That Looks Interesting: JSA, X-Men Messiah Complex, Death of the New Gods, Special Forces

Reviews by KC Carlson

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #10 (DC Comics) — “I watched all of you die.”

With those words, a Superman from another world sets in motion the opening chapter of “Thy Kingdom Come,” the latest multi-part saga starring the Justice Society of America. It’s the JSA this Superman is speaking to. As he sits at their historic meeting room table, the “four old men” — the still-living founders of the JSA: Green Lantern, The Flash, Hawkman and Wildcat — attempt to discover more about this strange visitor from another planet. The only thing they are sure of — he is not the Superman that they know. Suddenly, the seemingly insane Starman bursts into the Meeting Room, claiming that he knows who this man is. He is the Superman from “Earth-22″ and we come to learn that this is the parallel earth where the classic Elseworlds story Kingdom Come took place — a story point nailed home with several pages of gorgeous Alex Ross painted artwork that flashes back to the original story.

Alex joins regular JSA writer Geoff Johns as co-writer on the story arc, and the duo provide a wonderful beginning, filled with twists and turns and some great slight-of-hand moments regarding the reader’s expectations of where the story is heading. There’s an intriguing cameo from Batman, and a truly heart-warming moment for long-time fans as the two Flashes — Jay Garrick and Wally West — haul the old Cosmic Treadmill out of mothballs, while taking a moment to honor its creator. Seeing the Cosmic Treadmill literally guarantees that this story will be “out of this world!”

The artwork is the only weak link to the story, but I have to give penciler Dale Eaglesham big props for sticking with a series with such a huge cast of characters. There are two inkers in this issue (never a good sign) and one of them is a lot more compatible with Dale’s pencils than the other. There are just a few too many close-ups of a puffy-faced Superman (as opposed to making him chiseled, yet aged). There’s also an unfortunate scene with a crying girl — her tears are inked-in solid, giving an impression that the girl is bleeding out from the eyes instead of crying! (Sorry, I’ve been watching too much Heroes lately.) Here’s hoping that the art issues can be worked out soon!

Overall, an excellent opening chapter of what promises to be one of DC’s major storylines this year. (Next ish, Kingdom Come Superman meets “our” Supes!)

X-MEN: MESSIAH COMPLEX (Marvel Comics) — Another opening chapter in a very important storyline, X-Men: Messiah Complex presents an intriguing scenario to hang an event on, but the presentation of the story itself brings up more questions than it probably intended.

At the Xavier Institute, Professor X laments the fact that his Cerebra scans keep reflecting the current static status of the mutant population, neatly recapping mutant events since the House of M resolution reduced the entire mutant population down to just a couple hundred. Suddenly, Cerebra massively overloads, but instead of an attack, Xavier claims it’s actually a ray of hope. He determines that Cerebra has registered the birth of a new mutant — the first in some time! The X-Men are dispatched to Cooperstown, Alaska to investigate, only to discover the city in flames! Inspecting further, they discover the bodies of both Marauders and Purifiers — two different terrorist groups — and come to realize that there has been a war between the two teams. In a horrible moment, Emma, after scanning a survivor of the town, discovers that the Purifiers had been “cleansing” the town by setting fire to all of the children, and are responsible of the town’s destruction. After discovering the new mutant baby has been kidnapped by one of the terrorist groups, the X-Men are unable to determine which group has the child — nor track either group — setting the events of the “Messiah Complex” into play.

Writer Ed Brubaker and artist Marc Silvestri are both creators at the top of their game, but here they seem to be working at cross purposes. Brubaker is telling an extremely brutal tale (A bit too brutal for my tastes, actually. I understand the ongoing need to “ramp-up” comic book villains into levels of supreme depravity, but I kinda draw the line at burning an entire town of children.), but the power of the story is undercut by Silvestri’s admittedly beautiful people — striking poses and being all model-like. One emotionally-packed scene is ruined by this: Emma encounters a mother holding her still-smoldering baby. The script indicates she’s horrified, but the art shows her in doe-eyed calm. In fact, Emma has only one facial expression throughout the entire issue: pouty.

Marvel is describing the Messiah Complex storyline as being the best mutant story event in a decade. It may well achieve that. I am very curious to see how the various other creative teams handle their part of the story in their own books. But while this prologue offered up a lot of story hooks for the future, I’m not sure that it accomplished everything it needed to do to qualify as a “classic” event. And with a $3.99 price tag for only 23 pages of story (the remaining pages of the book are taken up with pin-ups and previews), it seems like a pricey proposition.

There are two covers. The one by David Finch rocks!

THE DEATH OF THE NEW GODS #1 & 2 (DC Comics) — It seems silly to criticize a book called The Death of the New Gods for having a lot of senseless deaths of, well, New Gods — so if you’re looking for a book that is 100% truth-in-advertising, this is the one for you! They’re stacking up the bodies like firewood in Nome! In fact, DC was so anxious to start killing off New Gods, that they couldn’t wait for this book and started killing them in Countdown three months ago! By page 2 (Page 2!!) of the first issue, Jim Starlin — before he’s even had a chance to take his coat off — has killed the Black Racer! Bang! Down goes Black Racer! Down goes Black Racer! Down goes the New God who represents Death! Yes! — Death is dead! OMG!

Okay, now that I got that out of my system, I honestly have to say that this is a fun read. I’ll go even further to say that — and I sincerely mean this not in an insulting way — this is the return of the Big Dumb Comic! You know… the one that’s right in your face from the get-go! The one that grabs you and shakes you and might make you sick — just like the very best carnival ride. And there’s that sideshow huckster — Jim Starlin — over in the corner, laughing maniacally and wringing his sweaty hands! “You want death?– I’ll give you death! Ha! Ha-Ha-Ha-HA!”

Here’s what we know so far…
1. Some mysterious someone is mysteriously killing New Gods. (Duh!)
2. Metron, the really smart New God who thinks he knows everything (he really does!), suddenly discovers something he didn’t know about. And it’s really cheesing him off!
3. People keep seeing members of the Forever People nearby after each murder and smart guys like Himon and Takion suspect them. C’mon! They’re Hippies! The cosmic hippies are killing the New Gods?!?
4. Mister Miracle looks very cool in purple and blue and black. But the reason why sucks — and is really another awful, thoughtless, political move by DC. And the one big sour spot of this series.
5. Orion has been getting physical fitness tips from Barry Bonds. Or something else…
6. Apparently there is a New God called “Fart” (see #2, pg. 3, panel 1: just to the right of Orion’s head). I’m thinking that he’s a silent, but deadly, assassin…

How can you not love a book like this?

SPECIAL FORCES #1 (Image Comics) — Didja hear the one about the autistic kid who was enlisted into the Army? Turns out it was a true story!

Kyle Baker has been reading the newspapers again and has taken that “incredible — but true!” story, twisted it slightly and made that kid the “hero” of Special Forces — the most brutal, yet brutally funny, depiction of the Iraq War you’re likely to see in comics. And if you like the “cute” Kyle Baker of The Bakers and Plastic Man — you’re in for a very rude shock!

Unable to make his recruitment quota, and faced with either jail or re-deployment into Iraq, Sergeant Ramirez (“Sarge”) pleads with the MPs for one last chance, and is given one day to make his quota — or else. So Sarge hit the “high school, the homeless shelters, the methadone clinics, anywhere…. He falsified or ignored prison records, medical records, psych evaluations. Whatever it took.” Eventually, he made quota and was safe — until one of his poolees went off his meds and got killed robbing a gas station. Then Sarge was sent back to Iraq, now in charge of the solders he had recruited. “The psychos. The criminals. The physically unfit. The kids he had lied to.” Which Included “Zone,” the autistic kid who did whatever he was told, and “Felony,” a three-time-loser bad-girl felon, who shared an uncomfortable moment with “Zone” in their high school lunch room, just weeks before.

And the series starts right off in the thick of things in mid-firefight, with plenty of blood and guts (especially guts!). The action never stops, unless it’s for a quick flashback to show how these joes got stuck in this situation in the first place. Laced with matter-of-fact profanity and violence, Special Forces is not for the weak of heart. But if you love war stories — or just plain old powerful storytelling — this is the book for you!

For mature readers (for violence and language).

QUICK TAKES — Fans of Stan Sakai’s warrior rabbit Usagi Yojimbo should check out the very special pin-up on the last page of MOUSE GUARD: WINTER 1152 #2. You’ll be glad you did… Didja know that Wizard is now a Men’s magazine? It’s true! Says so right on the cover! Going for that Maxim/FHM crowd, huh, Gareb? Not with articles like “The 25 Grisliest Acts of Violence in DC History!” and “Weapon ‘Echhs!': Comics Craziest Weapons!” you’re not! Who are you kidding?

4 Responses to “That Looks Interesting: JSA, X-Men Messiah Complex, Death of the New Gods, Special Forces”

  1. Tim O'Shea Says:

    It’s unique that someone of KC’s knowledge base and experience is reviewing comics. There’s something to be said when you understand the editorial process behind the stories, which while the players have changed over the years, the editorial process, I would expect, stays much the same…

  2. Johanna Says:

    That’s what I told him, that he could fill a gap with his unique perspective. Glad you’re enjoying them!

  3. Lisa Says:

    Do “That Looks Interesting” and “The Week in Comics” have RSS feeds? I’d definitely subscribe to them if they did.

  4. Johanna Says:

    No, not yet. I’ll pass along the request, because it’s a great suggestion, thanks.




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