Saturday, January 22, 2011

Review: Justice League of America #53

Justice League of America #53 also came out this week, another book starring Supergirl and marking the end of the Omega Man story. It also is the last issue that Mark Bagley will be providing art as he is heading back to Ultimate Spiderman. Who says you can't go home again!

This also continued the character exploration of Kara as Dark Supergirl. It seems just when Supergirl was stepping into a prominent role in the Justice League, acting as this team's Superman, she took a step backwards as Dark Supergirl. I have my worries about this direction. I wonder just how long Robinson plans to keep her in the black garb. I wonder how he will explain this manifestation ... and hopefully explain how and why it has gone away.

Lastly, I have said how much I have enjoyed Robinson writing 'big stories' for the League, how I think he is really challenging them with major planetary threats. The problem with big stories is that they need big endings and that can be tough.

On to the story.

The issue opens with Superwoman and Donna Troy slugging it out while a bemused Omega Man, Ultraman, and Supergirl watch.

I have wondered about Donna's character in this book. She has seemed belligerent and blood-thirsty. While I know she has always been a warrior, she has seemed almost unhinged here ... vicious and harsh.

Here, her inner monologue shows that she realizes it as well. She talks about how she is always angry even when she appears calm. She wants to have peace again; she wants to love again. But she can't.

I am glad that Robinson put in this little bit of introspection. This change in Donna's personality needed to be addressed in some way. At least this is a beginning. I like Donna a lot.

After a short time, Supergirl grows bored of watching them beat on each other and ends the fight by bashing them both unconscious.

Then she voices what it means to be Dark Supergirl. She is young, hot, and has the powers of a god. She wants to have fun. Ugh ... it sounds like the early stories from the Supergirl series all over again doesn't it. The Supergirl that didn't want to be a hero, didn't feel compelled to do good, and who wanted to rave dance or hang out at bars.

She isn't necessarily evil. She's just shallow.

I don't like this Supergirl at all, especially not in light of all the progress her character has made in her own title.

The villains scoop up the unconscious bodies of the Amazons and fly to where Batman and the rest of the League are holed up.

Last issue we saw Batman and the League team up with the CSA. It turns out that between issues, Batman has made a deal with the Omega Man. If the Omega Man spares the lives of the League members, Batman will bring down the force bubble surrounding the city.

When Jade pushes Batman on this plan, Dick talks about saving his own skin. It sounds completely wrong for the character, almost forced.

Turns out that Owlman has convinced Dick that the best plan of action is to fix the resurrection machine and drop the dome so that the collected heroes of the planet can bring the fight to the Omega Man.

It is admitting defeat, saying that this League can't win. It is exposing billions of people to extreme danger. It is, as Jade says, an act of cowardice and disgusting.

It also still doesn't sound like something a Batman would say, Bruce or Dick.

With the machine fixed, Batman prepares to dissipate the energy field around the city, when Owlman betrays the League, activating a neural impacter of some sort, paralyzing the heroes.

Even Ultraman and Superwoman are in on the plot. Turns out that Owlman has also wanted to survive and he felt the best way to do that was to team with Omega Man. By helping the Omega Man escape, Earth would be left untouched for the CSA to rule. Omega Man would drain the rest of the universe instead.

Owlman gloats, saying Dick has been outplayed from the beginning. I wonder if this was Owlman underestimating Dick's abilities. Would Owlman think that Bruce would be taken in so easily? I doubt it.

But it seems like it was actually a triple cross. That Batman knew what he was doing all along.

When the machine is turned on, it doesn't drop the force dome. Instead, it opens up a portal which sucks the Omega Man away.

It turns out that Dark Supergirl didn't betray the League at all. During the kiss she had with Batman last issue, Supergirl told him she would help the League for a favor in return.

And with that reveal, Supergirl blasts Ultraman with heat vision and throws him through the portal machine as well. In fact, the whole CSA is defeated by their League versions and removed from the Earth.

While I never get tired of seeing Supergirl pound on Ultraman, I am already getting a little tired of Dark Supergirl.

So how did this all happen?

With the CSA distracted, Batman had the Tangent Green Lantern use her powers to resurrect Alex Luthor, giving him a chance to redeem himself. Back amongst the living, he realizes that his doomsday energy field, the field which has manifested as the Omega Man, was a mistake. He needs to rectify it.

It shows good strategy by Batman, hiding the Green Lantern in plain sight, knowing he needed her abilities.

I also am glad that Alex Luthor, a hero of Crisis on Infinite Earths, was able to do this one last good deed. I was one of those people who wasn't happy that Alex was the villain of Infinite Crisis, sullying his heroism from COIE.

Alex knows how to defeat the energy and redesigned the machine to make the dark energy into a 'good' one, restoring life wherever it was taken from. It will cure all the worlds it has hurt. Only on the League's Earth will it remain a force of death (since here it has not been changed by the portal's energy).

The Tangent Green Lantern enters the portal and returns to her (presumably) reborn world.

It is a little too easy ... sort of a 'reverse the polarity' deus ex machina. That's the problem with near omnipotent villains. It is hard to write how they are defeated.

The energy dome around Washington D.C. is finally dropped and the League accepts the adulation of the super-hero community which is congregated there.

In some ways I think this was the main purpose of this arc for Robinson. This team has defeated a major villain and is now recognized globally as being the Justice League of America. They are worthy of that name.

And everything is all neat and wrapped up with a bow.

Except, despite the Omega Man's influence being gone, we still have Dark Supergirl. As I have said before, I will give Robinson a little bit of time with this concept, hoping it ends the right way. But I want plain old Supergirl acting in this League. I also wonder whether or not he will deal with the response of other heroes to this manifestation. Will we see Superman talk to her about it? You would think he would fly up to her immediately. In fact, given the last time she was dressed that way she almost killed the League on the moon, you think everyone would want to confront her about it. This isn't something that should just be accepted by her friends or family.

So Dark Supergirl's presence and the easy way Omega Man was defeated felt two low points in an otherwise pretty entertaining arc. And it doesn't look like this League will have time to catch their breath. Eclipso arrives next issue.

Mark Bagley's art seemed a notch below his normal work here, appearing rushed and rough in a good portion of the issue.

Overall grade: B


Scott Bryan said...

Wait, hold on. Eclipso is back next issue? And Supergirl is dark or her good side is eclipsed? I bet he/she is behind it.

Dave Mullen said...

I like this book a lot. There are few team books right now that are actually very good and 'click' as a whole, JLA is one of them, LSH is another and both of these are currently my two favorites.
I thought the storyline as a whole was very good, some great characterisation and Supergirl served very very well overall. I have complete faith this Darker Supergirl will have a good explanation as James Robinson is proving a very capable writer on this book. I just got the Starman/Congorilla one-shot and was amazed by just how good it was as a read! Really enjoyed Robinsons JLA overall and Supergorl is front and centre on the team with a writer who clearly likes her.

Here is a team that routinely & irrationally gets labelled as second stringers and wasters out there on the Net but the fact is they fully deserve the JLA mantle. The majority of these members are the immediate legacy characters of the big guns, Donna, Kara, Dick, Jade and to an extent Jesse. All of them are the direct offspring of DCs big name characters and the natural succesors to be the Justice League and I just don't understand the vitriol they are getting.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

I have enjoyed this JLA way more than I thought I would. I was pretty disappointed with Cry for Justice and would not have bought this book if it weren't for SG. But I have liked it a lot.

There have been Eclipso hints ('he's coming') since the Starheart story so I don't think Dark SG is at the heart of it.

Anonymous said...

Okay it was great that Supergirl (even Dark Supergirl) beat on Ultraman so casually and so very regularly, that is what I'm tawkin' about when I say "Karatharis".
But if DSG is the externalization of Kara Zor El's Post New Krypton angst, she sure doesn't seem to expressing much confusion and anger about anything. Mostly she is just being provocative and self indulgent, I don't get any angst offa this character.
Otherwise I'm lead to the conclusion that the only real reason "Dark Supergirl" is in the mix is because upcoming plotlines are "too challenging" for "Regular Supergirl".
Which is a retrograde notion to be sure, but what the hell she is established as a legacy lead in a big team book so I'll keep reading and await developments.

John Feer

Gear said...

Good reviews everyone, I'm happier with this book than I was when I first read it, you've all pointed to some things I missed the first time through. I think I was just being grumpy.

John, I hope you're wrong, and I'm going to be optimistic until proven otherwise. I'm starting to think that DSG was introduced to the story in part so that Roberson could have someone to execute the triple-cross, and nobody else would have been believable to have gone over to the other side. But yeah, she seems to be more whiny, self-indulgent Supergirl than Dark. She wants Grayson to do something for her as part of their bargain, so maybe there will be more depth coming soon. Right now a stroll through the ocean of her demonstrated motivations would scarcely get your feet wet.

I like this team a lot, in spite of the general malaise fans have expressed elsewhere. Maybe as Supergirl fans we're more willing to tolerate change since we've had so much of it over the years. And it's good to see a super team that is mostly female without DC trumpeting that as a major selling point or big deal. It just is, it's just the way it worked out this time, and that's kinda nice.

Unknown said...

I don't like Dark Supergirl either and won't buy the book until she's changed back.

Anonymous said...

I like the fact that this "Dark Supergirl" isn't neccessarily "evil". She's just has a nasty personality streak to her.-ealperin