Category Archives: Comic / Graphic Novel

Justice League #1: A Brief Review

This is a quick review of a comic book by a guy who doesn’t typically read comic books.

Not that I’m a total ignoramus when it comes to comic books and graphic novels. I’m a big fan of the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman, as well as the Preacher series by Garth Ennis, and I love Fables by Bill Willingham. I’ve read Watchmen, and several issues of The Walking Dead. During the 80s I climbed aboard the Dark Knight bandwagon, and for awhile I was enthralled by everything that Frank Miller did.

But when it comes to Superman, Spiderman, Batman, the Fantastic Four and so on? I have to admit that I just don’t bother. These comics have been going on for so long and have storylines so complicated and all the titles are so tied in with each other that I figured I’d never have a prayer of simply picking one up and figuring out what’s going on, let alone getting engaged in the story. What is the meaning of this bit of dialogue Superman says in JLA #252? Well, it requires that you know what happened in Wonder Woman #’s 159 through 182. That sort of thing.

So when DC Comics announced that they were rebooting fifty-two of their titles, starting over from scratch, I was kind of excited. Of course, the part of me that thinks that reboots, reimaginings, remakes, and very likely to be bad ideas in general was skeptical. But what the heck: since I’d never kept up with the titles, perhaps this reboot was the perfect time for me to start reading comics fresh, getting in on the ground floor, and understanding what’s going on without having to go and borrow my buddy’s complete collection and spend a year doing nothing but getting caught up. This, I thought, was my chance.

So I called Big Brother Comics in downtown Sacramento to reserve a copy of Justice League #1, and during my lunch break I walked down to pick it up (during my walk I dodged a bicyclist, tripped over a curb, and ripped a hole in the knee of my favorite jeans — but that’s another story). It sat on my desk at work mocking me for a few hours until I was able to get it home and read it.

Now, despite my relative ignorance of comic books, I have been exposed to Batman and Superman, but this is a total reboot and so I tried to read this with the perspective of someone who’d never read anything about these characters.

First impressions, then. Well, it’s kind of short. This guy who’s dressed up in heavy-duty armor with bat ears is fighting something that appears to be an alien (it breathes fire and has an ugly face, so it must be an alien) in the downtown of some large city, when a guy in green shows up. The first character, we learn quickly, is Batman. The second is Green Lantern. The city is Gotham City. Oh, and all this is taking place five years ago, when no one knew what a superhero is. Though Green Lantern and Batman seem to know each other.

The two of them talk while Batman continues to fight this alien monster. We learn that Green Lantern is kind of a pompous jerk, and Batman is a grumpy sourpuss. We also learn that Green Lantern is part of a galactic corps of Green Lanterns, and he’s responsible for the sector of space that includes Earth, which is why he was drawn to Gotham City: the alien attack that Batman was warding off.

But this alien — who lets out some sort of warcry just before blowing up, I won’t reveal exactly what — is not alone on Earth. Green Lantern reveals that there is at least one other alien on Earth that needs to be investigated: some dude in the city of Metropolis who goes by the moniker Superman. Green Lantern, powered by his magic space ring, believes he can take down Superman if necessary. Batman isn’t so sure. Guess who’s right?

Anyway. I enjoyed Justice League #1. It was a worthy purchase. Will I keep on buying comics in the rebooted DC universe, and try to keep up with all of the new stories? I’m not sure. Jennifer took a look at Justice League sitting on our dining room table and asked, “So are you going to start collecting comic books now?” to which I replied, “I doubt it.” But I think I’m going to buy a couple more next week when the next round of old/new titles are released.

We’ll see.

The Sandman: The Season of Mists

The Sandman: The Season of MistsThe Sandman: The Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman

In this volume of The Sandman, Neil Gaiman starts to really bring Morpheus and the rest of the Endless into context for us, setting them up alongside the gods of Asgard, the deities of the Egyptian Nile, fairies, incarnations of Order and Chaos, and more. The Endless really are incarnations of abstract ideas; unlike the deities, though, the Endless do not depend upon the beliefs of human beings for their continued existence. Here, Morpheus descends to Hell to pardon an old lover of his that he had damned ten thousand years ago out of spite; once there he discovers that Lucifer has decided to shut down Hell. Lucifer hands the key to Hell over to Morpheus, who must now decide what to do with it.

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that Neil Gaiman is one of the most imaginative and innovative storytellers writing today. His imagination and ability to bring the ideas and motifs of ancient myths to life in a way that modern readers can understand is admirable. And Morpheus, the “Prince of Stories”, is one of his greatest creations, both as a concept (the Lord of Dreams, whose realm is partially the source of all dreams that human beings dream and partially the construct of all dreams) and as a character. All of the Sandman series of comics are worth picking up and adding to your library.