Comic Review – Dark Days: The Forge #1 (DC Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

This week I checked out the ludicrously titled Dark Days: The Forge, the one-shot prelude to the upcoming equally ludicrously titled Dark Nights: Metal series from DC Comics. It has been oddly under-marketed it seems, and I was only made aware that it was coming and that it was being released this week because I follow Scott Snyder on Twitter. Dark Days: The Forge was written by Snyder and James Tynion IV, with the art by Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, John Romita, Jr., Scott Williams, Klaus Janson, Danny Miki, Alex Sinclair, Jeremiah Skipper, and Steve Wands.

Cover by Lee, DC Comics

Dark Days jumps between three main narratives. First is Carter Hall, or Hawkman, almost as a journal entry as he recaps his life (or lives) and his curse, the Nth metal that grants him rebirth and how he is tied to his love Shiera and the villainous Hath-Set. But there he also has impossible memories shimmering in the background, memories that look like a dystopic future in the grip of one he would call an ally.

The other two narratives, taking place in the current day, tie in a little more closely (for now). Batman rescues a scientist from a Wayne blacksite as a volcano erupts. He has been investigating metals, and something is wrong with the metal of the Earth. Batman’s investigation seems to not only go beneath the Earth’s crust, but to the surface of the Moon (well, a Batcave on the Moon), to another universe, and to a secret vault in the Fortress of Solitude as well. Meanwhile, the Guardians send Green Lantern Hal Jordan back to Earth, to investigate the Batcave itself. There, with current Bat-sidekick Duke Thomas, he finds a secret Batcave within the Batcave, indicating that Batman has been investigating something for a long time with a secret team, without letting the Justice League or the Bat-family know about it. Whether he can be trusted remains to be seen, but Hal doesn’t seem to be the only one troubled by all of this.

Dark Days: The Forge is a very strong opening to Metal, and with Scott Snyder re-teaming with his Batman collaborator Greg Capullo (oddly absent on this issue) for it, it is sure to be a blockbuster event. Snyder and Tynion IV have both written Batman in one form or another for a while now, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that they have a firm handle on his character and dialogue. Its nice to see a similar care and approach taken to some of the other cast members here, including those seen less often such as Mister Terrific and Mister Miracle. At its core, this series appears to be shaping up as a Batman-centric Justice League event, rather than just a Batman story. And that is important, as there is a worry and a tendency to remove some of the appeal of Batman by making him almost godlike, or making his origins stretch back to the dawn of time (looking at you Morrison). I hope this series doesn’t dip too far towards that, but for this issue it doesn’t rear its head too much. The ongoing mystery of the metals takes cues and threads from throughout Snyder’s run on Batman in such an impressive fashion too, that I can’t help but be drawn in by what it all might mean.

Interior art by Romita Jr, Lee & Kubert

Considering the talent from the art team, the only real negative point I can make is that with Kubert, Lee and Romita Jr all putting in an appreciable number of pages into the book, the art does come off as inconsistent from a stylistic perspective. It is however, consistently very good. Hawkman’s memories by Kubert retain a classic feeling with clear, bold line work, while the lunar character interactions and the volcano escape from Romita Jr feel a little more loose, and the epic scale visions and dark cave scenes show off what makes Lee’s style so iconic for superhero work.

Dark Days: The Forge is a very strong prelude to an event that I know very little about, but the creative team behind it guarantees I’ll be checking it out. This taste has only made me all the more excited about it, especially with the return of Snyder and Capullo for the first time since the end of their run on Batman. Check it out at your LCS or digitally now!

Score: 8 METALS out of 10

 

Comic Review – Justice League #41

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

With Convergence over, DC Comics started publishing some of their new titles this week along with the return of many of their ongoing series. I picked up Justice League #41, the latest issue of what is essentially DC’s summer blockbuster movie-style comic that I’ve been following since the line relaunch back in 2011. The book has been written by Geoff Johns since the first issue, with the art team tending to change every couple of arcs. As of the last few issues Jason Fabok has been the artist, with colours by Brad Anderson and letters from Rob Leigh.

This issue marked the first part of ‘The Darkseid War’, the latest arc in Justice League (that I’m hoping won’t cross over into other titles, like ‘Trinity War’ did). The story opens with two of Darkseid’s furies, Kanto and Lashina, breaking into the home of Myrina Black and murdering her in cold blood before realising that she wasn’t the woman they were looking for. Their use of a boom tube draws the Justice League to investigate the crime scene, and they start to realise that multiple Myrina Blacks have been killed already, as Kanto and Lashina try to track down their true target. Meanwhile, Mister Miracle breaks into Darkseid’s throne room on Apokolips, trying to ascertain what his adoptive father is planning. Stunned by what he sees, he narrowly escapes Darkseid and heads to Earth to enlist the help of the Justice League, the only group in recent memory who have succeeded in beating Darkseid back from their world.

The league continues to investigate the Myrina Black murders, before a mysterious woman appears – another Amazon (named Grail, but I think that was in the FCBD teaser) She effortlessly despatches a large portion of the team on her own, and uses some of their own abilities to draw the Anti-Monitor to Earth. Mister Miracle appears at the same time in front of the Myrina Black that everyone has been looking for. It seems she and Grail plan on waging war with Darkseid, with our world as the battleground.

If that sounds like I threw around a lot of random and dense DC lore, don’t worry about it. Basically two of the biggest threats in DC history are about to fight each other and wreck the Earth in the process, assuming the Justice League can’t stop it. While this story has been set up by more than a year of lead up from Johns in this series, I would argue that it remains very self contained if you were just jumping on now. Narration is provided mostly by Mister Miracle while sneaks into Apokolips, and Wonder Woman who ponders the motivations of her team mates and herself. This is a welcome addition to the story, as we haven’t had much from her perspective thus far in the main Justice League title, and Johns seems to have a very strong handle on her character. The moment she states that of the two youngest of the team “The youth doesn’t often show in Victor. It does in Shazam” at the crime scene, just as he looks down grimly and says “I’ve never seen a dead body before” is brilliantly written, and is a touching few panels. The story set up, while potentially huge, is intriguing, flooding the reader with different threads without confusion, leading into the main thrust of the plot as all the various elements came together.

Jason Fabok’s art really is very enjoyable, and out of the issues he’s done for Justice League I think this is the strongest. The scenes on Apokolips hold a sense of oppressive grandeur, full of a caustic feeling as Mister Miracle sneaks into the molten surroundings (with a pretty cool costume redesign). The fight between Grail and the league looks gorgeous, and as she tears through the team the action looks fantastic, while the splash of her arrival is genuinely awe inspiring. I often find that artists who show their strength largely in action sometimes suffer when it comes to facial work, but Fabok doesn’t seem to have any problem of the sort. Anderson’s colours are a great complement to the art, and while the colour work in the big fight looks great I think it really shines during the Apokolips scenes.

20150603_234712

I’ve included this photo to illustrate two things. The top is said brilliant art. The bottom is a Twix advert that rather than taking up a whole page, split up two pages at once, totally taking me out of the story and the art. I don’t know what a Nick Lachey is. I don’t even like peanut butter. I definitely don’t think this sort of thing should become a habit, as the normal adverts are obtrusive enough. Splitting up the actual pages of content is idiotic. There has been considerable disquiet about this already, as it apparently extends to multiple books. Hopefully this is a one off based on the advert’s actual content, rather than a sign of things to come.

The Darkseid War looks like it is going to be huge and bombastic, a little dark and ruthless but hopefully a bit of fun along the way. Johns continues to write Justice League like a big action film, and Fabok does a great job of bringing that to life. If you haven’t been following up until now, or dropped off the book before, consider checking this out. You won’t be much more in the dark than long time readers are, and the writing is strong enough to not need prior knowledge either. The issue is a bit pricey, but as it is 40 pages you do get your money’s worth. Pick this up at your LCS or digitally.

Score: 8.5 Mother Boxes out of 10