Drew: Determining a level of focus is perhaps the most important step in evaluating a work of art. These foci are specific to the style at hand — harmonic analysis is likely going to tell you very little about a rap song, just as an examination of brush strokes wouldn’t add much to a discussion of da Vinci. Intriguingly, these styles often begin to resemble each other as you zoom in and out — abstract paintings may share concepts of form, color, or composition with those of the Rennaisance masters, for example — further increasing the importance focus in an analysis. Geoff Johns has always written “big” — he’s been at the helm (or at least sharing the helm) of some of DC’s most important events over the past decade — and his writing has often chafed at the analyses of his critics. Justice League of America 7 actually avoids many of the pitfalls Johns is often cited for (a lot of stuff actually happens here), but it still has me wondering if we’re simply using the wrong tool for the job of evaluating a giant, Geoff Johns-penned event. Continue reading →
Patrick: Did any of you guys ever play Warhammer? If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a table top war game where you assemble an army from your race of choice and battle against your friends’ armies. It’s the least pick-up-and-play game you could ever imagine – understanding the basic rules means reading a 100+ page manual, and keeping a cheat sheet with charts and tables with you at all times. And then there’s understanding your own army, for which you need yet other book completely dedicated to that race. Then you need the little metal figures to represent the members of your army (sold separately), and if you’re really hardcore you can paint them. Then you need a surface large enough to play on – one time my friends and I took a door off its hinges and used that when we were denied the dining room table. Ideally, this surface will be populated with trees and terrain and stuff like that. Setting up the Trinity War has felt an awful lot like setting up a Warhammer game. Everyone’s been reading extra books they don’t really want to read just so they can play in the big game. Now the event is actually here and I can’t believe I’m surprised that all the characters feel like pieces in a game. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Justice League Dark 17, originally released February 27th, 2013.
Patrick: Have you ever been introduced to a group of new people with a specific adjective? Someone says “this is my funny friend Patrick” or “you’ll be working with Patrick, he’s really smart.” Suddenly, it doesn’t matter how you view yourself, it becomes your singular goal to live up to that defining adjective. It’s stressful, but having your friends state their expectations of you right upfront increases that likelihood that you will be the thing they say you are. So what do you say about someone to turn them into your hero?
Scott: This comic is called Animal Man, but it’s hardly about Buddy Baker at this point. Sure, Animal Man and Swamp Thing are the focal points of the RotWorld crossover event, but their personal objectives and motivations are overshadowed by RotWorld itself. There are so many characters fighting against the rot that it’s tough to consider Animal Man the main character in this issue, and even more difficult to think of his personal motivation — to save Maxine — as the emotional center of the story. Throw in the fact that this issue truly is a crossover with Swamp Thing, and it’s harder yet to think of this as Animal Man’s story. Not that that’s a bad thing. Animal Man is part of an awesome team fighting against the Rot, and the collective inventiveness they display here makes Animal Man 17 a thoroughly fun and often jaw-droppingly cool experience.
Today, Shelby and Taylor are discussing Justice League Dark 16, originally released January 30th, 2013.
Shelby: I loved magic when I was a kid. Stories about fairies, dragons, unicorns: I ate that shit up. I always wanted so badly for those sorts of things to be real. Even as an adult, I still wish for real magic in the world. Embarrassing confession time: I saw the first Chronicles of Narnia movie in the theater with my family. It came out in 2005, so I was 21 years old, and leaving the movie I was bummed out that I couldn’t actually go to Narnia. Nearly a real adult, and I just wanted to be whisked away to a dreamworld of magic. It’s really no surprise I like Justice League Dark as much as I do; Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes have crafted a world where that magic exists and is in danger of being eradicated. Obviously you know which side I’m rooting for. Continue reading →
Patrick: The End of the World. Pretty bleak subject matter, right? But we can go bleaker. Let’s kill as many superheroes as possible, and then use their grotesquely reanimated corpses to attack our protagonists. Also, no one’s safe, so those protagonists themselves can get picked off at a moment’s notice. Still not grim enough? Then let’s keep flashing back to the putrid death of our hero’s family. These are the principal building blocks of Rotworld. So if I’m using the adjectives “grim,” “grotesque” and “bleak” so much, why is this issue so much fun?
Today, Shelby and Taylor are discussing Justice League Dark 15, originally released January 2nd, 2013.
Shelby: Science and magic. In the broadest of terms, they are the two sources of meta-humans’ powers in the DCU. Superman? He’s an alien being powered up by the particular wavelength of light from our sun: that’s science. Wonder Woman? She’s a demi-god, pure and simple: that’s magic. Green Lantern? Trick question, it’s will-power harnessed and weaponized: I’m calling it magic refined by science. Lantern Corps aside, there’s usually a pretty clear line between science (far-fetched and ridiculous though it may be) and magic in the comic book universe. Often times the two sides face off, refusing to see that they are kind of two sides of the same coin, but every so often science and magic team up and we get something extra special. Luckily for us, Justice League Dark gives us both options in one action-packed issue. Continue reading →
Shelby: Last month, Drew talked about Jeff Lemire thwarting our expectations to surprise us in the best way. This month is no different, as he sprinkles some obvious and not-so-obvious surprises throughout the issue. And really, he’s made it easy for us to be surprised; with Rotworld, Lemire has turned the DCU into a place where literally anything can happen. Kill all the heroes and leave the world a rotting shell? Sure! Turn characters we all know into horrifying monsters who want little more than to tear our protagonist limb from limb? Why not! In a universe where all the rules have been broken, even our wildest guesses fall short of the mark. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Justice League Dark 14, originally released November 28th, 2012.
Drew: Chekhov’s gun — the principle that a writer should not introduce a story element in the first act unless it comes into play by the third — is meant to keep stories simple and efficient. Details that don’t matter can clutter a story needlessly, making for a flabby, muddy narrative. On the other hand, when handled obviously, knowing that every element introduced must come into play can ruin an otherwise good surprise. In Justice League Dark 14, we find Jeff Lemire applying Chekhov’s principle to the House of Mysteries, delivering a kind of comedic interlude in the midst of Zatana and Tim Hunter’s disappearance. Continue reading →
Drew: Last month, I couldn’t get over how openly writer Jeff Lemire was playing to our expectations in Animal Man. More specifically, he was setting up expectations with the express purpose of implying he was going to meet them at face value — all with an unblinking swagger that was kind of thrilling. Animal Man 14 finds him switching gears to the kinds of thwarted expectations we expect from (good) superhero comics, but that change actually makes the surprises even more surprising. Continue reading →