Justice League #11

Written by Geoff Johns

Art by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Jonathan Glapion, Alex Sinclair and Gabe Eltaeb

Lettering by Pat Brosseau

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

With all the heat around Marvel's Avengers movie, it's ironic that the closest thing to it in comics form is DC's Justice League. Muscular, brash and totally single-minded, this book isn't out for some deep inner meaning, but is out instead to kick some serious ass.

This issue, in a lot of ways, marks a new benchmark in Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's collaborative skills. These two top dogs had some growing pains in the first few issues, but watching the League struggle against David Graves' machinations — and then, in the best sequence in the book, against one another — is visual poetry.

Lee produces a ton of great moments in here, whether it's Batman looking tattered and shadowy as he picks himself off the ground, or Wonder Woman busting out of a prison in what has to be the hardest-hitting splash page DC has printed all year. Lee also adds some grandeur to the quieter moments featuring Graves, as his ghostly puppets give Lee a lot of tendrils and wispiness to play with.

And don't think Johns isn't noticing that. While his scripts still occasionally get a little wordy, particularly with the exposition about Graves' book, he does a great job balancing some of the smaller character moments with the big blockbuster action set pieces. (Wonder Woman fans, take note — Diana holds her own and then some this issue, as Johns easily demonstrates why she's one of Earth's mightiest heroes.) Honestly, the tension between the League is fan-service, but it's awesome fan-service that's played to the hilt — and if it had been utilized earlier, I have the feeling we would have been looking at a very different New 52.

Of course, with all this artistic muscle, occasionally the smarts do get left behind on this book. While the League infighting is ridiculously entertaining, it's not unfair to see it as a little arbitrary, especially considering at how quickly it wraps up. (And why no one did it sooner, considering how easy it was!) Additionally, the character balance is still a little off, with Aquaman and Cyborg in particular getting very few moments in the spotlight.

That all said, I can't say enough how pleasantly surprised I've been by Justice League lately, as the creative team has been engaged in anything but a sophomore slump. The art is on-track, now that Lee and Johns are more accustomed to his densely-paneled scripts, and Johns' focus on the heated team dynamics is a fresh alternative to the rank-and-file pantheon of Grant Morrison's run 15 years ago. Gorgeously drawn with only one mission — show DC's major icons together in action — and you've got yourself a knockout of a book.


Avengers vs. X-Men #8

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by Adam Kubert, John Dell, Laura Martin and Larry Molinar

Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

"Is there a plan?"

Hope Summers asks this at the end of Avengers vs. X-Men, and I think it's worth thinking about. Right now, the plan seems to be eliciting a specific reaction rather than focusing on story — not necessarily a bad thing, considering how incestuous and tangled the Big Two have been in continuity over the past decade or so. The only problem is that without a goal beyond "fight," this comic comes off more like a video game than a strong narrative.

The premise of this chapter is a simple one: with Namor attacking Wakanda, the Avengers are out for some Phoenix-huntin'. And... that's pretty much it. Brian Michael Bendis tosses as many Avengers as he can at the angry Atlantean, but to be honest, much of it feels interchangeable. (Not to mention that, homage to World War II comics notwithstanding, Namor, and by extension the X-Men, is in full-on supervillain territory at this point.)

While the fight-flee-repeat structure of this comic may be wearing thin, the art still looks totally sick. Compared to the chiseled, clean figures of Olivier Coipel, Adam Kubert's work looks dirty, disheveled — a perfect fit for the increasingly personal war between Marvel's top two superteams. A sequence where Namor gets his face bashed in by Red Hulk, Thor and the Thing looks bloody and brutal, and Namor's retaliation against one of his attackers shows just how strong he really is.

Lots of shouting, lots of punching, but not a lot of specificity with Marvel's nuanced characters — that's pretty much Avengers vs. X-Men in a nutshell right now, down to the final boss(es) getting more powerful as the "heroes" press on. The X-Men are definitely coming off as the Redheaded Stepchildren of the Atom here, with no moral equivalency in sight, but if you're a diehard Kubert or Avengers fan, well, at least you've got a pretty fight to look at.


Glory #28

Written by Joe Keatinge

Art by Ross Campbell

Published by Image Comics

Review by Pierce Lydon

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Imagine Tarantino made sci-fi movies set in the depths of space shot with a color palette that could only be described as DayGlo and you would have a pretty good idea of what you’re in for with Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell’s Glory #28.

Brutality is the name of the game in this one and despite some of the intrinsic moral dilemmas that crop up with some of the plot points (kids committing murder, etc.), Keatinge keeps things rather light. Of course, it’s hard not to when the second page features a giant cat gargoyle that can shoot lasers out of its eyes. That’s the kind of book this is. The plot is simple. It is insular. IT is concerned only with getting from point A to point B. Keatinge hints at some of the inner turmoil that characters have with regards to some of their actions here but that’s not the main draw of this issue. This is the knock down, drag out, “deny these dark beasts their tomorrow,” “on my mark release hell” giant freaking fight scene issue in this arc. (Did I mention that that’s totally cool?)

It wouldn’t be all that great if the art wasn’t phenomenal. Ross Campbell delivers a Frank Quitely by way of Moebius by way of fellow Extreme auteur Brandon Graham feel to these proceedings and it’s an absolute joy. Campbell’s balance of hyper detail and exciting layout and design lays a solid foundation for the book. It is anchored by extremely strong color art from Joseph Bergin III and Owen Gieni. The colors pop off the page just like the blood vessels Glory is severing. This is the kind of gore that makes you laugh and cringe at the same time.

Glory is an interesting character. She exists as an antithesis to typical superhero ladies. This is no exercise in T&A. This book doesn’t pander to the cliché comic buying crowds by serving up cheesecake on a silver platter. It’s about time, comics. It’s about time. But all in all, crazy sci-fi, enough strong female characters to pass the Bechdel test a thousand times and intense, psychedelica-infused artwork; what’s not to love? Glory is definitely flying under the radar but Joe Keatinge and company are creating something special that is both brutal and beautiful. It’s brutiful. Yeah, let's go with that.

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