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The ’90s Revisited: Justice League America #69

90s_revisited

Justice_League_America_0069Down for the Count

Story and Art: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Rick Burchett
Letters: Willie Schubert
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Asst. Editor: Ruben Diaz
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Cover: Dan Jurgens
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1992
Cover Price: $1.25

I may have read this issue before all of the other Doomsday! issues back in 1992…in fact, I’m almost certain that I did. I then reread it when reading the entirety of the Doomsday! arc the night Superman #75 came out.

This is another issue with a fairly iconic, if generic/plain cover, to me. The fade from the deep, almost purple red across the other shades (a gradient is the word I’m probably looking for) as the background eliminates any sort of buildings, trees, other stuff, and leaves us just to focus on the Doomsday creature punching the Blue Beetle as Bloodwynd, Fire, Booster Gold, and Guy Gardner struggle against it. (And this time around I’d swear is the first in all these 25 years that I really noticed the huge gashes in the side of Blue Beetle’s headgear from the creature’s strike!) And of the various chapters of this story, this issue is one I feel I’ve least seen in bargain bins over the years–even less than Superman #75 itself!

The first page has a call-out/blurb at the bottom directing readers to Man of Steel #18 first, though for me, it’s hard not to have started reading the page before seeing that, as it’s positioned at the bottom, and I start reading at the top, so I’m already through a page of dialogue (granted, a full-page/single image) before getting to it, and thus already slightly "hooked" into the action.

We open on the Justice League in action rescuing people–victims from Doomsday’s having torn up a freeway in Ohio (incidentally, based on details in the novelization The Death and Life of Superman–a stretch of freeway I myself used to drive to and from work!). While they’re dealing with the rescue and cleanup, a parallel thread for the issue is picked up–an episode of the Cat Grant Show being filmed at a high school and broadcast to the country, wherein Cat is interviewing Superman live, as well as questions from the students in attendance. This is interspersed with the League then tracking down the creature–following its path of destruction–and engaging it in a battle that leaves the Justice League itself far worse for wear, and Guy horribly beaten and Ted Kord–Blue Beetle–all but dead. At the end, Booster Gold barely gets his force field up in time to take a massive punch from the creature that sends him flying far away from the scene at a speed that overwhelms his flight ring. His flight is cut short by the arrival of Superman, at which point Booster exclaims that "It’s like Doomsday is here!"

The issue’s story has a lot of little moments, and some of those stick out all the more to me 25 years later, looking back. Seeing Maxima as part of the League, for one thing–I’d only really known her from an issue of Action Comics several years earlier. I believe this was my first introductions to most of the other characters–Bloodwynd, Booster Gold, Fire and Ice, and Blue Beetle. I’d already had Guy Gardner #1 a couple months earlier and knew/recognized Guy from the Eclipso: The Darkness Within annual where he’d tangled with the eclipsed Superman (any of the other Leaguers would have been inconsequential background characters to me for the most part). I remember the interview with Cat, the creature spearing Beetle’s bug with the tree, Maxima mind-probing ahead and declaring of the creature "He’s hate–death and blood lust personified! Nothing more." I also think I remember even then being amazed that Beetle and Guy could have survived the creature’s attack, given the on-panel beatings both took; though Guy at least ostensibly was protected by his ring, where Beetle had no such protection, and was in a coma from here and forward for a number of issues.

The art is quite good, and as with Man of Steel #18, part of that is nostalgia…though I think I like this a bit better. We start to see a bit more of the creature as the green, cabled suit takes some damage (on the cover, anyway!), and the art also seems both consistent with the characters and a bit definitive for me given the times I re-read this as a kid, and as a "source" issue for me in referencing some of the characters for the first time.

While this doesn’t exactly stand alone and definitely continues from the events of Man of Steel #18 and continues directly into Superman #74, as a single chapter of the Doomsday! arc, it works much better alone than the previous chapter…at least for me. Picking up with the creature already loose, and showing the League "playing catch-up" themselves allows the reader to be on the same footing, if nothing else…and the final page where Superman shows up kinda ends the threat being a League thing, as it becomes a Superman thing (and as the rest of the story plays out in the Superman titles, the League is relegated to a support status, as it should be for a story unfolding primarily in several titles technically starring only one main character).

This is hardly a complete story, but it does give us moments of Beetle discovering Bloodwynd’s secret months before it was revealed to readers and fellow characters; this is where Beetle is actually injured (a subplot that continues into the next arc), and does serve as a rather "full" participation in the story for the League, as well as (maybe in a meta sense) illustrating also just how dangerous the creature was that it did so much damage to the League itself in just one issue!

I’d say this one’s worth getting even alone, if you find it in a bargain bin, and certainly is an important chapter in the overall story (such that it really should have had an "honorary" "triangle number"…something that was bestowed on several tie-in titles years later for the Millennium Giants story). Though essentially just a "cameo," this is also where we first meet Mitch–a character that has a bit of a through line across this arc and the Funeral for a Friend/World Without a Superman stuff.

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New Hardcovers! JLI, Darkseid War, and The Button

I think this may have been my single largest (or at least expensive!) purchase of collected volumes in one go!

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I’d been particularly waiting for the Justice League International Omnibus (oops, it’s "only" vol. 1!) and was eager to get it. The book is one of the thicker omnibus volumes, and a bit unwieldy at its size, but for all it contains, seems well worthwhile!

Then there’s the Justice League: The Darkseid War Saga Omnibus, collecting the Darkseid War from a couple years ago. I’d balked at the "skinny books" collecting it in multiple parts–I’ve grown really sick and tired of specific, finite stories being broken up into numerous skinny editions JUST for the sake of having "standard 6-issue collected editions." I was curious about the story and interested enough to want it…but not in multiple volumes. Finding out it was getting an omnibus solved that–it’s a nice, thick book and having the entire storyline is a huge plus!

Finally, the Batman/Flash: The Button deluxe hardcover…there’s just something to it for me, the Batman and Flash teamed up, and being the "next step" of sorts from the Rebirth special…and given how much I was already spending, tossing it on was virtually negligible (and cheaper than 2-3 Marvel single-issues!)

Now, we just need a Thy Kingdom Come omnibus of that 12-issue story and 4 specials! (And if they need to pad it out to be thicker, include the original Kingdom Come itself. And if they want to totally go for broke, include The Kingdom along with the New Year’s Evil: Gog special!)

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Interestingly enough, I’m still really not a fan of Darkseid, and DC has gotten me to triple-dip on several things since Rebirth started. I’ve got a couple of JLI skinny hardcovers from awhile back, but missed vol. 2, and was annoyed so didn’t get any of the later ones that there may have been. Now, this way, I’m getting those and more in one volume! (and we’ll see on a volume 2, hopefully not too soon!)

General Mills Presents: Justice League (2017) #4 [Review]

general_mills_2017_justice_league_0004Alien Justice

Writer: Tony Bedard
Penciller: Tom Grummett
Inker: Keith Champagne
Colorist: Sotocolor
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Cover Artist: John McCrea
Cover Colorist: Mike Spicer
Assistant Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Steve Buccellato
Group Editor: Marie Javins
Design Director: Larry Berry

This is the fourth and (presumably) final issue this time around. Several years ago, they did a run of #s 1-4, and the next promotion had #s 5-9…so I would not be shocked if that happens again (or not, either way). But to my knowledge, for the current promotion, there are only four different issues, of which this is the last.

For me, personally, this is also the most common and plentiful…as of this typing I have something like 9 or 10 copies! It’s become the one to LOATHE seeing when I pull it from a cereal box. That said…

This was probably my favorite read of the four. Perhaps its the immediacy of it–the most recent one I read–as well as the generic feel of #3 that this certainly topped by far. But I really enjoyed this in and of itself.

A giant alien ship shows up over San Diego, and begins sucking up the ocean just offshore. Aliens broadcast to the world what they’re doing and why–they’re taking Earth’s water, as Earth has too much of it and their world doesn’t have enough, and that’s just a huge injustice! The League springs into action, attacking this threat on multiple fronts, each to their strength/specialty. As this is an Aquaman-centric issue, he gets more page time and we get stuff more from his point of view…including the requisite (for this series) “flashbacks” to his youth. As the present-day situation continues, we flash back to see a young Arthur dealing with being of mixed heritage–part surface-dweller, part Atlantean. He sees people react to the notion of someone different, and then talks with his dad, who advises him on the wisdom of finding common ground when one is so different from another. Young Arthur gets a tangible opportunity to put that advice into practice when he encounters some Atlanteans threatening some local fishing boats. The lesson apparently stuck with him, as back in the present, he devises a solution and quickly acts to implement it. With help from (perhaps unexpected) sources beyond “just” the League, a bad situation is halted, with a bit of potential redemption coming out of it, with elements of a win/win scenario.

I was comparatively quite disappointed with the last issue and its feeling of being so generic after the first two issues of this “series.” This issue gets us back to “Name Creators” that I recognize, and is a second Bedard-written issue…with art from Tom Grummett, another creator whose work I quite enjoy, period. As such, it should not have surprised me to enjoy this story as I did. It’s a self-contained piece, and does include a bit of that “special message” peachiness to it…but that’s mitigated quite a bit by my relative lack of familiarity with details of Aquaman…he’s a character I’m pretty aware of while having quite the significant blind spot. Though I’m certain this issue’s flashbacks are “new” and involve a version of the character perhaps different from others…it doesn’t bother me as I have so very little to compare it to.

That lack of familiarity also lent itself to my being able to TRULY appreciate this as I believe one would hope the target audience would/could: this makes me a little more familiar with the character and his background, shows me some important elements of the character, and generally serves as a bit of a touch point for me. It sets some of my character-specific expectations for Aquaman in a way that the other issues did not do for the leading characters…and reminds me a bit of the impact The Untold Legend of the Batman had on me as a kid and my then-knowledge of Batman, or that The Man of Steel #3 “audio comic” did for my understanding of Superman.

Grummett‘s art carried a definite sentimentality for me…the visuals for this issue reminded me of other work he’s done, particularly his prior work on Superman, as well as Robin and Superboy. That’s certainly a good thing–as is the art in itself. This is not just a good-looking “cereal comic,” but a good-looking comic, plain and simple!

Though I’d be inclined to choose Superman or Batman first…this Aquaman issue is definitely THE treat of the set, and very well worth reading if you find it!

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General Mills Presents: Justice League (2017) #3 [Review]

general_mills_2017_justice_league_0003Truth Hurts

Writer: Ivan Cohen
Penciller: June Brigman
Inker: Roy Richardson
Colorist: Jeremy Lawson
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Cover Artist: Dan Panosian
Assistant Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Steve Buccellato
Group Editor: Marie Javins
Design Director: Larry Berry

I like these semi-yearly promotions, with DC Comics in cereal. However, this has been THE worst one yet, from two prior Justice League sets and last year’s Batman v Superman: it took an absurd 19 or so boxes of cereal for me to get ONE copy of this 3rd issue. (Meanwhile, I have 9 of #4!) And contrary to the first two issues by what I would consider "name creators" that I recognize, this issue is the worst of the three so far. Or perhaps "worst" is a "strong word," but this is the most generic of the three so far, and comes off worse for comparison to the first two issues.

This one focuses on Wonder Woman where the previous two focused on Superman and Batman, respectively. The Justice League arrives at the site of a volcano that’s about to erupt. The team splits up to approach the situation in their own ways to try to minimize destruction. Aquaman winds up unleashing an underground stream, dousing the League. Then everyone turns on each other, apparently selfish and irritable and downright mean. Wonder Woman–Diana–reflects on an incident from her childhood where she was hurt by stuff her friends had said about her and fled to another island, where she faced the wrath of a minotaur. Based on that experience, she applies the lesson to the present and ultimately the group discovers that something in the water had affected them all, and they resolve the conflicts by admitting the truths that were brought to the surface, and are able to deal with the volcano, preventing any loss of life, though there’s plenty of property damage. Finally, Diana proclaims that real friendship can survive any revelation, and the Justice League are the truest friends of all.

Again, this is the most generic of the issues for this promotion, and comes off that way both story-wise and perhaps even moreso, visually. The story reeks of the "very special episode" and such…perhaps I’m also annoyed and more sensitive to it given the number of duplicates of the other issues I amassed just trying to get this one. But I didn’t feel like the other two issues were nearly as "preachy" on the "special message," though I had noticed a "message" to each of those as well.

The art here is ok–not horrible, but far from wonderful. The characters and designs are recognizable but seem a bit inconsistent, and lacking the "big name" or "recognized" creators, this comes off all the more as what it is–a generic freebie from a box of cereal that happens to have "current" versions of costumes with characters that aren’t given room for much depth (a one-off single-issue story with numerous characters and an attempt to "focus" on Wonder Woman).

That I went through the hassle I did, accumulated a year’s worth (or more) of cereal goes to show my personal OCD and such (and marks me as an ideal "target" for this sort of promotion!). Though the numbering of these–#s 1 through 4–makes for a "complete mini-series" of sorts, if you’re NOT interested in having all four, I would not worry about trying to get this issue unless you want the specific focus on Wonder Woman (a focus that is more of a "gets more pages" than being a Wonder Woman STORY).

Ultimately, for a "free" comic from a box of cereal, this isn’t horrible, but is far from wonderful. I found myself recalling the likes of The Untold Legend of the Batman, which I believe had a "cereal edition" in the mid-1980s. Those were reprints of an actual in-continuity story…I think I’d almost rather see something like that (re)-attempted…or at least, I think something like this (offering miniature editions of comics in cereal) would be ripe for promoting some of DC‘s actual #1 issues to try to hook readers.

I certainly would not begin to consider this issue "worth" a standard cover price, and not worth the boxes of cereal I bought to acquire it…though at least the variety and quantity means I’m not going to have to buy cereal again for a long time, as I will actually (eventually) use it all.

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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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Justice League Dark and Constantine

Justice League Dark finally made it to stores in its physical form (as opposed to digital-only crap) and one version includes a John Constantine figurine!

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When this line of DC animated moves started, many of the releases had a Best Buy exclusive version, packed with a little figurine of one of the main characters. Eventually, that sort of release expanded to a non-chain-exclusive thing, and the figurines changed, matching a line of figurines one could buy separate as well.

Now we seem to be back to the rectangle-base "generic" figurine…only significantly larger than the early ones.

And while I wouldn’t have necessarily been all that interested in yet another Batman…and wouldn’t really care for a Zatanna…John Constantine was an on-site no-brainer for me (not having actually known ahead of time which character would get a figurine this time around). Granted, a Deadman or Swamp Thing would be very cool…but with a 12-year-old Keanu Reeves film, a one-season tv series, a guest-starring role on Arrow and apparently an upcoming animated series of his own…Constantine would seem an obvious choice.

And frankly…I really like this figure…it’s easily one of the most impressive to me, particularly in size.

Perhaps I’ll actually get to watch this film this weekend!

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Meanwhile…Constantine’s got a whole shelf of books to hang out with…

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