Hi all, okay got the Darkseid War trades: Part 1, Part 2 and Power of the Gods. Just fancied a splurge (also got Superman Rebirth trade 1 and Head Lopper volume 1).Overview
: I initially thought (in comic reader mode) "This is pretty cool!" but then the cynic in me started noticing all the problems with it.1. The Art
: Now for the most part the art is technically proficient. But it is TOTALLY lacking in character and individuality. I don't necessarily know the artists in question from other books but looking through the books there was no panel even that I thought was especially noteworthy*. Even the KEY page of the whole book (the DPS of Darkseid being blasted) looks sterile compared to the original Jim Lee sketch of it at the back of the book.
*Actually I take that back, the panel with Green Lantern on the sofa-chair was cool.
I was trying to understand why nothing really stood out for me and at the back of my head I remembered my How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way where Stan the Man's edification specifically tells artists they have to EXAGGERATE poses and angles. These books have none of that, there's no exaggeration and as a result everything looks so flat. The artist(s) need to dial things 'up to eleven' instead of playing it safe.2. The Colour
: As with the art it took me a while to understand why I was having problems with the colour, I mean its okay I guess, but I think it suffers from the flaw common in many modern books. The background colour is as strong as the foreground, so the characters simply don't 'pop' out and thus everything is harder to follow. Pick up any books from 20 years ago or so and the backgrounds were generally muted pale colours to help the characters in the foreground stand out. Clearly modern comics have regressed in this regard.
Added to which a lot of the background colours in this book are very dark as well, strong reds, browns and red-browns which merges all the warm colours.3. The Art Direction
: Disappointing. I think the books averaged between 4-10 splash pages PER ISSUE! Most of these were not memorable moments, in fact I'd estimate most of them were simply characters posing with most of the remainder being two characters in close proximity and that's our fight - whoopee.
The ridiculous thing is that I counted several major deaths in the book that are drawn in tiny panels but yet there must be about 20 full page spreads of characters just posing.
Never has a book got by with so much "BOOM" tube action and (offscreen Motherbox) "PING" sound effects.
Also it has an annoying habit of overlapping panels for no good reason almost every other page.
Also there are two completely wasted pages at the start of the second trade with some (badly drawn) dripping blood.4. The Action
: Its crap. Usually a fight is basically two people standing nearby in a splash page, thats it. The big scrap is between Darkseid & The Anti-Monitor and even its a bit piss. The opening Grail fight with the league (by League I mean Bats, Cyborg, Shazam and Wondy) is o-kay I guess.
Any other action usually falls into 3 categories:
A. Characters dying in one hit because...?
B. Trademark Geoff Johns 'here comes the cavalry' moments...so lets have a double page spread of a bunch of characters who then do virtually next to nothing after this page.
C. Nearby swings and misses or blasts with no connection.
5. The Story: Okay its Decompressed, but beyond that it wasn't bad in its inception. The IDEA of a Darkseid 'War' is cool even if THERE IS NO ACTUAL WAR in the book its more like a Darkseid FIGHT. Also it totally begs the question why didn't the Anti-Monitor simply invade Apokolips with his Shadow Demons. There was no explicit reason why Earth was involved at all other than shoe-horning the Justice League into it. I mean you could maybe argue the Flash was a key plot point but its a stretch.6. The Heroes Involvement
: MINIMAL at best.
- Batman does nothing but exposition dump. He transitions from his typical 'know it all' to 'literal know it all' when he sits on the Mobius Chair.
- Green Lantern is there (because its Geoff johns) so that Batman isn't always talking to himself - plus so Johns can squeeze in a 'Here come the Lanterns' double page spread.
- Superman gets a temporary 'heel turn' (and a crappy negative look) that has zero effect on the story. His entire involvement amounts to a brief tussle with Lex.
- Wonder Woman is in the story but other than the Amazons-related backstory to the villain Grail she has nothing to do. Arguably she's the emotional anchor for the Steve Trevor 'heel turn' near the end but that just ends in an unsatisfactory confusing mess.
- Cyborg is basically a useless plonker although he does have a sub-plot where he downloads his mind into a Lantern Ring.
- Shazam does almost LITERALLY nothing in 10 issues worth of story even though for most of it he's the "God of Gods" with the power of six powerful beings including Yuga Khan.
The big question is this...if we removed one or more of the above members of the Justice League from this story would any of the events change? The answer is a resounding NO. The only heroes that matter in the story (albeit to a small degree) are Flash (very briefly) and Mister Miracle.
- The Flash basically stands still for the majority of the story (no that's not a joke), but does have the cool merge thing with the Black Racer (cool in terms of design that is) and he does kill two characters in the few scenes where he is allowed to do anything.
- Mister Miracle is like an additional Batman with regards information dumping and he does bridge the Apokolips aspect, but other than being necessary for the prison break-in scene he is also totally useless.7. The Villains Involvement
: Better than the heroes, but not by much
A. The Crime Syndicate: Actually far more interesting and involved in the story than the Justice League. Firstly the Crime Syndicate experienced ACTUAL LOSS in the story (their world was destroyed by the Anti-monitor) giving them motivation.
- Owlman: Seems to know more than Batman even though Batman is sitting on the Mobius chair that lets him know everything.
- Superwoman: Has the whole pregnancy/baby Macguffin going on.
- Ultraman: Kryptonite-addict addled angle is played up well, PLUS he has an actual fight (albeit brief) with the Anti-Monitor. Which is more than Superman does in the whole story.
- That Green Lantern Woman: I dunno what to make of it, its a tad confusing, I suspect its part of an ongoing Green Lantern plot that I have not been reading.
- Grid: He's crap, but still does more than Cyborg.
B. Grail: Cool look and backstory. However, she never has anything more than a scuffle with Wonder Woman. But my main problem with Grail is that while she makes a cool Wonder Woman villain, she makes a crap Justice League villain. Luckily the League act like a bunch of twats in the fight.
...she takes out Flash with a deus ex machina (teleports out of his mouth) that seems to incapacitate him.
...she takes Batman out easily; whoopee.
...she takes Cyborg out easily (even though spacially Shazam is closer before that).
...Shazam then blasts her away but keeps his back turned towards her long enough to get stabbed in the back...like an idiot.
...she has a tussle with Wonder Woman where her Omega Beams destroy the bracelets. I don't think either ever lands a punch or blast upon the other.
C. Darkseid: Looks like a fool the whole story and the Parademons are inconsequential as per usual. Hangs with the Anti-Monitor in their clash for a while but sickening that it had to be resolved with a macguffin rather than a fight (although that's symptomatic of basically every comic book fight at the Big 2 in the past decade so hardly a surprise - no one is allowed to beat anyone without 'bullshits').
D. The Anti-Monitor: A bit of character development, I suppose with the backstory thing. Bit annoyed his Shadow Demons were downplayed so much considering how powerful they are in COIE. Again disappointingly defeated by 'bullshits' even though clearly being hurt by Ultraman.
E. Assorted Apokolips Flunkies: Kalibak shows up and simply gets blinded by Grail. Steppenwolf and Kanto (who is verbally built up to be a badass) do nothing, I think Kanto throws a dagger once. The Good
: I suppose at this juncture the question might be well what the hell did I like about it?
i. The basic idea is cool.
ii. Grail COULD become a cool villainess (for Wonder Woman)
iii. The book actually sets up some interesting future stories: who dusted Owlman & Metron at the end? There are three Jokers!!!?
iv. That's about it, the best thing I can say about it is that its just about okay.
v. Actually I got the trades for £10 each so that wasn't too harsh a price.Conclusion
: The plot itself is serviceable but padded (decompressed) and the heroes are almost inconsequential to the story. The action is very weak and lacks punch (both literally and figuratively). The sterile art lacks character and the colouring simply obfuscates the foreground. Score
: 3/10 (which is weird because I was thinking 'this is cool' when first reading it, but it totally falls apart under scrutiny).Last Question
: Does no one ever think to pull those tubes out of the Anti-Monitor's nose?