Friday, November 19, 2010

Review: Justice League Of America #51


Justice League #51 was a great issue, another in a string of very good issues by James Robinson and Mark Bagley. It feels as if, now that the team is established, Robinson can settle in and right spectacular stories. And this arc, and the Starheart on that preceded it, felt like the JLA stories I used to read as a kid. Those stories were big ... the JLA always dealing with some Earth-shattering or universe-destroying threat. Those were the enemies that a team the caliber of the Justice League is supposed to fight.

What's more is that Robinson shows that this JLA, this version of the 'big 7', is worthy of the team name. Yes, they are analogues to the more classic versions of the DC pantheon ... Supergirl instead of Superman, Jade instead of GL, Donna instead of Diana, etc. But these characters aren't as established, aren't as set in stone as the originals. Robinson can explore them a little more, delve into motivations and reactions more. There is some uncertainty of the outcome. As such, it makes for a very interesting read.

And what can I say about Mark Bagley. I have become a big fan.


Last issue ended with the Crime Syndicate's plan to resurrect Alexander Luthor being sabotaged by Dr. Impossible's plan to use the same machine to resurrect Darkseid, which in turn did not work, bringing The Omega Man onto this plane of existence.

This issue starts shortly after that one ends. Whatever has happened in Washington D.C. with the Omega Man, the rest of the world doesn't know. A globe of greenish energy has enclosed the city. And the remaining heavy hitters in the DCU cannot break through. Whether it is brute strength from heroes like Superman, or energy blasts from blasters like Dr. Light, or magic from sorcerers like Zatanna, it is impenetrable.

The scientists amongst the group analyze the energy. It is a composite of 'multiverse energy', Starheart energy, and New Genesis energy. With Jade on the inside, the Starheart part makes sense. But the heroes don't understand the other aspects of it. And what is happening on the inside?


Some of those gathered heroes are worried that the 'small team' on the inside, the five current JLAers, might not be up to the challenge.

Superman stops that train of thought in its tracks. These are the Justice League of America. They are up for the challenge.

I think it was great that Superman has such confidence in this team. The current Leaguers are veterans after all. And I think Robinson probably enjoyed writing this scene, one more way to cement the fact that this team is the JLA moving forward.

That said, I think the more people have to say 'these are the Justice League' the more people will wonder if DC and Robinson are protesting too much. The team is established. They saved the world from the Starheart. The leader of the super-hero community has acknowledged them. This should be it. Let's move forward.



As I said above, this story reminded me of the crazy stories I read in my youth when the JLA was thwarting major threats month in and month out. This title splash page, the villain larger than life spouting his evil plans, the roll call pics on the side ... it brought those feelings back even more. Nice.

Right off the bat, the issue grabbed me. The story shifts back to immediately after the last issue ended. Much of this issue is told via the inner thoughts of Supergirl. And here, on the page, Supergirl says that this is the day she dies. And the Omega Man is the man who kills her.

Hey! Didn't we just have some sort of scare about Supergirl dying again? Do I really need to have that scab picked at again?

I wonder if Robinson has an understanding of how that sort of line effects Supergirl fans. I think it effects us more than if, for example, Jesse Quick said the same thing.



No one really knows who the Omega Man is. Dr. Impossible, the villain who created the resurrection machine in hopes of bringing back Darkseid, seems as befuddled as anyone. He didn't anticipate this and doesn't know how Omega Man arrived.

But this Omega Man sounds creepy. He claims that all the souls of those he has killed live within him. And the resurrection machine begins pouring out destructive energy, the same energy that destroyed the Tangent Green Lantern's world. The Omega Man seems to be responsible for the destruction of multiple worlds which means billions of souls are inside him . And he seems to just wallow in his own power, gloating that all the souls are part of him.

With the building crumbling around him and the world potentially ending, Dr. Impossible opens up a hush tube and takes off.


But the Omega Man is just one threat inside the Hall of Justice. The other leaguers are still skirmishing with the Crime Syndicate. Only Owlman seems to realize that the Omega Man is the bigger threat. He stops fighting Batman giving Dick time to try to formulate a plan.

He calls the JLA to him. If the machine is what is producing the world-destroying energy than the machine needs to be destroyed. Dick tells Jesse to start dismantling it. While she is doing that, Jade shows up to defend Jesse's efforts.

I have to say I love what Robinson is doing with Jade. Robinson keeps hinting about the malevolence inside Jade, how there is something evil within her. That is echoed by the Omega Man who tells Jade they are very much alike, that their powers are similar. It worries Jade enough that she needs to shake off his words to concentrate on the task at hand.

Unfortunately, the machine can self-repair and Jesse can't destroy it fast enough. It is time for Batman to call in the big guns.


He calls in Supergirl from the field. In what is a scene I know I was hoping for, Supergirl simply lays out Ultraman and flies to the rescue.

When she enters the Hall, Dick tells her to smash the machine.

Another good thing about this scene is Supergirl's thoughts. I think Robinson has a nice feel for that Kara is going through. She talks about relishing the chance to let go and fight without limits. She also talks about how that action allows her to forget about all the other stuff in her life, allow her to move without thinking about her grief. And she says she loves being in the Justice League. All of that read true. I wonder if Robinson talks to Sterling Gates about her.

But is there any better recent panel than that right hook to Ultraman's jaw! Awesome.


While we don't learn much about Omega Man's origins ... or even his powers ... he does have some great lines. If his abilities mirror his rhetoric, he sounds like a Darkseid-level threat.

He is the embodiment of decay; he is the god of death and a demon lord. And he is countless souls screaming.

And he won't be contained by Jade's force bubbles. He shatters her constructs.

Supergirl also can't seem to make any headway on destroying the machine either. And she can't get any help from Donna or Jesse because the Crime Syndicate, fueled by rage and hate, continues to fight with them.


The only hope the Earth has is if Jade can contain the machine's death energy. Straining herself to the limit, she encases Washington D.C. in a force bubble, a mixture of all the energy swirling from the Hall of Justice. And that is how the force field from the opening scene came about.

I get the sense that Jade might be Robinson's favorite character on the book. Between the countless splash pages and the big moments, she really shines here.


If the machine can't be stopped, than the Omega Man needs to be. Since Supergirl is the Superman-equivalent on the team, she steps up. She attacks ferociously, spewing heat beams, punching, and using super-breath.

But the Omega Man seems thrilled by it. He says that he can 'use' Supergirl, use the evil and bile within her. Initially, Supergirl doesn't know what he is talking about. But ....


Soon the brutal nature of her attack triggers a transformation. Dark Supergirl manifests!

That is what Supergirl meant when she said she died. The 'good Supergirl' died. Dark Supergirl is reborn. And she seems as snarky and spiteful as she did in her last appearance. She says "K. You did it. I'm back. Happy? Now shut up and let's have some fun!"

I like the subtle differences between Dark Supergirl's costume and Supergirl's. The shorter skirt (more of a napkin), the tinier and tighter shirt, the cape coming from the S-shield ... the image works. Hopefully Robinson will explain all of this. It never was really explained in the Supergirl book.

I thought this was a great issue. It just overflows with action. The threats are both huge (Omega Man) and smaller (the Crime Syndicate). Robinson continues to explore these characters and their motivations, showing how they are the Justice League but they aren't the big 7. I love how Donna is so intent on defeating Superwoman that she can't break away to help Batman. And I like how Jade still doesn't know exactly who she is now that she is back. And I love how he writes Supergirl. I begrudgingly started buying this book only because Kara starred in it. I wasn't a fan of Cry For Justice. And yet, it has become a book I look forward to each month. That is high praise for Robinson and Bagley. They have overcome my preconceived expectations of the book. That isn't easy.

Overall grade: A

10 comments:

Nikki said...

Its getting around that mentioning Supergirl's death gives her fans the shakes. Robinson writes a great Supergirl. I'll put it out there that this death is not THE death. After all we have Supergirl narrating so it should be interesting to see that perpective when we catch up with her.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, nikki. I thought she would actually "die" but now her "light side" so to speak is "dead" and has returned to the "dark side"-Man, I love Star Wars analogies! -ealperin

Anonymous said...

I like the story so far, and I'm liking how the new JLA is shaking out a lot. I'm biased against the whole "Dark Whomever" trope in general and Dark Supergirl in particular, but I'm going to just follow the Thumper Rule until I've seen more.

Anonymous said...

Oh and smacking Ultraman upside the head?
THAT is KARATHARSIS!!
:D

***
Just once I'd like to see Dark Supergirl or Satangirl or Antigirl rise up and act out on Kara's worst impulses, eating at Burger King instead of eating the nutritious bag lunch that was packed for her and hooking school to go to the mall...
and the legion of evil that is depending on her to destroy the world for them is appalled to discover she is off using a crummy fake ID to buy Winston slims...
Just once...
I'd pay money to see it.

:D

John Feer

Gene said...

John Feer wrote:

"Just once I'd like to see Dark Supergirl or Satangirl or Antigirl rise up and act out on Kara's worst impulses, eating at Burger King instead of eating the nutritious bag lunch that was packed for her and hooking school to go to the mall...
and the legion of evil that is depending on her to destroy the world for them is appalled to discover she is off using a crummy fake ID to buy Winston slims...
Just once...
I'd pay money to see it."

It would be funny if Robinson paid homage to Superman III by having Dark Supergirl straighten out the Leaning Tower of Pisa. She would make a cool action figure.

Anj said...

Oh and smacking Ultraman upside the head?
THAT is KARATHARSIS!!
:D


I loved it!

Anj said...

I'll put it out there that this death is not THE death. After all we have Supergirl narrating so it should be interesting to see that perpective when we catch up with her.

Agreed.

Nice feint by Robinson to open the issue with it only to see he meant something different by the end.

valerie21601 said...

I just hope not too many DC writers will yank us, Supergirl fans around with her "death" too much. Not only will it wear us out but cause a lot of resentment about it.

Even "IF" it happens I am sure DC Comics will want to make a BIG thing about it with a ton of public press and a few months notice. Unless DC is so gun shy about killing Kara off again but still goes through with it and have it happen in a HUGE surprise issue. But I don't think that can quite happen in this day and age since the sales solicits are posted at least 3 months in advance online.

gearym said...

... and the legion of evil that is depending on her to destroy the world for them is appalled to discover she is off using a crummy fake ID to buy Winston slims...

I'd pay money to see that too! The rebelliousness at the heart of darkness turns out to be... just feeling a bit cranky this week, and really having a nic fit. And they used decaf in the latte this morning.

Hmmm... the whole "Dark" transformation thing may be nearing its end for fans, it's reached the point where we're starting to mock it and laugh instead of complaining.

Great review Anj, this was a good issue from beginning to end. Keep it up DC!

Saranga said...

oh, so that's how dark Supergirl comes about? I'll probably buy this next week.

The cape's nice.