Aug 29 2013

Graphic Bits Reviews: Justice League #23, Batman Inc Special #1 and Batman/Superman #3

Justice League #23 - Superman/Wonder Woman

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This week (28 August 2013) at DC Comics, it’s a conclusion of sorts to the “Trinity War” in Justice League #23, while Batman Incorporated Special #1 bookends Grant Morrison’s epic series. Finally, Batman/Superman #3 continues to explore multiversity in the most unique fashion to date. This is Graphic Bits.

Justice League #23 – DC ComicsGeoff Johns (writer), Ivan Reis (artist). Rating: 8/10

Justice League #23 - CoverThere was little doubt that the ending of “Trinity War” would not be a conclusive one, with its final pages setting up “Forever Evil” and perhaps even the next few years worth of crossovers. This perpetual cycle of events is a cause for complaint on both sides of the major publisher fence, yet it is hard to be too critical when the ride has been this much fun. Even though the superhero version of “hot potato” is continued somewhat in the first half of this issue, Johns drops several bombshells on us at the midway mark, and keeps them coming until the final panels. Johns brings to bear his nose for epic finales, most recently displayed in the magnificent Green Lantern #20, pushing all the right buttons with some big revelations. Some might be considered cheating, and they are equal parts frustrating and awesome, but there is little denying that Johns has built the fitting final loop on this roller coaster. Reis is in top form with the art duties, getting to play in a sandbox that is populated with every character in DC’s arsenal and a few new toys as well. There are few pages when the blockbuster art isn’t jaw-dropping or filled with character nuance, and the Superman/Wonder Woman fight and the Cyborg body horror are just two of the many highlights found here. It’s not a flawless conclusion, but it’s a rousing one, and even if this does just lead into another series, it’s been an unquestionably fun journey on the way. Richard has also written a longer version of this review for Newsarama.

Batman Incorporated Special #1 – DC ComicsChris Burnham, Dan DiDio, Nathan Fairbairn, Joe Keatinge, Mike Raicht (writer), Chris Burnham, John Paul Leon, Declan Shalvey, John Stanisci, Emanuel Simeoni, Ethan Van Sciver (artist). Rating: 7/10

Batman Incorporated Special #1With the conclusion to Grant Morrison’s monumental Batman run in Batman Incorporated #13 last month,  there were still a number of loose threads hanging around as the various members of the global Batman Inc. crew parted ways with the company. A collection of writers and artists bid so long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen and goodbye to Batman of Japan, Squire, Dark Ranger, Chief Man-of-Bat, El Gaucho, Red Ranger and of course, Bat Cow. Well, more ‘see you later for now’ in this series of vignettes that aren’t entirely consistent, but are still a bit of fun when grouped together like this. Despite some pitch-perfect stylised art, Burnham’s “Batman Japan in Rending Machine” is an entirely crazy, silly and ultimately disposable story, and the Mike Raicht/John Stanisci piece on Nightrunner, Dark Ranger and El Gaucho doesn’t push too many boundaries. Yet then there are some wonderful gems too: Keatinge/Simeoni’s Squire’s first few days without the recently departed Knight is both touching and well told, setting up the future adventures of that character. John Paul Leon’s art is haunting in “Brave with Red Raven”, looking a little like some of Alex Maleev’s recent work. Naturally, it is the caped Bat Cow that steals the book, managing to stop a car full of crooks and provide milk for a infant with only a single “Moo”. Dan DiDio and Ethan Van Sciver should win Hall of Fame awards for this single wordless story. This isn’t essential reading for Morrison acolytes (especially given his lack of involvement) nor Batman fans, but there are certainly worse things to spend your money on.

Batman/Superman #3 – DC ComicsGreg Pak (writer), Jae Lee (artist). Rating: 6/10

Batman/Superman #3Boldly flying in the face of the current face of two massive franchises for DC, this team-up book has been anything but friendly to new fans. Immediately throwing readers in at the deep end with multiverses, possessed characters and doppelgängers, it’s very easy to get lost in Jae Lee’s neo-Gothic art style and just admire the visuals. This is a artist-led book in many ways, consciously going against the grain of Dark Knights and Men of Steel who simply punch things. There’s even a throwaway dig at the recent big-screen Superman adaptation, with the older Superman remarking “That ‘S’…doesn’t stand for ‘hope,’ huh?” Just as Lee’s art is a type of expressionism, so toois Pak’s narrative, giving the reader an emotional experience rather than simply representing the ‘reality’ of these two colleagues. There’s a spot of old-school World’s Finest Comics or Adventure Comics in the mix as we see how Clark and Bruce first came to be friends, shedding light on their childhoods. A major tip of the hat has to go to DC for continuing to try something different with this book, but the corresponding wag of the finger comes in not making it more readily accessible to those new readers or people looking for an escape from the mainstream. We suspect that this will ultimately work best as a collected edition.

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