Waiting for the Trade – Final Night

 

Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller

 

The Final Night
by Karl Kessel and Ron
Marz

collects Final Night
1-4 and Parallax Emerald Night 1

 
Why I Bought This: As
someone who doesn’t read a lot of DC this was an event I was always curious
about and at a recent comic show I attended the trade was being sold for $5. At
that price why not?
The Plot: A
creature called the Sun Eater shows up attempts to eat the Earth’s sun causing
Earth’s heroes and a few villains to unite in an attempt to save the planet.


Chapter 0 – A mysterious alien girl arrives on Tamaria to
warn them of the Sun Eater. The Tamarians are a warlike race and don’t trust
her until its too late. Their sun and world dies but alien chick escapes and
heads to the next planet in the Sun Eater’s path: Earth.

Chapter 1 – Alien chick crashes in Metropolis where she is
greeted by Superman and the Legion of Super Heroes. Saturn Girl uses telepathy
to teach alien chick English and she warns them of the Sun Eater. Earth’s
heroes gather at Star Labs where scientists verify the threat will arrive at
the Sun in six hours. Big Barda suggests using a boom tube to teleport the
creature to the edge of the universe as plan A. Superman gather heroes with
heat-based powers together for Plan B. Batman is put in charge of the more
urban heroes in using them to keep order from the mass panic that will occur if
the other teams fail. Mr. Miracle’s team which includes Captain Atom and Dr.
Polaris along with some heroes I don’t recognize confront the Sun Eater (it
looks a living dark cloud/black hole) first and attempt to create a vortex to
pull it into a boom tube however the boom tube has no effect because the Sun
Eater exists on multiple dimensions. Next up Superman’s team (with Firestorm,
Ray, Fire and a few others) combine their powers to create a second sun that is
held in check by Green Lantern’s (Kyle Raner) power ring in order to decoy Sun
Eater away from the true sun. However it catches their mini-sun and eats it
completely nearly killing all of the heroes in the process. The Sun Eater
envelops the Sun causing the sky to turn black.

Chapter 2 – It’s been 27 hours since the sun went dark. Lex
Luthor arrives in Metropolis to try and save the day with science. Meanwhile
various heroes deal with fires burning out of control or criminals trying to
take advantage of the situation. Superman’s powers are fading without sunlight.
Luthor sends GL into the sun to get readings on what exactly the Sun Eater is
doing, after which he abruptly disappears. The alien who warned everyone, now
named Dusk, is attacked by an irate mob and decides humanity doesn’t deserved
to be saved. She is then saved from the mob by new hero Ferro.

Chapter 3 – Demons from Hell offer to save the Earth if
every inhabitant on the planet sells their souls but humanity turns them down.
Gaea and Spectre are doing their best to keep the planet warm from the inside.
The STAR Labs team realizes the Sun is about to go “hyper nova” in an effort to
ward off the Sun Eater. Phantom Stranger shows Dusk the good side of humanity.
Some of the heat-based heroes aid a village in Africa,
while other heroes like Superman and Alan Scott go home to visit loved ones.
Guy Gardner (currently in his Warrior cyborg identity) is getting drunk when he
is confronted by a green flash.

Chapter 4 – Cyborg (the Superman foe, not the Teen Titan) is
at the edge of the universe running from Parallax (Hal Jordan). Jordan kills him in vengeance for Coast City.
Current GL Kyle Raner arrives and asks Jordan to save the Earth from the
Sun Eater. Jordan
looks in at the situation and realizes it may be beyond even his power. He then
visits Gardener (hence the green flash from last issue) and Jon Stewart to make
amends as well as his civilian supporting cast. He then finds Kyle and agrees
to help.

Chapter 5 – With two hours before the Sun goes nova, Luthor
has a plan to place a field of gizmos around the Sun that will use the energy
of the nova to generate a force field that will contain the explosion and
hopefully kills the Sun Eater. Luthor assigns the task of erecting the force
field generators to Green Lantern but then GL gets teleported away in a green
flash. With GL gone someone will have to manually pilot a ship to place the
devices and that person will likely not come back. Superman volunteers with the
hope that the nova will jumpstart his powers rather than killing him. However
before Supes can leave Ferro steals the ship reasoning the world can’t lose
Superman. Parallax shows up and offers to help. He notes he could jumpstart the
Sun but the resulting melting of all the ice and snow will cause floods that
kill lots of people. Of course he can bend time to avoid those affects too.
This causes Batman to be a douche and accuse Hal of playing God again. So
Parallax instead agrees to just take care of the Sun Eater and restore the
planet’s natural equilibrium but not to save any lives already lost. Meanwhile
Ferro fails to deploy the force fields properly and is killed in a nova blast;
or at least he should be when Parallax freezes time and sends him back to
Earth. Hal then absorbs the Sun Eater into himself and changes the nova energy
into green light described as life force energy that heals the planet at the
cost of his own life. Afterwards Superman and Batman debate whether Hal was
really a hero.

 

Critical Thoughts:
This is a quick read, so even when parts of the story don’t work it never fully
spoils your enjoyment because you’re not investing a lot of time into it.  I like Hal Jordan a bit more than most of
DC’s A-list and this is a good story of him trying to redeem himself from the
events that preceded Zero Hour—probably
the only other major DC crossover I’ve read and one I always felt Hal was kind
of justified in to begin with, so in that sense I liked this story overall.

I like the idea of Lex Luthor being Earth’s best hope for
salvation before Jordan
shows up. It’s an interesting dynamic that you don’t get in Marvel: with Reed
around the heroes will never have to turn to Dr. Doom for science help, but as
near as I can tell as a casual fan of DC there is no heroic mind on a par with
Luthor’s. I would have liked to see a little more of Luthor’s plan in action
before Jordan
steps in to save the day but with the nature of the Sun Eater (despite its
sentience it is more or less presented as a natural phenomenon throughout the
story) that’s only a minor criticism.

The impersonal nature of the villain also makes this a
bizarre event story. On the one hand you don’t have the sort of big epic cosmic
evil plan you expect in this kind of story, on the other hand the stakes are
certainly high enough and the challenge facing the heroes unique enough to
qualify as a major threat. Still without true villainy this becomes more a tale
of how the heroes (and Luthor) react to a natural disaster than the kind back
and forth rising action you expect in an event story. The human touches with
Superman and the Green Lanterns play out well in this environment; while the
urban riots, African subplot and Dusk learning about humanity don’t ever
achieve what the author wants them to evoke.

I will say I don’t know who the hell Ferro is, or even if he
has super powers, but he seems way out of the place in this story. I assume he
was some new character they were pushing for a solo book at the time because
his debut gets the Chapter 2 cliffhanger spot (prompting an anti-climatic ‘who
the hell is this and why should I care?’ moment) and then of all the heroes on
Earth he’s the one who thinks Superman is too valuable to lose and is left to
deploy (and screw up) Luthor’s plan. If this story was supposed to be his big
push it fails, because after reading it I could care less if I ever saw him in
a comic book again.

 

Grade: C+. The
Sun Eater is an interesting concept in terms of a global threat for the heroes
to face but the action itself lacks dramatic tension. Still the character work
on Jordan and Luthor is interesting enough to earn this a slightly positive
grade.

Waiting for the Trade – JLA New 52

Waiting for the Trade

 

by Bill Miller

Justice League vol.
1: Origin

by Geoff Johns, Jim
Lee and Scott Williams

collects Justice
League 1-6.

 

Why I Bought This: Even
though I’m primarily a Marvel reader, like most of the comic-buying public I
was pretty intrigued when DC launched its New 52. This being the flagship title
is the obvious one to sample. Plus Jim Lee’s art in the preview pages looked
fantastic. On Cyber Monday, Midtown Comics put all the volume 1 New 52 trades
on sale at 40-percent off so I finally picked this up (along with Aquaman and JLI).



The Plot: The
Justice League comes together for the first time to deal with the threat of
Darkseid. Your heroes are Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green
Lantern, Flash and Cyborg.

Chapter 1 – Gotham Police are chasing down Batman with a
helicopter as he runs across rooftops in pursuit of an unknown foe. Batman
catches it and finds a non-human cyborg. Batman is on the defensive when Green
Lantern arrives and he and Batman meet for the first time. Police open fire on
the heroes; and while GL’s force field keeps them safe it gives the cyborg time
to counterattack by breathing fire. This results in the heroes having to save
the cops while the cyborg escapes. GL informs Batman the foe is definitely extraterrestrial
as well as filling him in on the whole GL Corps shtick. GL is also agog when he
learns Batman has no powers. They trace their foe to the sewers where it seems
to be planting a bomb. When GL tries to intercede it blows itself up, shouting
“For Darkseid” as it does so. They discover the bomb is actually a Mother Box,
which Batman deduces is an alien computer. This causes GL to suspect Superman,
whom neither he nor Batman has met yet. While Batman advises caution given
Superman’s power levels, GL flies them both to Metropolis. Cut to an interlude
where African-American teen Vic Stone wins a high school football game while
college scouts are watching, but mopes because his dad doesn’t attend. GL and
Bats arrives in Metropolis where Superman has just finished a battle. GL
cockily confronts Supes only to be easily knocked across the city; leaving
Supes and Bats staring each other down.

Chapter 2 – In Central City, Flash is working at his day job
doing CSI stuff while other police officers talk about the need for an
anti-Flash taskforce. In Metropolis Batman is exhausting his utility belt on
Supes to no effect, as we learn Supes off-camera also battled one of the Mother
Box planting aliens. GL recovers and tries to contain Supes with his ring but
Superman is too strong. GL is desperately on the defensive so he uses his ring
to radio Flash for help, as apparently they’ve met, worked together before and
even shared secret identities. Flash arrives instantly and uses his speed to
confuse Superman for a bit, but ultimately Supes is able to move fast enough to
hit Flash with one finger and take the fight out of him. Batman then uses that
interlude to talk sense into everyone, and the heroes band together to
investigate the Mother Boxes. Cut to STAR Labs where they too have a Mother Box
and are trying to decipher what it does. Heading up the project is Vic Stone’s
father. Vic arrives and his dad blows him off, feeling human athletic prowess
is no longer relevant in a world of super-humans. Back with the heroes, who
even with Superman’s X-ray vision and Barry’s CSI background are finding it
difficult to get evidence from the Mother Box. Suddenly all the boxes activate,
opening Boom-tubes to let the Parademon (aka the fire-breathing cyborg alien)
army invade the Earth. At STAR Labs Vic Stone takes a bunch of shrapnel when
the portal opens.

Chapter 3 – in Washington
DC Col.
Steve Trevor is being debriefed about his first meeting with Wonder Woman and
the Amazons of Paradise Island, while Wonder Woman explores DC and has ice
cream for the first time. This new interpretation of Wonder Woman carries a
sword at all times (on her belt, opposite her magic lasso) and also seems to be
extra-eager for combat. When Parademons explode over DC she is happy to engage
them in battle. Back at STAR Labs Dr. Stone reveals he already lost Vic’s mom,
he won’t lose Victor too even though the shrapnel in the youth is emitting
weird energy. In Metropolis, Bats, GL and Flash are holding their own, while
Superman is taking entire squadrons of the Parademon army down with ease. Back
at STAR Labs Dr. Stone gets his son in their safe room where the other sci-fi
tech gizmos are stored and performs emergency surgery with them to save his
son. As more demons pour into Metropolis, Wonder Woman arrives to give Superman
a hand. The heroes drive the demons back as Vic Stone comes online as Cyborg
and is somehow patched into whatever background noise/orders the Mother Boxes
are giving the demons. The demons erect a tower in the ocean (but within sight of
the Metropolis docks/shoreline), which causes Aquaman to arrive on the scene as
well.

Chapter 4 – Cyborg is in a lot of pain, and is trying to
come to terms with what his father did to save his life when the demons break
down the wall to the safe room causing Cyborg’s arm to reform into a laser gun
which vaporizes the demons. (His powers in general seem to be like the villain
in Terminator 3 here). With the threat
at STAR Labs defeated Cyborg runs off into the night feeling his father made
him into a monster. In Metropolis Aquaman meets all the heroes for the first
time, and tries to take the leadership role claiming his experience as King of
Atlantis. GL mocks Aquaman and his powers just as the Parademons mount a new
attack from the ocean and Aquaman has an army of sharks jump out of the ocean
and eat the entire Parademon army, except for one whom Aquaman kills with his
tridents thus shutting GL up. The military arrives and fires on the heroes but
Wonder Woman uses her bracelets to protect everyone. Cut to Cyborg who is
getting flashes of Apokolips in his head. He takes out a few demons and manages
to activate one of their Boom Tubes to teleport to the other heroes in
Metropolis. He warns them of what is coming but it is too late as Darkseid
arrives via Boom Tube.

Chapter 5 – Darkseid takes out the military fighter jets
with one shot of his Omega Beams. Flash and Superman get his attention so he
shoots Omega Beams at them. The beams actually split as the heroes do and keep
pace with their speeds. Flash is able to avoid the beams by getting them to hit
some Parademons but Superman is overtaken, knocked unconscious and kidnapped by
the Parademons into their ocean tower. As the next most powerful hero (and
rashest) GL tries to fight Darkseid one-on-one next. Darkseid keeps breaking
his constructs and eventually grabs GL and breaks his ring hand. To his credit
GL attempts to keep fighting but Batman talks him down by unmasking and telling
him his origin. Batman tells GL to come up with a team-based attack using the
combined superpowers at hand to keep Darkseid busy long enough for Bats to
sneak into the tower and free Superman. Once Bats gets there he realizes it is
going to be tougher than he thought since the inside of the tower is a portal
to Apokolips.

Chapter 6 – Darkseid is incinerating civilians until the JLA
hits him with everything at once. Wonder Woman tries to use her lasso to get
info on why Darkseid is here on Earth, to which he just says “For her,” and
before WW can get him to clarify he decks her. Back on Apokolips Batman finds
Dessad torturing Superman, presumably as part of some brain-washing process. On
Earth Darkseid tries his Omega Beams but her bracelets deflect them and she
counters by stabbing him in the eye with her sword. As he reels from that
Aquaman stabs him in his other eye with his trident. The heroes are dismayed to
see Darkseid is still standing. Cyborg decides to try overriding the Mother
Boxes again to Boom Tube Darkseid back to Apokolips. The Boom Tubes powering up
gets Dessad’s attention on Apokolips thus giving Batman an opportunity to free
Superman. Superman returns to fight Darkseid, but Darkseid proves stronger than
him. The heroes combine to push Darkseid back into the Boom Tube as Cyborg uses
it to teleport Darkseid and his army away. In the aftermath the humans of
Metropolis/the world love the heroes. They then get invited to meet with the
President, who publically embraces them for saving the world, assuming they are
a team. The JLA go along with it for the greater good of human/super-human
relations. They receive their name from a reporter during a second mission,
which we see only in passing press coverage as they fight with Starro
recreating the famous cover of the original first JLA story. Finally we get two
epilogues: first in London
shadowy figures discuss the arrival of superheroes in the world and embrace the
super villain moniker; second Pandora of Greek myth fights with Phantom
Stranger before blackmailing him into leaving her alone while announcing plans
to use the JLA to end her curse.
Critical Thoughts: Let’s
start with the positives, which is the art is absolutely jump off the page
amazing. This is Jim Lee at his very best; reminiscent of the stuff he and
Liefeld were doing when they hit it big in the 90s on the X-books. Every hero
gets a stunning pin-up when they arrive in the story for the first time. I
really like Wonder Woman’s new costume. As an Aquaman fan I have to say he has
never looked cooler, or in the scene where shark army jumps out of the water more
badass, than he does in this book. Furthermore the art works beyond the pin-up
cool to enhance the story. For example, in the first meeting between Batman and
Green Lantern the art visually reinforces that these are two different types of
heroes. The Superman debut fight is rendered (and written) in such a way to
make Superman and his power levels feel fresh and new, which is no easy feet
considering how well we all know Superman. It’s really one of the best fight
scenes I’ve seen in some time, especially once Flash arrives. The sequence
where Superman and Flash try to outrace the Omega Beams is also drawn to really
give a sense momentum and wonder to the action.

In terms of plot and story elements there is both good and
bad here. The dynamic of the heroes’ first meetings and reactions to each other
is handled very well. It’s also interesting to see the heroes of the DC
Universe not being trusted by the public and law enforcement. While I don’t
read as much DC as Marvel, I’ve never seen that before in their
universe—usually each hero has their fictional city they watch over like a
guardian angel and everyone there loves them for it. Of course by the end of
the story the heroes have turned the corner to that more beloved status quo, so
I guess it’s not something they’re going to explore any further.

I thought Green Lantern’s reaction to Batman’s lack of
powers was just great. GL’s portrayal in general is interesting, as he’s
arrogant and rash but we still get to see the determination that powers his
ring and makes him a hero when he fights Darkseid. There’s a funny moment where
he brushes up against Wonder Woman’s lasso and reveals he’s going to be the one
save day because he likes to impress people. All that said I didn’t really buy
the scene where Batman supposedly turns it around for GL to be more of a team
player by unmasking. I think it’s something done more to be dramatic for the
reader than the characters. By which I means as readers we know Batman’s secret
identity is important so seeing him unmask is a big deal. But within the logic
of the story it feels out of characters for Batman to unmask to someone he just
met. More importantly why should GL care, who Batman is? It’s not like they’ve
been fighting alongside each for years and suddenly Batman trusts him with this
big thing. It’s more like, “So uh yea my parents were killed by a mugger when I
was a kid so we better stop this alien invasion, kay?” I think there are easier
ways within the story’s own logic to get to “We need to work as a team for this
one” than jumping to Batman unmasking.

Among the other heroes, I can’t say I like the new Wonder
Woman interpretation. I seem to recall her classical interpretation being that
she’s the emissary of peace into Man’s World. Now she’s the exact opposite of
that as this blood thirsty battle seeking sword wielding demigod. Hell, even
though I didn’t read it, I know I read online that there was a DC event story a
few years ago where the big three’s relationship fractured because Wonder Woman
used a sword to kill Maxwell Lord when he possessed Superman. It sounds like
the whole point of that story was Wonder Woman went too far, and that even she
knew stabbing someone is a big deal with consequences; and yet now we’re going
to make it that she casually stabs people all the time.

Which leads to my next point, I found the scene with Wonder
Woman and Aquaman stabbing Darkseid in eyes far more viscous than I prefer a
mainstream superhero comic to be. Admittedly it is good strategy giving
Darkseid’s eyes are his power source, but I think A-list heroes who appeal to
kids should be presented as morally above such tactics. Actually the eye
stabbing scene is another way this book reminds me of a 90s comic, as I
remember when X-Force launched they had Shatterstar stabbing people in the eyes
to show how grim and gritty they were. Objectively I can see that both Wonder
Woman and Aquaman have roots in Greek myth where viscous things, including
blindings, befall people all the time. So yes, an artistic argument can be made
to portray those two characters in this way; however, I’m not sure personally
it’s what I want to see. I had decided if I liked these first three New 52
trades I probably sample Wonder Woman
and Batgirl next and this
interpretation makes me less likely to buy Wonder Woman’s solo title.

This brings up the next question I can see both sides too,
which is what is Cyborg doing in this book? You have DC’s six most important
well known A-list heroes and then this random C-lister better associated with
the Teen Titans hanging out with them. It doesn’t help that his origin scenes
are probably the least interesting parts of this trade. That said if you are
rebooting your entire universe for the 21st century I can absolutely
see and respect the need include an African-American hero in your A-list
flagship title that younger readers are most likely to read. When you throw in
that this relaunch is also meant to reach out to lapsed comic fans, Cyborg is
probably a better choice than most other African-American heroes to fill thus
role since he was part of the final season of Super Friends that also heavily featured Darkseid. (And this story
even manages to work the “Super Friends” name into the final chapter when the
President introduces the heroes to the public). Then again if the goal is to
make Cyborg an equal of these other heroes, why is he a teenager just getting
his power when everyone else on the team are fully power adults? As I
understand it the next trade jumps ahead five years so by then Cyborg should be
about 23 years-old and on more equal footing with his teammates, so hopefully
that criticism works itself out.

My final criticism, and it’s a big one, is the ending of the
Darkseid fight both makes very little sense and falls flat on a dramatic level.
On the doesn’t make sense front, Cyborg uses the Boom Tubes to teleport
Darkseid back home. So why can’t Darkseid return again, if not immediately then
certainly in a couple of days at most if he wanted to? Didn’t he build these
things to begin with? He can’t fix and repair them on Apokolips, which is
galaxies away from whatever signal Cyborg is generating. It seems the heroes
were not terribly effective against him physically so there’s does not seem to
be a logical reason he wouldn’t return fairly soon once he got tech support on
the phone to fix his Mother Box problem. Fanboy logic nitpicks aside, on
narrative level it’s not a satisfying solution to the fight either, which is a
much bigger problem when your climax doesn’t work. The heroes entire plan is
keep Darkseid busy so Batman can free Superman so that Superman can then kick
some ass, but when Superman is free we don’t get to see any ass-kicking and
after two chapters of working towards that goal, it’s a letdown that Supes
doesn’t get the big cut loose moment at the end.

Grade: The art is an A+; the story is a B-. Story means more
to me than art so let’s call it a B+.