Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Jim's Comic Reviews:  Justice League #13

Okay, so it's been a while since I picked up a new Justice League comic besides thumbing through one at Captain Blue Hen.  I came off the reboot last year confused and disillusioned with the series, unable to put together a simple sequence that explained the book's overall timeline. This was exacerbated somewhat by Jim Lee's work on the title, where I would look at a given two-page spread and think, "looks great!", but a page or two later, and I'd be wondering what was going on.  It was as if the characters were well-crafted but inarticulate action figures traipsing through backgrounds that were just too full of imposing heroes to convince me the world was greater than the space between the gutters. Superman doesn't fly, he poses in the narrow sky.  Batman doesn't tumble, he's too busy holding up the margins of the page with his shoulders.  Aquaman doesn't swim, he's holding back the tide by standing in front of it, heroically brandishing a trident or something.  Too many flashbacks being the main course, there was not enough meat on offer, story-wise or art-wise, to justify my cash.

This brings us to issue #13, where a pleasant surprise awaited me, in the form of some very solid pencils by Mr. Tony Daniel, and some tight storytelling by Geoff Johns.  This issue explores the recent lips-smacked-round-the-world between Superman and Wonder Woman, re-introduces Cheetah not only as a capable nemesis for Wonder Woman, but a challenge for the entire league assembled, and features a back-up story centered around lovesick Steve Trevor that hints at things to come.  Overall, a competent effort by Johns that, while it's not going to win any awards, was a right-sized chunk of episodic fun and brought enough entertainment for me.

What got me about the issue's art is the cinematic nature of it.  Tony's never been a go-to artist for me, but reading this issue, I'm wondering why.  He seems to have all the good bits of Jim Lee down:  The characters are as heroic and imposing as Lee's own rendering, but he maintains a tight control over the space they take up in the panel, and the timing imparted by the panel size and action therein.  Action-wise, Wonder Woman and Cheetah, the two major combatants, slug it out with the battle moving from panel to gracefully rendered panel fluidly, and there seems to be no snapshot in time Daniel can't convincingly render them frozen in motion. There's an eye for environments at work, and attention to the movement of the chess pieces, and the world seems larger for it.  When things slow down, the facial expressions contain nuances of performance to do any actor proud, particularly the glances shared between Wonder Woman and Superman, and the combination of grudging respect and rivalry between Batman and Aquaman.

The issue comes off as having just the right amount of character development, exposition, and action for this title and flagship-worthy art, and I came away well satisfied with the read.

This is the Justice League I was looking for.  4/5 stars.      

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