So I went to the comic shop today and picked up Justice League #21, Justice League Dark #21, JLA #5, and The Wake #2. I'm going to share my thoughts about them! Spoilers below.
Ugh. You know, it's almost a shame that JLA is as good as it is, because it makes me feel that much worse when it gets things so very wrong. The idea that the U.S. Government is creating a new super team specifically to counter the Justice League should they ever get out of hand is really solid to me. And I liked the first arc a whole lot, actually, even if I think the "MOST DANGEROUS HEROES IN THE WORLD" marketing is perhaps a bit misplaced for a team with Vibe on it, and if I think it's weird that Catwoman is on the JLA at all. There were missteps in the whole thing (they should have just made Green Arrow a member from the start, that plotline went nowhere) but overall it was pretty darn good.
So here's the thing. Dear everyone who makes comic books: Please stop writing in fake-out cliffhangers to your comic books, especially when you have no intent on following through on them. Shooting Catwoman in the head last month was a pretty obvious cliffhanger to sell more issues, but there were still interesting places you could have gone with it (even if we knew Catwoman wasn't dead from the fact that her solo series is still going, and that she's in Trinity War marketing). I personally really liked the idea that this wasn't the real Catwoman on the JLA the entire time, and that there was someone other than Selina Kyle using the name just to be a member of the JLA. But no, turns out it was Martian Manhunter who got shot in the head the whole time. That's a cheap first-page resolution to a cliffhanger that had no business being there. The whole business with a coffin being on the cover, and the description for this issue being about how the JLA is "reeling from the shocking death in #4"? All nonsense.
Like I said, other than that MAJOR FLAW, this is a pretty good issue. It resolves the first story arc well, it leads right into Trinity War, it gives the characters a chance to form as a team, I like the backstory for Martian Manhunter, I think the idea of a psychic plague is super interesting... I liked it a lot... EXCEPT FOR THE STUPID CLIFFHANGER RESOLUTION.
Justice League #21
I'm not a huge Shazam fan (it's his name now, get used to it, it's a better name anyway), but I liked this issue. It's a fun first fight for the character against his greatest foe... I'm actually way more invested in Black Adam as a character than I am Shazam/Captain Marvel because 52 is awesome. I liked Black Adam as a noble but misguided king in 52 more than I do as a truly evil character like he is in this, but whatever, maybe that'll change eventually.
So, were there this many different sidekicks for the character before now? I knew about Mary Marvel, but there's like 5 different sidekicks for Shazam now.
I don't know if Shazam is going to have a huge presence in Trinity War (I'd imagine he will since the Council of Eternity gave him his powers, and punished the Trinity of Sin) but it seemed a little weird to me that this issue is the last one as a lead in to Trinity War. JLA is a pretty direct lead in, Justice League Dark (as I'll cover in a minute) is, while not as direct as JLA, pretty well ties in... This doesn't seem like it's building up to the summer's big event comic, it feels like they just had to get this issue out of the way before Trinity War started.
It's a decent enough issue though. Overall it was probably my least favorite of the week, but it's still pretty good, everything else was just a little better.
Justice League Dark #21 (All right, #19-21)
So let me list my entire familiarity with the characters of Justice League Dark. I have read the first trade of Justice League Dark, and I have read Justice League Dark #19-21. That is it. I have no familiarity with Deadman, John Constantine, Madame Xanadu, or Frankenstein outside of that. And also, I didn't really like the first trade of Justice League Dark at all.
That said, this was a pretty decent story arc as well. I like the idea behind the House of Mystery, and I really liked the idea that Swamp Thing could find it because he can connect with all plant life, even enchanted wood. The Cult of Cold Flame is definitely building up for something, but I can't tell if it's Trinity War, or whatever comes after Trinity War for Justice League Dark.
The best parts of the whole arc though definitely come from The Flash. I liked him coming to rescue Frankenstein, and it taking him a minute to realize Frank was a good guy. I like his response to discovering the Justice League Dark exists, being angry at first, then proud that these heroes are using the Justice League's name. I like him being a "man of science" put into a world of magic. I really hope that his line about wondering whether he's always been meant to be a freak comes back in Trinity War and that he's conflicted about fighting the Justice League Dark (which, for the record, is a really awful name, they should change it). Plus he has some pretty darn funny moments.
I only picked up Justice League Dark because Trinity War was coming up, and I haven't decided whether I'll keep reading it after that, but so far it's a lot better than what I read in that first trade (which I just found kinda boring and disjointed).
The Wake #2
Holy crap though, The Wake #2 is definitely the book of the week. I was tentatively optimistic about The Wake after the first issue, but it didn't really bring what I was looking for. The first issue was all set up, and very much the sort of thing you'd seen before, and it didn't really have any horror in it.
The Wake #2 though delivers on all that promise the first issue showed. First of all let me say that I really really like the art in this thing. A LOT. It's dark and eerie when it's supposed to be, but it's also really pretty and nice to look at. The scene with the Jellyfish, or the woman under the waterfall are strikingly gorgeous, but unsettling at the same time. I also really like that the first two covers form one imagine if you put them side by side, and I hope the whole series ends up doing that.
The idea behind the "mermaids," (an evolutionary split from around 5 million years ago) is really interesting (is this whole "humans being amphibious" theory a real thing, by the way? I'd never heard that before). The writing was top notch, and each character feels like they have their own unique voice. The design on the monsters actually makes the "mermaids" look super intimidating.
And the horror is actually pretty good in this issue. The visual of that kid puking water is really freaking creepy, and the bit I mentioned with the woman under the waterfall felt unsettling.
There were two minor complaints I had with this issue. The first is the out-of-chonology bit with the main character's son showing up. That's the opening of the issue, and that should be the closing. Ideally the structure of the issue would have been future bit -> them discussing the creatures -> woman under waterfall -> son. Instead, it's son -> discussing the creatures -> woman under waterfall -> future bit. Leaving you with that image of the son puking water (easily my favorite moment of the issue) would have been a lot better than leaving with the future bit, which, leading into my second complaint, is the worst thing about the book.
I won't call it a major flaw yet, because we're only two issues in and they might be building to something important, but as of the first two issues something like four pages have taken place in a far-flung post apocalyptic future, and nothing important has happened there yet. In fact, all it tells us is that something is going to go VERY BAD over the course of the series. That kind of frustrates me, since it's almost like they're spoiling their own plot twists.
Again, those are both minor nitpicks, and the second issue was extremely strong, overall. If you aren't reading The Wake yet, I strongly recommend picking the first two issues up.