Books Of Justice Trade Post: Second Coming & When Worlds Collide

justice league of america second coming Justice League Of America: Second Coming (DC)
Written by Dwayne McDuffie , drawn by Ed Benes with Alan Goldman, Doug Mahnke, Darick Robertson, Ian Churchill & Ivan Reis
Collects Justice League Of America #22-26

Naturally, after reading Brad Meltzer’s two-book run on Justice League Of America and then Dwayne McDuffie’s first two, I moved right along into his last two. While The Injustice League and Sanctuary read like truncated tales, Second Coming actually felt like a full story that McDuffie wanted to tell that didn’t get interrupted by a larger DCU event.

As I said before, while Grant Morrison’s JLA deals with macro issues showing why the world needs the team, the Meltzer-into-McDuffie one seems more focused on why the team members need each other. While trying to fix Red Tornado again, Amazo shows back up and starts causing trouble for the team. Of course, they’re dealing with their interpersonal relationships which, like the threat itself, exist because this team exists. It’s a cool, organic process that does something a little different than I’m most used to when thinking of blockbuster JLA teams.

The trade ends with a crazier story than I remembered from my first reading. Vixen wants to get to the bottom of her new, wonky powers, so most of the team goes to Animal Man’s house. While there, a trickster god brings them into his dimension where he tells Vixen and Buddy about their true secret origins (if you can believe the god of lies) and also builds an alternate version of the Justice League by changing a few details here and there when it comes to hero origins. I’m a big fan of alternate reality stories, so this was right in my wheelhouse. I remembered this story being more confusing when it was coming out monthly, but felt it flowed a lot better with all the pieces in hand.

Art wise, this book is a little all over the place. Ed Benes is the main artist, but he’s still kind of in flux. The first issue of the collection has inks that are way too dark and heavy, but those back off as the issues progress. Alan Goldman came in and did a pretty great fill in and then you’ve got the cavalcade of killer artists from Doug Mahnke to Ian Churchill coming in to do a few pages here and there on one of the issues. All in all, both the art and story felt really pretty organic, not just for the few issues in this collection, but for the whole JLoA run to this point.

justice league of america when worlds collide Justice League Of America: When Worlds Collide (DC)
Written by Dwayne McDuffie, drawn by Ed Benes with Jose Luis, Shane Davis, Rags Morales, Ardian Syaf & Eddy Barrows
Justice League Of America #27, 28, 30-34

The word I keep thinking of when trying to describe When Worlds Collide is: bonkers. This trade is all over the place. First, you’ve got a two part story dealing with the Milestone characters trying to steal something from the Justice League. This was around the time when those heroes and villains were first being integrated into the DCU, but not being very well explained. All of a sudden, we’re just supposed to accept that an entire comic book universe was shrunk down to one town, Dakota, and had always been in the DCU? Huh? Well, after adding to some of that confusion, McDuffie actually does explain what happened towards the end of this book and his run on the series. I don’t think I ever actually read all these issues when they came out because it was around the time I got laid off from Wizard and lost access to every comic ever, so it was a big question mark in my head until I finished this trade.

So, there’s this bonkers story about all these heroes you’ve either never heard of and don’t know or have heard of and don’t know why they’re around. Then a whole issue is skipped over. After that, Hawkman asks the team for help in fighting Shadow Thief. After that, there’s an issue where Black Canary’s talking to all these different people about why the League is basically over with next to no explanation as to what went on to cause all this. Finally, a team consisting of Dr. Light, Firestorm, John Stewart, Vixen and Zatana runs up against Starbreaker. This last story also brings in a few more Milestone characters (and explains why they’re here now) as well as the Batman from the alternate universe in the previous volume. Again, bonkers.

The real problem with this book is that there’s zero context or explanation for what’s going on in the greater DC Universe at the time. This was around Final Crisis which lead to the death of Martian Manhunter, the temporal displacement and apparent death of Batman, Superman heading off to live on New Krypton and Wonder Woman disappearing for some reason. Some of these things are mentioned in the book, but a simple text explanation would have been greatly appreciated.

That lack of interest in catching a reader up really bothered me while reading this book and the next one which also picked up after some pretty huge out-of-book events. There’s this assumption that you already know everything that’s going on in the entire world of these characters. Heck, even if you did read everything when these issues were coming out and owned the trades, it’s incredibly likely that you won’t a few years down the line when you want to give them a re-read (which, you know, is the point of friggin trades!). To keep new readers abreast of what’s going on around these stories, there needs to be a small amount of explanation for what the heck the characters are referring to. This is an incredibly easy comic related problem to fix, so someone needs to get on it!

Books Of Justice: The Injustice League & Sanctuary

justice league of america injustice league Justice League Of America: The Injustice League (DC)
Written by Dwayne McDuffie with Alan Burnett, drawn by Mike McKone, Joe Benitez, Ed Benes & Allan Jefferson
Collects Justice League Of America Wedding Special #1, Justice League Of America #13-16

After reading through the two Brad Meltzer Justice League Of America books, it just made sense to keep going and re-absorb Dwayne McDuffie’s run on the book which makes up four trades. While my negative memories of Meltzer’s run were somewhat vague, I had very specific memories of why McDuffie’s bummed me out. First and foremost, it went with the “a group of villains getting together” story which had been done plenty of times before and after. Then you had the fact that it seemed like there were editorial mandates that just kept coming down which truncated some arcs and interrupted others. One arc ends with a “Huh?” because it had to lead into Salvation Run while another reintroduces the Tangent characters for seemingly no reason.

At the time these books were coming out, I remember thinking that all of this just seemed wrong. The Justice League should have been the book steering the good ship DCU instead of feeling like something that was being back seat driven by someone other than the book’s writer. So, when getting back into these stories I tried to forget everything I knew — which turned out to be a bit easier than expected — and actually read this book as if it was in charge. How’d the work out?  Continue reading Books Of Justice: The Injustice League & Sanctuary

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

Books Of Oa: Blackest Night, Blackest Night Green Lantern & Blackest Night Green Lantern Corps

BLACKEST NIGHT (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Ivan Reis
Collects Blackest Night #0-8, Blackest Night Director’s Cut #1
Here’s the thing about events. Even when it makes sense for the events of the event to have an effect on the greater universe (zombies infesting the universe, the government wants to register superheros) that doesn’t always mean it works out from a story perspective to tie into the greater universe. For instance, Blackest Night brought the dead back to life in nearly every DC comic book of the time, but that didn’t really mean anything. Even the ones who had a way to get rid of the Black Lanterns didn’t play into the greater story (for the most part) so what’s the point? There were also a ton of tie-in miniseries showing what Blackest Night did to people like Batman or Superman. Some of these stories seemed to be spawned from brief moments in the greater story (like what happens to poor Damage) but others wound up being pointless (Wonder Woman spent time in a stasis field imagining three issues worth of nonsense). The only reason I bring all this is up is to preface this review by saying that I didn’t bother with any of that stuff on this second reading of Blackest Night. I know the tie-ins really bogged the greater story down for a lot of people which is pretty much a rookie move as far as I’m concerned, but what are you gonna do? I was really looking forward to sitting down and reading this story in a pretty short period of time.

I kicked around the idea of reading each of these three books on their own, but I wound up following this list I found online: Green Lantern #43, Blackest Night #0, BN #1, GLC #39, GL #44, BN #2, GL #45, GLC #40, BN #3, GL #46, GLC #41, GL #47, BN #4, GLC #42, GL #48, BN #5, GLC #43, GL #49, BN #6, GLC #44, GL #50, GL #51, GLC #45, BN #7, GLC #46, GL #52, BN #8 and GLC #47. Bouncing around from book to book was kind of a pain in the ass, but I think it really helped with the story. As it turns out the Green Lantern issues tie in very heavily with Blackest Night while Green Lantern Corps deals with the rising of the dead in space (the main story takes place mostly on Earth). While I think the GLC stuff can be read closer together if you feel the need, I’d probably stick to this reading order next time around too.

BLACKEST NIGHT: GREEN LANTERN (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Doug Mahnke, Ed Benes and Marcos Marz
Collects Green Lantern #43-52
So, to run down the basics of the story, the Black Lantern rings spread across the universe attaching themselves to the fingers of dead people, many of whom have a special connection to Earth-bound superheroes and Green Lantern Corps members. As someone puts it at some point in the series (I didn’t take notes, but I remember the deets pretty well, it was either Flash or Atom) the ring wears the corpse instead of the other way around. It can access their memories and use them to make their victims feel one of the emotions on the spectrum. The more they feel the brighter their auras get and once they’re bright or charged enough, the Black Lantern grabs their heart and consumes it. The first time I read all this, I had several questions. Why are they only going after heroes? Why is so much of the story based on Earth? What is the deal with these freaking Black Lanterns? All gets explained by the end.

The story centers around, of course, Hal Jordan and his pal and Johns favorite Barry Allen but also brings all of the other Lantern corps into play in a gigantic war at the very end that results in the deputization of several heroes and a few villains into the different corps. It’s cool on a fan boy level and makes sense on a larger level. Lex Luthor WOULD get a greed-based ring, Scarecrow (who we saw almost get a Sinestro Corps ring earlier in the series) WOULD get a fear-based ring. It’s all great.

As it turns out, the reason all this stuff happens on Earth is because it acts as a shell for something called The Entity which started all life in the universe (which we get treated to during the story, along with the birth of all the emotions on the spectrum). A lot of these details and explanations were hard for me to keep track of when these issues were coming out. Like I’ve said before, I would try and read them so voraciously, that I’m sure I missed elements and even forgot some of the questions I had. I was also distracted by the various deaths throughout the series, many of which were made better by the fact that 12 heroes and villains were able to rise from the dead without the use of the Black Lantern ring.

BLACKEST NIGHT: GREEN LANTERN CORPS (DC)
Written by Peter J. Tomasi, drawn by Patrick Gleason
Collects Green Lantern Corps #39-47
There’s lots of geekiness in these books that I enjoyed as well. John Stewart deals with the death of Xanshi, the planet he was supposed to watch, Flash telling Mera and The Atom they’re the new Wonder Woman and Superman, the fact that some fairly low level characters got to be the major players, that Nekron explained how every resurrected superhero was really a way for him to weaken this reality allowing him to make his move on Earth and the Entity (he basically wants to kill all life) and that kick off issue with Black Hand is creepily amazing. The splash pages in this book are worth writing home about too, especially towards the end. Seeing Hal working with Sinestro, Carol Ferris as a Star Sapphire and Atrocitus was also a really fun dynamic too.

I have friends who had lots of problems with this story, though I’m not sure if they’ve read everything together and still have their complaints. After finishing it this second time around in a much shorter time period than the first go around, I’m really impressed with the greater story, especially how it intertwined itself with Green Lantern. I’m sure you could read Blackest Night without reading Green Lantern, but it would be nowhere near a complete story.

Well, this will be the last Books Of Oa for a while. I’ve got a few other in mind that I’ll get to and have a plan to get some of my Kyle Rayner era comics bound in the near future, so I’m sure I’ll write about those in due time. Right now I’m looking forward to reading some less dense comics, but have had an awesome time going back and reading six years worth of comics.