In Review: Justice League #43

A good read, though the main plot isn't as interesting as the character development and the art makes some odd choices.

The covers: Two covers to tempt you to cross over to dive deep into your wallet. The Main cover is by Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson. This features Batman in the position he was seen in at the end of last issue: sitting in the Mobius Chair. That’s not good, because its abilities make him a New God. To his left is Lex Luthor and to his right is a, seemingly, light infused Superman. All three are surrounded by a really cool collection of geometric symbols, showing what Bruce Wayne has become. The art’s good and the colors are fine, but as good as this was, I had to get the Bombshells Variant cover by Emanuela Lupacchino and Tomeu Morey. This pair has quickly become my favorite covers artists and given the content of their piece, I had to get it. Looking like a recruitment poster from WWII, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Mera are side by side, looking patriotic. I love the way they all look and the colors are perfect. Yeah, this one is just too hard to resist. Overall grades: Main A and Bombshells Variant A+

The story: A mutant looking dog is slaughtered by Kalibak, who doesn’t want to be disturbed by Steppenwolf. The monstrous son of Darkseid is told that his father has summoned him for battle and that he must obey orders, especially since he wants Grail and her mother taken alive. This gets a “Bah” out of Kalibak who’ll do it not for Darkseid, but “For Kalibak.” That doesn’t sound good for anyone. Meanwhile, back in the hidden fortress of Shazam, the Justice League is shocked that Batman is in sitting in Metron’s chair. It takes him to a new level of understanding as it allows him to receive the answer to any question. However, the only thing the chair doesn’t know is who the Anti-Monitor is. Hal Jordan tries to talk Batman into getting out of the device, but that doesn’t go far. I really like that writer Geoff Johns did this with Batman. It was unexpected, yet, given who Batman is, not surprising. I also like that Hal was the one trying to talk him out of it. So interesting is this plot twist, I was somewhat disappointed when the Darkseid War plotline kicked back in; I wanted more of Batman in the chair! On Apokolips Superman and Lex Luthor encounter some forces, with the Man of Steel having something startling happen to him on Page 9. This was an excellent plot twist, with Luthor’s solution so in character. Where this has Superman at the end of the issue has me completely clueless as to what will happen next. My least favorite part of the book involved the Anti-Monitor and Darkseid. As much as I’m loving what’s happening with the heroes, shouldn’t I be a little more emotionally involved with the super badies’ conflict? Overall grade: B+

The art: The reintroduction of Kalibak on the first three pages is an excellent opening by Jason Fabok. This character has always been a chunky villain, whose girth implied his strength. Not this time! This is the leanest I’ve ever seen, and, for the first time, he’s not someone who’s semi-ridiculous looking. His dialogue with Steppenwolf makes his appearance an unwieldy horror, and I like it! The splash page on 4 rightfully focuses on Batman’s new position, looking lofty among his former peers. The setting that Superman and Luthor go through has a nice cinematic feel due to the angles that Fabok puts into Page 6, with the final panel being just the right point of view before the onslaught that’s about to occur. The number of people that appear on 7 look really good. I’ve read several books lately where the penciller skimps on details the farther characters are from the reader’s eyes; not Fabok. Look close at that top panel — it’s great. Luthor’s face at the bottom of 8 is a nice bit of foreshadowing that’s revealed shockingly on 9. I really like that there was no gloating in his face; this made him more — dare I say — humane. I understand why Fabok chose the layout on Pages 18 and 19, but the sound effect that serves as the background/boarder of the larger panels is lost. The splash that follows on 20 and 21 show the League caught in the middle, but his is a case where the reader is too far from the action to make out any details — it really is can’t see the forest for the trees. I needed this to be a closer to the action composition. Having such important scenes look like this, so close to the end of the story, make the art feel like it’s taking a wrong turn. The final page is a strong punch of a cliffhanger where the art matches the shocking event. Overall grade: B+

The colors: I have several questions about Brad Anderson’s choices on this issue. The first three pages have sensational coloring as the bastard stepson of Darkseid is revealed. It really is perfect. On Page 4 Batman and the background are colored very lightly. Doing so makes the Caped Crusader seem more like a dream than a person, like his fellow heroes in the same shot, and it weakens him. Anderson is coloring him this way to make him appear to be beyond normal man, I get that, but it’s not working. I expected Batman to be coughing from all the smoke that’s been generated by the colors. In fact, it looks as though he’s being shown through a cloudy filter. Things vastly improve on Apokolips where the colors are strong, harsh, and appropriate for this hell of a setting. The faded filter unfortunately returns with the arrival of a character at the top of 13, and it diminishes this character after a great build up in the previous two issues. I also question the coloring on 18 and 19: again, faded/muted colors, with too much orange. The visuals have become a blob because of the coloring. The next two pages sadly continue this. Back on Apokolips the coloring improves, with a lot of oranges, but they’re balanced by other bright colors. Anderson is an extremely talented colorist, and this is a rare series of missteps. Overall grade: C+

The letters: Sounds, dialogue, a slightly heavier dialogue font for Kalibak, scene setting, narration, story title, book credits, a crowd’s chants, a thin dialogue font for an un-chaired Metron, and the tease for next issue are created by Rob Leigh. I really like the subtle changes in Kalibak and Metron’s fonts; as New Gods they should have a slight difference from humanity, but it should be followed through to other characters, such as Steppenwolf and Darkseid, with the latter’s font being shown to be different by the shape of the dialogue balloon. I don’t like that in comics; I prefer to see the letterer work some mojo with the style of the letters, not the outline of the box. It’s a slight complaint. Overall grade: A

The final line: A good read, though the main plot isn’t as interesting as the character development and the art makes some odd choices. Overall grade: B+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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