Justice League, Vol. 4: The Grid by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis – Comic Review (Bellarius)
Bellarius delves back into DC Comic’s New 52, this time with the Justice League by Geoff Johns.
“… What the hell am I reading?” – Bellarius, The Founding Fields
The biggest failing with this volume stems from the fact you only get fragments of stories here. There are bits and pieces of multiple arcs, tales and ideas, all tossed together in some cacophonous mess of a tale. Along with the very beginning and ending to Trinity War, we have the tail end of Shazam’s origin story, and a try out arc with the Justice League looking into new recruits. While all of these have certain plot elements which carry through to other tales, they are so haphazardly mashed together that they do not work as a cohesive story.
Even the poor editing and shoving chunks of stories into the volume is not exclusively the problem here. Some of it visibly comes from the writing itself. Take the early try outs for example: While the initial beginning is okay, it soon jumps from one plot element to the next with such rapid succession you’re left just trying to think what the hell just happened. The comic never explains certain developments or shows them taking place. So, suddenly Firestorm and the Atom are members of the league without anyone confirming them really joining. A villain suddenly smashes into the Watchtower without any explanation of how he arrived, as does a hero. Both characters come and go with surprisingly little impact given their presence and the destruction left in their wake.
Many plot elements also feel extremely contrived and the character moments pointless. The violence which leads the League to be distracted from a hacking attempt? Fine. Having Superman and Wonder Woman’s ongoing romance (and sudden invasion of a country) open up a way for the Watchtower’s security to be breached? Not so good.
A big part of this is due to the story not explaining certain things, but also due to the page structuring. As much as previous reviews may have criticised padding things out under the excuse of decompressed storytelling or splash pages, there are reasons for them. Giving large panels over to show big sudden developments helps give impact to certain events to make sure the reader does not miss them, but here developments like the Watchtower falling from the sky are limited to a fairly small panel.
Things only become worse as we move from one tale to the next. The ending to the Shazam storyline is such a mood whiplash from the previous tale it’s hard to take seriously. Atop of that, as it’s the ending to a story nothing is established. You don’t know who anyone is, why people are fighting or what exactly is happening. Its presence only serves to cause more confusion later on thanks to a character who is swiftly killed here. Then guess what, he’s then shown up to be fine in the Trinity War sections without explanation. This is why leaving out certain details tends to be a very bad idea.
The dialogue here is also extremely stilted, to the point where half of what is said feels as if they came from 60s comics. You know, back in the day when characters would exposit about their intentions or what was taking place in a scene. No, this isn’t hyperbole either. Here’s a quote from a manipulating character, alone and in a dark room, watching the heroes fight:
“Thanks to me, everyone will actually believe Superman’s killed Doctor Light!”
Trinity War suffers the worst here believe it or not; proving to be the kind of Civil War people were dreading, but that’s a review for another time. All you need to know here is that, despite a very effective ending, it’s almost incomprehensibly stupid at the best of times.
If there is one thing to praise it’s the quality of the artwork. While using far too many splash pages, the art is at worst average. It often balances the right level of cartoonish aesthetics and realism, with bright colours and explosions aplenty. While some certainly veer too much towards certain expressions, they’re hardly terrible and often quite great.
Really, at the end of the day all of this is a badly put together series of stories which were not great to begin with. Many of the good ideas are ones we have seen done vastly better before under the JLA. Namely early on into Grand Morrison’s legendary run or the Technis Imperative. Skip this one and try to find a cohesive collection of these stories elsewhere if you are at all interested in any of them.