Justice League of America: Rebirth #1 Review and Recap

Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Oclair Albert
Colours by Marcelo Maiolo
Published by DC Comics
Cover price $2.99 USD

Review and Recap is where I give a quick review of a comic, usually less in-depth than my regular reviews, before recapping it and adding some commentary here and there. Obviously spoilers abound in the commentary section. Anyway, here’s my Review and Recap of Justice League of America: Rebirth #1.

The Review:

The name ‘Justice League of America’ hasn’t had much luck in the last few years. Geoff Johns’ series seemed to exist solely to tie-in to his Trinity War and Forever Evil events, and Bryan Hitch’s version was so unremarkable that I’ve heard nobody speak of it outside of maybe one scene and bemoaning its numerous delays. But third time’s the charm, right? Surely Steve Orlando can take a team of B-list, Arrowverse-friendly characters (and Lobo) and finally give the name something worth a damn, right? Apparently, yes. Thanks to a clear mission statement for the team and motives for its cast of interesting characters, Justice League of America is off to a promising start.

The story is fairly straightforward — Batman recruits his Justice League. But Orlando does a good job clearly giving reasons for the characters (well, most of them) to join, while also setting up the various team dynamics. It’s nothing remarkable, but there’s a lot of potential for future stories set up, and the various relationships are interesting and set up well. The team’s mission statement, according to Batman, is to be a team that people can know and be inspired by, as opposed to the gods of the Justice League. It’s a good idea, and would mostly work if it weren’t for the presence of Batman himself, who has a secret identity, a mythic quality to him and is a Leaguer. That aside, the set-up is very well done while maintaining a good pace.

Something that helps the issue is that its characters, none of whom could be considered A-list aside from Batman, are fair game for whatever Orlando wants to do with them. Unlike the cast of Justice League, most of the cast of Justice League of America don’t have any other ongoing comic that their development is reserved for. Steve Orlando is free to develop his characters how he sees fit, so it’s much easier to get emotionally invested in the characters, rather than just the plot. It might be my cynicism, but as it is, it’s far more likely that I’ll be invested in whatever happens to Lobo in this series than Barry Allen and Jessica Cruz dating in Justice League, since I know there’s no Lobo ongoing that’s more important and already has a love interest for him.

Ivan Reis’ art is mostly good, with his usual flair for lighting and expressive faces for the most part. However, it feels a bit rushed, whether that be some more ill-defined faces or just rushed inking from Joe Prado and/or Oclair Albert. While it’s by no means weak — Reis, Prado and Maiolo are still a treat — the art is just not quite up to the standards I have for this art team.

Justice League of America: Rebirth #1 is a superhero comic with an interesting cast with interesting relationships and a great art team. While its B-list cast could’ve been a hindrance, Steve Orlando knows how to get readers invested. If this issue and the previous one-shots are any indicator, Justice League of America is shaping up to be the Justice League comic worth reading.

4/5 – Very Good

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Killer Frost: Rebirth #1 Review and Recap

Written by Steve Orlando and Jody Houser
Art by Mirka Andolfo
Colours by Arif Prianto
Published by DC Comics
Cover price: $2.99 USD 

Review and Recap is where I give a quick review of a comic, usually less in-depth than my regular reviews, before recapping it and adding some commentary here and there. Obviously spoilers abound in the commentary section. Anyway, here’s my Review and Recap of Killer Frost: Rebirth.

The Review:

It’s taken a while, but DC has finally decided to push Killer Frost in their comics. She obviously has a bigger profile now, since Caitlin Snow (the most recent version of the character) has been appearing on The Flash since its first episode. Sure, they gave her a Villains Month one-shot, but that was oddly timed, since that was about a year before her live-action debut. Regardless, Dc has finally seen fit to utilise the character more, and while I found her appearances in Justice League vs. Suicide Squad — to which Killer Frost: Rebirth acts as a pseudo-epilogue — to be a mixed bag, Killer Frost: Rebirth does a much better job of making me care about the character.

Killer Frost finds herself tested by Amanda Waller before she can leave the Suicide Squad to join the Justice League of America, and it’s not played as a moral dilemma. It’s not about Frost questioning using her powers, as using them to drain heat, which she needs to do, would kill someone — if she does it, Waller has an excuse not to release her into Batman’s custody. Orlando and Houser do a very good job of getting you to care about Killer Frost, without going out of their way to paint her as some overly heroic victim, which was one of my problems with Joshua Williamson’s writing of the character. Orlando and Houser actually play with Frost’s morality a bit; Frost is played as mostly good for much of the issue, before a twist is thrown in that messes with that. It makes her an infinitely more interesting character. She has some heroic traits, but the ending leaves her morality up in the air, though it does clash a bit with one or two boxes of her narration.

Mirka Andolfo’s art is expressive enough to get you invested in Killer Frost’s story. While it sometimes leans a bit too much towards cute for this type of story and setting, it still works, as Andolfo is versatile enough that he can swing between a cute Frost to a stoic Frost. Surprisingly, Frost’s powers are underplayed, which is very surprising given the rest of these one-shots. It works for the story, though, given her situation. I just wish Andolfo got to cut loose a bit more. Prianto’s colours get the job done, and does a good job playing with lighting to keep things visually interesting in mostly same-y settings.

Killer Frost: Rebirth tells a good done-in-one story that, of the JLA one-shots, links the most to the actual ongoing and why its protagonist will be joining the team. It has enough ambiguity to make Killer Frost interesting, and makes you want to read more of her, just not as a narrator. If nothing else, it got me on board for the character to be in Justice League of America.

4/5 – Very Good

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The Ray: Rebirth #1 Review and Recap

Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Stephen Byrne
Colours by Stephen Byrne
Published by DC Comics
Cover price: $2.99 USD 

Review and Recap is where I give a quick review of a comic, usually less in-depth than my regular reviews, before recapping it and adding some commentary here and there. Obviously spoilers abound in the commentary section. Anyway, here’s my Review and Recap of The Ray: Rebirth.

The Review:

The Ray is, like the Atom and Vixen before him, a character I’ve had little to no exposure to. I know he’s in the Freedom Fighters, a pretty cheesy group of patriotic superheroes, and that he’s gay (and it turns out I was even wrong there; he’s gay as of this issue, so I don’t know why I thought he was gay beforehand). He’s got a cool aesthetic, but other than that, I’ve never really cared for him. This issue inches me closer to caring, but doesn’t quite get there because it’s just a bit too frustrating.

The Ray: Rebirth is more or less about Ray Terrill (yes, ‘Ray’ is his real name, really), a man who grew up under the impression that exposure to too much light would kill him. The issue does a good job focusing on Ray and his problems with people, and you get a sense of who he is and why he avoids people the way he does. But what gets him to do so is just a bit contrived, as is the happy ending to a degree, as Ray suddenly gets a big dose of development off-screen. Plus, Ray himself comes off as a bit — and I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic — whiny. He just doesn’t seem to understand the seriousness of his condition, and it bugs me.

But the story does a nice job incorporating homosexuality into its story without ever preaching to you. The entire story is basically Ray coming out to the world as the Ray, but this is subtly woven with metaphors for realising one’s sexuality, and just problems that some LGBTQI people may come across, such as fear of condemnation for being different (and this is definitely subtler than any X-Men comic has been in recent years).

The art works for the issue and is versatile. When Ray’s a child, the art is cartoony enough that the expressions come across well and you get the feeling that Ray views the world this way. However, it never veers into being too cartoony. It has a nice clean look to it. When he’s a teen, the lines a less pronounced and everything has a softer look, while not feeling like there’s a huge shift in art style. Oh, and [ARTIST NAME] excels at making Ray’s powers look cool, and he obviously really enjoys letting loose with Ray’s powers just as much as Ray himself does. The comic also has a nice thing where light is played on, with the more depressing stages of Ray’s life taking place in the dark, with subdued colours. It’s a nice little thing that makes sense, given his powers.

3.5/5 – Good

Join me after the break for the commentary!
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Vixen: Rebirth #1 Review and Recap

Written by Steve Orlando and Jodi Houser
Art by Jamal Campbell
Colours by Jamal Campbell

The Review:

Vixen (Mari McCabe) is, like the Atom, another character I’ve never really cared for. I enjoyed her enough on Justice League Unlimited, but only in small doses and as a way to counteract the boring dry wall that was John Stewart (that version of him, at least). But as a comic book character, I’ve just never gotten her appeal. She’s a fashion designer and model, but career has never interested me outside of one scene with the Wasp in Uncanny Avengers, where she talks about fashion as a way bringing other cultures to people… and Snotgirl, I guess. And her power-set always struck me as “discount Animal Man”. But there’s a Vixen on Legends of Tomorrow and she’s got an animated series set in the Arrowverse, so of course she’s got to be in Steve Orlando’s upcoming Justice League of America. And this introduction to her is.. underwhelming

Vixen: Rebirth is an okay intro to the eponymous heroine, but it just lacks something and has story problems. It just doesn’t have the same emotional weight to it as The Atom: Rebirth, and I think that’s because almost all of the emotional weight to the story (well, Mari’s) is told in flashback, so there’s just a disconnect. In The Atom: Rebirth, Ryan Choi started out as a shy, awkward nerd and he managed to start his hero’s journey largely due to finding a kindred spirit who believed in him in his teacher, Ray Palmer. Here, Mari just… does things. There’s a catalyst, but it’s not very powerful and in fact comes across as forced more than anything. There’s some development for her as a character, but none of it feels satisfying.

At the very least, the art is nice, if not to my tastes. His Vixen is what a supermodel would actually look like: strong facial features with more understated sexual characteristics, especially compared to what is in mainstream superhero comics. It looks suitably exotic, with Campbell’s colouring really selling it. The comic has a nice fantasy aesthetic when outside of the fashion and business world, and Campbell obviously has fun when depicting Vixen’s powers. It suits the character very well, and Campbell’s ability to alternate between said fantasy aesthetic and the glamorous style he employs in the fashion and corporate scenes really helps sell this comic. Even though I’m not a big fan of art like this, I can say with confidence that many others would enjoy it.

2/5 – Below average
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The Atom: Rebirth #1 Review and Recap

This is a new thing I’m trying where I briefly review (shut up, I totally know how to be brief!) a comic before providing commentary as I recap it. Just wanted to try something new, and where better to start than the start of Steve Orlando’s Justice League of America run?

Oh, and I totally stole this format from a Tumblr I use to read called Eee! Tess Ate Chai Tea, who I thought had stopped posting, but I guess not. Oh, and that awful name should inform you of the high calibre stuff I used to read.

Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Andy MacDonald
Colours by John Rauch

The Review:

The Atom: Rebirth was something I kind of just picked up out of mild curiosity. I don’t care about any of the Atoms, and I’m not a fan of Steve Orlando. But I decided to give it a go for the sake of testing the waters of Justice League of America, something else I wasn’t sure about, and it’s actually a good read! A nice and heartwarming, self-contained origin story for Ryan Choi’s Atom.

The comic has a nice sci-fi vibe to it, like if you combined the art style and general style of Marvel’s recent Ant-Man ongoing with a bit of Silver Age charmRyan’s relationship with Ray Palmer is a sweet student-mentor one, and he’s got something of a supporting cast built up, with his parents, roommate and possibly Jean Loring. While I’m not too keen on one of the few prominent Asian superheroes being an awkward nerd (complete with lots of allergies!), it was nice to see Ryan’s relationship with Ray bring him out of his shell a little. There’s decent potential for future stories, though how this issue sets up what it was supposed to (Justice League of America), remains to be seen. Regardless, The Atom: Rebirth is just a good story and introduction to Ryan Choi, with some stuff set up for the future.

4/5 – Very good

See? I can be succinct! Anyway, click below the line for the commentary! (Also, I stole this thing from Henchman-4-Hire’s Teen Titans reviews) Continue reading “The Atom: Rebirth #1 Review and Recap”