Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Justice League Generation Cool - restored ?

Edit : as you may have noticed this post doesn´t look like the last time you were on this blog. That´s because somehow blogger deleted the finished version and posted the draft version instead.


I don´t know what happened but the finished post we all knew and loved has apparently gone the way of all temporary things. I´m trying to restore it but with my memory more resembling a sponge than anything else I doubt that I can repeat a whole weeks worth. I´m sorry to all the blogs that have linked to this post and all the nice people who helped me put the post together and who will now be forgotten for all time. Sorry, pals.

Okay, this post isn´t about the Fantastic Four either. But it´s not like you didn´t expect it. If this blog is famous for one thing than that you can always expect the unexpected ( even that the original post gets deleted and replaced by the draft version ).


Today didn´t go exactly as planned for me as well since I spent most of my time mopping the floor and afterwards putting the comics that have piled up on my table into bags and basically cleaning up a bit. I don´t know about you but I´ve got this little Adrian Monk like person inside me who always wants to keep my comics tidy and clean. Of course he doesn´t always succeed but from time to time I give in so I can enjoy my comics longer. It´s one of the few workouts I do on an almost regular schedule.

So afterwards I wanted to give myself a treat and read the final 3 issues of JUSTICE LEAGE - GENERATION LOST which I had been saving the last few days. Not because I wanted to but because I was missing issue 22 up till Monday. The regular issue was sold out so I had to order the variant cover by Kevin Maguire and to which I must say, meh....I liked the variant cover for issue 12 better even if it didn´t feature Power Girl ( that´s the one with ICE on the cover, right ? ).


That´s one thing that bugs me about the series. The whole thing with having variant covers by Kevin Maguire - on every freaking issue.

I don´t understand why a comic company pays someone who is a great artist like Kevin Maguire to do covers for the ENTIRE series and then pays another person to also do covers. Which will not sell as much comics.

So I´m paying two guys although I only need one and I know that the first one is more popular with the readers anyway. I´m paying someone to produce inferior covers that I sell to my customers who prefer covers by the other guy but I´m not giving it to them. Thus artificially keeping the sales numbers from reaching the high level they could obtain and ultimately reducing the numbers of copies people buy. And all to increase the price on a low number of copies while at the same time making the bigger part of my readership angry by not giving them the good stuff. So basically I´m punishing the big number of supporters who buy my stuff. And they have no idea why comics are in a crisis.


But that sounds like I´m complaining and I´m not. I´m glad I got issue 22 and after reading the last 3 issues in a row.......well, here we are. I just had to write about it.

THE ACCIDENTAL JUSTICE LEAGUE - FOUND

My longtime readers might remember that I only tried out this new book because I found the first 9 issues for a buck each at the last Stuttgarter Comicbörse. Before that I thought : well, here comes another marketing schtick. After BRIGHTEST DAY they throw another batch of boring series on the market just to fill up space on the comic racks like Marvel does whenever a movie comes out. Now on BRIGHTEST DAY the verdict is still out and so far the reason why I stick with it is mainly Ivan Reis´art. But with JUSTICE LEAGUE - GENERATION LOST I was so far off base I wasn´t even in the same space - time - continuum.

Considering my track record so far you might think I would finally learn not to judge things before getting the chance to sample them. Especially when I so often tell people that is what I prefer to do. But time and again I do it and there have been a few occasions that I even mentioned on this blog where I have been wrong. Especially with DC it seems that they are not so good with the big events but just awesome with the resulting fallout.

Infinite Crisis ? Was okay but didn´t really shake my world. The new Blue Beetles series ? I thought it would be crap but it was one of the best books DC ever put out. 52 ? It was okay because DC focused on the characters something they forget in all subsequent weekly comic series. The new Booster Gold series ? Instead of the boring comic that I thought wasn´t worth my time it is one of my favorite books in my reading pile.


Final Crisis ? In my opinion too soon after Infinite Crisis and the karaoke - ending is still just too ridiculous. Legion of 3 Worlds ? This is the one where I knew it would be good and which still blew away all my expectations. Although I have all the issues I just HAD to buy the hardcover also and up till now I have re - read the story at least 6 times.

Which brings us to BLACKEST NIGHT. At first this was a small story that started in the GREEN LANTERN universe but fast began involving the entire DC universe. And while you may think that it´s the best DC event ever or the worst marketing ploy I have to say a few things in it´s favor.

There are a few tie - in series you have to read to understand the story which in my opinion is bad since the main story in the main book of any event should be understandable without reading any of the tie - ins. One reason why COUNTDOWN was such a bad weekly comic event was the fact that as a reader you always had the feeling that the main action was happening elsewhere. And that is the moment you start asking yourself why you are reading the comic where the important things DON´T happen. Okay that´s the bad thing.

The good thing - and I´m solely talking from my experience as a reader who wasn´t able to read all tie - in comics because of the money factor - is that the more I read about it the more interesting the story became and the more tie - ins I wanted to read. I have to do a seperate post about those tie - in books I read because this post should be about JUSTICE LEAGUE - GENERATION LOST and not BLACKEST NIGHT. But let me say that I bought the tie - ins from SUPERMAN,


TEEN TITANS, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA and a german monsteredition that collected assorted miniseries and one - shots. And I liked them all.

In fact, this storyline ( and the upcoming GREEN LANTERN movie ) have brought me back to the GREEN LANTERN FRANCHISE. So when BRIGHTEST DAY and the the other new series were announced after BLACKEST NIGHT I was just my usual reluctant self for trying out new books. I put BRIGHTEST DAY on my pull list but mostly out of curiosity and the art by Ivan Reis ( I know I already said that but he is worth mentioning twice ).

And the new JUSTICE LEAGUE - GENERATION LOST sounded a bit like DC trying to keep Keith Giffen happy after killing almost his entire Justice League cast. And the artist involved also were not on my top ten list. There even was one I never heard of.

So there was no way I would go out of my way to get this series. I kept reading the regular JUSTICE LEAGUE series because I really liked James Robinson´s CRY FOR JUSTICE miniseries ( although I seem to be in the minority on that one ) and expected him to blow off the roof in this one any month.


But the months went by and aside from turning the JLA into the pimped version of the TEEN TITANS nothing happened. Then one day came a story that involved my favorite Justice Leaguers, a great story with one of the best hooks ever and a great villain. A story about a ragtag team of heroes thrown together more by fate than by choice going up against impossible odds trying to save a world that scorns them.

The only problem ?

This story wasn´t to be found in the regular JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA series because it´s the story of JUSTICE LEAGUE - GENERATION LOST.


Before going into more detail I should give my usual spoiler warning for all those that want to go headfirst into the series. If you are already interested enough or trust my judgement in this regard you should probably stop reading now and just get the series. If you want to continue reading you should know that there are a few things I´m going to mention that could spoil your enjoyment of the series. Yes, I´m going to tell the main storyline so you may know what it´s all about but that is information you may have already gotten from the solicitations. But there will be other things I will mention like plotpoints so from here on you are on your own risk.

Okay, still with me ? Then I´m going to begin my ode to JUSTICE LEAGUE - GENERATION LOST which is just three kinds of Airwolf. If you have read BLACKEST NIGHT ( if not this is a spoiler for the whole series ) you know that a few dead heroes and villains have been brought back to life by the white light. Although BLACKEST NIGHT has been marketed to comic fans as DC superhero zombies the same could be said about BRIGHTEST DAY because of that. One of the characters that returned was Maxwell Lord, still infamous for shooting Blue Beetle ( Ted Kord ) in the head and having his neck broken by Wonder Woman. So the big question was what was the plan behind this ? And what was his plan ?

Because Max has always been a master strategist and no matter what the big plan of the white light was for him we all knew it was nothing compared to Max´ master plan.


THE GREATEST TRICK THE DEVIL EVER PLAYED

So Maxwell Lord comes back to life and the entire superhero community is on full alert to capture and apprehend him. Which might be a problem for others but not for Max who has an easy solution. Making the entire world forget he ever existed. You see, despite not trusting meta - humans Max is a meta - human himself although his power is not so spectacular. His power is to influence people. At first he used it to nudge certain people to do business deals with him but then he went on to bigger things like taking over Superman and getting him to kill Wonder Woman. That one backfired in the worst possible way EVER but now Max is going for the big leagues - so to speak.

And he is successful. After getting the mother of all nosebleeds ( like an Otaku at the topless beach party of Chun Li, Cammy and Lara Croft ) Max has brainwashed the entire humanity that he never existed.


Well, the entire humanity ?

THE MAN WHO REMEMBERED YESTERDAY

There is a small flaw in Maxwell Lord´s plan. There are four people ( five counting Booster Gold´s robot friend Skeets ) who still remember him. Who still know what he did and are trying to bring him in. Their problem is that everybody else has forgotten Maxwell Lord. No hero knows who they want to catch. They have never heard of him and even if they see a photo of him or tv footage or any other visual data their brain cannot process it. Maxwell Lord is not in any databanks, computer files or other digital medium. He´s a ghost. Really. Only our four heroes know who he is and can see him. To all others - I don´t know. They probably see Elvis. Which might explain a lot.

So it´s up to four old members of the Giffen JUSTICE LEAGUE, Fire, Ice, Captain Atom and Booster Gold to try to pull a secret operation under the nose of the rest of the superhero community without help from others.

Because the more they try to convince other superheroes the more they mistrust them. Which seen from the viewpoint of the brainwashed heroes is totally understandable. They are contacted by four members of the Justice League who are not in the best standing ( especially that gloryhound Booster Gold ) and those shady curs insist that there is a complott by this guy nobody has ever heard of. On top of that they don´t recall historics facts like they happened and instead tell tall stories that are just too ridiculous to be true. Everybody knows Bruce Wayne spearheaded the re - formation of the Justice League. Lex Luthor was the one who hi - jacked the OMAC project. Wonder Woman would never kill a defenseless man.


And Ted Kord shot a bullet into his brain.

If you think that is bad there´s another wrinkle Maxwell Lord throws into the mix. Somehow he manages to get Fire fired ( no pun intended ) by Checkmate, Ice is believed to be mentally unstable after her death and coming back to life ( wasn´t it twice ? ), Captain Atom is believed to be a traitor and even if Booster Gold is the guardian of the time stream he can´t tell others. Not that they would believe him given his past track record. So, they are cut off from everybody with no chance of back up or any prospect of succeeding. Which speaks for Maxwell Lord´s big plan - if it weren´t for one little detail.

And that is that Booster Gold just cannot stand for the murderer of his best buddie getting away scott free. He doesn´t care what he has to do, who´s he going to go up against or which price he has to pay. Somehow he is going to get Max Lord even if it´s the last thing he´s going to do. Even if he knows the cavalry is not going to arrive at the last moment.

THE CAVALRY ARRIVES

Like our four heroes there are two more who get sucked into this whole thing : Jamie Reyes, the new Blue Beetle whose armor still has records of Maxwell Lord and Gavril Ivanovich their new Rocket Red.


With these two members the old Justice League International is back almost like someone planned it. Which is exactly what Max did. And not only did he orchestrate everything these heroes did up until this point to bring this team together. It seems that he was also able to build in contingency plans into his contingency plans countering each move our heroes make at every turn so that no matter what they intend to do they always end up helping Maxwell Lord´s plan.

At a few moments it even seems that they manage to convince other heroes of Maxwell Lord´s existence and bring him over to their side. But Max´ brainwashing was so effective that when the heroes who have started to remember him are with heroes who don´t they all forget him all over again. And the more heroes there are the faster it happens. So there is nothing that can ruin Max´ plan or getting his revenge on Wonder Woman. Or is there ? His gigantic hoodwink on the world takes a turn right back against Max, just like spitting into the wind when the recent events in the DC Universe pull a fast one on him. I won´t say what it is but it had me laughing my ass off.


So can Booster Gold be the leader this team needs and triumph against impossible odds ? I´m not going to ruin it for you but I´m going to say this story has everything you want in a story even some great " F - WORD YEAH ! " moments and then some. There is a lot of stuff in this that will make you laugh, cry but which will also surprise you. After his brilliant work on the BARRY WEEN series, UNDER THE RED HOOD, one of my favorite GREEN ARROW runs together with Scott McDaniel and the mindblowing start of the new GREEN ARROW & BLACK CANARY series Judd Winick shows once again what a great writer he can be and he is just throwing a barrage of curveballs when you least expect it.


On top of that he manages to give the characters their unique voice while keeping them in character. For me as a longtime reader it´s very gratifying to have my favorite Justice Leaguers behave like they should behave and not like in a Bendis story. With such a big cast of characters it can be difficult to give each character his moment but Judd manages to give each member his time to shine, not only in the action parts of the stories but also in character pieces that show the readers how they tick.

Which makes the reader even more engaged in the story. If you already know the characters you are reminded why you liked them in the first place. And if you are new to this team of heroes you will end up rooting for them even if the deck is stacked against them.

THE MAGNIFICIENT SEVEN


The great thing about the story it´s that it´s about the characters first and about the event second. It´s seems an easy enough formula but the big two constantly seem to either ignore this or forget this every time they do a big event. Judd Winnick has really assembled an interesting cast and even keeping in mind that he may not have been the one to choose them ( don´t forget that publishers loose the copyright for their characters if they don´t use them for a certain period of time ) he makes the most of them.

Booster Gold is of course the main focus of a lot of the story because he´s the one driving force behind it all. He´s the one refusing to give in and fighting Max tooth and nail. Not because it´s the right thing to do or because it´s heroic - but as payback for his best buddy. Readers of the old Giffen League know the special bond those two had and it was really a shock when Ted was murdered by Max.

Of course there´s more to Booster than just revenge. In his own series he has made big developments as a hero and a person but here he must exceed his own limitations as he finds himself in the role of reluctant leader. He doesn´t realize it at first but all the other heroes in this team look to him when they run out of answers. That´s not to say that it doesn´t happen to Booster but he really finds his mojo in this book.


Ice also gets a few much needed edges and although some readers were not too thrilled about her new origin ( I´m not up to date on my Tora facts so it didn´t rattle me as much ) I found it interesting. She´s the most reluctant of them all saying repeatedly that she doesn´t want to be involved, doesn´t want to be there, hell, doesn´t even have anything to do with the superhero world. And who could blame her for being afraid of ending up dead - again - for participating in this chapter ?


Of course you can´t mention Ice without saying a few words about Fire who has been a part of this dynamic duo since way back in their beginnings as team members of the GLOBAL GUARDIANS. Fire has been through a few ups and downs not only in her career as a superhero but also in her relationship with Ice. As the firecracker part of this hot and cold combo she has often been showed as the one - dimensional man - eater ( I think she even had something with Guy Gardner when he was this WARRIOR monstrosity ) but here she is portrayed as a person with many layers who´s afraid she might end up loosing her mind like her mother.


In fact Mr. Winick seems to put a big emphasis to fleshing out the characters and giving the reader a lot of background on them.

Some of this was stuff I already knew, but some is just a quick reminder of facts the reader may have forgotten and which directly play into the bigger scheme of things.

Winick wanted to make sure the title is accessible to old-timers and newcomers alike. " I'm treating it like no one knows the characters at all, " he said. " That's why we have a little bit here and there, the re-telling of the origins and also defining who the characters are. For a lot of people, this is the first time they're looking at them, and that's how we're treating it."


As for the rest of the heroes, while the introduction of Blue Beetle into the cast seems like something that may be mandated by marketing at first he soon becomes a vital part of the team. His solo book was one of the best DC ever published and it´s great to have him back in the pages of a regular series, no matter if it´s here or in the TEEN TITANS. While being the youngest member of the team he sometimes seems more of an adult than Booster Gold or the new Rocket Red. His interaction with the team members and his reaction to this unique team dynamic is just superb and he also adds much needed firepower to the team.

The thing Gavril - the new Rocket Red - brings to the team is much needed humor. Not that he turns this into a comedy book but it must be real fun to write him. Much like the original Rocket Red much of it stems from the clash of cultures, of east versus west. Or the stereotypes western people have about the east and on which Gavril himself plays.

Reading the reviews I was once again astounded how many readers thought the idea of mixing humor into an otherwise serious and action - packed comic was something new. It´s right that Judd Winick manages to find the right balance between the two but keeping in mind that this was also - if not more - the case with the original Giffen League I wonder how many really read it and how much they remember.

Of course there is more to Gavril than just a clown and there are hints that he may be a deeper character than we give him credit for.


Speaking about credit, Judd Winick deserves some for adding a few new layers to Captain Atom, the sixth member of the team ( Skeets is the seventh member just in case you were wondering ). Captain Atom is not an easy character to like and sometimes he can come across as one - dimensional and the stereotypical military guy. Here he is really put on the spot and you begin to understand how difficult it is for somebody who has been brainwashed numerous times and whose main role in the DC universe seems to be to appear, absorb some kind of energy and being arbitrary flung through the time stream because of that.

His travel through time is used very clever in this case and even gives the heroes a bigger motivation for opposing Max.


Since we are on the subject of motivations and Max : he finally gets some much needed flashbacks that show why he is doing what he is doing. Way back when he suddenly went bad and shot Blue Beetle it didn´t make much sense and that basically never changed. Here there is at least a hint of the reasons behind it all which make all the more sense when you keep in mind that the villain tends to be the hero in his own story. Max really thinks he´s doing some good here and it´s something that must be done. Something that seems to be the truth when you keep in mind that he was brought back to life by a higher power and seems to have a mission to fulfill.


I really have to congratulate Judd Winick to a superbly written story especially keeping in mind that it came out biweekly. Some writers can´t achieve this quality on a monthly schedule. On top of that DC is drawing the line at 2.99 on this one so money is no excuse for not getting the book in this case.

From Multiversity´s best current DC comics countdown :

This book KILLS. Every two weeks we're assured a damn good story from Judd Winick, who must have read the old JLI run from Giffen and JM Dematteis with a passion that most save for the Bible. He's perfected the relationships of the cast, having successfully emulated the humor and history that Giffen and Dematteis had crafted so delicately over their run. It's hilarious, it has high stakes, it's badass, and it is just a phenomenal book.

Plus? The rotating artist idea is working out exceptionally well, with each and every artists contributing top notch work in the series ( especially Aaron Lopresti, who is a perfect fit for the book ). Cliff Chiang's covers also excel, and they are good enough that they have actually driven Brandon to say that they are his favorite regular covers since 52. And Brandon LOVES 52. That is saying something.



From Comicbook Resource´s review of issue 24 :

Hopefully, Winick and Lopresti will be back for the sequel series, because for a comic I was prepared to write off, this has turned out to be a lot of fun. " Justice League : Generation Lost " seems to have found a new readership through the best gimmick of all: good writing and art.

TRES AMIGOS

Speaking of the schedule of course it would take a really good artist to deliver each chapter on time and in really good quality. Or like in the case of this book - three of them. The first one is Joe Bennett whose art has popped up in various series and who even did a stint on TEEN TITANS just recently. Not my favorite artist on this book although quite capable.


The second artist is a bit more high profile : Aaron Lopresti who provided the art for Gail Simone´s less than thrilling WONDER WOMAN run and who really should do more pin ups for DC judging from his comissioned work.


He brings street cred to the book.

And last but not least, Fernando Dagnino, the one I didn´t know before who ended up as my favorite artist on the title. Whenever I got an issue by him I was jumping up and down - at least mentally. He starts out a bit cartoony but over the course of the series you can see him getting more comfortable with his own style and I´m really anxious to see what his next project is going to be.


So, no matter if you are a fan of the old Giffen League or totally new to the JLA universe this is one hell of a ride you don´t want to miss. One of the great things about the story is that while being in it´s own pocket universe it involves the whole DC universe but only when it´s appropiate.

The guest appearances by Power Girl ( Yay ! )


Batman ( or Batmen since the story begins before Bruce Wayne´s return )


or Superman are all motivated to further the story and even are connected with their respective storylines. As is the bit with Wonder Woman, whose outfit finally starts to look good thanks to Mr. Dagnino.

Why is it that most new costumes look like shit when the regular artist of the series draws them but really rock when drawn by somebody else ?


The whole thing J. M. S did with Wonder Woman in her current arc was not planned but Judd Winnick makes brilliant use of it. The way he incorporates it into his story makes total sense and it boosts his story and the regular Wonder Woman title. I wish more writers would take this as an example how to work continuity or the changing of continuity into their stories to make them better. Like F. Murray Abraham said in BY THE SWORD : A good swordsman will try to hide his flaws. But a great one will use them.


And speaking of great use of characters within the context of a story not only does Judd Winick managed to include those whacky robots, the METAL MEN ( who are some of my favorite DC characters ) in the story


he also has the CREATURE COMMANDOS guest starring and that in a way that seamless incorporates itself in the plot and makes total sense.


And let´s be honest : which comic doesn´t improve by adding werewolves, mummies and the Frankenstein monster ? Being a big horror fan you won´t be hearing any complaints from me.

So this series comes with my highest recommendation and since the first trade has come out and the first volume has also come out in german you have no excuse for not getting it. And you get all the variant covers to boot.



For more about Justice League Generation Lost :

interview with judd winick on comicbook resources

interview with judd winick about the upcoming finale

reviews : issue 3 on comic vine / issue 4 on comicbook resources

issue 4 on comic vine / issue 6 on cbr / issue 9 on read rant

issue 12 on cbr / issue 15 on cbr / issue 17 on cbr

issue 17 on inside pulse / issue 18 on the captain´s jla blog

issue 19 on cbr / issue 19 on nerdy nothings / issue 20 on cbr

issue 21 on nerds on the rocks / issue 24 on inside pulse


previews : issue 1 / issue 2 / issue 4 / issue 7

issue 14 ( and more ) / issue 16 / issue 17

issue 19 / issue 20 / issue 21 / issue 22

So, for the second time around we have come to the end and I want to thank all bloggers who put up all the pictures I used in this post, interview sites like COMICBOOK RESOURCES and all the tireless review sites like the excellent NERDY NOTHINGS who gave me some cool soundbytes to use. I really couldn´t have done this post without you and if I have forgotten to include you in the second version of this post.....well, send me an e - mail and I will correct that.

As I already know the next post is once again not about the Fantastic Four and the one after that is probably about the GRATIS COMIC TAG but while Marvel´s first family is on the backburner it´s not forgotten. Promise.


I´m pretty sure I added this fanmade trailer for an animated JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL movie to the post. Like I said the first time around : makes you almost whish they really made one.



New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest


I haven´t fought Russians in awhile, but I´m going to guess that it´s just like riding a bike.

2 comments:

Eric Garneau said...

Man, this is an impressive post. It's really nice to see solid, long-form comics criticism. BTW I'm a writer for Nerdy Nothings - thanks for the link to our site for the issue #19 write-up!

SUBZERO said...

No problem. It´s nice to have quality reviews to link to. And I´m always looking for linkpartners.

Keep up the great work.