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JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time [Review]

jlaadventurestrappedintimedvd_0129While I’m not thrilled at the idea of the “classic” (for me, this means 1986-2011) DC stories being scrapped in favor of New-52-centric stories being adapted for DC‘s line of direct-to-home-media release, I’ve been looking forward to Justice League: War for awhile, if only just to see how they adapt the story to the screen, given it seemed like basically a lengthy fight scene to me when I read it.

There was no Fall 2013 new release (instead, we got a “special edition” that combined Dark Knight Returns parts 1 & 2 into a single feature)…so I’ve been looking forward to the next NEW film for quite awhile.

Imagine, then, my surprise when I came across JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time while browsing a Target Sunday evening. At first I mistook it for another Superfriends release, yet it had the “classic” JLA logo I’m familiar with from the ’90s/early-2000s, so it got my curiosity up. Target‘s had that “exclusive” line of DC figures under the Justice League branding; so I may have partially wondered if this was a new line of “re-presenting” Superfriends episodes through Target.

But according to the box, it was an original animated movie, albeit Target-exclusive. I wrestled with leaving it–after all, I’d NOT been looking forward to THIS one, and I’ve never been a fan of the Superfriends stuff, so I put it back. Then I picked it up again. And ultimately bought it along with my groceries and such.

In broad strokes, this reminded me of those mini comics that came in boxes of cereal several years back…fun enough, familiar-looking characters, passable stuff that’s fun as something different, but by no means anything special.

I liked the animation well enough…it wasn’t anything phenomenal, but it wasn’t terrible. My primary “issue” with the animation has to do with the character designs themselves–what fault I may have found with the animation probably comes more from this aspect.

The costumes are a blend of preNew 52 and current…Superman’s lacks the ugly collar-and-armor look BUT has the red belt in place of the trunks. Truthfully–I have no issue here as I don’t know if I would have noticed if I’d not been looking for it.

Bizarro and Cheetah looked “off” a bit, while Black Manta, Grodd, and others looked ok enough. Luthor looks like a sleeker, higher quality rendition of something pre-1986 to me, or at least what I unconsciously associate with that earlier period.

Story-wise, this is fairly typical fare for superhero shenanigans. Heroes beat the villains, villains use time-travel to change a key moment in history and thus undo the heroes; “b-list” heroes not affected by the time change (um…wibbly-wobbly, time-wimey stuff) must emerge and put things right.

The use of the Time Trapper here is probably the most accessible version I’ve encountered of the character. Rather than being a known villain of the Legion of Super-Heroes or such, he’s just an entity released from an artifact in the LoS’ museum a la a genie from a bottle. Granted, this makes him/it more of a plot point than any sort of character with any depth, it works for the story. I’m sure my own lack of experience with the Legion–they’re a definite blind spot in my experiential DC knowledge–lends itself to my ready acceptance of this interpretation of the character, where those far more familiar with Legion stuff may well take issue with it.

I didn’t recognize any of the voice actors offhand…but this honestly doesn’t bother me at all. Perhaps largely for not even expecting this movie and having no vested interest in its particular version of the characters (it’s not based on/adapting anything I’m familiar with specifically nor is it a continuation of the ’90s Batman, Superman, or Justice League/Justice League Unlimited animated series or previous direct-to-home-media film).

Since I’m not expecting the “traditional” voice actors for Superman, Batman, or Luthor and had no expectations for any of the other characters, I took stuff at “face value,” wherein all voices fit if only for the fact that none of them particularly DIDN’T fit; no one “sounded weird” to me or had odd voices coming from an otherwise familiar appearance.

In the end, this is–to me–a rather mediocre thing, though. It’s not bad, but it’s not wonderful. Ultimately it’s rather forgettable. JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time is enjoyable in the moment, having watched it…but on the whole it doesn’t strike me as anything worth rushing out to buy. A rental would be an adequate way of scratching any “curiosity itch” one has regarding this for now.

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This Week’s Comics Haul (November 20, 2013)

I’m loving the $1 “promo” issues of late. At the LEAST they add “value” to the “stack.” I picked up Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time #12 (of 12) on a whim just to check it out since I haven’t a clue when I’ll get to read the entire series. And Ben 10 I figured I’d just try, see if I liked it. With only about 8 titles and at least 4 Wednesdays in a month, I haven’t figured out why Valiant can’t better “stagger” their books!

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Also hit the quarter-bins at JC’s in the Falls. Finally got Supergirl #1 (PAD’s run), couldn’t pass up Superman the Man of Steel #1 on principle (see upcoming Akron Comicon post from the con a couple weeks ago).

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And finally got Superman Red to go with my Superman Blue that I got a couple years ago. I’m re-realizing how much I like the pre-New 52 Tim Drake Robin character, particularly given my history with the character and comics in general (another story for another time). These figures will be coming out of the packages ASAP; to display with my other JLA figures, and the cards are slightly curled and just seem “worn” such that I might as well ditch the packaging.

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Justice League #1 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5

JLA/Hitman #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: On the Darkside Part One

Faced with the return of an old threat, the JLA finds itself in close quarters with the Hitman!

jlahitman001Writer: Garth Ennis
Art and Cover: John McCrea
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editors: Peter Tomasi & Michael Siglain

Before I sat down to read this, I noticed some doubts had crept in. When this 2-parter was solicited, something about it piqued my interest–I would not have sought it out if it hadn’t. But seeing it sitting on my desk waiting to be read, I asked myself how entertaining it could possibly be. I’ve never read one single issue of Hitman. All I know of it comes from panels reprinted online and/or in Wizard magazine (such as the main character vomiting on Batman) and that the character was (one of?) the only success story to come from the Bloodlines event that ran through the 1993 DC Annuals. And the 90s JLA logo evoking a feel of the 90s-to-Infinite Crisis version of the Justice League–an era I’m not terribly familiar with–left me wondering if I’d care at all for this.

Thankfully, once I started reading, I just kept going.

We open on a scene with someone asking Clark Kent some questions, ultimately leading Kent to divulge a story Superman had shared with him a long time ago. This framing sequence leads into the core story itself. With information discovered about a returning NASA probe, the JLA realizes that a threat from the past is resurfacing, and that they’ll need access to another remnant of the past–and Batman knows just where to find such a person. Unfortunately, this person is Tommy Monaghan–the Hitman, and he doesn’t exactly mesh well with the JLA. Before too much can go down between the two parties, the real threat arrives, and the JLA finds itself in quite the ridiculous predicament, both frightening and yet almost silver-age simplistic.

Ennis crafts a very entertaining tale here, that takes these characters who–on the surface, at least–should have nothing to do with each other and puts them together in a believable fashion, while allowing the absurdity of things to also show through. The two things that stood out most to me and really tripped my geek-meter were the use of footnotes (which have me stoked to track down the referenced issues, not to merely understand what’s going on here–I get that just fine, but to read the original events characters reference and thus enjoy stuff that much more). And the Bloodlines event is mentioned by name and in broad strokes recapped–showing that other than being a generic "origin" for the Hitman, it’s an event that actually DID happen, that these characters DO remember, that actually MATTERED in the grand scheme of things.

Offhand, I’m not familiar with the artist, though the visual style feels familiar. I know that I like the visuals here, overall–the art just works, plain and simple. Though Batman in particular seems just a bit off with the sculpting of the cowl, something about it feels–somehow–like it fits.

This is the first of two chapters, probably "just" a one-off sorta story that while it references and builds on "continuity," will have no lasting impact on it at present. As a package, though, it’s a fun, enjoyable story. There’s a dark humour present here, and the character interactions speak to a fairly rich history. Also, for a guy that grew up on 90s’ comics, this carries the feel of those mid-to-late-90s comics, while the framing sequence seems pretty timeless, such that it could be taking place in the present.

If you’re a fan of the pre-Meltzer incarnation of the JLA, or of the Hitman, this should be a nice romp through familiar-but-now-gone territory. And even if you’re not familiar with one or both sides, this stands decently as its own story…and you could do a heckuva lot worse.

Ratings:

Story: 3/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

Justice League of America #39 [Review]

Reunion

Writer: James Robinson
Pencils: Mark Bagley
Inks: Rob Hunter
Colors: Pete Pantazis
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Bagley, Hunter & Pantazis
Assoc. Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics

I’m not familiar with the “Detroit League,” and don’t really have much interest in it offhand. However–as with many of the other Blackest Night tie-ins–that doesn’t really hamper the story in this issue all that much. Certainly there are some subtleties that are lost on me for lacking background knowledge of certain characters. But at its heart, ultimately, this is still a good, solid story involving a character with “history” rising to cause grief with those still living.

While Red Tornado, Zatanna, Dr. Light and crew arrive on the sattelite to see what happened, they’re confronted by Vibe (of the Detroit League), Zatarra (Zatanna’s father) and Dr. Light (the guy who raped Sue Dibny, and got his mind mucked with for his trouble, ultimately leading to Identity Crisis and whatnot). The individual confrontations are fairly interesting, though the most disturbing is the meeting of the Drs. Light, and what has befallen Firestorm’s girlfriend. Though it got incredibly annoying trying to read the backwards-speak of Zatanna and Zatarra and I was taken out of the story entirely by the thought, I had a good chuckle when I realized their battle had all but come down to a “yo mamma” spitting contest, their magic given power by what they said: “Disregard what she said!” “No, disregard what HE said!” “No, disregard what SHE said!”

It seems obvious that Robinson knows these characters well, and has a good handle on them–whatever my feelings of the various “eras” of the JLA and such, he crafts an engaging story. Particularly with Zatara, it’s obvious that his fullest potential as a Black Lantern can’t be allowed to be reached and that he’s–like Psycho Pirate–perhaps one of the greatest weapons in the Black Lanterns’ arsenal.

The art is also quite good, and though I’m not yet all that used to Bagley’s art in the DCU, I like it already–and somehow, it reminds me just a bit of Dan Jurgens’ work, which is certainly a plus in my book.

This issue’s by no means an essential part to the core Blackest Night saga…but it’s still a solid read and well worth getting if you’re interested in the Drs. Light or the Detroit League, or just seeing Robinson/Bagley’s take on ’em.

This feels like a very stand-alone sort of story within the title, where it could almost be Blackest Night: Justice League of America #1 rather than #39 of the ongoing series. Though buying the issues for the tie-in to Blackest Night, I’m not convinced there’s enough here to truly, properly “sell” one on the title itself. But as this is only the first of a two-part story, there’s no telling what the next chapter may do.

Recommended.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Justice League of America #29 [Review]

Star Struck!

Guest Writer: Len Wein
Penciller: Chris Cross
Inkers: Rob Stull w/Chris Cross
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover: Ed Benes & Hi-Fi
Publisher: DC Comics

Breaking from the storyline introducing Milestone characters to the DCU, this Faces of Evil issue focuses on Starbreaker.

…Who is a character I don’t think I’d ever heard of before seeing this issue at the store this week.

The character narrates his history to the reader, recounting how he first came to fight the JLA and then to make his way to Earth for revenge. After the JLA has defeated him, he finds himself in company of another villain whose name I do recognize.

The art for this issue is a solid mix of “classic” and “contemporary”–it pulls off the appearance of a contemporary comic, while also hinting at a silver age visual style for the characters (and page layout). It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Chris Cross’s work (I remember enjoying his work on the Genis-Vell Captain Marvel series from Marvel a few years back), and I’m glad to say that it does not disappoint me here at all.

The story on the other hand does not work for me. I appreciate the writer’s background, but did not feel this the place to showcase his work. There is a VERY silver-age feel to the story that does not serve in its favor (unlike the origin for Libra in the Final Crisis Secret Files). To be honest, it took me two attempts to get through this issue–I got a few pages in the first time and set this aside where it waited until I’d read all my other new comics for the week, and then finished this off on principle.

I’ve seen nothing obvious stating how long an arc is in this title, but was expecting at least one more chapter of the Milestone arc–strike #1 against this. That this was a guest-written gig–basically a one-shot, I presume–this should have been Faces of Evil: Starbreaker as a standalone instead of an issue of Justice Leaue of America…strike #2 against this.

If you’re interested in a one-off tale with a silver-age feel about this apparently “classic” villain, this issue will probably be very much to your liking. If you’re checking the title out JUST for the Milestone characters, they’re not in this issue at all so you could skip this without missing any of that stuff.

Story: 3/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 5.5/10

Justice League of America #28 [Review]

Welcome to Sundown Town Chapter 2: Shadow and Act

Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Penciller: Jose Luis
Inks: JP Mayer
Color: Pete Pantazis
Letters: Travis Lanham
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover: Ed Benes w/Hi-Fi
Publisher: DC Comics

I wasn’t gonna pick this up. I was gonna content myself with waiting for a collected volume, or just waiting for the Milestone characters to pop up in other books. But curiosity got the better of me, and so I picked this up after all.

There’s not much of a plot here–the bulk of the issue is a lengthy fight scene between the League and the Shadow Cabinet. However, toward the end of the issue theres a slight bit of a twist that both bucks cliche and yet manages to play right in familiar old cliche none the less.

I find myself much more interested in finding out more about the Milestone characters than I am about the Justice League, and so am possibly more disappointed in this issue than I should be. I would gladly (and with enthusiasm) picked up a mini-series re-introducing these characters that guest-starred members of the Justice League; as it is, the Milestone characters don’t get enough focus-time in this issue (though they get far more than in the previous one). I’m also quite interested in the Icon/Superman interaction(s).

The art here–while not Benes–is quite good, and similar enough to Benes’ work that I thought nothing of the art until I looked at the credits, and realized that sure enough, this wasn’t Benes. I was particularly impressed with the final page–which also has me sufficiently hooked as to pick up the next issue more than likely.

All in all, not a bad issue. Worth getting if you want to see the Milestone characters that are appearing in this arc.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8.5/10
Whole: 8/10

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