Best Shots Reviews: JUSTICE LEAGUE #40, SILVER SURFER #11, THE MULTIVERSITY #2, RED ONE #2, CONVERGENCE: ACTION COMICS #1

'The Multiversity #2' preview
Credit: DC Comics

Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Monday column? Best Shots has you covered, with a handful of big releases from last week! So let's kick off today's column with Ribaldous Richard Gray, as he takes a look at Justice League #40...

Credit: DC Comics

Justice League #40
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Kevin Maguire, Phil Jimenez, Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Scott Kolins, Jason Fabok, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Brad Anderson and Alex Sinclair
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

It’s been almost 30 years since DC cleared up the confusion of the infinite number of Earths that inhabited the cosmic construct of fictional universes through the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Yet as the current Convergence event, and indeed much of this issue of Justice League reminds us, writers have spent the better part of the last two decades pulling it apart and putting it back together as worlds live, worlds die, and the assurance that the DC universe will never be the same for more than a few years running.

Geoff Johns explicitly acknowledges that repeated cycle in this prelude issue to his forthcoming “Darkseid War” event, using the New Gods and their mythology to expand the reach of this book. Using Metron as a framing device, a character who has been like Marvel’s the Watcher as an observer known to take both sides in a struggle, we get an incredibly tight retelling of both the history of the New Gods and the entire saga of DC’s crises to date. Metron warns Mobius, the Anti-Monitor, that the constant undoing and rebuilding of the universe threatens to tear it apart for good, but that unveils the Anti-Monitor’s plans for Darkseid - and they're not what we’d expect.

It is excellent to see Johns working on this scale again, recalling his biggest and best work on Green Lantern as he finally sets the stage for a story that breaks out of the Justice League’s Earth-bound problems. This is entering the territory of Grant Morrison, not simply because of its thematic similarity to The Multiversity, but because of Johns’ deft handling of multiple worlds and events. There is almost too much going on here, as though this has always been the real event and Covergence is just a side-story.

For a story of this size, a big art team is always needed, and there are no less than seven individual artists taking on the primary art duties, with an additional trio of inkers and colorists. After taking a sufficiently grand trip through the Sphere of the Gods, Phil Jimenez drops a jaw-dropping giant double-page spread that recreates the events of the Crisis on Infinite Earths that is reminiscent of the massive spiralling work he did for the Green Lantern Corp in the mid-1990s, but elevated to the next level. Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway and Scott Kolins share another double-spread that visually cycles through the Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis and Flashpoint events, before Jason Fabok brings us up to speed with a recap of Johns’ first arcs on Justice League. Jim Lee’s final few pages is where the majority of the forward momentum lies, with a skillfully deconstructed confrontation between Metron and the Anti-Monitor, and the first shadowy reveal of a character who returns in the Free Comic Book Day Divergence book.

Justice League #40 is an extended prelude, and as such it’s designed to tease the next big arc, something that it does incredibly well. Yet it is necessarily coupled with the Divergence giveaway chapter, which is arguably a more compelling prologue than this. That interrelationship weakens both introductions, cheapening the start of DC’s next big crossover and taking some of the wind out of the sails. That said, if this first issue is anything to go by, then “Darkseid War” is gearing up to be one of the biggest showdowns on the the far side of Covergence and The Multiversity.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Silver Surfer #11
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Michael Allred and Laura Allred
Letters by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Kelly Richards
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Silver Surfer #11 is billed as a special, oversized issue, and it is, without a doubt, both of these thing and not just in size, but in scope. Playing out as an interactive, infinite loop in time and space, #11 is an exercise in risk taking that more than pays off for both the creative team and the readers.

With tensions running high among the former residents of Newhaven and the relationship between Norrin and Dawn still decidedly frosty, Silver Surfer #11 brings together time travel, infinity loops and intergalactic politics with relationship drama for a story that is as fun as it is charming.

Slott’s writing is nothing if not consistent and each new issue drives this point home. He really knows how to make you care about the outcomes as much as you care about the characters. While the introduction of a time loop is clearly a bold choice, Slott paces the story so as to allow the reader to start each circuit of the infinity loop he has created across a double-page spread, and inserting a break in the strip-like visuals. While some readers may tire of the Groundhog Day-style narrative but the dialogue is so charming and funny that you can’t help but smile and keep going.

Featuring literal twists that will have you flipping your book over to follow along the Mobius loop upon which the Silver Surfer has found himself, it is clear that Michael Allred has outdone himself here. Not only does Silver Surfer #11 allow us to read the story from different perspectives, it allows us to view it from different perspectives, that means each time we see the mess hall full of aliens, for example, we see it from a different angle. The spatial awareness necessary to make this happen is something I can barely get my head around. It’s also worth considering that the Silver Surfer is shepherding 6 billion souls, very few of which happen to be of the same species. As such the diversity and just sheer creativity implemented in the character design in this book is astounding.

Laura Allred’s colors are exceptional. With bright pinks and purples cutting through the blackness of space and turquoise alien landscapes, her choice of palette and its application perfectly ties together the pop art-esque qualities of Michael Allred’s artwork and the fun, cosmic nature of Slott’s script. Allred’s biggest triumph in this issue comes in the form of the Never Queen, who truly does embody the endless possibilities of the universe by looking to be actually created from them. Presented as a shifting, multi tonal space scene, wrapped in flowing green robes and trapped in the body of a woman, the Never Queen is just beautiful.

There aren’t many writers bold enough to even consider telling the exact same story from different perspectives within the same book. Even fewer would actually think to do it. Silver Surfer #11 stands as a testament to what a creative team can achieve if they are willing to take a risk. Interesting, engaging, and with a twist that is both literal and visual, this may be some of Slott and Allred’s finest work to date.

Credit: DC Comics

The Multiversity #2
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Eber Ferreira, Jamie Mendoza, Dan Brown, Jason Wright, and Blond
Lettering by Todd Klein
Published by DC Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

“What power trumps over sheer absurdity?” Captain Carrot may be delivering Grant Morrison’s grand thesis as The Multiversity comes to a grand and ponderous conclusion. The House of Heroes and the Orrey of Worlds have finally come into full convergence and the walls of reality are bleeding together in a Crisis to end all Crises. To call The Multiversity divisive would be underselling it, but the finale might be the most divisive issue thus far, thanks to it over the top craziness and confusing conclusion. But like Captain Carrot said, who can think to stand scowling in the face of pure lunacy? The Multiversity #2 might not be for everyone, but it will definitely be for someone.

While he's been outdoing himself with the previous Multiversity one-shots, with his conclusion, Grant Morrison doesn’t stick the landing by any measure. Gone are the days of him telling a cohesive story with an act structure, in its place are stories about stories and the medium, which is what The Multiversity #2 succeeds in being. As the heroes he’s assembled race to mount any sort of offense against the Gentry and each world experiences their own Crisis, Morrison starts to use this macro story of the collapse to start connecting all the dots that he put to paper throughout the whole of this series.

A large part of the labored resolution to this story are the characters realizing how their worlds fit into the larger narrative; they become aware of the very grids that they inhabit, though the Multiveristy Guidebook published just a few months earlier. Much of this is Morrison grasping at some way to close this story loop, but it still refreshing to see him make full use of this interconnected meta-narrative, much like Seven Soldiers of Victory. Less great is that much of this doesn’t make a lot of sense, even to a reviewer who has been pouring over previous issues in order to fully tackle this finale. Morrison at least makes the character’s dimensional battles and realization rousing with a few choice bits of character banter and sharp barbs aimed at those who make comics. However, a few great bits of dialogue don’t make the layers upon layers of story make much sense.

Returning the The Multiversity in grand style is artist Ivan Reis, along with a cadre of inkers and colorists. Reis, along with inkers Joe Prado, Eber Ferreira, and Jamie Mendoza contain the insanity of Morrison’s script to large, inventive splash pages and huge cast shots that give The Multiversity #2 the scope and scale needed for a finale like this. Reis’ character designs and dense panel layouts guide the reader’s eyes comfortably over the chaos yet he goes out of his way to deliver some truly striking pages; like the two-page splash of the assembled House of Heroes or the moment where Nix Uotan’s Rubik’s cube transforms into a neatly compacted grid of dimensional doorways. Colorists Dan Brown, Jason Wright, and Blond drench Reis’ pencils in trippy and harshly bright colors just to heighten the craziness of Morrison’s script. Nothing on the shelves will read like The Multiversity #2, so why should it be colored like a normal superhero book? Ivan Reis and his team send The Multiversity into oblivion with some fantastic and tightly packed visuals to match the arcane scribbling of Grant Morrison.

For better or worse, The Multiversity ended up being what we all expect it to be; a grand experiment in narrative that had some truly cool DC Universe moments. For all of The Multiversity #2's faults and frustrating inaccessibility, it delivered some great character moments, but we weren’t reading this just for great character moments. Will time be kinder to The Multiversity? and will I ever feel smart enough to full understand the narrative games that Grant Morrison plays? Only the Monitors know. The stories spin on without us as The Multiversity #2 reminds and this one sure spun, hard and fast. Whether it actually landed is another thing entirely.

Credit: Image Comics

Red One #2
Written by Xavier Dorison
Art by Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Image Comics
Reviewed by Brian Bannen
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

I was drawn to Red One because of the art. And Red One is definitely a gorgeous looking book. Terry and Rachel Dodson are displaying some of their best work ever through the lithe and sensual Vera Yelnikov. The story, however, is a bit muddled, straddling the line between brazen and campy.

The comic delves further into Vera’s role as porn producer Lew’s housekeeper, and these are the moments where the story gains some traction. Vera’s interactions with Lew are fluid and fun; the dialogue bounces between characters and the natural rhythm of the conversation lends itself to humor. If more of the comic were like this, it’d probably be a better read.

Because while Xavier Dorison gets playful with the material - which is centered around sex and sexuality - he often treads well-worn paths. While I cheer Vera on as she beats up bands of bigots, the whole concept is a bit too theatrical. Vera is supposed to be an undercover Soviet agent, but she’s very bad at hiding her identity. Maybe this is part of Dorison’s plan, but he shifts between Vera being naive and coy too often to determine which role she’s actually playing.

The side focus on the porn industry is what most throws the plot off its tracks. Vera attends a party with Lew, turns every head there, but has to leave to go track down her true target, a madman calling himself the Carpenter. So the whole party ends up being a character-building exercise, but one that doesn’t reveal information we didn’t already know or hadn’t already seen.

The Dodsons' art, though, makes this book worth looking at. Characters are illustrated with stunning clarity and the smooth, welcome polish of a Dodson finish. The fight sequences are fluid and energetic. Terry Dodson has an eye for the cinematic quality of comic books and he captures the play by play of Vera’s beatdowns with superb detail. The book is visually striking on every page and given Red One's 39 pages, there’s a lot to look at.

So while the comic isn’t as satisfying in its story, it is definitely satisfying in its visuals. Now, Red One takes a long nap as new issues won’t be released until 2016. This is a bold move on Image’s part as Red One hasn’t made enough of a mark yet to leave its seed planted in readers’ heads. I’d be curious to see how many people even remember the series when it returns.

Red One has a lot of promise, but promise isn’t enough to keep readers coming back for more given the number of other promising titles hitting shelves each month. I only hope that Dorison does more with the character and either moves closer towards the controversial topics of the issue, or moves far away from them and instead focuses on telling the story of a talented Russian spy who has no fear of death, a penchant for brutality, and an earnestness that makes her instantly likable.

I want to see more of Vera Yelnikov; hopefully, though, Dorison makes the series much more unique.

Credit: DC Comics

Convergence: Action Comics #1
Written by Justin Gray
Art by Claude St-Aubin and Lovern Kindzierski
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
Reviewed by Brian Bannen
‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10

Despite the weakness of the main storyline, Convergence has had a number of solid tie in issues. By boiling down the premise of the tie-ins to focus on cities fighting against each other, and different versions of DC heroes battling for the survival of their worlds, Convergence writers have been able to focus on the human element of the series and this has adeptly carried the storytelling in the comics.

But despite featuring the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earth Supergirl and the dark, Soviet Union-era superheroes of Mark Millar's Red Son, Convergence: Action Comics #1, however, goes nowhere fast, and by the time Telos makes his “game on” speech, the comic has failed to provide anything worth noting.

The story relies heavily on the human element of the heroes, but sometimes the human element isn’t conveyed with any urgency. You can’t help but lose interest in a comic that builds a lot of set up but doesn’t execute any type of follow through. Justin Gray spends the issue following super powered characters living a mundane existence filled with discussions about marriage, life without super powers, attending aerobics classes, and of course the giant dome overhead.

Isn’t this supposed to be a series about worlds-colliding mega battles?

What’s even more frustrating is that Convergence: Action Comics #1 has a super exciting ensemble with which to work. Pre-Crisis Earth-Two Metropolis is pitted against Moscow from Mark Millar’s Red Son, which means that the original Superman from Action Comics is going to face off against the cold and ruthless Superman of Communist Russia. Additionally, that kind hearted Kara Zor-L will fight against Millar’s pitiless Wonder Woman. These are great bouts with a lot of promise in terms of the knock-down drag-out battle we’ll see.

Instead, though, we get a lot of talking, a lot of posturing, and a comic that ultimately fizzles because it provides nothing but set up. Granted, the battle could be awesome, but the comic fails to capture the reader enough so that he/she will return to see any action that is sorely missing from this issue.

That’s not to say the comic doesn’t occasionally use the human element to its advantage. For example, Gray writes a scene involving Kara detailing the difficulty of suddenly finding herself on the same level as a human being. Everything has changed for her - her metabolism, her skin, her eyes, and even her teeth. It’s a neat concept that gets a little play in the issue, and one of the brighter moments of a comic that is more frustrating that satisfying. Yet the comic is built upon the premise of heroes from different universes duking it out, so the scene - while interesting - becomes a throwaway point in the bigger context of the story.

The art, too, shows promise, but doesn’t follow through. Claude St-Aubin’s characters, at times, look stiff - like they’re posing for magazine ads - but as the comic continues, the style gets more dynamic, and the story gains some much needed vitality but adds one more frustrating aspect to Convergence: Action Comics. Art with this potential shouldn’t be squandered on people arguing during a dinner conversation.

And that’s the comic’s real failure - it has the goods but we never see them. The dinner party at the end of the issue is awkwardly written and jarring in both its set up and its conclusion. It feel almost like it was an afterthought rather than a vital part of an otherwise forgettable story.

So while the comic has a very cool fight waiting on deck, it doesn’t provide enough of a solid foundation to warrant another read. Plus, I don’t see how Gray can address all the buildup of this issue in only one more issue. The story will have to be truncated to provide some sort of coherent narrative, and even so its pacing may suffer. I’d hate to be even further let down by an equally listless second issue, particularly when it could fail to live up to its promise.

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