Justice League of America #59 came out this week, the end of the Rise of Eclipso story arc and the second to last issue for James Robinson on his JLA run. There have been a lot of versions of the League over its history. Robinson's was another version without any of the Big 7, let alone one of the big three.
But this team was a sort of quasi-Big 7 with some analogues of the old time League as members. And what it had was an old-school flavor to it as the League fought one major threat after another. They didn't fight Amos Fortune here. They fought galactic threats, universal threats, deicide threats. Nothing was easy. And, after saving the world for the last year, this team will fade in the mist of the DCnU.
I feel for Robinson. For one, I really think he was just getting his feet under him in how these characters were interacting with each other. I also think he probably had to rush to end this Eclipso story before the September reboot. I suppose he could have used the last 2 issues of this run to complete this story. Instead he wraps up the story in this issue allowing himself an epilogue for the team next issue. The former would probably be easier. But I am glad he did the latter because I think this team needed an issue to pause, breathe, reflect.
But that decision to finish the Eclipso story here means that things happen fast ... fast and without much room for explanations. The story suffers a bit for it. But it would have been hard to wrap this up in many ways no matter what. Once you get into dealing with near omnipotent beings, it is a challenge to reach a satisfying conclusion.
And Brett Booth isn't here for the art, most likely sent away to get ahead on the new Teen Titans. Daniel Sampere steps in and does solid work here, less stylized than Booth but with more weight to his characters.
Last issue ended with Donna being impaled on Eclipso's sword. She was supposedly the hero's last chance here. And with her death we open up to this scene of Eclipso, seated on a throne made of his enemies, gloating about hisvictory. I have to say that having Eclipso sitting on the Spectre's cloak, one last insult thrown to God's Angel of Vengeance, was a nice touch.
Over the next few pages we see that the death of Donna turned the tide for Eclipso. We see pages of the moon falling, then the Earth, then the universe. Darkness has swept over everything.
Now the 'death of God' aspect to this plot seemed a little but over the top. But the moon's destruction did cut off the Earth from God's love leading to this victory for evil. It again shows the scope of Robinson's stories. The JLA vs someone who can kill God? Crazy.
We again go back in time to hear the League's plan, including the discussion with Donna. This is the third (maybe the fourth) time we have seen this scene, each time with more and more added.
Once again, we hear how Donna is the key. Since she has overcome much darkness in her life, she can bring the power of light to Eclipso. One thing I have said I did not like in Robinson's run was just how crass Donna had come, cursing and walking a fine line between heroism and barbarism. Those are now dismissed as simple defense mechanisms. Robinson made Donna the hero in Cry for Justice. Glad to see that same respect for her here.
But then we get the first little stretch in this issue, the first thing that seems too easy, to come out of left field. Saint Walker now not only can show people their biggest hope (I didn't know they could do that) but given the Starheart boost he is enjoying, he can make that hope appear to have been obtained in the mind of the person too! It makes him almost like a walking Black Mercy flower. That was a bit too simple. It also somehow diminishes Donna's role. Now she isn't the last hope, she is merely a diversion for Saint Walker to do his Jedi mind trick.
Neither Donna nor Saint Walker will be able to do much if the Shade continues to aid Eclipso with his shadow-controlled army. That is where the Atom and Starman come in to play. Remember, they were shot into the Shade's mind to rid him of Eclipso's control. With a couple of blasts the shadow-spiders are disintegrated and the Shade is free. I thought it was amusing that one of the spiders is wearing a top hat.
But once the Shade is freed, Eclipso's army regain their free will. Suddenly Eclipso is alone, with no support.
Everyone is freed. Even Jade, another one of the big guns under Eclipso's control. This was just a great near splash page showcasing Sampere's work. I really thought this was beautiful.
Jade has had a role to play in all the JLA stories. I just wonder if she was meant to have a bigger role in the DCU given her spotlight in Brightest Day.
Without his troops, without their psychic strength, and caught in a mind trip where he thinks he has won, Eclipso is suddenly vulnerable.
All the light based characters on the moon blast away while the physical characters pummel him. And just like that Eclipso is defeated.
Again though, we see how things are happening fast here. Here we learn that Jessie Quick has recovered her speed. We don't get an explanation now. Was this to have been a reveal down the line? A longer story? The basis of a whole other arc? We'll never know. My guess is this is one of the things that Robinson simply needed to truncate. Hopefully we will get some explanation next issue.
Blasted by light, Eclipso fades and his human host Bruce Gordon re-emerges. I have to say this was my favorite part of the book. Gordon delivers a great line about how he is being punished, cursed as the host of Eclipso and forced to keep him at bay. It is ominous. It sounds like Gordon might snap under the pressure.
Too bad this won't be explored any time soon.
And here is another quick leap forward. Jade and Obsidian hug, suddenly not compelled to merge and become an agent of chaos. This without much explanation. This despite a whole issue devoted to showing how they were cursed forever, every timeline where they touch ending in disaster.
I doubt this was how Robinson intended this plot point to end. Did he have bigger plans here?
And on cue Supergirl arrives to catch up with everyone.
Remember though, the moon was cracked in half last issue. The heroes fly off and ... surprise ... the moon is fixed! Off screen! Again, was this just too easy??
After the clean up, the Atom pauses to once again praise this team for everything they have done. This moment has happened a couple of times in this run. It is as if Robinson needs everyone to hear that this roster is worthy of being called the JLA. I don't know if we needed to hear it again.
Still, it was nice to hear the Atom talk about how the other heroes just weren't around to take on these threats. Superman was Grounded. Bruce was funding Batman Inc. Wonder Woman was in another timeline. Hal was on Oa or in space. Someone needed to be there to fight the CSA, Omega Man, and Eclipso. This team did! And won!
The last page is Dick calling a meeting of the JLA to disband it.
While this issue felt rushed with a lot of slapdash plot endings, I still have to say I enjoyed Robinson's run. These were big stories with a 'Little 7' team fighting big threats. This whole run was better than I expected, certainly better than the League was portrayed in Cry for Justice. And all these characters ... Supergirl, Bill, Mikaal, Jade ... they were all treated as top tier heroes. Not sidekicks or offshoots of main characters.
Frankly, I can't wait for next month's epilogue issue. It will be time to say goodbye to this group. Heck, it'll be time to say goodbye to these characters as they will change or be gone in the DCnU. Will there be a Donna, Jessie, Jade, Bill, and Mikaal in the DCnU? Will the new Supergirl resemble this one at all. I am sure Robinson is going to send them off well.
Overall grade: B- (but with expected A+ next month)