What begins as another beat-'em-up installment of "The Darkseid War" takes a swift turn and becomes the most eventful chapter of the story. Let's take a look at Justice League #44.

Geoff Johns continues to juggle multiple storylines, with nearly every member of the League taking an emotional or character turn of some sort. A quick rundown:

• Superman emerges changed from Apokalips' fire pits, a vengeful, inhuman being. As unsettling as it is to see the Man of Steel go bad, there's something gleefully cathartic about watching Clark toy with Lex, playing with his head for a change.
• Grail finally meets her brother Kalibak, and to spoil what happens would be cheating you out of one of the issue's best and most shocking moments.
• Batman and Green Lantern continue their quest through the multiverse via the Mobius Chair, searching for answers about the Anti-Monitor. It's here that you first realize that this isn't a business-as-usual issue, and Johns is about to lay all his cards on the table.
• Flash experiences a major twist you won't see coming.

Johns' dialogue at times feels a little Morrison-esque, in that you have to read it more than once to grasp what's going on. He also has a tendency to weave multiple conversations with one another, and it nearly reaches its breaking point in Justice League #44.

For example, Johns will give you a line from one character, followed immediately by a panel featuring a character who has nothing to do with the last one, followed by yet another unrelated character speaking to or replying to someone else, and on and on. That sort of thing is usually best saved for a story's crescendo, so readers can feel the stakes rising exponentially on all sides. Using it throughout the narrative weakens the whole structure.

Jason Fabok's pencils have never been more impressive or more epic. Whether it's his expressive, detailed character work or his widescreen, big-budget action scenes, he's doing staggering work. Even the issue's cover is particularly striking, bringing to mind the movie posters of Drew Struzan.

Brad Anderson's colors bring Fabok's world to breathtaking life, deftly handling the intricacies of it all with rich, vibrant hues. It's clear that Anderson has a tremendous grasp of the subtleties of things like gradients and lighting, because this is masterful work.







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