Friday, 28 February 2014

Justice League, Volume 4: The Grid Review (Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis)

Justice League, Volume 4: The Grid has got to be the most schizophrenic New 52 book I’ve read so far! 

What stories do we have here? There are “tryouts” for new Justice League members; Despero and J’onn J’onzz fight in the Watchtower, crashing it to Earth; there’s the last issue in the Shazam mini-series; and the volume closes out with the first and LAST parts of Trinity War!!! 

Oh… dear. Where to start… 

Actually, the tryout issue wasn’t bad. I’m guessing the JL are looking for more members after Green Lantern skedaddled in Vol 2 and Aquaman went crazy in Vol 3. The characters interact well, nobody does or says anything monumentally stupid, and the issue flows nicely. Rosie the robot (I forget her real name) goes a bit koo-koo bananas (which is foreshadowing for a more serious act later on down the line) and that’s about it. 

Then things spiral out of control. Why does Despero show up? Why does J’onn J’onzz show up? When did the JL decide Firestorm and the Atom were the new JL members? Why didn’t Cyborg notice the intruders until it was too late? No clue. 

Superman and Wonder Woman’s boring, drawn-out romance becomes the reason why they’re away from the Watchtower as they interfere in Kahndaq (DC’s catch-all Middle Eastern country that’s either Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan or any and all of the above) and they’re referred to as “Americans” – are they really? Maybe Superman as he was raised in Kansas, but Wonder Woman? She’s an Amazon princess! Or Greek God or whatever her new incarnation is in the New 52. Anyway, it was one helluva contrived and stupid reason to make the Watchtower vulnerable.

Then there’s the Shazam issue which wraps up the Shazam storyline. For those who’re coming to this book cold – and wow, this must be a confusing experience for you if you are! – Shazam was a backup that ran in the JL issues that were collected in its own volume. It’s finale became a full Justice League issue but if you weren’t following it, its inclusion here just comes out of nowhere. What’s happening? Who.. what?! Anyway, if you’re read the Shazam book, you’ll have already read this issue. 

Of course this is all filler for Trinity War of which we get the introductory issue and its insane ending – leaving out all the stuff in the middle! A character called Pandora holding a Damien Hirst-esque golden skull – Who? What? When? Why?! Like so much of this volume, she’s just thrown in – who’s mumbling about some kind of war with the trinity or something blah blah. Madame Xanadu’s got a tarot deck featuring the weirdest looking cards ever – instead of the usual figures of the tarot, it literally features Superman, Wonder Woman, and so on, exactly as they are! Are these tarot cards or superhero trading cards?

Doctor Light, a paper-thin character who was barely introduced in Justice League of America specifically for this issue, gets killed by Superman and the three Justice Leagues – Justice League, Justice League of America, and Justice League Dark – get into a dumb fight because they’re all morons. So far, so stupid. This book assumes you’ve been reading the other titles so you know what their deals are: why the JLA were formed, what they’re doing in Kahndaq, and so on. The problem with too many crossovers is, unless you’re reading EVERYTHING, then you’re missing pieces that makes the main story confusing – which is this book all over.

So the first issue of Trinity War then jumps to the last issue, so you’d be forgiven for wondering why 1) the various Justice Leagues have formed teams of their own, 2) what that golden skull has to do with anything, and 3) why the hell Superman is suddenly green, dying and crazy! If you’re a monthly comics reader you’ll already know how Trinity War played out as Forever Evil – aka Trinity War Part 2 – has been dominating the DC publishing schedules since it launched late last year. I won’t go into why Trinity War was so remarkably terrible because this review is already too long (in a year which had Age of Ultron and Infinity, Trinity War turned out to be the worst comics Event of 2013), but it did provide me with a good laugh when 90s Aquaman appeared – and died instantly! 

Suffice it to say the “story” of this book is a complete shambles – it’s rushed, it’s barely coherent, and it makes zero sense. Readers are unlikely to understand quite what the filler issues have to do with the Trinity War or why the book is called “The Grid” when it plays so little a role in the book. The Grid is just an electronic telephone directory created by Cyborg, and Grid is also the name of the evil Cyborg – neither of which are the focal point of this random assortment of comics, though it’s arbitrary title is fitting for this grab-bag of stuff. 

Ivan Reis’ art isn’t bad but Joe Prado’s stuff is very cartoonish and lacklustre. The dialogue is brainless for the most part. Evil Alfred literally says out loud to no-one but the reader: “Thanks to me, everyone will actually believe Superman’s killed Doctor Light!” while Superman’s dialogue isn’t much better, announcing his motivations thusly: “I won’t stop until Batman’s dead!”. Oh and the Atom literally goes into an MMORPG in a scene that is utterly baffling. Apparently, being able to shrink to the size of an atom means you can actually be in a computer game?! 

If Justice League is DC’s New 52 flagship title, the fourth JL book is indicative of the line as a whole: it’s a poorly thought out mess.

Justice League Volume 4: The Grid

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