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 Oa: Rage Of The Red Lanterns & Agent Orange

GREEN LANTERN: RAGE OF THE RED LANTERNS (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Shane Davis & Ivan Reis
Collects Final Crisis: Rage Of The Red Lanterns #1 & Green Lantern #36-38
Okay, I know I said in my reviews of the Alpha Lanterns story line (which is also collected in this book) and the Secret Origins trade that I don’t like when comics are split up and not collected in actual order, but I’ve got to say that this one works out pretty well. As I mentioned in the Secret Origins review, that entire story takes place in the past with absolutely no mention of what’s going on in the present, so jumping from the end of issue #28–which turned Lost Lantern Laira into a Red Lantern–right to the poorly themed Final Crisis one-shot (which only briefly mentions what’s going on on Earth with the death of a god) and then into #36 because that’s basically the chronological story (in the DCU, not the real world). That’s a lot of parentheticals.

Anyway, the actual Rage Of The Red Lanterns story actually kicks off with the one-shot which is still rad, even if it probably never needed to be tied into Final Crisis. For whatever it’s worth, I love Final Crisis, but think it was a great story by one guy that got turned into an event, though it probably shouldn’t have been. So, FC: ROTRL turns out to be a kind of origin story for Atrocitus, the head of the Red Lanterns and denizen of Ysmault, the planet visited by Abin Sur in “Tyger” (see the above link). We learn that Atrocitus’ entire sector died thanks to something the Guardians did (we’ll find out more about this later), Sinestro is being escorted by a group of GLs to his home planet of Korugar for execution, Hal visits Earth and chats with Cowgirl, Ash finds the Anti-Monitor’s helm, the Controllers make an appearance a, Dex-Star makes his first (I think) and we get our first look of a Blue Lantern. It’s a LOT going on in one issue. The rest of the story has the Red Lanterns keeping Sinestro prisoner on Ysmault, Hal visiting Odym the base planet of Ganthet and Sayd’s Blue Lanterns and there’s a mini war of the light as Hal tries to save Sinestro from the Red Lanterns while the Sinestro Corps members have the exact idea in mind. Hal finds himself sporting the red ring after Sinestro kills Laira which only goes away when Saint Walker places a blue ring on his finger as well.

It’s kind of shocking how much is crammed into four issues. I say that as a compliment. A lot of comics feel too padded and lack action, but there’s so much world-building and a bevy of poignant character moments, that, had I bought these issues as they came out in monthlies, I think I’d be pretty happy with my purchase. The problem with reading comics that way–as I did at Wizard when the issues were originally coming out–is that it’s really difficult to absorb all that stuff. GL comics were a hot commodity while I was there, so you had to kind of burn through the issue so you could pass it off to whoever had dibs next. I think that’s why a lot of my memories of these comics are fuzzy and why I’m having so much fun reading these issues again altogether now.

GREEN LANTERN: AGENT ORANGE (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Philip Tan, Eddy Barrows, Ivan Reis, Rafael Albuquerque & Doug Mahnke
Collects Green Lantern #38-42, Blackest Night #0
Most of the action in Agent Orange takes place on a planet called Okaara which not only houses the orange light and it’s greedy bearer Larfleeze, but also was the place that Fatality trained to become the great warrior who traveled through space to kill Green Lanterns. I failed to mention in the Rage review that the Star Sapphire’s had rehabilitated her. That comes into play here as she confronts John Stewart and talks to him about love. It’s great to see John actually get a bit of the spotlight after being widely neglected since Rebirth. Meanwhile, Hal continues on his galactic tour that keeps putting new rings on his fingers. He’s got the blue one at the beginning of the story. Since the blue energy feeds off of hope (and also can’t do much but fly without a Green Lantern in close proximity), Hal needs to figure out what he actually hopes for in life to get it off his hand. It’s a pretty interesting mystery that gets pretty close to “JUST TELL ME ALREADY” territory, but didn’t quite get there for me. I was always interested, then something cool would happen and I would focus on that, then the question about hope would pop up and I’d be reminded of it again. Fun stuff.

Also fun and interesting is the big war between Green and Orange on the surface of the planet while Larfleeze tells Hal that he accidentally stole Parallax from someone which put him and his gang on the Guardians’ radar. In an attempt to escape, they wound up on Okaara where Larfleeze and one of his boys found the orange lantern. The Guardians said he could keep the lantern if he stayed in his sector as long as he never left. Larfleeze sees the Guardians as having broken the pact which brings things closer to the Blackest Night. Oh, at the very end, we see Ash and Saarek finally discovering the Black Lantern. CRAZY!

In addition to the action packed story, the collection also includes some of Philip Tan’s Orange Lantern character sketches–I didn’t remember liking his art very much the first time around, but this time around I really liked the textured elements it had–as well as a one of those Origins & Omens back-ups DC made everyone do at the time, the origin of Orange Lantern Glomulus and Secret Files-like run downs of all the Lanterns. I really appreciate them putting the extra effort into a book that felt thin, but still had five packed issues.

These being the last two trades leading up to Blackest Night, I figured it’d be a good place to talk about a few things that have been on my mind. First off, and this is something that’s always bothered me, I don’t understand how Hal Jordan can be in the Air Force and NEVER BE ON EARTH. I know some higher ups know his secret identity, but the military is all about accountability and it seems counter-intuitive to have someone as part of that organization that can’t be around. Maybe it’s that I don’t understand the Air Force as much as, say, the Army, but it just doesn’t sit right with me. Why he’s not still just a test pilot, I don’t know.

A few more quick complaints. For as much as Johns and company have paid attention to past Green Lantern continuity from the Alan Moore short stories to Kyle Rayner’s adventures, it confuses me that he has the Guardians talking like they’ve been around for millennia when they had actually been killed and either resurrected or recreated by Kyle Rayner. I don’t perfectly remember how they explained that back then, but it gives me a geeky twinge every time Scar says she’s been in the universe forever. It also seems like the Guardians are just making stupid decisions and are far too susceptible to Scar’s machinations. This is more going on in Green Lantern Corps, but it bugs me. I get that they’re anti-emotion, but them being so easily swayed seems a little ridic.

Okay, that’s all the complaints. I really dig the book otherwise and a lot of these are quibbles to be honest. I absolutely love how much thought Johns and his peeps have put into the different lanterns. All of this makes so much sense (aside from willpower being an emotion, or the fulcrum of the emotional spectrum in actuality). Of course the greed-based Lantern won’t let any of the rings go! Of course rage literally consumes the bearer! Of course love can be used as an excuse, well, anything! It’s all great in my book.

One of the things I wanted to really examine with this re-read project was to get an idea of Hal Jordan as a character. I think I’ve got that, but it more comes from how he interacts with his own corps and members of the others and much less from the Earth-bound stuff they seemed more interested in in the beginning of the book. Let’s be straight, it doesn’t make sense for a space cop to hang out too much on Earth. I get that Earth is important and it makes sense for Hal to stop home every now and then, but with Carol about to become Star Sapphire again, why not just let them be together flying around space and kicking ass? That’s what I’d do with the character and leave his Earth-based adventures up to the JLA. But hey, who cares what I say?

Wizard World Philly Weekend

Last night Em and I got back from Wizard World Philly and, as always, it was a trip.



After picking up Justin and Rickey , we got to the show Friday morning and got right to work after getting some lunch after checking in. The highlight of my day was sort of moderating a Q&A panel with Tom Savini, a man whose work I’ve been enjoying since I started watching horror movies. I say “sort of” because Tom handled the thing pretty much on his own while I struggled with a laptop. For anyone in attendance, I swear I’m slightly more adept at computers than I appeared at the panel. Tom was a great sport though and once we got everything up and running he showed off the next installment of Chill Factor, which was a story he wrote and directed and had the students that work with him to learn filmmaking do the rest. It was pretty rad, so keep an eye out for it. Em was even nice enough to video tape the whole thing, so maybe I’ll get it up on YouTube at some point. I didn’t, however, get a picture with him because I was running around so much.

Later that day there was a big toy industry panel that was super interesting, just like last years’. Look for more information on that in ToyFare. Friday night we grabbed lunch at a place called the Field House (you can actually spend the full weekend at WWP without going outside if you want to because so many things are connected around there). After that we headed down the hotel bar and had a good time. It’s always fun to sit there and see who you’ll run into. I ended up talking to guys like Shane Davis, Dennis Calero and Matt Serra, a fighter who was super nice. Plus, you always see random people walking through the lobby.

After a late night we got up and headed back over to the convention center. If you guys didn’t hear, Jesse Falcon showed off some potential future Marvel Legends for 2010 at his panel (X-Force Warpath, Lady Bullseye and Maddrox!). It was rad getting a peek at those and we’ll be getting more info at SDCC.

After that I headed over to Emma Caufield’s booth and escorted her to her panel room which was packed. For those of you who might not know, she’s Anya from Buffy. She did a great job and everyone really seemed to have a great time with it. As a Buffy fan, I was one of those people having a great time. I’m really hoping that the future projects she talked about come out quickly.

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Right after that we had a really great Customizing 101 panel with Matt “Iron Cow” Cauley, Bobby Torres (why can’t I find a link?!) and Pierre “Airmax” Kalenzaga. I learned a lot about toy customizing and I really want to give it a go. Now I need a studio. Or a man cave. I’m still hoping for man cave.

But, the big event of the night for us toy guys was the second annual ToyFare Hall of Fame awards. It was great seeing most of last year’s winners along with this years’ (Jesse Falcon, Tim Bruckner and Aaron Archer from Hasbro for Transformers, Randy Bowen couldn’t make it). Justin did a great job with the presentation and I muddled through with my Power Point presentation. I think it went well and everyone was really happy.

That night Wizard threw a party along with Kaiju Big Battle at a place called The Trocadero that was a 130 years old. As you may be able to see from the picture we were up in the balcony looking down on the fight. It was pretty crazy, though a little slow. Tired from standing all day, a few of us migrated into the adjoining room where karaoke ended up taking place. But it took a while. A bunch of the people we were with filled out the slips to sing and we were sitting there waiting and the room got PACKED. Then some guy said something about Skeletor. I had no idea what that was about until freaking Skeletor showed up. This guy was great, but what no one knew was that it was a gong show. So, you got up to sing and he’d gong you. Sam got gonged unceremoniously early which was BS, but Justin, Alex and Jim all got up there and rocked the mic. I missed a full on, all dude version of “I Am The Man Who Will Fight For Your Honor” because Em and I had to bolt, but it was worth it cause I think I would have passed out if I stayed in that room any longer. Check out the slideshow below for some incredibly blurry photos of the creepy stairs up to the bar, the Kaiju battle, the karaoke area, Justin, Sam and Alex singing. Plus some shots of Skeletor. Maybe I’ll tell people I did all this in Photoshop.

After that we met back up in the lobby where I got to meet some more cool people, but the funniest thing was seeing a bunch of people who just got back from a wedding reception at about 12:30AM looking at Lou Ferrigno walking away and being absolutely shocked. I’m guessing they didn’t know anything about the con and that was a pretty awesome experience for them.

Sunday was slower because it didn’t last as long, which was good because I think most of us were pretty exhausted. Justin, Alex and I had a Twisted ToyFare Theatre panel that was a lot of fun. We got a lot of good questions and it’s funny because I’m starting to recognize the people that show up to the toy panels. I also plugged the blog after some cajoling, so hopefully one or two of you guys made your way over here and are liking the site.

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The highlight of the day though was getting a sketch by Steve Dillon. I am a huge, HUGE Preacher fan and got him to do a Jesse Custer, which was well worth the donation to Hero Initiative. Heck, I would have probably paid my last paycheck (don’t tell Em). I don’t think Em had ever seen me geek out that much, I was super psyched. After that we got our things together, I had yet another cheesesteak (with whiz, this time, it’s way better that way) and we made the long trek back through New Jersey.

All in all, it was hard work, but a ton of fun as cons tend to be. The people I talked to all seemed to have a good time and I’m looking forward to the next one.