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Cover date: Early March 2008
"High Frontier: That Was Now, This is Then" - Part One
Writter: Roger Stern
Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Mark Farmer
Reviewed by: Michael Bailey
The call is sent out to Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Atom for help but all four heroes are otherwise occupied. Back on the Watchtower Wally makes another attempt to stop the monster but he and then John Stewart and J'onn J'onzz are taken out. John's ring sends out another call to Superman and the rest to explain how dire the circumstances are. The Atom arrives first and with the help of an injured John Stewart gets the Martian Manhunter to the sick bay.
After conferring with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman the Atom confront the League's attacker in the communication center. The Atom provides the proper distraction to allow Superman and Wonder Woman to arrive and attack, but the creature proves to be too much for even them. As the Atom, Batman and John Stewart look on in horror the unconscious J'onn J'onzz tries desperately to communicate with his teammates to tell them what is going on.
Story - 4: I've been a fan of Roger Stern's writing for nearly twenty years now and I am happy to say that I wasn't disappointed with this first chapter of "That Was Now, This is Then". The story had an old school feel to it but at the same time felt contemporary. This all comes down to storytelling and Stern is flat out one of the masters when it comes to that sort of thing.
This was a pretty straightforward first chapter. We are given the establishing shots of J'onn, Wally and John on the Watchtower, which I enjoyed. I dug watching Wally and John play basketball, especially when John used his power ring to even the odds against Wally, who was moving so fast he appeared to be in several places at once. Stern also touched on the Martian Manhunter's origin but only to reinforce the internal musings the character had been having towards his adoptive world.
Then the action kicks in and this was a very satisfying set of fight scenes. Whoever this creature is (and I will admit that I have no idea and frankly am not really looking hard because I want the story to unfold in a natural way and maybe even be surprised by the revelation) he's tough. This was another old school element that the story had. Here's a villain who is so powerful he manages to take down all of the League's heavy hitters over the course of the issue but at the same time it feels right. Sometimes a writer brings in the nigh-unstoppable bad guy and it is very forced. The mystery element regarding who the creature is has a lot to do with it because it (or he or she) obviously has some history with the team. Now I don't know if this is going to be one of those "never before seen, the guy fought the League once but you never heard about it" bad guys or the "this guy was in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA number whatever and never seen again" villain.
I really don't know which one I would prefer. As long as the story stays as well written and entertaining as this first chapter I'll be good.
Art - 4: I will admit that for the most part I am biased when it comes to John Byrne because John Byrne is pretty much responsible for me not only getting into comics on a regular basis but in becoming a Superman fan as well. Despite this I can look at his art objectively and I have to say that for the most part when John Byrne inks himself, especially in the past ten years or so, it doesn't look as good to me as when someone else inks him. For this issue Mark Farmer inked him and I think Farmer was a good choice because he seemed to compliment Byrne's style so it still looks like John Byrne just a little different. The action scenes were good. The quieter moments were well done, especially the fact that at the beginning of the issue J'onn was walking around the Watchtower but floating, which was neat, and how can you not like the image of Superman stopping a locomotive? Good stuff all around.
Cover Art - 4: The only thing that I don't like about this cover is once again there is a white background. I've written this before but it kind of looks like there was supposed to be something there but somewhere along the line it was left out. Superman and Wonder Woman look good, though. Joshua Middleton is a solid artist so the two characters are fine. It just seems like it's missing something.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2008.