Comic Recommendations: December 30, 2015

Because DC now has weekly comics I think their portion of my introduction has been filled by Batman & Robin Eternal on each and every one of my posts, but let’s not forget that they also put out a new Justice League this week too; and Marvel’s release lists were screwy and confusing, but they totally concluded the Chewbacca mini-series and the final scene was pretty awesome, especially considering that the Marvel Star Wars books that launched in January of 2015 are all canon now! The last week of 2015 gave us a wimpy-sized load of comics, but they certainly weren’t lacking in quality.

UNSPOILED

  1. Justice League #47 (DC Comics), Unspoiled Edition

Justice League 47 01

In the second volume of “Darkseid War,” Justice League is really starting to funnel toward something spectacular. I expect that Justice League #47 is just the beginning of a series of truly fantastic issues by Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok. As if the cast of characters for this mega-event four or so years in the making wasn’t big enough, the Crime Syndicate has now entered the fold and it is completely unclear what is going to come from their inclusion.

SPOILED

  1. Justice League #47 (DC Comics), Spoiled Edition

I usually like to stay away from anything that might give me any foresight into story revelations for future issues, but I couldn’t help but read DC’s description for future issue Justice League #49:

In this, the penultimate chapter of the critically-acclaimed epic “Darkseid War,” the fate of the Justice League and the entire universe is on the line! But can even the combined might of the Justice Gods contend with the secret machinations of Grail, the deadly daughter of Darkseid? Death, rebirth and the life of one of the members of the League changed forever!

Maybe in the near future we can talk about all of the DC comics that are going to have an issue #50 in the next couple of months, but for now I want to talk about which member of the Justice League is going to experience some sort of mega change. I figured I would give some sort of ranking of who I feel is most likely to experience a serious change. I am only going to deal with the primary seven Justice League members, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg.

  1. AQUAMAN

Aquaman

Aquaman would probably get the award for the most ignored character during the entire “Darkseid War” story arc. Similarly, he’s my vote for least likely to experience a serious change in issue #50. I’m pretty sure Geoff Johns has at least one more Aquaman/Atlantis arc in store for the title though, so change may be coming but it is probably not coming in the next couple of months. The moment we start seeing Mera in the pages of Justice League — that’s when I would start fearing for Aquaman’s fate.

What would a change look like for Aquaman at the end of “Darkseid War”? This is a tough one. The only thing that comes immediately to my mind is the idea that the god powers of the Justice League members may get focused into one individual, like Superwoman’s baby, and the League will have to keep this threat from the public without killing it. To do so they would have to build a secret containment facility in the Mariana Trench with advanced security and permanently guarded by Aquaman.

  1. BATMAN

Justice League 47 02

I’m not taking a risk with Batman, despite the fact that Geoff Johns seems to be having a lot of fun with Bruce Wayne’s character during this arc. We have already seen him learn the identity of his parents’ killer (Joe Chill), the identity of Joker (never revealed to readers), and we have seen that he is in serious trouble now that Mobius has returned. Because of all these details, I think he might be the main focus for a lot of speculation. I’m cool on a transformation for Batman because there are already two other series (Batman, and Batman & Robin Eternal) that are actively involved with mixing things up for Bruce Wayne and company, and Batman doesn’t need as much help as nearly all of the other Justice League members. He’s as complex as Hamlet, meaning that even a static Batman gives Johns more to work with than a dynamic anyone else.

What would a change look like for Batman at the end of “Darkseid War”? I think the most impactful thing that has happened to Batman during this arc is the fact that his curious detective intellect was bonded with a  source of infinite information. Once he is inevitably removed from this source, things may get shaky. The most interesting transformation I can imagine for Batman would be that he is reduced to a state similar to Alzheimer’s in which he is constantly grasping for information that isn’t there, making him simultaneously much slower at deducing solutions and much more prone to bouts of anger when the information he seeks simply isn’t there. We have a diversity of characters now who deal with problems facing people of color, women, people of different social classes, sexuality, and even disability, but it is not often that we see superheroes who face issues that frighten us all as we get older. This could be a fantastic opportunity for personal growth for Batman but also for expanding the inclusivity of comic book readership.

  1. GREEN LANTERN

Justice League 46 03

There is another list in my head where Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern is at the bottom, and this is because Geoff Johns re-opened and closed the book on this character. It would be far more likely that he would devote time to changing life for Power Ring than Hal Jordan. The conclusion of Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern was perfect, and then he passed the character on to another creative team. He’ll pop into the pages of Justice League here and there, but I honestly think Johns keeps him around as a foil for other characters. In the light that he casts, we can see sides of these other characters that we wouldn’t have otherwise. That is Hal Jordan’s purpose in Justice League and I like it.

What would a change look like for Green Lantern at the end of “Darkseid War”? It would be the best thing ever, because nobody knows Hal Jordan better than Geoff Johns. We know that the Justice League has proxies in other universes. Look at the Earth 2 comics, Multiversity, and Johns’ recent work with the Crime Syndicate. We also know that the red (animal), green (plant), and black (death) of Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man and Scott Snyder’s Swamp Thing also has proxies in Earth 2. What I think Johns would play with is the proxy to the seven color spectrum in the main universe that exists in the Crime Syndicate’s home reality on Earth 3. We know about Volthoom, the power behind Power Ring’s green ring, but what of Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Indigo, Violet, White, and Black. Personally, I would love to see a yellow ring from Earth 3 on Hal Jordan’s finger. If we assume that the entities associated with the rings possess the ring-holder and that they are a kind of opposite entity to the Earth 1 proxy then Hal Jordan would occasionally get possessed by a braggadocios heroic beasty and we would get to have fun with the ego conflicts between this over-the-top avatar and cocky pilot Hal Jordan.

  1. SUPERMAN

Justice League 47 07

I don’t know if any of you read Geoff Johns’ arc on Superman but it was insane-good and Johns already gave Superman quite a character development. Superman can now release the energy from all of his cells at once in a gigantic body blast which permanently depletes him and turns him into a basic human being in terms of power and skill set for about 24 hours. That said, I think there is still plenty of room to further develop Superman and Geoff Johns must have some ideas up his sleeve.

What would a change look like for Superman at the end of “Darkseid War”? One of the big cliffhangers of Justice League #47 was that the energy Superman absorbed on Apokolips may be destroying Superman’s cells and killing him. However, when it comes to Geoff Johns “death” actually means “change.” I wouldn’t be surprised if Superman’s cells are actually transformed so that he needs Apokoliptic energy instead of solar energy in order to gain super powers. This would effectively make him human or banish him to Apokolips, and I think neither possibility is more entertaining than the dilemma itself. Does a helpless Superman stay on Earth or migrate to Apokolips where he might be able to do some good? That’s a story I’d love to read.

  1. CYBORG

Justice League 47 08

Now we’re starting to get into the characters that I legitimately think Geoff Johns wants to make some changes with. Much of “Darkseid War” forces us to remember the first arc of Geoff Johns’ Justice League in which the team was assembled in response to Darkseid’s first attack on Earth 1, and lets not forget that Cyborg occupied the b-story to the assembly of the League. A Volthoom-possessed Power Ring uploaded Grid into Cyborg at the end of Justice League#47, so we already have a pretty good in for changing it up for Cyborg. In the same issue, Cyborg is outclassed at his niche by Mister Miracle and Barda, which might even suggest Cyborg dropping from the active roster for a time.

What would a change look like for Cyborg at the end of “Darkseid War”? Cyborg has been “infected” with Grid before, and he was able to wipe Grid from his system. Johns is smart enough not to do the same thing twice. This means that the interfacing of Cyborg and Grid is going to be transformative more likely than not. I think the most likely option would be that Cyborg and Grid become partitioned within Cyborg’s body. This could be forced against Grid or a mutual decision. While this might seem a little too much like the dual nature of Firestorm, I think we could get some awesome Evil Dead-style comedy where Grid suddenly gets control of Cyborg’s hand or something else.

  1. FLASH

Justice League 46 02

Much like with Green Lantern, Geoff Johns has become the master of The Flash over the years, but unlike with Green Lantern, I don’t think Johns is done with Flash just yet. When Flash was transformed into the Black Racer, it felt like there was a new venue for character development. Also, now that CW’s The Flash is entering its second season it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a strong The Flash comic so that the two support one another. In other words, it might be time for Geoff Johns to come back to The Flash again.

What would a change look like for Cyborg at the end of “Darkseid War”? I think the knee-jerk suggestion is that Flash will semi-permanently become the Black Racer. Maybe he will be a good guy with a Black Racer power set. Maybe he will be a bad guy and one of the other Flashlings will have to step to the forefront in order to battle him a la the Hal Jordan/Parallax and new Green Lantern Kyle Rayner story line from long ago. For some reason, and feel free to laugh in my face if/when I’m wrong, I don’t think this is where Johns wants to go with The Flash. Since “Darkseid War” appears to be a book-end to the first Justice League arc, we might see a similar bookend for The Flash. By this I mean that The Flash either travels to or remembers the previous universe and is forced to deal with the consequences of Flashpoint in some shape or form. If this were to happen, Johns could potentially even redeem Convergence and all of its awkward enormousness (enormous awkwardness? you decide). I’m not sure how, but this is the guy who made good on Hal Jordan’s incredibly confusing and difficult past. If Johns can’t do it, no one can.

  1. WONDER WOMAN

Justice League 47 04

I don’t think Wonder Woman is necessarily the character who needs a change the most, but I do think that there is a reason that she has narrated the “Darkseid War” for the last few issues. In the background of this story arc there has been a “Wonder Woman, This is Your Life” theme. There is another Amazonian in the mix, and it is unclear what is going to happen between her and Wonder Woman, she has been attempting to make peace with her romantic relationships with both Steve Trevor and Superman, and we got a fleeting glimpse of Themyscira that felt kind of scary. If I’m a betting man, I’m putting my money on Wonder Woman as the character whose life is going to be changed forever.

What would a change look like for Wonder Woman at the end of “Darkseid War”? Honestly, with the events that have unfolded in Justice League #46-47 I wouldn’t be surprised if Geoff Johns killed Wonder Woman off. I wouldn’t be surprised, but I do think I might be a little disappointed. In story telling, it is always more rewarding to wound than to kill, and there are many things that could hurt Wonder Woman at this point. If something were to happen where Superman or Steve Trevor were killed, transformed, alienated, or in some other way removed as a friend or lover from Wonder Woman’s life, that would hurt, but something inside me says that the island of Themyscira and potentially the entire Amazonian race might be wiped from the planet.

Justice League 47 05

We’re talking Alderaan! Wonder Woman never felt that she belonged anywhere other than on that island. Themiscyra was her crutch. If Themyscira were gone she’d be forced to assimilate, and that process is probably one of the most gut-wrenching things I can imagine for a strong woman from a foreign culture. In terms of art, this means that it is an incredibly fruitful story generator as well.

Who do you think is most likely to experience the big change and what do you think Geoff Johns has in store for that character? Also, what did you think of Justice League #47?

* * *

The Totally Awesome Hulk 01 02

One of the most surprising books in the All-New, All-Different Marvel line, both in terms of title and content, is The Totally Awesome Hulk. Greg Pak and Frank Cho’s story follows Amadeus Cho, a young genius who has inherited the purple shorts of the Hulk. This title first and foremost shows Marvel’s commitment to stirring things up with their foundational characters in a way that we haven’t seen since DC replaced Superman with Superboy, Cyborg, Steel, and the Eradicator, Batman with Jean-Paul Valley/Azrael, and Green Lantern Hal Jordan with Kyle Raynor. It is an interesting time to be alive now that Captain America is Sam Wilson (the first prominent black superhero without the word “Black” in his name!), Thor is Jane Foster (a female superhero fighting a losing battle against cancer!), Ms. Marvel is Kamela Khan (the first Muslim character to headline her own comic and a young woman of Kitty Pryde quality to boot!), Spider-man is Miles Morales (a multi-racial black/latino teenager from another dimension!), and now Hulk is Amadeus Cho (a Korean American super genius!). I think that the only reason Tony Stark is still Iron Man is not actually for the sake of continuity, but because Marvel still needs to prove that Tony Stark can be approachable outside of the big screen unlike Steve Rogers, Thor Odinson, Carol Danvers, Peter Parker, and Bruce Banner.

The first thing you notice about The Totally Awesome Hulk is that it is fast-paced and entertaining. Pak’s writing is simultaneously fresh and reminiscent of Stan Lee’s early Marvel work. I felt intrigued by the things that were not told in issue #1. While we were given a flashback to somewhat explain why Bruce Banner is now off the Hulk roster, it is still not certain exactly what happened as a result of his heroics on that fateful day in the recent past.

The Totally Awesome Hulk 01 03

Was Bruce Banner’s gamma mutation reversed? Was he killed? Did he mutate into something uncontrollable? Is his fate to be Amadeus Cho’s villain? Perhaps a new Abomination? Perhaps more interesting is the question of how and why Amadeus Cho has become the Hulk and taken to hunting monsters. While I think Pak is building something that could be really interesting, I think Frank Cho’s art might be what keeps readers coming back in the short-term. What makes Frank Cho particularly qualified for this title, other than making both male and female characters look fantastic, is the fact that he does not draw Hulk with some static Hulk-face. He uses Amadeus Cho’s natural facial features and simply Hulks them out. If Frank Cho were required to draw a lineup of all of Marvel’s superheroes as Hulks you would know which one was Amadeus Cho, which was Bruce Banner, which was Steve Rogers, which was Tony Stork, etc. etc. etc. Does this mean that we’re going to see our fair share of green Hulks in this series? Not necessarily, but it never hurts to have an artist who is equipped for the task.

I would say that it is definitely worth taking a risk on Greg Pak and Fank Cho’s The Totally Awesome Hulk. It is incredibly uncommon for a minority creative team with a minority main character to get any kind of traction in the current comic book climate. These books don’t always get the support of the marketing department of their respective publishers, and it is getting harder year after year to compete with the white boys club of foundational superheroes created in the Golden and Silver Age of comics. In comics, you vote with your paycheck and your pull list, so if representation matters and you really like what you’ve seen make sure you pick up The Totally Awesome Hulk once a month.

Next week we get to enjoy the first new comics of 2016 and with it some minor tweaks in the methodology and presentation of these comic book posts. Thanks for talking with me about comics for the last quarter of 2015. I’m feeling optimistic this year. I think comics are only going to get better and better. Also, if any of you are going to read through Civil War in preparation of the third Captain America movie that’s coming out later this year, hit me up. I never read the crossover when it first came out, and I would love to have a community, even just a small community, of people I can talk to while I’m pushing through it.

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