Best Shots Extra: JUSTICE LEAGUE of AMERICA #6, NOVA #6 Reviews

Credit: DC Comics
Credit: DC Comics

Justice League of America #6
Written by Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemire
Art by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Tom Nguyen, Gabe Eltaeb and Nathan Eyring
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

The DC Comics event of the year began last week with several loud “game-changing” bangs that signaled the arrival of the Trinity War. The second chapter wastes little time in showing the stunned reactions to the aftermath of Justice League #22, continuing the promised battle between DC’s flagship team and the heroes of the Justice League of America. Indeed, it is a third of the way through this book that writers Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire pause for thought on the fact that a major superhero has caused the death of another costumed hero. As such, instead of 22 pages of pitched battles, this issue offers something a little more reflective in tone.

Justice League of America, by its very nature, is defined in reference to the "other." It is almost impossible to speak about this title without comparing it to the Justice League proper, for that is the entire reason for their fictional existence. While it must be acknowledged that this is the middle chapter of the Trinity War arc, and as such not a typical Justice League of America adventure, the lead characters of this title take a back-seat to another "trinity" in this particular outing. Wonder Woman and Batman, seeking to find the truth behind Superman‘s uncontrolled moment of tragedy, form the core of this chapter. Framing narration is provided by the Question, the hitherto underused third member of the so-called Trinity of Sin, alongside Pandora and the Phantom Stranger. His search for identity serves as the bookends to the issue, further removing us from the usual inhabitants of the story. With the exception of their appearance in the opening battle, the Justice League of America scarcely appear in their own book.

Pencils from erstwhile Green Lantern artist Doug Mahnke firmly ground this within Geoff Johns’s universe, functionally serving this otherwise straightforward piece of storytelling. As with the story itself, Mahnke’s strengths lie around the central trio of heroes, including an especially sinister sequence in which Wonder Woman interrogates Hephaestus. The battle sequences don’t quite have the same majesty as the previous issue, but Superman’s pleas to stop the madness in the midst of his own self-realization and wonderfully rendered.

Justice League of America #6 is the difficult middle chapter of the first half of this crossover, mostly serving to set up the introduction of the Justice League Dark chapter next week. To this end, the issue works successfully in building up the pieces of the broader puzzle, but it may leave readers attached to the core members of the team out in the cold. Regardless, the Trinity War remains one of the more thrilling events of the year, and it will be interesting to go back and place this book in context when the entire saga is done.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Nova #6
Written by Zeb Wells
Art by Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco and David Curiel
Lettering by Albert Deschesne
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

With a new writer on board, Nova is finally starting to live up to his potential, as Zeb Wells and Paco Medina produce a truly sweet interlude that also serves as a great starting point for new readers. Despite the lack of action in this issue, we're finally starting to get a sense of who Sam Alexander really is, and that distinction really changes the character and trajectory of this series.

Picking up where Avengers vs. X-Men left off, Zeb Wells immediately latches onto the human stakes behind all of Sam Alexander's space opera - namely, how his costumed crusading effects his family and his personal life. It's easy to see the parallels between Sam and Blue Beetle Jaime Reyes, particularly as both of them are likable teens with likable families thrust into a superheroic world that goes far beyond their small-town origins.

Yet Wells does distinguish Sam's journey as a hero in a few ways: the most important of which is Sam's relationship with his mother, which comes across as so much warmer than Jaime Reyes' initial conflict-filled return. The other characteristic, taken from Jeph Loeb's playbook, is the palpable excitement Sam has when he dons the Nova helmet - indeed, unlike Spider-Man before him, Sam's powers aren't a source for angst, but instead a source of wonder and freedom and exuberance, and you can't help but grin alongside him as he rockets through the sky. Indeed, who wouldn't find a quirky friendship with the Watcher to be the coolest thing in the world?

For those who haven't been reading this book, Wells also does a great job at laying out most of Sam's status quo. One of the more poignant scenes in the book takes place when Sam is confronted by his school principal, who questions why the wayward hero ditched class for two weeks straight - Wells deftly balances the worry Sam has over his missing father's fate and the lingering hostility he has over his dad's downward spiral. Other bits, like Sam's high school bullies or his little sister, come at the reader fast and furious, but Wells gets just enough characterization for us to not just get the point, but for us to put ourselves in Sam's shoes.

Artwise, Paco Medina knows he has some big shoes to fill after the departure of Ed McGuinness, and to his credit, he does a great job at making his style mesh with the previous issues. Medina has a similar cartooniness as McGuinness, but his characters are a little less exaggerated in terms of their musculature. That said, Medina doesn't quite have McGuinness's deft handiwork with facial expressions - while his take on Sam's mother is about as sweet as it gets, some of his distance shots wind up looking like his characters have lazy eyes. While there isn't much action here to show off his chops, the pages where Nova is actually suited up look superb, particularly a panel where he skids to a stop, kicking up a cloud of dirt in his wake.

Armed with a new creative team, it's difficult to think of a book that's had more improvement over the past month than Nova. Focusing less on the flashy trappings of the Marvel cosmic universe, Wells and Medina wisely bring Sam Alexander down to earth, making him a much more likable, endearing and three-dimensional character in the process. With this sort of emotional resonance, it will be much easier for readers to get excited about the high-octane space fisticuffs as this series barrels ahead. If Wells and Medina can keep getting us to root for Sam and his family like they have this issue, the sky is the limit for Marvel's Human Rocket.

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