After the frenetic JLA/JSA 'Dark Things' storyline, Justice League of America #49 was a welcome 'rest issue'. 'One in done' issues like this one are a needed down time after major arcs allowing the writer and artist time to reflect on what is happening and giving the creative team a chance to look at a character in a different light, in different settings.
So after the crazy action and revelations of 'Dark Things', it was nice to see the team recovering, relaxing. 'The Bogeyman' was written by James Robinson, pencilled by Pow Rodrix, and inked by a veritable gaggle of inkers, seven in all! The issue is really a Jade and Donna book although we see all the Leaguers at least briefly. I was glad to see those two characters get the bulk of the time. Donna has really been a leader on the team, the warrior who wades into a fight so it was nice to see her (at least briefly) off the battlefield and here her thoughts about her non-superhero life. And Jade has just returned so I thought it was good that I got to know her a little bit better here.
The issue opens up with Dick and Kara returning after thwarting a robbery. It is sort of an amusing look back at Silver Age adventures, as Kara is lugging a giant saxophone and Dick muses how there were always big props involved in the early days.
Since the announcement of this new League, Robinson has talked about the relationship he wants to develop between these two, a brother/sister sort of mentoring relationship. This scene was a nice way to see how these two are getting along. Even though Supergirl is acting bright and happy, calling the two of them the new World's Finest, Dick recognizes that inside she is lonely. Her exterior is a front. In a classy move, even though the adventure is over and they could part, Dick invites her in for a sandwich and Kara happily agrees. I thought it was great on his part to recognize what is going on in Supergirl's life. And best of all there wasn't a drop of sexual overtones here. It really felt like a familial relationship.
Rodrix draws a young, fresh, and pretty Supergirl but I wish he had been told about her shorter hair. And one thing for sure, he doesn't think the bike shorts are part of the costume.
In the meantime, Donna and Jade are in San Francisco to run some errands and tidy up some of the after effects of 'Dark Things'. Donna talks about how much she loves the city and is thinking about moving there. Again, one of the aspects about issues like this that I like are these quiet moments where you get some insight into the character.
The two heroes go to Alcatraz to check in on the Shadow Thief who was driven mad by the Starheart. He is still incapacitated, appearing absolutely terrified and repeating 'he is coming' over and over. Given the panel we saw in the last part of Dark Things, I am guessing it's Eclipso who is coming.
While in Alcatraz, Donna is called to visit the villain The Bogey Man, and older villain who can worm his way into a child's mind and feed off the negative energies of shame and fear. More over, to increase the cringe factor, Donna recalls that he liked to be in little girl's minds most of all. In the past, Wonder Girl was strong enough to shake off the attack and clobber him.
Any time I can see the old school Titans in their old uniforms, like Donna's here, I am happy.
After leaving Alcatraz, Donna goes to visit the Titans only to be suddenly attacked by them. Initially the current Wonder Girl lays her out with a wicked right hook and then the rest of the team jumps in. I liked this panel of Donna squaring off with Ravager the best in the sequence. Donna looks absolutely fierce and there is a nice kinetic feel here as she blocks the bullets.
Fending off the attacks, Donna realizes that Jade is nowhere to be seen.
While Donna is being physically attacked and berated by her foes, Jade is in a whole different sort of hell. This is more of a mental emotional attack as people from Jade's past call her selfish and slather on the guilt. Her adopted parents, Alan Scott, Kyle Raynor, Solomon Grundy, Fury, Northwind, the Star Spangled Kid ... they all talk of their disappointment in Jade's action, how she has let them down.
And when she vows that she'll become a better person, Jade is rebuffed by her Black Lantern self.
Is there still some sliver of the Black Lantern Jade inside her? Or is this some manifestation of the darkness she absorbed from the Starheart? Or is this just a part of Jade that she is trying to deny exists? I get the sense that Jade is going to be a very complex character in this book.
I also get the sense that Robinson really like the character. This is the 4th or 5th splash page of Jade since she came into the book. Interesting that the Black Lantern Jade is a much brighter green than the current incarnation. Is that because the real Jade absorbed some of the dark energy and is physically darker as a result?
When the Titans both young and old are done attacking Donna, the attack sinks to a more personal, more psychological level. Donna's ex-husband Terry, her babies, even her younger self combine for an all out assault - physical and mental. In particular, I loved the jabs by the young Wonder Girl who is blaming the older Donna for all the mistakes that Wonder Girl will eventually make. There is a feeling of fatalism here.
No surprise, this whole thing is a psychic attack by the Bogey Man. The heroes haven't even left Alacatraz. He is a bit perverted, hiding in the young Wonder Girl's body and thrilled he got to lick Donna's soul. He is stronger now; he was able to enter adult's minds and play his games.
But as he is stronger, so is Donna. She defeated him before and so she is able to shrug off his attack and realize it is literally all in her head. It was great to see Donna just put all of this baggage behind her. It probably helps that she just faced off with Terry and her kids in Blackest Night:Titans. I also liked how she told the Bogey Man that he could have put in Brainiac 8 or Dark Angel to really try to add to the angst.
While it lasted for a bit, I thought it was wonderful that Donna saw through all this nonsense and was able to end it. She really is a warrior.
Donna drags the Bogey Man over to Jade's nightmare realm. Jade's nightmare has moved on the a personal self-examination. She is haunted by images of the Jade-sidian construct from 'Dark Things'.
How evil and dark is this being? It is too much for even the Bogey Man to absorb and he is built to absorb those feelings.
I can understand Jade's confusion here. She was briefly a White Lantern and now she is being eroded from the inside by the energies she absorbed. There is more to come here! I am looking forward to this storyline when it happens.
Without much explanation, Jade shakes off the attack and blasts the image of Jade-sidian away. With that mental construct gone, the Bogey Man's attack is over and the heroes awaken in Alcatraz.
The emotional anguish over, the two heroes are able regroup. Donna realizes that she doesn't need to check in on the Titans, she doesn't need to think too much about what the Bogey Man showed her. She has been able to put all of those insecurities behind her. It is time to move on. And maybe Jade should join her; maybe they should open up a photography studio.
Again, I am glad it didn't take Donna long to recognize this whole thing as a mental attack. I did think it was interesting that the two heroes had very different versions of their personal hells. Donna's is on the battle field, all blood and weapons. Jade's was all emotional, not one punch thrown. It really showed the differences in the two heroes and gave me some insight into them as well. Nice.
The issue ends with another look at Dick and Kara.
I am glad that Robinson knows that Kara is still reeling from all the loss in her life recently. She asks Dick if she will ever be able to move on from it. She is calling on him for his guidance and experience. He says she just needs some time and what better way to kill time than by fighting crime. Again, it really shows a nice progression in their relationship. I am very happy with this.
Overall I thought this was a good issue. The internal battle field of insecurities is a very well traveled road seen in many comics but I thought the contrast between the two heroes' versions of personal hell was a new wrinkle. And all this promise of darkness in Jade and the 'he's coming' rants is nice bait for the upcoming year.
Pow Rodrix has a nice style, sort of Eddy Barrows-esque. It is stylized but not out of control. His art adds to the story, not distracts from it. I'd like to see more from him.