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Check back here for detailed information on updates to the reading orders or database, reviews by myself or any of the other site contributors, and general comic news we find interesting! You can also subscribe to an RSS feed for updates.

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By | Sunday, June 6, 2010 | 1:10 am | 0 Comments | Blog > Database Updates

The page navigation is now in the bottom right of the page.

I’m not totally sure about how this looks right now, but something along these lines is needed if we’re going to have infinite scroll (otherwise it will be very easy to get lost in the huge list.) I’m still working on the infinite scroll, though, so stay tuned for that.

Also, Justice League Elite Volume 1 has been moved forward a few books.

In addition, 24 new character header images are now up, thanks to Daniel. These include Doctor Fate, Two-Face, Catwoman, and a host of others.

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By | Saturday, June 5, 2010 | 4:37 am | 7 Comments | Blog > Reviews

Find This Book At:
Ebay (Search by Title)
Ebay (ISBN/Softcover)
Half.com (Softcover)
Amazon (Softcover)
View our database entry
Includes Issues: JLA 101-106
Issue Dates: September – November 2004
Creators:
, Chuck Austen, David Baron

This review is spoiler free! Skip To The Verdict? »

The Justice League of America has stopped wars, defeated galactic invasions, grappled with gods and faced the breakdown of objective reality itself.  The league’s most important function, however, is to offer free group therapy sessions to its grieving, dysfunctional members.  At least that’s what Superman claims in this insipid 2005 trade.

The six issues collected in Pain of the Gods each focus on a different member of the team, showing the way that they grieve over failures, struggle to fit in, or cope with their pasts.  These vignettes range from the obvious (Batman is hung up on his parents’ murder? Who knew!) to the ludicrous (apparently Wonder Woman is terrified of her own death.)  Worse, rather than showing the heroes coping with their various neuroses in the field, the bulk of each story is given over to scenes set in the Watchtower as the various team members talk to each other, looking to the group for comfort and self-help platitudes.  Lest you think I’m exaggerating — it is actually said that the Watchtower should be seen as a “safe place” where its ok to share your feelings.

Now, won’t get me wrong — I’m not one to claim that for superhero stories to work the characters have to possess an unflappable optimism or unshakable self-confidence.  Indeed, if these stories had been written in 1962, I’d probably be praising their sophistication.  But the modern age of comics can be defined in part by the attention paid to the inner lives of costumed heroes.  In the past 25 years a tremendous number of stories have explored the conscience and emotions of these icons with wit, nuance, and insight — three traits these stories simply lack.

The worst sin here, however, is against the Martian Manhunter.  J’onn J’onzz has been a member of every incarnation of the Justice League and has been described as the “heart” of the team.  Prior to the League’s creation he spent years living among humans, working as a private investigator.  Despite his alien appearance, he has always been shown as a warm individual capable of level-headed leadership and quick to empathize with others.  All of which leaves one wondering what happened to that character in this story, where we’re presented with a cold and distant loner, utterly incapable of successfully pretending to be human.  And what’s the point of this complete reinvention of his character?  A strained and facile metaphor for fear of commitment.  Really.

Thankfully, Ron Garney’s art for this book is in an entirely different league than Chuck Austen’s writing.  His drawings have a sketch-like quality that, rather than seeming amateurish, creates a sense of urgency in the more action-packed scenes and adds rawness to the otherwise interminable emotional discussions.

Particularly striking is a tenement fire in the Flash’s story, a scene that positively crackles with life and momentum, thanks entirely to Garney’s art.  Although Garney is not the best artist to have worked on JLA, nor is the art so good as to make one overlook the writing, he shows himself more than capable of working with the world’s greatest superheroes.  It’s a shame that he has not done more work for DC than a handful of JLA issues and three-issue stint on Green Arrow.

Colorist David Baron chose a somewhat muted color palate for the book, which gives the images a vaguely autumnal feel.  While appropriate for the story’s moody tone, the color sometimes seems to be working at cross-purposes to Garney’s drawings.  Although entirely adequate, I can’t help but think that a bolder palate could have improved the work somewhat.


Verdict:
For JLA completionists only.

Essential Continuity:
Not really.  While this story doesn’t contradict any ongoing continuity, it does not seem to have been written with any particular era in mind, nor does it directly reference any past or on-going story arcs.

What Should You Read First:
If you’ve had no exposure to the modern JLA, you ought to pick up New World Order, the first collected edition of this series and the beginning of Grant Morrison’s fantastic run.  If, on the other hand, you’ve been reading the JLA trades in order, make sure you read Justice League Elite, Vol. 1 before this volume, as that book explains the absence of the recent additions to the team.

What Should You Read Next:
If this was your first exposure to the team and you’re interested in reading more/better stories, highlights include the aforementioned New World Order, the Batman-centric Tower of Babel or the terrific JSA team-up Virtue and Vice.  Alternatively, if the themes of guilt and uncertainty among the JLA interest you and you’d like to see them handled with more subtlety and in the service of better stories, you might consider the heart-breaking DC mini-series Identity Crisis or the excellent Martian Manhunter story, JLA: Trial by Fire.

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By | Saturday, June 5, 2010 | 3:19 am | 1 Comment | Blog > Database Updates

First of all, I tweaked the blog headers and author title text. The author now shows up right under the blog post title along with the time of the post. There is a small comment link there, and then a bigger one at the bottom of the post.

You may have noticed that the site has been pretty slow lately. Some of that has been from increase in traffic, which is natural, and some has been because we’ve been doing a lot of work in the backend. But apparently a huge chunk came from googlebot indexing as well – almost half a gig of traffic per day!

So I’m working now to figure out how to optimize the site for the most amount of content indexed for the least amount of bandwidth eaten up.

I’m also trying to speed up a few other things – the share links in the sidebar have been changed, for example. The individual site share links were each calling an outside site and holding up the loading of the sidebar. Changing it to just “addthis” has it call only one source instead of five or six.

I also removed the background image. I liked it, but I had put it in there on day one as a placeholder and forgot about it. I checked it today and it was almost 800kb! That’s almost one mb every time someone hits the page! Taking it out should make the site go a lot faster and help keep the bandwidth down. I’ll see what I can do for replacing it – probably a solid color.

I’m going to have to try and tighten up some code and optimize some other images as well.

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By | Friday, June 4, 2010 | 9:52 pm | 3 Comments | Blog > Database Updates

It took a lot to make this site ready to become a multiple contributor website. Most of it you won’t see on the front end, though.

The first thing you might notice is that I put some User CP links in the upper right. This is mainly to make it easier for our contributors, but you can also benefit by registering. Right now it just means you can edit your own comments, make a profile, and the site will remember you – but there’s more coming for site users/subscribers, I promise!

Second, you may have noticed the author name is now a link. You can click that to see a little drop down bio of the author and a picture as uploaded to Gravatar. Mine has a temporary image of Metron from my forum profile. I may put a real picture of me in there later tonight if I remember.

There’s also a link to all the posts by that author in that little drop down. I’m working right now to switch all the book database entries to a different user (“Database Robot McRusty”, heh) so my count shows accurately and only lists blog posts instead of all the books as well. (there’s no real robotic or automated process, I just thought it was funny. I’m not sure what to call that fake user… it’s all me, really.)

That’s all I can think of for now. The rest of the updates are all hidden in the backend, but it took a good 8 hours of work (and the plugin count for this wordpress insanity is up to 35! Not counting the ones I’ve integrated or my own extensive hacks and re-designs. Blah! Probably pretty unstable. I’ll work on stability once everything else is working haha)

Pretty psyched!

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By | Friday, June 4, 2010 | 4:11 pm | 2 Comments | Blog > Features

It seems as though some of you noticed that reviewing every book in this database is too big a job for just one little man. I’ve had a couple kind offers to help. I’m happy to announce that I’ll be taking some of those offers!

Firstly, my gal Beth has offered to review books from the perspective of a new comic fan. She’s very experienced in the arts and a huge story fan (How many times have you watched Buffy all the way through?) but she’s only read a handful of trades since meeting me. She’s taking to it quick and I think her reviews will bring a much needed layman’s perspective to the site (seeing as the rest of us are kind of obsessed nerds.)

Second, you’ve probably noticed Daniel‘s excellent contributions in the comments. I’m happy to hear that he’s also interested in writing some reviews! He’ll probably be getting to more recent stuff while I work through the huge amount of Pre-Crisis material I’m currently reading.

You’ll probably see Daniel’s by-line popping up on this site first, but stay tuned for great reviews from both these people. I’m honored to have the support.

If you are also interested in reviewing for this site, just send me an email.

Full Disclosure: This is an unpaid freelance gig. No one on this site is getting paid right now, including me, though it would be nice to make minimum wage for those full time hours I put in at some point. You can feel free to put it on your resume and to expect links back and support for your other projects, but I can’t offer any monetary compensation right now. We do this for fun!

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