Justice League #3

Written by Geoff Johns

Art by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Alex Sinclair, Hi-Fi and Gabe Eltaeb

Lettering by Patrick Brosseau

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

In so many ways, this is the book that everyone is looking to to really establish the new tone of the DC Universe — but what fascinates me the most is how much this book wants to emulate the past. While many of the New 52 are taking new directions with the characters, each trying to form their own new corner, Justice League feels brashly widescreen, trying to win over readers by pure force alone. While that does work on occasion, we're also getting to the point where the World's Greatest Heroes are wearing out their welcome.

The best way to describe this book is that it reminds me a lot of Mark Millar's first two Ultimates books, at least as far as tone goes. This is a world that's far less comfortable with millions of dollars in property damage, and any sort of idealism or brightness the old DCU had has been jettisoned. Yet Millar had two ingredients to his first arcs that helped counterbalance and justify the in-your-face tone — he had a political undertone with superhumans as the new arms race... and he had to fully introduce his characters.

In that regard, Geoff Johns doesn't quite hit the mark. There's definitely a visceral appeal to having the League (or most of them) together in one place, and his characterization of Wonder Woman, while a little off-putting, is at least a set direction with its own drive and sense of humor. But beyond that... what do we have besides a bunch of characters that, well, kind of seem like jerks? Between Superman saying "smile for me" as he smashes a Parademon with a truck, the last page reveal and Hal Jordan calling "dibs" on Diana, we are missing out on a general likability in favor of edginess. Part of that is because Johns assumes we know the characters already, so establishing their means and methods is largely ignored, aside from Wonder Woman and Superman, the two more interesting characters in the book. The real human story — Victor Stone and his father — then ends up hitting the brakes on the book's momentum, rather than fueling it.

The other issue I have with the book is that on a plot level, it's all so convenient — I don't really know why the team is together in the same place at the same time, other than they have to be for the title to work. It clearly is a small world in the DC Universe, but without that thread to seek them out and connect them all — like S.H.I.E.L.D. — it's harder to suspend your disbelief.

The main attraction for this book, then, has to be Jim Lee. Like Ultimates before it, the hard-hitting action wouldn't sell without a top-tier artist on board, and in particular, Lee's take on Wonder Woman is nothing less than gorgeous, especially with a splash image where she dives through a crowd of Parademons with gusto. Superman also gets some nice moments here, particularly the casual way he swats a Parademon into next Tuesday. Where I think Lee is still finding his feet, however, is with the characters that aren't broad-swinging forces of nature — the more acrobatic characters, like Batman or the Flash, look a little awkward with their composition, as of Lee had a great idea and then remembered their legs had to go somewhere. It's a question of finding new places to take these largely unchanged designs, and the old visual vocabulary isn't enough for this relaunch. It's just the new words aren't there yet.

In Johns' defense, finally breaking the boys' club atmosphere with Wonder Woman gives the book a bit of fresh air, even if her characterization seems a little alien, a little bit juvenile. But the real question about Justice League is whether the self-absorbed characters will remain this way, and whether that will influence the rest of the line. Uniting the best of the best is a simple formula, but even those need consideration. If all we're going to get are "edgy" characters fighting for fighting's sake, this flagship book is going to get old, fast.


Amazing Spider-Man #674

Written by Dan Slott

Art by Guiseppe Camuncoli, Klaus Janson and Frank D'Armata

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Click here for preview

There's consistency — and then there's consistency. And then there's Amazing Spider-Man.

Consistency ain't easy in this business, particularly with crushing deadlines, daunting sales pressures and the drive to get the Next Big Thing. But Dan Slott and his murderer's row of artists have created a series that's essentially an easy must-buy every week it hits the stands. It's comfortably consistent, easily likable, just a great entry point for anybody who wants to hang out with your friendly neighborhood wall-crawler.

Even if you haven't read the previous "Spider-Island" arc, Slott makes it easy to get in on the action — and there is definitely a ton of it. It's a fairly old-school trick these days to drop exposition during a fight scene, but it's effective for a reason: while Spidey dishes some hurt out on some anti-Spider patrollers, we get the idea of his job, of his recently-regained Spider-Sense, and, most importantly, his goofy sense of humor. And Slott isn't just a dialogue man — he's also taken a nice riff on an old Spidey villain, taking the old Vulture imagery and twisting it into this sort of punk angelicism.

It also plays well to Guiseppe Camuncoli's strengths. Last time Camuncoli teamed up with inker Klaus Janson, I thought the effect came off as very dry and brittle, with Janson's linework really taking the fluidity out of Camuncoli's compositions. Not so this go-round — this team has figured out how to work magic together, with Janson giving some nice lush shadows to give some depth to Camuncoli's off-the-wall action sequences. Seeing Spidey twist his legs over a powerful robotic arm has the look of a gymnast, and it's a look that feels so "new" among the typical Spidey repertoire that even a jaded reader like me will say "holy cow." Frank D'Armata's colorwork also sets up a tone of underlying malice to the whole issue, with dark blues saying that just because "Spider-Island" is over, don't think Peter is out of the woods just yet.

Now, would I call this issue revolutionary by any stretch of the imagination? No — and it doesn't have to be. Most series are content to take a breather after finishing up a big crossover epic... Amazing Spider-Man, on the other hand, doesn't take its readers for granted, working hard to earn their trust with every installment. It's not high concept, it's just economical pacing, relatable characterization and just plain old-fashioned good storytelling. Talk about taking consistency and making a superpower out of it.

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