And I’m back. Sorry for skipping out on doing reviews last week but I’ve been busier than I would like and it was the last thing on my mind. Also that issue of Catwoman sorta bust a blood vessel in my brain. This week was a more pleasant reading experience, so the reviews should reflect that. Let’s get started!
The first review this week is for what I have to say is the best book of the week. I feel like getting that out of the way early is important because I’m gonna gush fairly heavily on this one. I’ve been a vocal booster of Palmiotti and Gray’s work on Jonah Hex for a long time now and when the reboot news came down the pike I was surprised to see Hex getting any attention in the new DC landscape. I figured it would be the perfect time for DC to quietly push the character aside the way it has with a few other less-than-stellar selling titles. I’ve been hearing the same “the trade sales keep it alive” line in regard to Jonah Hex for a while but DiDio’s comments that new books would be judged harshly and only the best selling titles would remain in a short period of time made me wonder how this new interpretation would work for our favorite heavily scarred western bounty-hunter.
First and foremost I need to point out that this is not your typical Jonah Hex issue. Gone are the desolate western landscapes where the dust and dirt seem to fly off the page and nestle in the corners of your eyes. We’re now in the developing sprawl of Victorian-era Gotham City, a place where cobblestones have replaced the muddy central thoroughfare of the frontier town. Our Jonah Hex here is an older iteration, having experienced the frontier life and aftermath of the Civil War. He is drawn to the city on contract to help hunt down a Jack the Ripper-esque murderer who is carving a bloody swath of violence through the city leaving a trail of mutilated prostitutes in his wake. It is a story that matches the setting quite well and Palmiotti & Gray set the stage for our adventures efficiently giving us a quiet slow burn through the proceedings punctuated with sudden bursts of violent energy as if the book itself mirrors Hex’s personality.
I felt like there was more in this issue than in three lesser titles combined. It felt dense without feeling impenetrable, offering an excellent place for those who have heard how amazing Jonah Hex was and are finally willing to give the character a shot. Tying his history in with the development of Gotham City should drawin some Bat-fans interested to see how Hex fits in with the story of the Waynes, the Cobblepots, and the Arkhams. Fans of Snyder’s work on Batman will not be disappointed by the similar tone and the uninitiated should be drawn in by the sharp pacing and quality artwork.
Overall Rating: 5/5
I’m an unabashed Aquaman fan. Seriously. I’ve got a good longbox full of Aquaman books and I feel like it’s a shame that nobody gives the guy a real shake. He’s a warrior king from under the sea! The logline alone should sell it but most people only view him as a joke. As such, it’s not surprising that Geoff Johns has gone in for a psuedo-meta presentation of the character where the surface world and the DCU don’t understand why Aquaman exists. I admit that it’s a bit disheartening that this is the direction he wanted to go, because it’ll be hard to dissuade people from believing everything they previously thought about the character when even the folks in the book itself don’t take him seriously. Of course it seems like Johns is also using every page of the book to prove everyone wrong. He lays the smackdown on a bunch of bank robbers, clarifies that he does not in fact talk to fish, and makes sweet love to his woman on the seashore after deciding that he doesn’t want to be king of Atlantis anymore.
This issue reads quite a bit like Johns’ Green Lantern no. 1 when he relaunched that character a few years back. As was the case with GL, Johns dives in head first and works to establish a status quo that clearly defines what sort of character we’re going to be dealing with and doesn’t divert much attention to the looming threat, devoting perhaps three pages total to setting up any sort of external conflict. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it’s important at this stage to prove to the readers that Aquaman is a character worth reading about. I think that Johns has done that effectively. I believe that people who weren’t fans previously will indeed have something to latch onto with this interpretation.
Let’s hope that Aquaman takes off big time like Green Lantern did all those years ago. He deserves it, damnit.
Overall Rating: 4/5
I almost passed on this just because I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept of John Constantine being in any book with the “Justice League” label on it. It’s like seeing an old friend who used to weigh 300 pounds showing up looking like Chris Evans on the set of Captain America, your brain just can’t wrap itself around the concept of what is being presented as opposed to what you believe in your head to be true. Sort of like when a sentence doesn’t end the way you expect it banana.
That having been said, Peter Milligan’s name on the cover pretty much sold me entirely and then the contents of what was under that cover won me over entirely. It doesn’t read at all like what you would expect a “Justice League” title to read like. We do get the central Justice League team showing up and attempting to handle the supernatural threat but it soon becomes apparent that it will take a different sort of hero to sort things out. Thus we are introduced to our team through small vignettes. Shade the Changing Man shows up in a scene that is actually a bit heart wrenching. Xanadu, Zatanna, and Constantine get drawn in as well and we finish the issue with the players in position and the game ready to begin. If the issue weren’t almost entirely setup and exposition I would have given it a perfect score. I was expecting something a little bit more along the lines of JLI where they are assembled and the action has begun by the end of the issue but with so many characters to juggle I’m impressed that we got as much material as we did. It’s quite impressive.
OVERALL SCORE: 4/5
And that’s it for this week. I hope you’ll go out and buy some of these. It’d be nice if the good books of the DC relaunch were the ones that sold the best. Basically I want you to buy 10 All-Star Westerns each and hand them out to friends. Because that would be amazing.