Amazo virus infecting Doctor Ikaraus allows him to analyse the facts of a situation, weigh up the information, and form a path of counter attack. Heat vision and flight, in this case, are the most useful skills to distract and turn away the Man of Steel and The Dark Knight long enough for the infected to escape.

Without a sample of the infected’s blood, the Justice League and Lex Luthor cannot create a cure.

Luthor and his sister Lena have a character defining conversation. Luthor’s path to redemption may be run down by his past, bad decisions.

Lex Luthor has a conversation with his sister Lena that gives an insight into his character. What’s fascinating is Luthor’s lies. Luthor is clearly a character struggling with an anti-social personality; egotistical, arrogant, selfish. Despite this, and his history of bad decisions, Luthor wants redemption. Joining the Justice League was the first step on this new path.

He’s deeply conflicted, and can’t easily face the truth. He designed and stored the Amazo virus. He can’t tell his sister why.

Clearly tired of being labeled the villain, Luthor wants a chance at being seen as a contributing, virtuous person. The truth about why he created this virus carries too much weight, however, and could stifle his second chance. His sister wants to know the truth, but telling her that he designed the virus to kill Superman would effectively damage their relationship. His redemption will not work if reconciliation with his last living family member is damaged beyond repair.

His innner struggle becomes clear when he ends his conversation with Lena, and snaps in anger at Captain Cold after returning to the infirmary to start work on a cure.

The big theme of the comic is infection: Luthor’s presence seems to have infected the Justice League. Scientific information on virology appears early in the comic.

Infection plays out as a central theme in this comic. Luthor joining the Justice League is immediately followed by most of the team members becoming ill. Luthor himself is like an infection. Even the environments that make up the story are dark and gloomy. Light sources are limited. Rain is heavy. All the parts of the comic work together to spread this infected theme.

There is disagreements on whether the League can trust Luthor. Superman thinks in black and white terms, and his default position is distrust of Luthor. He might be right to, however it’s unclear at this stage whether Luthor has the patients to complete his redemptive story arc.

Scientific information appears in the opening pages of the comic. Virology history is listed by the Batman in his opening narration. The World Health Organisation is also named.

With themes of infection, it makes sense that the Amazo virus continues it’s spread: the issue ends on a cliffhanger as another member of the Justice League comes down with viral super powers.

Justice League #37 is published by DC Comics ($3.99 USD). Geoff Johns (W.) Jason Fabok (A.), Brad Anderson (C.) Carlos M. Mangual (L.) Cover artwork by Fabok and Anderson.

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Batman #36 – Comic Review

Batman #36 marks part two of a new story. After Death of the Family, Endgame stars the Joker in his second story since DC’s New 52 began.
What Batman #36 offers:

  • Bright colours and detailed artwork with forced perspective.
  • A showdown between Batman and Superman
  • Science information
  • Duality Themes

Artwork for the comic uses bright colour, darkness, and forced perspective effectively. Superman and Batman are brought into each others contrasting worlds. Dualities appear in the artwork – things that are opposite and contrast are brought together.

Opening pages of the comic are surprisingly bright and colourful despite the dark storytelling. Themes of dualities run through the comicbook. Things that contrast are brought together. Superman and Batman, Joker and Batman, light and Dark, day and night. Superman flies down into Batman’s dark world – a detailed, dark theatre, and then an underground tunnel. Superman than drags Batman into his world – a bright, clear, blue sky.

Artwork for the Joker’s return has excellent forced perspective, showing small details close to the front of the panel. In this case, flies caught in webs. Later, the links of a chain are shown in similar forced perspective. Webs and chains foreshadow that The Batman has entered a trap. The Joker has indeed set a paralysis trap for Batman. Artwork for these scenes are atmospheric.

Conflict between Superman and Batman results in a showdown between Superman’s abilities versus Batman’s intellect and fortune. The winner is neither of them. The Joker’s re-appearance shows off several hidden meanings: His name, and his choice of clothing specifically.

This opening battle between Superman and Batman showcases Superman’s boundless abilities, and The Batman’s intellect and fortune. The winner, Batman comments, is neither of them. In order for Superman to win, he must become an unstoppable force, ejecting the moral core that makes up his character.

Superman can tear down all of Batman’s defences, with significant collateral damage and no mercy for bystanders.

For Batman, winning would mean depletion of his armory, weapons, and finances, and further forcing himself into isolation – having to live with killing Superman, who is traditionally a good friend.

Joker’s new approach to Batman mirrors his behaviour in the last Joker story. Last time, he describes his actions as a comedy. This time, a tragedy. This is a new step for the character. His clothing choices and his disguises all show off double meanings.

He choses to hide in plain sight as a character called “Eric Border”. Impersonating an Arkham doctor is made simple with the Joker’s new face, surgically attached at some point between stories. There’s an explanation of the hidden meanings behind the name. Eric means “eternal ruler”, and Border is a homphone of “Bourder”, which is an archaic word for “Jester”.

Joker’s black clothes are suitable for a funeral. This is a marked difference from Death of the Family where he wore a mechanics overalls. The clothing choice matches his goals: first trying to “repair” Batman’s life by removing the Bat Family, and now funeral clothes for killing Gotham and the Batman.

Friends are turned into enemies, expanding on a duality theme. The Joker sees himself as a friend to the the Batman, and now, changes himself into an enemy. Scientific information also appears.

Duality themes run through the comic. Contrasting pairs of characters are brought together. Bright colours contrast with Shadows. Superman shifts from a friend into a terrible foe. He becomes both friend and enemy.

The Joker sees himself as a friend who cares about the Batman. Now, he has contempt for the Dark Knight. In his new plan, he sees himself as a true enemy. The Joker’s alias, Eric Border, was also
a friend disguised as a villain, two people at once. Again, friend turned enemy.

Scientific information also appears. Chemistry concepts that Batman and Joker mention include:

  • Nuclear fission versus nuclear Fusion
  • Butadiene-based rubber
  • Magnetised filaments
  • Quinolone – to treat toxins
  • Afamelanotide

Batman #36 is published by DC Comics ($3.99 USD). Scott Snyder (W.) Greg Capullo (P.) Danny Miki (I.) FCO Plascencia (C.) Steve Wands (L.) Cover Artwork by Capullo, Miki, and Plascencia.

Forever Evil #7 – Comics Review

The conclusion to DC comics event, Forever Evil, finally arrives, and delivers a story about power, family, humans, and monsters.

What Forever Evil #7 offers:

  • The story of villain changing through his experiences: valuing families, and seeing himself clearly.
  • Themes of power, and a theme of humans vs. monsters
  • Comic book artwork that shows lightning strikes, and shadows.
  • Mature themes and violence mean this comic suits older readers: high school students and college students can look at this comic for comments about power, monsters, and character development.

Light plays across the panels: towards the end of the story, more light from the sun arrives. Massive Lightning bolts strike, and Cyborg strides into the watchtower, carrying the recently deceased Grid.

Massive lightning bolts casts both deep shadow, and bright lights across panel. In most panels, one point of light fills the empty rooms. This source casts long shadows.

One point in the art could have received more attention. Cyborg makes a dramatic entrance. He drops the lifeless shell of The Grid onto the floor. It’s difficult to image Cyborg would carry the Grid’s broken frame all the way back into the watchtower after their battle. It serves for a dramatic entrance. It’s not completely plausible, however.

A true criminal from Earth 3, a villain the Crime Syndicate tried to contain, breaks away, and clashes with Lex Luthor, who is experiencing change and character development

Since this story began, Lex Luthor has told narrated events as the viewpoint character. Later, a large threat emmerges. How the real enemy behind the Crime Syndicate operates is fascinating. For readers wondering what would happen if super powers and abilities were mixed and gathered together by one individual, the character of Alexander Luthor – a true criminal from Earth 3 – has a lot to offer.

He has the ability to absorb and retain the abilities of his super powered victims.

When Lex Luthor meets this twisted copy of himself from another universe, real character development starts to happen.

I look into his eyes…and I see mine

In this true villain – uncompromising and dark – Lex Luthor sees all his negative traits magnified; he sees his greed; he sees his power-hungry nature; he sees his cruelty, unchecked.

This is one of several character development moments for Lex Luthor. The flat, bald villain known for his relentless and failure-ridden attacks on Superman changes. He is human. Not a punching bag. He can be called human because characters in comics and stories who live through an experience – an arc – and are changed by it are no longer two dimensional. They progress, and show they audience what the have learned.

The type of change Luthor shows in Forever Evil #7 is satisfying for readers looking for interesting stories in comic books.

A human vs monster theme appears in the comic, in addition to a themes of power. Through Luthor’s story arc, value is placed on family connections.

Alexander Luthor asks Captain Cold and Black Manta if they are human or not. Later, Lex Luthor says that Bizarro is his monster. There is an clash between humans and monsters here. Sinestro is not human, but behaves like one – calling Black Adam his friend. Bizarro is not human either. Yet he tries imitate what he sees. In a scene where he witnesses Batman and Nightwing hug, he tries to hug Lex Luthor. He understands emotion.

Luthor notices their embrace. He reflects on his relationship with his sister. Clearly, the importance of family stands out to him. Meeting Bizarro, meeting The Batman, and meeting himself has brought about this value recognition.

There is also a great, short, comment about the necessity of failure. Luthor attempts to pull some of the stigma away from mistakes. Making mistakes on the path to a goal is necessary. That’s the place that Luthor has arrived at. The questions remain: what is his goal? and is his redemption authentic?

 

Forever Evil #7 is published by DC Comics. $4.99 USD. Geoff Johns (W.) David Finch (P.) Richard Friend (I.) Sonia Oback (C.) Rob Leigh (L.)  David Finch, Richard Friend, and Sonia Oback (Cover Artists)

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.

Justice League #26 – Comics Review

What Justice League #26 Offers

Several origin stories tie into DC Comics Forever Evil event. The theme the comic explores is the origin of evil. Crime and criminal behaviour is evil, according to this comic, and origin stories of the several key villains explore a question: whether evil emmerges from within us, or from outside us, in the social environment. There is a high standard of art throughout.

Cast

The new, electronic villain called The Grid narrates the story. The Grid’s role in the narrative is straightforward. Machine’s don’t feel emotion. This artificial intelligence examines the origins of each Crime Syndicate member. It’s goal is to feel an emotion by reacting to the violent content.

Power Ring, Johnny Quick, and Atomica receive the most attention in this issue, however. They receive the most pages out of the entire comic; Power Ring – 8 pages, Johnny Quick and Atomica – 6 pages. What results is that their short stories within the larger narrative receive the most attention, and therefore the most development. It’s in their stories that the themes of the comic emerge. Power Ring also includes some science fiction horror.

Cyborg has some key moments, and Deathstorm is revealed as a scientist who threw away ethics to complete his research.

Art

Close-up images of characters drive the narrative forward, and show case strong artwork in this issue. Close to the conclusion of the comics, a character gives a a look of fierce defiance in their eyes. The sequence of panels leading up to this moment capture a set of emotions with the character body language. Despair and grief is suddenly supplanted by the defiance in the face of hurdles.

In another close-up, the artwork references the Hitchcock film Psycho. It’s a fleeting but powerful popular culture reference.

In contrast to the cool colours that surround the Justice League are bright and powerful. Apart from a wave of black ink, the colours surrounding the Crime Syndicate are anaemic and washed out. Green Lantern’s emerald green is replaced by Power Ring’s lime green. Johnny Quick has pale orange in place of The Flash’s traditional, fire engine reds.

Themes, Ethics, Values

Earlier issues of DC Comics Forever Evil event was about evil – Where foes evil come from? From outside us, or from within? Justice League #26 explores these questions through Atomica, Johnny Quick, and Power Ring’s origin stories.

A pop-culture comparison could be the musical Wicked, which also asks the question: “Are people born wicked, or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?” Just like the popular musical, this issue of Justice League #26 also has green light throughout the story.

Power Ring and his other colleagues in the Crime Syndicate led a variety of lives before they began to wear a costumes and commit crime with it. Power Ring was filled with anxiety, and liked to spy on people – a voyeur. Atomica and Johnny Quick were violent criminals who targeted police officers.

Power Ring is described as “Weak-willed”, and is a character who is too anxious to achieve his goals. When unlimited power in the form of a ring is offered to him, he takes it, and disregards any consequences. This short story, within the larger narrative of the comic, makes a statement that evil – defined as crime – comes from the combination of bad circumstances, low willpower, and complete disregard for consequences. Evil is opportunity, bad decisions, and certain personality traits: low willpower, no assertiveness.

Contrast this with Johnny Quick and Atomica; first, their costumes are opposing colours compared to Power Ring – bright reds clash with bright greens. Second, compared to Power Ring’s bad circumstances, Johnny and Atomica state that crime and murder are “What we [Quick and Atomica] are born to do”. They are sociopaths, with a lack of any connection to social norms.

They fit into the category of “Fantasy sociopaths” (Kotsko, 2012). Kotsko states that these sociopaths, who appear in pop-culture, have a social disconnection seen in real life sociopaths, but organised lives, with the ability to plan and achieve long term goals (2012).

These characters where born with a trait that led to them becoming criminals.

Compared to Power Ring, their evil – defined as criminal acts here – came from within.

I found, after comparing these stories, that I tended to sympathise with Power Ring far more than the unlikeable and violent Johnny Quick and Atomica – despite his questionable behaviour, seeing the results of bad circumstances makes him more slightly more sympathetic. The character development in this issue adds some momentum to the Forever Evil story arc.

Justice League #26 is Published by DC Comics ($3.99 USD). Geoff Johns (W.) Ivan Reis (P.) Joe Prado, Eber Ferreira, Rob Hunter, and Andy Lanning (I.) Rod Reis, Tomeu Morey and Tony Avina (C.) Nick J. Napolitano (L.). Cover image from Insidepulse.com

Works Consulted:

Kotso, Adam. (2012). Why We Love Sociopaths: A Guide to Late Capitalist Television. Zero Books: Hants, United Kingdom.

Forever Evil #1 – Comics Review

Forever Evil #1: Nightfall

Lights in major cities turn black, and the Earth’s moon orbits faster, blocking out the sun. Darkness spreads, and DC comic’s villains rise under the command of the Crime Syndicate in the wake of the heroe’s disappearance. Readers might be reminded of Marvel comic’s Dark Reign story arc, where super villains from all the corners of Marvel comic’s universe seized control of S.H.E.I.L.D, including the peace keeping organisation’s documents and files. The Crime Syndicate has access to all the information of the Justice League thanks to a polite artificial intelligence calling itself “The Grid”. Now, they want an army. After that, control of the Earth’s wealth.

(This review includes some spoilers for Issue #1 of DC Comics’ Forever Evil)

Ivan Reis & Joe Prado (Variant Cover Artists.)

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Comics Review – Justice League Dark #22: Trinity War

Justice League Dark #22: House of Cards

The Justice League Dark delve deeply into the world of the supernatural. With the advent of Trinity War, one of their team is missing, and Wonder Woman is demanding they answer her questions about the mysterious Pandora.

As the characters interact, within most of the speech bubbles are paragraphs overflowing with text. It’s like the characters prepared essay length statements, and are reading them out to each other. It contributes to difficult reading.

Art

Inside the House of Mystery, the cast of Trinity War assembles. The colours are effective here, with such a variety of super hero costumes, and there are some clever panel arrangements. One in particular has Wonder Woman and Batman facing each other. Their faces in profile frame up the page.

The point of view shifts around across the next few panels, and the impression that there is space in the room works well.

The only missing element is detailed backgrounds.

The House of Mystery has no detail etched out other than a dusty chandelier, which is a shame considering this is a Justice League Dark comic book.

Cast

Firestorm is supposed to be a character associated with science fiction and chemistry. He is manufacturing kryptonite to combat Superman following Superman’s attack on Doctor Light.

Minerals, compounds, and chemicals have been produced synthetically in laboratories since the Victorian era. It’s a shame that Firestorm has no laboratory – nothing to make him appear credible. He is sitting a table with coloured rocks. That’s it.

Constantine knows about Shazam’s identity without any explanation. Madame Xanadu knows who Billy is, and an brief explanation of Constantine finding out through similar channels, would have fit in well here. Constantine does not trust anyone, however, so it is consistent that Constantine would share nothing. It’s clear from his interaction with Zatanna that this man has burnt all his bridges.

Themes, Ethics, Values.

Trust is a key ethic here. The Justice League of America falls to pieces without it. Similarly, the Justice League Dark fragments – Constantine has given no reason for anyone to place their trust in him. Green Arrow comments that Amanda Waller has shut him out time and time again. There’s no reason for him to listen to her arguments.

Waller could have guessed that team fragmentation was a possibility: A cursory search of applied psychology research indicates that trust is a common characteristic of charismatic leaders, and that when a leader is untrustworthy, individuals will divert energy to protecting themselves rather than working toward a larger goal.

Considering that Justice League Dark is a supernatural themed comic, there are significantly more scientific and science fiction concepts here: geology, chemistry, telepathy, mechanics, and laser beams. There are generally more mechanical devices on display than magical artefacts – Zatanna casts a single spell to teleport Wonder Woman’s team to safety.

A bit more on Justice League Dark #22

The Flash can run faster than the speed of sound – and faster than the speed of light if he has to – so the fact that he couldn’t stop Zatanna before she can say her spell is inconsistent. If there was an explanation in an earlier issue of Justice League Dark, it wasn’t in this issue.

There is a sense that the Justice League Dark, and all the intricacies of their magical work, has been forced out by this Trinity War segment, and the massive cast of characters.

Trinity War plot lines are woven together here – four parties are now moving against whatever person has manipulated and poisoned Superman:

  • Wonder Woman and her team are after Pandora.
  • Superman himself has teamed with The Question to track down a super villain with telepathic abilities – he could be responsible for forcing Superman’s attack on Doctor Light.
  • Batman and Phantom Stranger have yet to make a move.
  • Constantine has told Shazam to trust him, but has no doubt started his tricks, lies, and blackmail. It’s unclear where they are going.

A good issue for advancing the Trinity War plot, but not as strong as the opening title. Inconsistencies block and erode the strengths of a supernatural themed comic, converting it into a stepping stone for a larger story arc.

Justice League Dark #22 is published by DC comics. $3.99 USD. Jeff Lemire (w). Mikel Janin (a). Jeromy Cox (c). Carlos M.Mangual (l). Cover artwork by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Rod Reis.