Hobby Hole: Aug. 21, 2013 Comic Book Reviews

Animal Man No. 23 by Jeff Lemire, Steve Pugh and Francis Portella | $2.99
It’s hard to believe the two comics I read this week were written by the same man. While Justice League Dark (which I write about below) was loaded with somewhat tired clich├ęs and ineffective mysteries, this week’s Animal Man offered fresh, insane ideas that delighted to no end.

Don’t believe me? The comic had a manatee pirate ship captained by an anthropomorphic giraffe with a peg leg and eyepatch that tells his ship, “You heard her, ya blubbery ol’ codger! Swim!” just before stabbing it to move faster. Oh, and there’s a parrot with a red beard. Because, you know, where there are pirates, there needs to be a parrot. Naturally.

While I was underwhelmed with last issue’s cliffhanger, in which the main antagonist was introduced in what I assume was meant to induce a gasp but only left me confused and headed to Wikipedia, this issue establishes him as a force to be reckoned with while sensibly building upon what has thus far been established within the series. The last three pages or so especially threw me for a whirl, making me wish I had early access to the next issue as I anticipate what comes next (makes me even angrier there's no Brother Blood comic to continue the story during September's Villain's Month).

As with the other issues of this arc, Steve Pugh and Francis Portella split art duties between the two ongoing threads. While this has the potential to be jarring, the strong coloring by Lovern Kindzierski holds the book together, and the stylistic change easily transitions readers. Pairing artists on a single title has become something of the norm recently, and Animal Man provides the perfect template on how to do so correctly. Whether or not it was originally a stylistic choice or simply to ensure the book shipped timely, it’s dividends have certainly paid off.

Hobby Hole score: 9.2/Fantastic

Justice League Dark No. 23 by Jeff Lemire, Mikel Janin and Doug Mahnke | $3.99
Five issues and just two months in, we’ve already reached the penultimate chapter of DC’s “Trinity War” crossover. Yet, with just one issue to go, I’m still confused.

“Trinity War” truly began when it seemed Superman managed to make Man of Steel look tame, sparking a few issues and several tie-in romps (somewhat ineffectively referenced and recapped at the beginning of this issue) as his fellow heroes attempted to determine if he was brainwashed or… something… at the time. Not only has this mystery not been solved, the secret to Pandora’s Box has not been revealed either (it looks like we might get closure to that next issue), and, perhaps worst of all, the villain, despite appearing several times throughout this arc and in the previous Justice League of America issues, has yet to really do anything at all.

I understand this smoke and mirrors approach is essential to the central drive of “Trinity War,” but, as someone who has only been reading DC books since the launch of “The New 52,” I’ve yet to understand why I should actually care, particularly since the plot thus far likely could have been told in one well-written issue. With rumblings and teases of a Crime Syndicate of America—according to Wikipedia, a villainous answer to the Justice League from a parallel universe—the true force behind “Trinity War” and the upcoming Forever Evil miniseries, I’m hopeful the next, and final issue will knock it out of the park and won’t leave readers with a Lost-type finale.

Unfortunately, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion we’ll need to wait awhile for something resembling a true conclusion to this conflict.

Really, the issue, along with its weak cliffhanger, does little to excite me for next week’s finale, but thankfully the art managed to offer perhaps the strongest of the entire crossover. Janin delivers with solid layouts and much clearer imagery than has appeared in JLD of recent—no doubt thanks to the inclusion of less muddied colors—though there was a noticeable lack of backgrounds.

A few panels, I should note, took me out of the book, despite the rather evocative splash pages. The first, wherein Element Woman, The Atom and Cyborg are seen dashing toward their objectives, evokes a similar gracelessness seen a few issues back, with Cyborg seemingly jogging through the air in a mid-twist tackle. A few pages later, Hawkman suddenly channels Fear and Loathing through an incredibly awkward pose that also honored him with a Scary Movie 2 “strong hand.” Still, besides these few hiccups, consistency was the name of the game in this issue, especially compared to the rest of the crossover, which has been marred with the exact opposite.

PS: After writing this review, I discovered this was Jeff Lemire’s final issue of Justice League Dark. Though he offered some strong tales and has some of the best books out there (see above), I’ll be glad to see the book in someone else’s hands.

Hobby Hole score: 7.8/Alright