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Subj: Justice League #41 - Another Day, Another War.
Posted: Sun Jun 07, 2015 at 03:58:05 pm EDT (Viewed 556 times)
Conceived at the dawn of the swinging Sixties, with the Rock N'Roll phenomenon in full bloom, The Justice League of America was always intended a being an up to date thoroughly modern rebranding of the then obsolete Justice Society of America, a book that would take the best superheroes the Publisher had to offer and present them as The World's Greatest Heroes come together to protect the Earth. The appeal of the book was obvious, and to emphasise their modernity they were given the teenage Snapper Carr as... Mascot... Carr had no powers and certainly no credentials, but the principle was sound as he was the readers identification point, the reader could well see Snapper as being a stand-in for themselves, helping the World's Greatest and sharing in their company and adventures. That the immediate success of the JLA inspired a certain Martin Goodman to tap subordinate Stan Lee on the shoulder and lead to his creation of The Fantastic Four to emulate this successful format is a testament to how sharp and novel the Justice League was at that time, like others in the Julius Schwartz renaissance of the late 50s/60s here was a book that caught the wave of the early youth movement and went on to inspire everyone else. It is notable that despite its being conceived as an update on the Justice Society and the era's backdrop of the Korean and Vietnam wars the Justice League through the 1960s and into the 70s remained steadfastly distant to the chaos of the times and certainly ignorant of Warcraft. So when looking at the past forty issues of the modern Justice League series what does it say that at least 70 per-cent of its content has been devotd to one War or another?
With six issues centering on Apokolips' armies attempting to conquer Earth, The Undersea continent launching a war on the surface world in The Throne of Atlantis, The Trinity War, Forever Evil - branded as a being War by Atomica no less, Superman and Wonder Woman tempting a major diplomatic incident by invading Khandaq, and now the derivatively titled Darkseid War which starts its odyssey this very issue.
But let us not forget the God of War is now a fully fledged member of the League either... what does this unflinching obsession with ravaging cities and producing misery say about the mentality at work in DC Comics today? Is the lowest common element for good drama and entertainment for a book really to be found in a strict adherance to angst, genocide, and doling out one doom-laden 'war' after the other?
Breaking down the story served in this months Justice League is no mean feat, several different elements or more are at work in a plot which is pure set-up and the first chapter of The Darkseid War. That the relaunched universe of DC Comics has placed Darkseid and his New Gods at the forefront of its modern landscape takes things back to the publishers troubling desire for stories to be based around mass conflict - looking afield elsehwere for example devastating planetary War and Darkseid have defined Earth-2 for the last four years, so too is Wonder Woman never far from the gears of war, The Green Lantern Corps has spent its recent years in one war or another, and in the background of the DC Universe works Apokolips and New Genesis. Never has Jack Kirby's Fourth World been so active and at the forefront of what powers the DC Universe.
And now we have the rise of The Anti-Monitor and his forces, decimating worlds, attracting Darkseid's attention, and the promise of yet more misery-porn to come thanks to Geoff Johns and DC Comics... On the positive side Justice League #41 cannot be said to be interesting. Opening with a scene reminiscent of James Cameron's original Terminator premise New God Assassin Kanto is targeting women with the name of Myrina Black, why we shall just have to wait and see. Geoff Johns and artist Jason Fabok offer us a modern take on Kanto, and an even more modern take on Mr Miracle, who is on Apokolips pursuing information on Darkseid's latest movements. Whether Geoff Johns is fully aware of develoments over in Earth-2 one can only wonder given some of Scott Free's musings, clad in what can only be described as armour Jason Fabok's Mr Miracle looks more akin to a machine man than the Houdini-style entertainer of old, gone is the bright skintight kaleidoscope of colours of which Jack Kirby gave to him thanks to his earthly mentor - the original Mr Miracle, and in comes a much harsher iron knight approach to the character. Someone has forgotten just what Mr Miracle is, and why he took to wearing that particular gaudy suit...
Easily the finest scene in the entire book is Wonder Woman's, reminiscing on the moment she became aware of a world beyond the shores of Paradise Island the scene sees a young Diana finding a book washed up on the beaches, lost in poring over its ruined pages she doesn't hear her mothers approach and is ordered to hand it over. The sequence is beuatifully rendered by Jason Fabok and his Colourist Brad Anderson, filled with the visual splendor of the setting sun on the pristine beaches of Themiscyra and a lone Diana staring to sea asking what is out there. Where did the book come from... it is a scene that seems seperate from anything else in the the book, where everything is ponderously doomladen and coloured in a pallette so muted it evokes the depths of Johns' other monument to comicbook misery - Forever Evil. Perhaps this should be expected given that The Darkseid War is the sequel to that storyline, and yet while reading this issue the problem only becomes ever more pronounced. Jason Fabok is a fine artist, but whether it was his personal choice or a requirement of the script Faboks pages are, uniformly, extremely dense in their panel quota. Multiple small panels packed per page make this opening issue to The Darkseid War a claustrophobic experience that due to the lack of variety between page layouts left this reader feeling not excitement at a grand new storyline, but anxiety. Justice League #41 is a carefully orchestrated slab of entertainment designed not to inspire wonder, but dread. And not necessarily in the right way.
Still, as Mr Miracle is interrupted by Darkseid's surprise arrival Geoff Johns' use of this monolithic villain is well executed. Cast in shadow Johns serves the villain with minimalist dialogue carefully framed to enhance the imposing nature of the New God Darklord, acknowledging the rarely understood fact in entertainment that the lesser the dialogue the more the vilain terrifies and unsettles with his sense of control. Darkseid's first and direct utterance to his intruder is a baffling "Those Colours." after a moments bafflment we are made to realise that Darkseid is commenting on the remarkable color scheme of which he wears, certainly such extravagance is out of place on Apokolips, and the contrasting between the black shade of Darkseid and the Yellow & Red of Mr Miracle's masked face is a striking means of underlining Darkseid's words to him. The purpose of the scene works, though Johns' intended underlying point to this exchange is lost. Scott Free was willingly handed over to Darkeid as a young boy, and has never reconciled with Highfather for doing so. So, as Johns emphasises, Scott Free roams the universes as an outcast, a nomad, swearing never to forgive either of his Fathers but never admitting to the truth that he years for reconciliation. To be accepted back into the home where he spent his formative years. In many ways then Scott Free is very much like any of the Justice League's membership, all are outsiders of one calibre or another, all willing to fight against the forces of Apokolips and tyranny, and most like Scott are looking for a place to feel at home in with peers to match.
Given the League come under attack from the mysterious daughter of Darkseid and Lena Luthor is revealed as an agent of Darkseid it may well be that Mr Miracle will be the Justice League's next major cast addition. In the short-term however event follows event as Superman's patience with Lex Luthor begins to finally end and Wonder Woman finds herself bludgeoned into unconciousness by the superior force of Darkseid's daughter, not that she is alone in that, the fallen New God makes light work of all the League present, but as she summons the Anti-Monitor Johns' seemingly endless peppering of the plot with new players and reveals all but reaches toxic levels as the fleeing Mr Miracle arrives before the woman Kanto has been hunting - Myrina Black. And judging from her pet, and the symbol on her cheek, she too may be related to Darkseid. Unlike the woman serving as The Anti-Monitor's herald however Ms Black is no friend of Darkseid....
Asking whether Justice League #41 is a good book is not an easy thing to answer. It is certainly filled with incident, the art is technically brilliant yet the choice in page layouts deeply flawed, detrimental to the finished product in fact. We are handed a scenario where at least four villains are hunting after four seemingly different agendas, not including Lex Luthor, who is up to something, and somewhere between all of these strange and disparate factions the actual reasons and motive to the opening of this storyline is left out of the exchange - Just what IS it this story is about...?!
Almost the counterpoint to Geoff Johns' seminal trendsetting epic The Sinestro Wars The Darkseid War is a confusing and reader unfriendly tale of a cosmic war coming to the earths doorstep. Unlike The Sinestro Wars and its carefully set up cast this latest saga lacks any identifiable figures to get behind, no Kyle Rayner figure to feel sympathy for, and certainly no human touchstones to identify with. It aspires to The Sinestro Wars, but it can never match it...
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