DC Comics Spoilers & Review: Justice League: Gods & Monsters – Wonder Woman #1, Superman #1 & Batman #1 By J.M. DeMatteis, Bruce Timm & Others!

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WARNING!! Viewer discretion is advised. Aside from that, watch the Blu-ray lest you are upset by the major (and I do mean major!) revelations provided here. This is a triple-play of the Big Three. Heroism doesn’t always come quickly. It can be unapparent to the casual observer and extremely slow at emerging. Nevertheless, the villainous (more like misaligned, misunderstood, and unbearably lonely) trio come through as a tight-knit group and exhibit unexpected qualities deep within themselves. It’s a start. This refreshing and radically different take on the Justice League is from the pioneer of animation in the last 25 years: Mr. Bruce Timm!! He blew the doors open to the DCAU with Batman: the Animated Series, a true landmark in the world of television. Seven other series followed suit in the next fourteen years. Each of these one-shots is co-written by him and J.M. DeMatteis who must have an actual PhD in Psychology since he expertly gets in the head of the Trinity to show us all that these individuals are far more complex and conflicted than the average citizen. How do they deal with their demons? Find out here in these extra-sized individual issues!!
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JUSTICE LEAGUE: GODS & MONSTERS – BATMAN #1

Story by: J.M. DeMatteis & Bruce Timm

Script by: J.M. DeMatteis

Art by: Matthew Dow Smith

Colors by: Jordie Bellaire

Letters by: Saida Temofonte

Covers by: Francesco Francavilla; Darwyn Cooke

Publisher: DC Comics

Cover Price: $3.99

“Hunger” (30 pages)

 

Kirk Langstrom is a changed man. Literally!! He is now a super-powered vampire thanks to genetic experimentation. He saves a woman from an abusive husband by feeding on him and draining him of his life force. The battered wife has no gratitude as she lunges at Kirk with a kitchen knife. He is outraged that she would still love the man that subjected her to a lifetime of cruelty. He simply can’t wrap his head around the human condition. Home is where the heart is, or not. An impromptu visit to his parents in Ellis, Nebraska is awkward and unpleasant. Kirk’s father Edward never acknowledged nor accepted his son’s academic achievements. His mother remains the peacekeeper and asks him to depart. Kirk’s heart rekindles just a bit when his old flame Francine spots him at the local greasy spoon. Their reminiscence is cut real short by Fran’s a-hole hubbie Harv. Kirk tries taking the high road but loses his cool and tosses the man out a window. He bears his fangs to a frightened Francine and flies away. An inner duel occurs. The loneliness gnaws at him. The drive to accept his true nature takes over. Kirk will become a vigilante, stalking the night, and will take the layman term for Chiroptera.

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News of The Batman travels quickly. He is the latest media sensation. His urban legend status is magnified tenfold. The Bat’s next target is major crime boss Lew Moxon. Like others who have built up his status, he is shielded by wealth and false philanthropy. Lew offs his right-hand man Rupert Thorne who hoarded some money made by prostitutes by himself. Moxon’s might is so great that he needn’t get his hands dirty. He orders Thorne to commit suicide and the man surprisingly obliges. Moxon and his number one hitman Joe Chill come across Batman feasting on fine food. Batman easily vanquishes the henchman but Chill is a bit tougher. Either way, he kicks the bucket as does the big man about town. Kirk attends Lew’s funeral to observe the next power player. He is taken aback by the genuine grief coming from Lew’s widow Angela and his son Jeremy. He silently does surveillance on Jeremy for a few weeks. The young son seems completely legit. It’s time to make his move. Kirk approaches Jeremey at an art gallery and comments on Van Gogh’s self-portrait. This breaks the ice. Rapport established. Unbeknownst to Kirk, Joe Chill rises from his grave. How apropos!!

Joe Chill pulls a Solomon Grundy. He is hellbent on vengeance. Kirk and Jeremy become the fastest of friends. Their bond strengthens when Kirk shares his secret. Jeremy is unfazed and offers to help in creating a cure. Kirk holds back one vital piece of info: he is the one who killed Jeremy’s father. Jeremy’s world comes crashing down when the duo come upon Angela’s murdered body. Jeremy believes it was a mob hit in retaliation of the iron grip Lew had over all the other crime families. Batman gladly gets to work. He cuts a swath through the underworld for weeks on end. The multiple murders lead to the last man standing: an unknown player going by Sovereign. It’s Joe Chill. Oh, crap! Batman is a rank amateur compared to Joe’s ruthlessness. Kirk should never have fed on him. When the undead killer threatens Jeremy, Kirk snaps and cuts him to pieces. Kirk confronts Jeremy. He was played for a fool. Jeremy gets an Oscar for his performance. Jeremy mentions that he always knew about Kirk’s dark deed but doesn’t care. He wants to rule the world with his newfound brother. Kirk carries out the difficult task of eliminating his one and only friend.

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As stated earlier, this is Bruce Timm’s brainchild. His return to the DCAU has revitalized and revolutionized the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes. By keeping the number to a minimum, a tighter focus is given on each of the three main players. His conception of the characters hit the small screen in unexpected and appealing ways. The designs are all his but the execution of the story is undoubtedly Mr. J.M. DeMatteis in this first of three tales. The story is ten pages longer than the standard comic book and quite wordy but Kirk’s narrative is crucial for getting into his headspace. Every monster is tormented by his self and that agony is exacerbated by outside forces. The difference between higher beings and creatures is that the latter furiously try to alter the circumstances of their sorry existence but give up due to despair or disappointment. Once the frightful side dominates, there is no going back. Well, the animated movie dispels that notion. Kirk Langstrom takes on the role of dark angel rather than savage bloodsucker. The unworthy are rightly punished. Kirk makes the world a better place but many moralists would argue against his methods.

Matthew Dow Smith designs a grim and gritty Gotham and keeps that atmosphere locked in. Kirk Langstorm is a dead man in every sense – no heart, no empathy. He is an ironically gaunt individual despite the constant blood intake. Mr. Smith is quite familiar with the grotesque and macabre having worked on DAY of JUDGMENT and NIGHT FORCE. Joe Chill lives up to his name more so when he is zombified vampirized. Jordie Bellaire goes easy on the bloodshed but directs our attention to the infrared vision bestowed upon Kirk. He becomes daltonic and much more aware of the iotas that make up the physical world. Red is the colour of love, rage, and in his case, extreme justice. Saida Temofonte gets to break away from the routine with the newspaper headlines and subheadings. Aside from that, she illustrates the onomatopœia to resounding effect.

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It is completely fitting for Batman to be in a supernatural setting. Why else take on an identity with the same characteristics of the flying rodents, especially those of the vampiric kind? This is the very beginning of the scene stealer. He will design his suit, complete with pointy ears, in the near future keeping the black motif. His origin may be rooted in science but it takes a more unnatural turn and truly instills fear in cowardly criminals.

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Three stars for the core members. In acknowledge of that, I give this book 2.75 stars out of 3 [91.6%] Kirk Langstrom is king over Nosferatu and Vlad Tepes!

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JUSTICE LEAGUE: GODS & MONSTERS – SUPERMAN #1

Story by: J.M. DeMatteis & Bruce Timm

Script by: J.M. DeMatteis

Art & Colors by: Moritat

Letters by: Saida Temofonte

Covers by: Gabriel Hardman w/ Jordan Boyd; Darwyn Cooke

Publisher: DC Comics

Cover Price: $3.99

“Fallen” (30 pages)

¡Mire! ¡Arriba en el cielo! ¡Es un pájaro! ¡Es un avión! ¡Es el Super-Hombre!! Come again?!? ¿Qué? Fear not readers, this review is not in Español (nothing wrong with that). It’s in ¡¡Mexicano!! Just kidding, sort of. The rocketship carrying the infant Kal-El escapes the exploding Krypton and is discovered by Mexican migrant workers. Hernan knew of his specialness and uniqueness quite young. He tests his abilities. At age 8, he soared the skies. His flight power is seen as an angelic act by his mother Rosa. Her unwavering faith accepts the mystery of Hernan’s existence and she is patient for that to slowly unfold. Being a typical boy, Hernan simply cannot wait.

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Two years pass and Hernan instinctively uses super-breath to divert the dust about to hit the crops. Manuel scolds his son. He wants Hernan to be educated and have a life better than his own. Hernan is enraged at the lack of acknowledgment and uses his strength to smash a table. Manuel is about to raise his hand but hugs him instead. The genie has been let out of the bottle. Hernan gathers and ties the crops at super-speed making the feat magical. Kids can be cruel. Hernan taunts his sister Valentina into climbing a tree even though he knows she is acrophobic. Hovering above, he shakes the tree to give her a little scare. Literally not knowing his own strength, she is ejected and falls hard on the ground. Hernan thinks she is faking. He flies her to the hospital. She is now wheelchair-bound. His guilt eats at him. What’s worse is that he has to restrain himself from using his powers lest he lose control even though he is being taunted by other workers.

The Guerras continue the daily grind. Hernan ignores his sister even though she vocalizes her forgiveness. An errant plane is about to crash. His family implores him to act. He refuses, sarcastically stating that he doesn’t want to go against his parents’ wishes. Hernan’s apathy and cruelty are what torment his sister. It was only a matter of time before Hernan retaliated against the bullies. He demonstrates heat-vision for the first time against the leader of the pack. He runs to his mom and begs forgiveness. She assures him that God’s guidance will pull him through. He mocks her faith and she slaps him in return. He again begs for forgiveness. The lawmen come looking for Hernan. This time he definitely won’t back down. When one of them fires on the family, he pounds the ground. Bullets bounce off him. He grabs a tree and is ready to swat them when Valentina interrupts. Her words reach through. He tosses the tree aside. Manuel has reached his breaking point. He views his son as a demon spawn not some emissary of Heaven. Hernan agrees with his father’s words and takes off in flight. Destination: unknown.

Globetrotting comes easy to Hernan. He lives the high life but feels empty inside. The prodigal son returns to his homeland. He finds himself back in Mexico but is a true nomad. An explosion at a local school in Mexico City has made him his first enemy: Juan Carlos Fuentes, drug lord and commander of the cartels. News footage of the kidnapping of twelve students doesn’t move Hernan until he spots a girl who resembles his sister. This is the catalyst needed to end the indifference once and for all. The children are rescued without any loss of life. The very girl that reminded Hernan of Valentina proudly avers her faith in the Virgin Mother. Sadly, his own mother passed away to pancreatic cancer. Hernan and Manuel make peace with each other. Valentina has settled. She is married with a baby and will enrol in college. Hernan is doubtful about her American Dream lifestyle but she is ever optimistic. Valentina gives Hernan her blessing. She doesn’t approve of his harsh methods but he has saved countless lives. Hernan decides to take down Fuentes. He has a new outfit and calls himself Superman. He uses heat vision to burn the despicable supplier. Evildoers everywhere, watch out!

Uno, dos, tres: Expand your Español with this lexicon:

  • Guerra = “war”. Ironic for the actual family but not Hernan.
  • ¡Madre de Dios! = “Mother of God!” a religious interjection.
  • ¡Qué demonios! = literally “What demons!” but more along the lines of “What the hell?”
  • mijo = “son”
  • monstruo = Kinda obvious, no?
  • Dios nos ayude = “God help us”
  • chica = literally “chick”, better known as “girl”. Also used as slang.

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Ask anyone what makes Superman super and one power that comes up more than most is strength. Why else would “super” be in the name, right? Etymologically, super means “above” which definitely categorizes this character. He is an extraterrestrial given fantastic abilities due to our planet’s yellow sun. He is also ‘above’ in his ethical and moral obligations. This ain’t that Superman. Hernan relishes in his otherworldly gifts. He doesn’t attribute them to religion. He delights in his superiority. His adoptive family did their very best to enlighten him and make him a cut above the rest. Like a sheep that has veered from the flock, Hernan had to fall and fail before redeeming, and more importantly, accepting himself.

Moritat (real name: Justin Norman. Hah, now I know!) is a multi-functional man!! He has been letterer, writer, inker, penciler. He does double duty here. Even though the onus is all on him, at times it seems as if an entirely different artist alternates between the pages. I will not attribute these to inconsistencies. Rather, they are portraitures of pivotal moments in one’s life. As Hernan enters adulthood, the physical changes are reflected in Moritat’s delineations. The last chapter of the story has heavier inks and more graininess. Colour comes to Hernan’s face once his sister points out his true calling. Those baby blues don’t hurt either.

Saida Temofonte keeps it up. The SHOOOOOOF are cute puffy clouds that accompany Hernan’s flightpath. The WHOOOOSH slants just like the direction of the blown chemical dust. The WAK tilts like the toppled tree. I could go on but suffice to say, Ms. Temofonte gets top marks for calligraphy.

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This second serving really fleshed out the Man of Steel in a Bizarro-esque manner. Humanity is lucky to have this powerhouse on its side provided no acts of evil are committed. Just like celebs, ultimately super-heroes are unabashedly human with more flaws than the rest of us. They have may better resources but coping mechanisms don’t always work.
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I give this book 2.6 out of 3 stars [86.6%]. Keep your head out of the clouds as you fly high!

 

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JUSTICE LEAGUE: GODS & MONSTERS – WONDER WOMAN #1

Story by: J.M. DeMatteis & Bruce Timm

Script by: J.M. DeMatteis

Pencils by: Rick Leonardi

Inks by: Dan Green

Colors by: Allen Passalaqua

Letters by: Saida Temofonte

Covers by: Jae Lee w/ June Chung; Darwyn Cooke

Publisher: DC Comics

Cover Price: $3.99

“The Dream” (30 pages)

Before she adopted the moniker of the double W, this fire-red-headed warrior was simply Bekka of New Genesis, granddaughter of Highfather of the New Gods. The Boom Tube transports Bekka to India in 1962. She bests a reptile from home and collapses from exhaustion. She is lucky enough to be taken in by kind-hearted, quiet individuals. Bekka has a yearning to explore this brave new world upon which she has landed. Spotting a statue of the god Ganesh confirms her need to learn. Through Mother Box, Bekka has an eye-opening education of Earth especially its many travesties. Three months later, the Cuban Missile Crisis is averted thanks to JFK. His assassination a year later hits the humans hard. Bekka experiences the cruelty of racism first-hand in Mississippi in 1964. All her bravado did not prevent the shooting of two black men from three country hicks. Her anger leads her into taking down the trio. The first kill is always the hardest.

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The hippie movement is in full swing!! Peace, love, understanding, drugs, sex, rock & roll. Yeah, baby, yeah! Bekka saves Suzie Sunshine from a nasty acid trip. Suzie is part of a larger group. Guitar Joe and Dr. Psycho are part of her crew. The Age of Aquarius has its rough edges. Bekka joins the Hairies and soon realizes the gaps between the commune. Equality is a far-reaching goal. It isn’t long before Joe and Bekka become involved. He makes the mistake of showing her the Doc’s lab. He snaps and ushers them out. Bekka hears scratching. Doc tells her that it’s mice. Bekka displays her super-strength for the first time when she lifts the VW van from a ditch. Psycho sees an opportunity to exploit her talents. Beeka shows the Way to the women at the farm thanks to the magic of Mother Box. Bekka later returns to Psycho’s lab and unearths captives in the basement. They are drugged up and foaming at the mouth. Psycho chastises her once more and Joe defends his buddy. Psycho claims to be their saviour from a mangled CIA experiment codename MKUltra. The two ideologies are not compatible. Psycho ambushes Bekka with his own concoction. She finds herself back on New Genesis, or is it Apokolips?

Talk about dazed and confused!! Never indulge in drugs, kiddies! Bekka can’t distinguish reality. This time around Suzie returns the favour and brings her back to her senses. Bekka angrily confronts Psycho especially after the ‘burnouts’ have been removed. He tells her that he placed them elsewhere and that she was imagining the entire thing. Upon her departure, he takes out a crystal and promises retribution. The spinoff of the farm is now New New Genesis. Psycho procured a crystal from Bekka. He doesn’t realize it’s a sliver of Mother Box but he has used its properties to transform the unwilling addicts into something more monstrous. The former Hairies have essentially turned into Harpies. Joe is one of those victims. Bekka allows him to beat her to a pulp. Luckily, she spots the crystal within his chest and restores his humanity. The rest are removed of all toxicity and float away in bliss. Psycho was able to escape without a trace. Bekka realizes that she cannot hide nor can she avoid the ills of society. She bids a fond farewell to Suzie and Joe. They will not be forgotten because they’ll always have a special place in her heart.

The times, they are a’changin’:

  • July 1962 – battle lines were drawn in anticipation of the Sino-Indian War.
  • October 14-28, 1962 – The Cuban Missile Crisis. Half the month was a psychological back-and-forth between Cuba and the U.S.
  • November 28, 1963 – JFK’s assassination.
  • June 1964 – Three Civil Rights workers were murdered in Neshoba County.
  • May 1967 – Unofficially the dawn of the Hippy Movement.

Rolls off the tongue: New wicked cool word that will forever remain in my vocabulary – farrago: “a confused mixture; hodgepodge; medley”

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This is the third of three. Mr. DeMatteis gets real philosophical with Bekka’s thoughts, observations, and concerns. The storming 60’s are the appropriate era to counteract as well as align Bekka’s perspectives. Bekka’s backstory from the animated movie rivalled that of any Greek or Shakespearean tragedy. The trauma she experienced was truly heart-wrenching. It’s a compelling contrast: Bekka is such a pacifist and embodies zen in the latter part of a decade that was marred by war. She forgot the calamity on her homeworld. Nevertheless, this is a pre-cursor for her bitter, angry, violent ways in the near future. She is human in that aspect.
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There are touches of Mr. Timm’s style in Rick Leonardi’s drawings especially during all the fight scenes. Bekka is regal and imposing in her white and gold garb. She easily passes off as an Earther in plain clothes. Dan Green’s inks give her the right balance of vulnerability as she literally tries to find her place in the world adapting and adjusting to various environments. Allen Passalaqua is a proponent of Flower Power! The explosion of colours and the sequence of stars highlight the purity, innocence, and safety emanating from Mother Box. Saida Temofonte cranks up the sound effects, simply and efficiently points out the painted signs, and keeps the narration neat and tidy with italics.
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I will be completely biased here and give this last entry 3 out of 3 stars. I especially enjoyed the historical events serving as an impetus for Bekka’s growth and development.

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