Justice Trade Post: JLoA The Tornado’s Path, JSoA The Next Age & The Lightning Saga

justice league of america the tornado's path Justice League Of America: The Tornado’s Path (DC)
Written by Brad Meltzer, drawn by Ed Benes
Collects Justice League Of America #1-7

The last time I was really excited about mainstream comics was the lead-up to Infinite Crisis and everything that went on up until about Countdown. It seemed like DC had done a great job of keeping their universe well organized, using several quality creators to not only tell stories that were unique and fun in and of themselves, but also lead up to something much larger. Sometime during the Infinite Crisis event, I actually started working at Wizard, so I had more of an inside track on what was going on. To be honest, as cool as that can be, it’s not always a great thing and can taint how you feel about different books. It’s the age old bit about seeing how the sausage is made. Sometimes it’s interesting and enlightening, other times it’s pretty gross.

Hit the jump to keep reading!  Continue reading Justice Trade Post: JLoA The Tornado’s Path, JSoA The Next Age & The Lightning Saga

Fantastic Voyage Trade Post: Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four Volume 2

Fantastic Four By Jonathan Hickman Volume 2 (Marvel)
Written by Jonathan Hickman, drawn by Dale Eaglesham
Collects Fantastic Four #575-578

As I mentioned in my review of Jonathan Hickman’s first volume of  Fantastic Four stories, he does an excellent job of melding the classic bigness of the team with a down-to-earth family side that is the center of what makes this comic tick. His collaborator Dale Eaglesham does the same with his pencils, so it’s truly a match made in comic book heaven.

While the first volume had some really interesting ideas that grabbed me as ar reader, I think this second one really shows what Hickman is/was building towards. At the end of the previous volume Val Richards was paid a visit by a future version of her brother who gave her a carefully worded though seemingly vague prophecy about a coming war between various cities. In this volume we’re actually presented with those cities. It was something that I didn’t quite catch on to immediately, but once I did, I realized how well paced and plotted this comic was. Plus, even though it’s very clearly building towards the third and fourth volumes and into the relaunch as FF (Future Foundation) later on down the line, it still feels like its own complete thing.

Sometimes, when you read comics or watch shows that are clearly building towards something larger, some of the installments feel like wheel-spinning or world building without much substance. That’s not the case here. Actually, I think one of the reasons I wasn’t paying as much attention to the prophecy stuff is because I was drawn into the mysteries or drama that surrounded each of the cities. Hickman makes sure that each issue has enough going on that you’re absorbed while also collecting pieces of the bigger puzzle which is no small task.

And once again, Dale Eaglesham shows why he’s one of my favorite pencilers in comics. This dude just knows how to draw everything and does it well. It helps that Hickman threw in so many fun settings for the artist to explore. You’ve got underwater stuff, scenes on the moon, underground cities, aliens, monsters, the Mole Man, HERBIE, the Negative Zone and a giant Galactus corpse among other things.

I was really bummed when I finished this volume and realized I had missed my opportunity to get all of the Hickman trades on the cheap from Thwipster. I tweeted as such and was clued in that there would be more available during a Black Friday sale. It was only the third volume, which I now have in my possession. I really want to jump in, but a few things are holding me back. First, I’d rather get my hands on the fourth volume and maybe even FF before heading back into the waters, just to make sure I have as much of the story as possible. The second reason is that Eaglesham didn’t draw anything in the next volume and that bums me out. The guy they got to cover is named Neil Edwards, he did some stuff in the previous volume and he’s not bad, but he suffers from not being Eaglesham and also has a style similar to Bryan Hitch, an artist whose popularity befuddles me. Anyway, with Christmas not too far away, maybe I’ll add the missing volumes to my Amazon wish list and have a post-holiday reading marathon. That sounds pretty fun, actually!

Fantastic Voyage Trade Post: Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four Volume 1

Fantastic Four By Jonathan Hickman Volume 1 (Marvel)
Written by Jonathan Hickman, drawn by Dale Eaglesham & Neil Edwards
Collects Fantastic Four #570-574

Fantastic Four is one of those concepts that has limitless potential that doesn’t always get reached. I’ve only gotten a few issues into the series’ original run in my Fantastic Voyage posts, but I do have some on-again-off-again experience with the book. I started reading with Heroes Reborn and then moved over to the Heroes Return Chris Claremont stuff which I could only stand for about five issues or so. It wouldn’t be until I got my hands on Mark Waid’s run of the book until I really experienced how good this team could be. That is one of my favorite Marvel runs of all time and I hope to get back to it in the relative future. For me, the key to good FF stories is emphasizing both the fantastic elements while also dealing with the family drama at the same time.

And that’s exactly what Hickman does in his first volume of Fantastic Four stories. I read most, if not all, of these issues while I was still working at Wizard, so this was more of a revisiting, but I had just as good of a time the second time around as I did the first.

So, what does the book contain? Three stories, actually, which is impressive considering the collection only contains five comics. First and foremost, we see Reed join a pan-dimensional group of Reeds who have banned together to help change all of the universes. The question he’s posed with–and one that’s central to our version of Reed–is whether he’s willing to risk his humanity (read: family) and fully embrace his world-changing brilliance. After that, Johnny and Ben (with tagalongs Franklin and Valeria) head to their own alternate world and help save the day. I believe this was the location featured in Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s run on the book which I could not bring myself to read after about half the first issue. Finally, we end with Franklin’s birthday party which is a fun family and friend moment followed by a mysterious traveler essentially laying out the next year or so of Hickman’s story (cryptically, of course).

As I said, Hickman does a great job balancing the family and fantastic elements, but he also balances one of the other difficult things about the FF: continuity. These guys have been around consistently for 50 years. That’s a helluva lot of stories for writers to borrow from or base their own stories off of. Sometimes–as in the case of the Claremont issues–the continuity is just too deep and confusing. Other times, writers go on and do their own thing. Again, Hickman balances these elements very well. The history and continuity are there, but they’re not primary to the story. As long as you know the basics of the FF–and maybe not even that, I’d absolutely hand this book to someone who knows nothing about the team–you’re good to go.

Dale Eaglesham matches Hickman perfectly on this book. He’s been one of my all-time favorites for years because his figures always look big and iconic, even when they’re doing something small, like talking to a loved one. He’s the perfect match for this book and you can feel when he’s not drawing the issues. They’re still good, but not as good as you know they could have been. It’s a small complaint, but I want me more Eaglesham!