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General Mills Presents: Justice League (2017) #2 [Review]

general_mills_2017_justice_league_0002Dark Reflections

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciller: Rick Leonardi
Inkers: Bob Wiacek and Scott Hanna
Colorist: Rex Lokus
Letterer: Comicraft
Cover Artist: Scott Koblish
Cover Colorist: Val Staples
Assistant Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Steve Buccellato
Group Editor: Marie Javins
Design Director: Larry Berry

This is the "second" issue of four being made available to the public "blindly" via insertion into specially-marked boxes of General Mills cereal. Though the issues ARE numbered, the first issue and this one do not seem to draw on each other or lead into the other with any singular story, so the numbers are–I’m pretty confident in saying–there to stimulate collectors’ OCD to collect ’em all.

This issue focuses on Batman, though it guest-stars the rest of the Justice League.

Batman arrives home after a "typical" night out. After talking with Alfred and having a flashback to his youth where his parents were still around, Bruce catches a glimpse of a reflection in the mirror that is most certainly not him looking back! Turns out that Mirror Master (one of Flash’s Rogues) has expanded his reach (with the unintentional assistance of Flash himself) to vex the entire Justice League. Using mirrors as gateways, interdimensional counterparts of our heroes are brought through, and the heroes square off with them. While everyone tangles with their mirrored counterparts, Batman (through recalling an incident from his youth) develops a plan to deal with this threat and stop Mirror Master.

Nicieza and Leonardi are a couple more names that I’m definitely familiar with, though I’m far moreso with the former than latter. I’m honestly impressed at the way this issue–and this round of GM Justice League as a whole–has the talent and appearances of something much bigger and less generic than "just" cereal-box comics. At the same time, unfortunately (by seeming necessity) these ARE rather smaller and more generic than non-cereal counterparts.

The story itself is fairly basic, drawing on some basic tropes of comics in general…particularly the lead-in with Batman having just gotten back from a night out, talking about the off-panel adventure, remembering something from his childhood while his parents were alive, and that conveniently being relevant to the current story at hand. Yet, while that may come off as a negative…it fits perfectly into what these comics can and might be–someone’s first. These days, it’s not hard to imagine that there are countless staunch fans of even "obscure" comic book characters…yet said fans may never have actually experienced a comic book! So while these are overdone, overly-familiar things to me as a nearly-30-years comics reader, they may well be someone’s first exposure and be at least some small part of their journey into comics.

The story elements overall do not particularly contradict what I know of the characters, and particularly Batman in this case, though this definitely comes detached from the nuances of recent continuity that I’m familiar with. My biggest eye-opener is the notion of the characters nonchalantly hauling the moon out of its orbit with zero repercussions to the Earth. Perfect for a comic like this, maybe, but epic event-level stuff in general continuity.

Visually, if the pages were "regular" sized and I didn’t see a cover, I wouldn’t really know this was "just" some cereal-box comic…it has "established talent," and does not look like some generic thing. The art is quite good in and of itself, though as with a lot of comic book art, its primary drawback is simply in not being by one of a handful of my favorite comic artists. Once again, these characters look like they’re right out of early-2017 full-size DC comics, down to Batman’s current gold-outlined black bat symbol. Superman’s look is about to be out of date, but fits well into the past ten or so months’ worth of DC Rebirth.

As with the first issue, this was an ok read with good art. It’s a cereal comic and certainly worth reading, but it in no way affects continuity nor particularly draws from it. You might appreciate this more if you’re NOT up on current comics, as you may be less likely to do hard comparisons. I wouldn’t go out of the way to hunt this down, but if you like the cereal and it’s in the box, definitely give it a read-through!

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General Mills Presents: Justice League (2017) #1 [Review]

general_mills_2017_justice_league_0001Power Play

Writer: Tony Bedard
Penciller: Jerry Ordway
Inker: Juan Castro
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Comicraft
Cover Artist: Ale Garza
Cover Colorist: Luis Guerrero
Assistant Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Steve Buccellato
Group Editor: Marie Javins
Design Director: Larry Berry

Once again, DC Comics and General Mills have teamed up to put comics in boxes of cereal. And, once again, I’m buying cereal specifically to get a copy of all four issues available as part of the promotion. This is the fourth such promotion I can recall in "modern" comics’ times–two prior Justice League runs, last year’s Batman v Superman, and now this. As with the previous ones, these LOOK like they fit in with contemporary issues, just that these are missing UPC boxes, and are atrociously TINY. But hey…they’re "free" with the purchase of a specially-marked box of cereal, and no hassling with coupons, mail-aways, shipping/handling, etc.

As with previous promotions, though these issues are numbered, I’m almost certain there’s no sequential "continuity" to them–this first issue is self-contained with no cliffhanger or anything "driving" one to the next issue. I’m pretty sure the PRIMARY purpose of the issue number is to help "legitimize" the thing as a miniature comic book (and not just some mini-magazine/"insert" or such) and to–as successfully accomplished with me–trigger the OCD to track them all down, because darnit, there are FOUR numbered issues, so I want all 4 issues, and won’t want to have a #4 withOUT 1-3 and so on.

Getting to the issue itself, as an issue…I’m quite impressed with the main creative team. Tony Bedard‘s name is definitely recognizable to me, and even topping that is artist Jerry Ordway, who is an old favorite from my earliest days in comics.

The story is rather prescient given its timing–at least for me as I read this. We open on the Justice League (current Rebirth incarnation, with everyone looking on-model for Rebirth year one) in Metropolis, being celebrated for all their work and constant saving of Earth. A large group statue is unveiled, and almost immediately comes to life, forcing the Leaguers to face off against their giant bronze counterparts. The mischievous antagonist is quickly revealed: Mr. Mxyzptlk! Muddying matters, the League must summon Bat-Mite–another 5th-Dimensional imp–to counter Mxy’s fun. Tricking Mxy yet again into saying his own name backwards, Bat-Mite extracts a promise from the League and then disappears himself…a small bronze addition left with the once-more-inanimate statue, celebrating Bat-Mite side-by-side with the rest of the League.

This story comes outta nowhere: no prologue, nothing setting it up. Just the "typical" generic "our heroes gather to be celebrated by the common people they’ve saved, however reluctant they may be with such adulation and then must save them yet again." Of course, this is NOT some issue partaking in any crossover or event, nor is it "merely" some reprint of just any random issue from within a run…and it’s not anything someone reading the regularly-published comics needs to track down to get a full story, so it’s rather necessary, then, for this to be its own thing in a relative "vacuum." Additionally, there is no cliffhanger, nothing left hanging to "force" or "coerce" someone (while many adults may track these down, I’d assume a large majority of readers are children whose parents had to provide the cereal for them to have the comic) to "have to" get the other issues.

Yet, while the story is pretty simplistic, and doesn’t necessarily play up individual character elements that’d be present in solo books, the characters are recognizable as who they are, and the lineup seems to fit in such that someone reading this and then walking into a comic shop would easily find current DC issues featuring these very characters. Bedard doesn’t really get room to shine as a writer, but he doesn’t play the characters as fools or overly talk down to the audience (though there’s a little bit of that "special lesson" to be imparted to kids: "don’t run from your problems, own up to them…and sometimes you will have to ask for help from others, and that’s ok."

The cover’s art is a bit "off" and generic to me….Superman’s costume (at least on my copy of this issue) seems a bit weirdly-colored and the whole image is basically generic poses of the characters on a yellowy-orange burst-effect…no background setting or situation (though also nothing to give away the antagonist from within). Ordway‘s art on the interior is a huge treat for me, and I really like the depiction of the characters. I don’t much care for Simon’s version of the Green Lantern costume–never have–but it looks as good as is possible here. And somehow most notable to me, Mxyzptlk looks really good in this issue–much like in my first conscious exposure to the character back in 1989 or so.

I imagine I’d have quite loved this as a kid. As an adult, it’s simplistic but pretty…and as something "free" in a box of cereal, it’s much better than it has any "right" to be. Even if you’re not a fan of the cereals, I’d recommend this as a quick-read novelty item…especially as I doubt this or any of the previous ones will ever warrant a full-size collection of their own, so this is likely the only way to read ’em!

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Booking Through Thursday: E-volution

btt buttonE-readers like the Kindle and iPad are sweeping the nation … do you have one? Do you like it? Do you find it changes your reading/buying habits? If you don’t have one, do you plan to?

No, I do not have either of those. Also do not have a Nook, and Barnes & Noble is getting dangerously close to me unsubscribing from their emails because I’m so danged tired of them pushing it so forcefully.

I’m pretty much “sold” on the iPad, in that “eventually…when I can actually AFFORD one” sorta way. A friend has one, and seeing it in action, I’m pretty sure that really, get myself a wireless keyboard that’ll sync with the iPad and a portable stand to prop the thing up like a laptop monitor, and I could pretty much go “computer-free” (“computer” = “laptop” or “desktop” machines).

I do have an iPhone, and recently I’ve dabbled with digital comics on it. I bought the classic Superman #75 a couple months back, just for the sheer novelty of having the thing right on-hand (next week marks the 19th anniversary of “The Death of Superman”). I’ve also bought two issues of DC Comics’ new initiative “The New 52.” Trouble is, the iPhone even is so relatively tiny that the reading experience feels like I’m trying to read through some sort of blinders.

As far as long-form reading…no-can-do. The iPhone is such a tiny thing that it’s even awkward to try to situate one’s self to even consider “settling in to read for awhile” with it.

An iPad might change that, but until I actually have one, I won’t be able to say for sure. And I certainly won’t be getting the iPad for the sole purpose of “reading”…the digital books/comics will just be a small part of the picture.

Right now, I don’t see any sort of e-reader changing my reading habits or buying habits. I’m buying one single comic series digitally and a month behind, for the discount…but that novelty is wearing off already, 2 issues in. Depending on pricing, I could see having an iPad having an impact on SOME of my comic buying, especially for the stuff that I just want to read once and be done with.

Once I’d get an iPad, I’d have to “take the plunge” with a book sometime to see how that experience would go…but really, I’d much rather have a $20 hardcover with me that gets lost/dropped/rained on/etc than a $500 tablet/computer device.

Given that I’m “sold” on the iPad, know there are “apps” for the Kindle at least and pretty sure also the Nook and OTHER e-reader formats, I absolutely can NOT see spending $150+ on something that’s arguably “just” going to be used to read e-versions of books. I don’t think I spend that much on new books in an entire YEAR, so it’s a huge up-front cost, BEFORE even getting to buy new books to read.

Even though $10ish is much cheaper than the $20-$30 most new (hardcover) tend to be priced at, it’s still $10 for something pretty much intangible (music I listen to, whatever the source…but if I’ve already paid $150+ for an e-reading device, the device itself isn’t going to get bigger or heavier for addition of a digital file). And I often feel that if I’ve already invested 1/3 to half the cost, why “settle” when I’m already on my way to the full, actual item?

The e-readers are also like computers to me, though: you buy one, and 3 months later, the next/greater version is out, or announced, and then it becomes a case of “well, I’ve waited all these years already…why didn’t I wait X more months?!?”

Of course…this all presupposes that I have to make the purchase myself: given a Kindle or Nook or such as a gift…I’m sure I’d find excuse enough to certainly make use of the device. Without an upfront cost to me investing in the actual device…that would certainly “level the playing field” in terms of books to be bought. And stuff like The Hunger Games or some of these other series–I wouldn’t mind getting those digitally.

Having the potential to have numerous books all contained in one device would certainly feed my “book-A.D.D.” and allow me to start numerous books and gradually work my way through ’em as the mood strikes for a given “book.”

General Mills Presents: Justice League #4 [Review]

Breakout!

Written by: Joshua Williamson
Art by: Bruno Redondo
Colors by: Tony Avina
Letters by: Wes Abbott
Cover by: Dan Jurgens, Sandra Hope, Carrie Strachan
Associate Editor: Kristy Quinn
Group Editor: Ben Abernathy
Senior Art Director: Larry Berry

So…Atlanteans are just like normal humans, except they live underwater. That’s ‘interesting.’ And Batman’s determined that no other family will ever be destroyed by crime. Penguin instigates a prison breakout to keep Aquaman busy, but the rest of the Justice League show up to help Aquaman and Batman. And we get several of the common “nicknames” such as “Big Blue” (Superman) and “Caped Crusader” (Batman).

This issue continues the trend of feeling rather generic, as well as having some stuff that feels a bit ‘forced’ in the course of dialogue or story.

The art’s not bad…also as with the other issues of this “mini-series” I’m not familiar with the artist…but, the art overall isn’t anything I actively dislike, which makes it good in my book.

The story is pretty basic, but it DOES have simple stuff worked in that would help inform someone on aspects of the characters–namely, that Batman’s all about not seeing another family destroyed as his was. This issue’s nothing special in the grand scheme…but as a comic that’s likely to be read by someone much younger than me…this isn’t a bad starting point to get someone interested in pursuing more about these characters.

And as a whole, this issue–and the whole “mini-series”–serves as a very basic introduction to the Justice League and several of the individual characters that doesn’t really contradict what I’m aware of about the characters, but this also makes the “real” comics look that much better.

Best of all, these comics are 24 pages of story–making them 4 pages (20%?) longer than current $3-$4 comics. And while totally separate from actual continuity…these even work a lot of “standard” elements in that give a “physical structure” like that of any contemporary comics–varied panel sizes, and even double-page spreads.

If these issues were to be collected as a full size 96-page one-shot in the $5 realm, I’d probably buy it for the novelty–and it’d be interesting to see if it would attract younger readers.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7.5/10
Overall: 7.5/10

General Mills Presents: Justice League #3 [Review]

Sinister Imitation

Written by: Doug Wagner
Art by: Steve Scott & Livesay
Colors by: Tony Avina
Letters by: Wes Abbott
Cover by: Dan Jurgens, Sandra Hope, Carrie Strachan
Associate Editor: Kristy Quinn
Group Editor: Ben Abernathy
Senior Art Director: Larry Berry

This issue is the classic, cliche robot-duplicates story. I’m not all that thrilled with the art…again, not familiar with this artist. By the end of the issue, though, I wasn’t noticing the negatives of the art, though, which I find likely to be that it’s just not art I actively enjoy…but it’s nothing for me to actively dislike, either. The characters are all quite clearly recognizable, and other than being in their “classic” costumes, nothing really looks all that “off” about them.

The writing is a bit more “off” than the art. There’s something that doesn’t really ring true about this league, and while they claim to be friends, it seems more like a surface detail than anything that’s really FELT. It is cool to see that the villain is a familiar one…though there doesn’t truly seem to be any motivation for him, and it seems odd that he’d actually give the whole league this kind of trouble, when typically he’s been a Superman villain.

However, as with the other two issues so far, this is rooted quite strongly in the realm of being for kids, who most likely aren’t going to care for the stuff I look for in my comics at age 30–deeper character moments, stronger stories, etc.

In connection with the first two issues, this adds a little more to the Justice League as we find out Flash is “Barry,” and that he’s friends with “Hal” (Green Lantern), and so on.

All in all…maybe my least favorite of the three, but for (again) something out of a cereal box, not horrible.

Story: 5/10
Art: 5/10
Overall: 5.5/10

General Mills Presents: Justice League #2 [Review]

Artificial Invasion

Written by: Paul Tobin
Art by: Derec Donovan
Colors by: Allen Passalaqua
Letters by: Wes Abbott
Cover by: Dan Jurgens, Sandra Hope, Carrie Strachan
Associate Editor: Kristy Quinn
Group Editor: Ben Abernathy
Senior Art Director: Larry Berry

Though Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, and Batman are on the cover and have a one-panel cameo…this issue focuses on Superman and Wonder Woman. Or rather, it doesn’t so much focus on them, as it does star just the two of them.

Metropolis is being swarmed by robots that keep replicating, using mainly car parts they scavenge. Superman and Wonder Woman find themselves in the middle of things, but even their powers aren’t stopping the robotic invasion. As they fight, they’re contacted by someone who manages to get past the robots to tell the heroes how these robots came to be. The robots then manage to catch the heroes…but the end result is not exactly what might be expected.

I’m again unfamiliar with the artist, and the visuals for this issue seem a bit more generic than #1. The art seems a bit more uneven on this issue, though I can’t really say it’s all that bad. It’s not exactly my cup o’ tea, but it’s preferable to some art I put up with in comics I actually buy, so I suppose this ought to be considered good, at least in and of itself.

The story itself is quite generic…but it does allow a SLIGHT glimpse into the motivations of the two main characters, showing a 3-panel flashback for Superman and another 3-panel flashback for Wonder Woman. Being familiar with the characters, I know most of the characters shown…but there’s nothing actually saying who they are, and so I wonder if the impact may be lessened.

In and of itself, this issue isn’t quite as fun as #1…but as another piece in addition to it, there’s a bit more character depth here, at least in us seeing that there’s more to Superman and Wonder Woman than their fists. And by issue’s end, they even realize that and state it explicitly.

My main issue is with Wonder Woman’s utterances of “Great Gaia” and “Great Hera”–they seem quite forced here, and at least a small bit out of character given lack of any other context.

All in all…a decent addition to things, and not nearly as bad as I’d expect a free comic from a box of cereal to seem.

Story: 5/10
Art: 7/10
Overall: 6.5/10

General Mills Presents: Justice League #1 [Review]

Unstoppable Forces

Written by: Scott Beatty
Art by: Christian Duce
Colors by: Allen Passalaqua
Letters by: Wes Abbott
Cover by: Dan Jurgens, Sandra Hope, Carrie Strachan
Associate Editor: Kristy Quinn
Group Editor: Ben Abernathy
Senior Art Director: Larry Berry

It’s been years since there’s been anything worth buying cereal for. Well, that phrasing may not be entirely accurate–I’ve been a cereal guy all through this time. But it’s been a lotta years since there was anything extra–a “prize” or “bonus” or whatever–contained in the cereal box as any true incentive in and of itself. But now, select General Mills cereals include a “free” Justice League comic book, making up essentially a 4-issue mini-series. They’re labeled as 1-4 “of 4,” anyway.

This first issue is rather bland, but in a fun sort of way. You have the various characters–Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman–but virtually nothing of their secret IDs, and the story isn’t all that deep. It’s really a done-in-one, out-of-continuity sorta deal.

Some time back, the heroes manage with some difficulty to subdue something called “The Shaggy Man,” and go on with their lives. Years later, a real estate developer breaks ground on the very spot the Shaggy Man is in stasis…awakening the creature. The Justice League springs into action, and ultimately find a better solution to keep the world safe from this Shaggy Man’s threat.

The art isn’t bad, though it suffers (for me) from a strong sense of being generic–this IS a “free giveaway” in a box of cereal, after all. It also feels rather weird seeing these characters in their “old” costumes–this giveaway comes barely 2 months into the relaunch of DC’s superhero line, so it would seem to have been a better thing to have this wait or at least have featured the new versions of the characters. Heck, make it a four-issue thing detailing some of the backstory of the New 52…or even reprint some prior material (do 2 issues of the Heroes’ origins from 52, and 2 issues of Villains’ origins from Countdown or some such).

The story is self-contained, and aside from that sense of being generic, the art IS NOT bad…though I’m not familiar with this artist. This is definitely something you could give to kids…it skirts deeper issues in favor of vagueness, and there’s no real depth of character for any of the characters here…but that only irks me as a fan of continuity and stronger stories.

The cover features an image by Dan Jurgens which helps offset the interior art; it also features a subtitle “Unstoppable Forces,” and the story is truly a done-in-one, which makes the “1 of 4” a bit strange–there’s no “To Be Continued,” so this didn’t even need a number. Seems the number is there to “legitimize” there being 4 different comics, and make this look more like a “real” comic.

Despite my complaints and whatever negativity…the truth is…this is EXACTLY the sort of thing I would have been THRILLED with at age 8 or 9 or 12 when I was first getting into comics, being exposed to multiple heroes and seeing them doing heroic stuff. Long before I came to care about things like depth of character and the sort of stuff that’s lacking here. The back cover shows all four covers to this “mini-series,” and even has caption “Enjoy reading all 4 comics together as a family!” I don’t know about anyone else, but I figure that would be a splendid idea–you’ve got the cereal, you’ve got the comic, and you can spend some time reading with your kid.

Or if you’re an adult…enjoy the simple stuff about comics that made them a joy to get into when you were a kid.

Story: 6/10
Art: 8/10
Overall: 7/10

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