Comic Review: Justice Society of America, Vol. 1: The Next Age

Published: June 24th, 2014
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Dale Eaglesham

DC Comics, 128 Pages

Review:

After watching the first season of Stargirl on HBO Max, I figured that I’d give some of her more notable comics a read. Being that I really like Justice Society stuff and hadn’t read any in quite awhile, I figured I’d start with this.

The story starts with old Justice Society members trying to recruit new heroes, most of whom are descendants of previous members and have inherited their powers.

Because of that, Vandal Savage is using a team of Nazi supervillains to kill superheroes and their families in an effort to snuff out these bloodlines. However, he doesn’t see the bigger picture, which reveals itself by the end of this short story arc.

I’m a fan of Geoff Johns and dig so much of his DC Comics work. His Green Lantern run brought me back to comics on the DC side after a hiatus of about a decade, back in the mid-’00s.

Keeping with Johns’ style, this was a hell of a lot of fun to read and he once again showed that he’s really good at balancing a large ensemble of characters and letting them all develop and grow, despite having limited time to focus on each one.

This was an energetic and cool comic.

Frankly, I liked it enough to buy the next three volumes to read in the very near future.

Rating: 8/10

TV Review: Stargirl (2020- )

Original Run: May 18th, 2020 – current
Created by: Geoff Johns
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Courtney Whitmore by Geoff Johns, Lee Moder
Music by: Pinar Toprak
Cast: Brec Bassinger, Yvette Monreal, Anjelika Washington, Cameron Gellman, Trae Romano, Jake Austin Walker, Meg DeLacy, Neil Jackson, Christopher James Baker, Amy Smart, Luke Wilson, Hunter Sansone, Nick Tarabay

Berlanti Productions, Mad Ghost Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television Studios, DC Universe, The CW, 26 Episodes (so far), 42-53 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

So this show starts off fantastically! The opening sequence is pretty damn incredible and really fucking cool! Branching off of that, this has some cool villains it throws at you from the get go and you’re immediately invested in the story.

Beyond that, the show is a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, not really sure what it even is and not really able to find its footing before the end of the thirteen episode first season.

For the positives, I really like Luke Wilson in this and Amy Smart is pretty good too but she also doesn’t get to do much in the first season, which I hope changes somewhat going into seasons two and three. And while season two has already aired, it’s not on HBO Max yet, so I haven’t seen it.

The other adult actors are all pretty good in this too, even if they have to often times embrace the cheese in the way these Greg Berlanti DC Comics shows embrace the cheese.

I thought some of the villains were actually exceptional and legitimately awesome. I especially loved Dragon King, who looked like Cobra Commander if he were leading Hydra instead of Cobra. His costume was outstanding and he was intimidating, specifically in the scene where he has to knock his asshole daughter back down to Earth.

I also love the S.T.R.I.P.E. suit, which is basically a badass mecha that Luke Wilson pilots in battle. It resembles a patriotic Iron Giant.

Beyond all that comes the problems with the show.

The teen characters are all pretty annoying at times and Stargirl comes across as a reckless idiot until she learns some hard lessons. They all just seem one-dimensional and basic and that’s not necessarily a problem with the actors, as much as it’s a problem with the writing, directing and overall production.

Each teen is simply a trope or caricature. Now I hope that they get to build off of these basic templates but none of them get the time they need to really develop, except for Stargirl and to a certain extent, the villain teen Shiv.

The girl who plays Doctor Mid-Nite II is there to be the obvious “heart and soul” of the team, as she lacks powers and is just kind of stuck in the middle of all this. The problem is that she never really connects with the audience and she’s written to be annoying as hell, which wasn’t what they intended. I don’t blame the actress, I blame the lame material. In fact, she is somewhat charismatic and you kind of want her to develop into something but every time you start to dig her, she does something irritating.

The boy who plays Hourman II is also someone you kind of want to cheer for but then he acts like a total ass at the wrong moments.

Now maybe this is the writers trying to express these newfound heroes lack of experience in life and crimefighting but it’s just bad and there is a lot of awkwardness that doesn’t jive right.

Also, this takes place in Nebraska. The high school of this small town is incredibly diverse for a state that has 87 percent white people. Granted, I don’t care that much, as this is the norm in entertainment, but it’s just blatantly obvious Hollywood bullshit.

Additionally, Stargirl has never been a fighter but by the end of just thirteen episodes, she’s kicking the shit out of ninjas that have probably trained their whole lives. Also, Wildcat is basically a ninja but all she does is get angry and hit a punching bag. You never see her actually spar with opponents or have Catwoman-like reflexes and agility. It’s this type of shit that really turns me off about modern “nerd” entertainment. Where’s the struggle? The hero’s real journey?

At least this show allows its female hero to fail, pick herself up and learn from those mistakes, though. So that’s at least a step forward when compared to the brainless storytelling of modern Hollywood.

In the end, I mostly liked this. I want the show to be good. I feel like it’ll probably lean to much into its negatives, though, as just about everything else does these days.

If my opinion drastically changes one way or another after seeing season two, I’ll update this review and the score.

Rating: 6.25/10

Comic Review: Batgirl: Year One

Published: September 3rd, 2000 – December 31st, 2000
Written by: Scott Beatty, Chuck Dixon
Art by: Javier Pulido, Robert Campanella

DC Comics, 203 Pages

Review:

Batgirl: Year One has been paired up in a trade paperback format with Robin: Year One in some releases and for good reason.

Mainly, this is done by the same creative team and it has a similar tone, art style and narrative structure.

This was released a year before Robin: Year One and is equally as good, if not a wee bit better. Reason being, this has a threat that feels larger, a plot that’s more cohesive over the multiple issues, as well as more characters that come into the story in ways that really help to flesh out Barbara Gordon’s origin.

Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon wrote a body of work that is close to being a masterpiece and is one of the best Batgirl stories ever produced, hands down.

Just like with Robin: Year One, which I already reviewed, I absolutely love the art of Javier Pulido and Robert Campanella. It has a pristine look while also looking retro for the time where this is set. It has a similar feel to Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Batman epics, also from the same time period, and it even kind of channels elements from Batman: The Animated Series, which was still very fresh in people’s minds in 2000.

If you know Barbara Gordon, this book just feels right. Contrary to a lot of her more modern stories, this is the Batgirl I want to read about. I have loved this character since first experiencing her on the ’60s Batman TV show. While that was campy as hell, Barbara always resonated with me and I always loved when she showed up alongside the Dynamic Duo.

Batgirl: Year One is a classic in my opinion. It isn’t something that I hear a lot of people reflect on but it was a real high point in the careers of all the creators involved and for the character.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Robin: Year One, as well as the Batman related books by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale.

Comic Review: The Flash: Rebirth

Published: October 8th, 2013
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Ethan Van Sciver

DC Comics, 158 Pages

Review:

I love Geoff Johns work at DC Comics and I have always loved his collaborations with artist Ethan Van Sciver. Their work on Green Lantern got me back into comics during a time when I had sort of faded away from the medium due to no longer being as engaged by it.

Green Lantern: Rebirth was one of my favorite comic book stories of all-time. It made me love Hal Jordan and I was pulled in by Johns’ writing and Van Sciver’s wonderful art. Since I also liked Johns’ Flash stuff, I figured that The Flash: Rebirth would be something that I would also love. But sadly, it just didn’t do it for me.

The biggest problem that I have with Flash stories is the damn Speed Force. Also, in recent years, the Flash pocket of the larger DC universe is overloaded with too many characters with the same lame set of powers. There are so many damn speedsters that it’s really f’n redundant.

In an era where people are screaming for diversity, even though it has existed in comics for decades, maybe there should be a call for diversity in powers in the Flash titles. I mean, if you’re going to cram a dozen heroes and villains into a plot, why are they all similar? And why is that exciting? And to be frank, this is why I lost interest in The Flash TV show, which I loved when it started.

Anyway, the art in this is damn good but Van Sciver hits the right note stylistically speaking when it comes to how this era of DC felt. He was a premiere architect in DC’s visual style from 2007-2014 or so. This book lives up to the standard one should expect from his work but apart from that, there wasn’t much here for me to enjoy.

The premiere villain is the Reverse Flash, another f’n speedster. And really, this is all about the weird, mystical Speed Force that is capable of anything a writer needs it to do. I don’t know, Speed Force heavy stories bore me to tears and they’re hard to keep up with because it’s all pseudo-science mumbo jumbo made up on a whim to explain random ass shit. I prefer stories where one Flash takes on one of his many awesome rogues that aren’t speedsters.

This is probably really good if reading about a dozen speedsters and Speed Force stuff is your thing. For me, it numbed my brain and made it hard to get through.

And fuck… this had so many damn cameos. I felt like it partially existed just to wedge in as many characters as possible.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: The Geoff Johns era of The Flash, as well as his era of Green Lantern.