Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Review: Justice League Of America #52
Justice League #52 came out last week and was the third part of the Omega storyline. It also includes the beginning of Dark Supergirl as a recurring character in the book.
James Robinson continues to make this Justice League be a major player in the DCU. Their first real story together as a team was battling the chaos magic of the Starheart. Here we are dealing with another major universal threat. The Omega Man has been sweeping through universes, slaughtering all living things. And now he has manifested here. Add to that the Crime Syndicate, and you have the makings of a story that sort of feels like the old 'Crisis on Earth (fill in the blank)' stories that were an annual tradition in the old JLA comic.
It is all the more interesting because this isn't the JLA from those stories. This is a 'kinda sorta' Big 7, with versions of the trinity, GL, and the Flash here.
But for me, the thing that I was most interested in seeing here was Dark Supergirl. I had thought we had moved beyond the 'is she evil?' question around Kara, whether it was Jeph Loeb introducing the Dark Supergirl or Joe Kelly questioning Zor-El's motives for sending Supergirl to Earth. It also felt strange to see the black-garbed Supergirl on a cover so shortly after Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle's wonderful finale where Supergirl seemed in a healthier place, embracing her role as here.
All that said, it is a pretty powerful cover by Mark Bagley, showcasing Supergirl (albeit the Dark version) on one of DC's better selling comics.
Robinson continues to show that this Justice League is just as worthy of the moniker as any other version.
Jade has constructed an invulnerable globe of energy around Washington DC, keeping the Omega Man trapped within. It unfortunately means the JLA and CSA are also trapped inside with him. And all the other heroes of the DCU, they are trapped outside and are unable to help.
Within the dome, Donna and Jade are barely able to keep the Omega Man at bay, attacking and withdrawing. He also seems to be biding his time, awaiting for the right moment to attack full out.
And the citizens trapped inside the dome? Well, Jesse Quick is a nonstop dervish, moving people from one place to another so that they can't be found by the Omega Man. Remember, the Omega Man lives to feed, draining life. It is an amazing accomplishment that Jesse is able to do it.
Again, the theme of worthiness of being the Justice League is brought up subtly here. Jesse thinks of a time Wally evacuated a city ... so she should be able to do this. Even this League themselves are wondering if they are worthy. We have seen Dick question his own ability to lead as well. It is such an interesting character wrinkle. A lot of these Leaguers have been sidekicks or proteges. It feels natural that they might question if they can fill these big shoes.
I don't know if I quite grasp whay the Omega Man is.
It seems that the machine built by Dr. Impossible was supposed to resurrect Darkseid's spirit and place it into Impossible's colleague The Hunter. Instead it seems that machine somehow transferred the wave of destructive energy which is destroying Earth Two has somehow manifested inside Hunter. It has somehow gained a human consciousness.
So is the Omega Man's personality Hunter's? Or it's own?
And don't ask me how Bluejay knows all this.
And don't know if I quite know how the presence of the Omega Man's energy has corrupted Kara into Dark Supergirl again.
I like the subtle changes in Supergirl's uniform that Mark Bagley provides here, showing us she is Dark Supergirl again. So we again see the very cropped shirt top and the micro-micro-mini skirt. It is a small thing, but adds to the depth of the change. I am sure this will please some fans of the earliest issues of the Supergirl title.
It seems that James Robinson is using Dark Supergirl as a way to explore how Kara is dealing with the tragedy of New Krypton and War of the Supermen.
I suppose that this is one way that people respond to grief. You can either deal with it, working your way through it ... or you can remove all attachments to everything, become callous, and in that way become invulnerable, impervious to emotional pain.
To be honest I wouldn't mind this so much if Gates and Igle hadn't done such a phenomenal job of exploring how Supergirl was dealing with her personal tragedies in their last issues. This story of Supergirl's response to the sadness in her life has just been done and done well. So where do I stick this in the character's timeline? Before or after the BizarroGirl and Doll maker stories?
I suppose that her saying 'Good riddance' to that Supergirl will again please the fans of the earliest issues of her own title.
I also find it funny that two talented writers are both crafting two very different stories looking at how Supergirl is dealing with the aftershock of New Krypton but no one is doing the same with Superman!
She might seem carefree but Dick reminds her she is going to need to pick sides at some point.
Her response? To kiss him.
Is this just another thing that Dark Supergirl knows will push some buttons? Or does she have some latent romantic feelings for Batman? I hope it isn't the latter. Robinson made such an effort to say that the two have a brother/sister relationship and nothing more. Doesn't adding this undercut Robinson's own character building?
But it is pretty evident that the League cannot defeat the Omega Man by themselves. Luckily, Owlman overhears Batman and BlueJay talking. Owlman decides that the two groups need to team-up. Bad guys teaming up with good guys? Oooh, this does have a little Silver Age feel to it.
The idea of a life-draining energy field possessing a human villain gives Robinson some space to flex his writing muscles. We hear Hunter and the Omega force having a perverse and conflicted rambling dialogue. The Hunter aspect doesn't seem to understand what his purpose is. The Omega side is filling Hunter's mind with imagery of death and nothingness; it is hungry and craves freedom.
It is a pretty good couple of pages, showing that the Omega Man is of a singular mindset ... he wants to feed on lives and he doesn't care about any wake of destruction he leaves behind him.
But this issue is far from just in-depth character analysis. There is a lot of action. We already saw Donna and Jade fight with the Omega Man earlier in the issue.
Here we see him attack the combined forces of the JLA and the CSA. Without much fuss, the Omega Man kills Power Ring and Johnny Quick. Impressive.
And to make matters worse, Dark Supergirl and Ultraman arrive and appear to be siding with the Omega Man.
I wonder if this is yet another ruse by Dark Supergirl. Not that this is the same personality of the Dark Supergirl we saw in Supergirl #5, but no Supergirl I have read since her return has wanted to serve someone. She always wanted to be on her own, making her own decisions.
So maybe her choosing the wrong side is a way to work her way closer to the Omega Man?
But I really liked Ultraman's reasons for joining the Omega Man. He simply wants to rule. And working for the Omega Man, as powerful an entity as it is, brings him closer to that goal.
I have never quite understood why Ultraman allows himself to be humiliated by Superwoman and Owlman so it was nice to actually see him vocalize his rage about it, how he allows his colleagues to live.
With defeat about to happen, with the Omega Man screaming for the dome to come down, with Supergirl and Ultraman working for the wrong side, Batman doesn't have much of a choice. He kneels before the Omega Man.
Yeah right! I am sure that Dick has something up his sleeve.
So this was one pretty dense issue, a worthy middle chapter in this arc. Robinson clearly wants his League to prove themselves against some pretty big threats. It is nice to see this team gelling, coming together, and battling.
I don't necessarily know if I am happy to see the Dark Supergirl, the evil doppelganger, trope used again here. Supergirl has done so much growing in her own title that this seemed a little off. Of course, the presence of the Omega Man spurred this along. Maybe this is all buried within Kara's subconscious. So I will give Robinson the benefit of the doubt for now. This has the chance to further flesh out the Supergirl character.
But a lot is also happening quickly. I still don't know if I quite grasp what the Omega Man is. It all has to wrap up next month.
Mark Bagley continues to produce solid stuff here. I know it was recently announced he is going back to Ultimate Spiderman. I'll miss his work here.
Overall grade: B+/B