Best Shots Reviews: JLA - REBIRTH #1, INHUMANS VS. X-MEN #4

"Inhumans vs. X-Men #4" variant
Credit: Ryan Sook (Marvel Comics)
Credit: Ivan Reis/Joe Prado/Marcelo Maiolo (DC Comics)

Justice League of America: Rebirth #1
Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert and Marcelo Maiolo
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

There’s a new Justice League in town, and it’s probably not what you’re expecting. Steve Orlando’s cast is a bit off the beaten path but it’s easy to see the appeal. The characters are just good enough to be considered heroes. They’re just bad enough to have some edge a la DC’s regular villain team-up, Suicide Squad. And the cast features diverse characters that unfortunately wouldn’t have a home if they were tasked with sustaining their own solo series. Ivan Reis joins Orlando on the art side, giving the book the look and feel of a “big” DC book despite rather thin plotting.

The cast might be fun but there's not a lot in this issue. Batman goes around putting the team together but there’s a lack of urgency. Many of the scenes feel like they could have been tacked onto the ends of the various Rebirth one-shots that led up to this issue. Orlando’s usually stellar character work comes across a lot more pedestrian in this issue. A lot of "Rebirth" as been about resetting and reintroducing characters or character concepts as a means of mending the fractured DCU that was ushered in during the "New 52." Orlando does that here but it's a little light. None of the characters really get a chance to do anything, so there’s not really all that much for them to talk about. Even the concept of putting this team together feels a little bit flimsy. Orlando has Batman go on about needing a more human team for people to identify with, but Lobo gets recruited pretty early on, undermining that idea very quickly. It’s a “getting the team together” issue that serves that purpose but does little else.

Ivan Reis’ art is inoffensive but occasionally maddening. Reis embodies the worst of DC’s house style under Jim Lee. Without much in the way of plot, Reis ends up giving a lot of stagnant posed figures and a lack of dynamism in his pages. There’s nothing wrong leaning into traditional superhero aesthetics, but artists should always be serving the story and characters that they’re drawing. Reis manages to undermine Orlando’s writing by using angles for his panels that objectify his subjects. I’m not saying that artists shouldn't draw attractive people, but when characters are talking about sexism in the text of the book, it’s not a great look when the artist decides to use an angle that places some focus on a female character’s ass.

This issue is somewhat forgettable. There are at least a dozen better ways to introduce us to a superteam and Orlando doesn’t even really attempt to change up the formula. That’s unfortunate because the cast is fun and interesting. It would have been more encouraging to readers unfamiliar with some of the cast to have something to latch onto in this issue. As it stands, there’s nothing to really sell the concept. And I think Reis’ art has a lot to do with that, too. Coupled with a boring story, this book just looks and feels like any old superhero comic book. That approach might work for a more established cast of characters, but the creators here do their book a disservice but not having it stand out more.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Inhumans vs. X-Men #4
Written by Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule
Art by Javier Garron and David Curiel
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

The Inhumans strike back with Inhumans vs. X-Men this week, and even though these two franchises' sprawling (and yes, inconsistent) casts keep readers at arm's length emotionally, there's plenty of low-calorie fun to this popcorn blockbuster action. Jeff Lemire, Charles Soule and Javier Garron don't always succeed juggling such an enormous group of characters, but the hits in the script - not to mention the quality of the art — do outweigh the misses.

While the X-Men have successfully locked down Medusa and her group of Inhumans, to paraphrase a saying, if you come at the Queen, you best not miss - and with Medusa down but assuredly not out, Lemire and Soule waste no time staging the Inhuman's counterattack. This is a bit hit or miss thanks to the NuHumans' fairly basic power set - the idea of an impenetrable force field being permeable by light, oxygen and sound isn't a new one, and yes, Medusa's escape does make the X-Men look a bit like amateurs. Additionally, the A-plot of this book's big failure is that it's still difficult to connect with these characters - indeed, knowing the stakes the X-Men are facing, watching Medusa say "let's get some mutants" is a little cringeworthy, given the X-Men's status as Marvel's most prominent minority metaphor.

But where Lemire and Soule do succeed is when they pull back from the sprawling group scenes and focus on individual characters - Mosiac's infiltration of the X-Men, for example, has a nice sense of humor ("Stay away from any blonde women or redheads," says the clearly genre-savvy Reader, while a panel with a mind-controlled Magneto saying "I have to go to the bathroom" is delightfully awkward), while Colossus's determination to fight the entire Royal Family single-handedly is a great moment, and the kind of character definition that makes readers care about these heroes.

But what will make or break this book for many is the artwork by Javier Garron, who continues to grow and impress with every issue he tackles. At first glance, I honestly thought this book was illustrated by Nick Bradshaw, but that speaks to the smoothness of Garron's inks as well as the expressiveness of his characters. Admittedly, Garron's cartoony style does undercut some of the tension of previous issues (particularly coming on the heels of someone like the gritty and ultra-rendered Leinil Yu), but it also goes a long way towards getting readers to engage with these characters. His work on the Mosaic scenes look spectacular and ambitious, as the Inhuman bounces through Magneto's memories, and the way he sells Colossus striding through a wall of flame is really fantastic.

Ultimately, Inhumans vs. X-Men is at a distinct disadvantage because it comes on the heels of both Civil War II and Death of X - but at any rate, you can say Marvel has been improving upon the formula with each new installment. This book may struggle with making the best use out of its giant cast list, but there's clearly potential here in both the art and the more pared-down character moments. Inhumans vs. X-Men #4 might not be the most consistent bout in the world, but you can say this is a particularly solid round.

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