Friday, July 2, 2010

Review: Justice League Of America #46

Would I have picked up the James Robinson/Mark Bagley Justice League of America comic if Supergirl hadn't been added to the roster? The answer is no.

This title has just never lived up to the hype for me. I never found Brad Metzler's take to be anything special. Dwayne McDuffie's work seemed muddled ... he wanted to do some things, editors wanted another. It just never seemed to be the right mix. And, to be honest, I really didn't like Cry for Justice all that much. If that was Robinson's idea of the JLA, I thought I would pass on the main title

Plus, I like my Justice League to be the big 7, or at least partly the big 7. I just felt it was time to cut the cord and move on.

Then it was announced that Supergirl was going to join the team. And I took a step back and saw this JLA as the legacy League with Dick, Donna, and Kara taking on the role of the Trinity. And while I am still unsure about Congorilla and Starman, the inclusion of a speedster in Jesse Quick (another legacy) and a Lantern-like persona in Jade (yet another legacy) made this sort of a medium 7, interesting enough to take a look.

Am I glad that I have picked up the book? The answer is yes. While the last couple of issues haven't blown my socks off, they have been better than I would have anticipated. And Justice League #46, out this week, was actually quite good. This isn't damning with faint praise. When I am entertained by a comic and eagerly looking forward to the next issue (as I was when I was done with this issue) that is the sign of a good book. When you sprinkle in some small touches that add to the experience, I become very happy. The book is not flawless ... but it is enjoyable.

With the Starheart on Earth and emanating its chaos field, magical and elemental metans are out of control. These heroes and villains become temporarily enraged and insane, wildly lashing out at their environment.

While the JLA is trying to figure out how to locate the Starheart (and the Alan Scott GL and Obsidian, both under the sway of the Starheart), they also need to slow down the destruction caused by the suddenly crazed superheroes and villains around them.

What better and more tried and true way to do that than to split into teams and take down the threats.

Robinson has spoken before about how he wanted to create a new World's Finest out of Supergirl and the Dick Grayson Batman. Here he has them go off to confront Naiad, a water elemental threatening to level a city.

The thought captions here capture the team's feelings nicely. Supergirl wants to prove that she can handle whatever is thrown at her. She feels she needs to prove herself to Batman. In the meantime Batman knows that Supergirl can handle herself, but given the recent events of the New Krypton war and knowing what Supergirl must be going through, he wants to be there for her. I like how Dick has taken on a support role for Supergirl.

Supergirl stops a tidal wave in its tracks by freezing it while Batman takes out Naiad. Threat neatly averted, an easy win for the new World's Finest.

This new relationship between the two is shown more in the conversation afterwards. Batman asks Supergirl if she is okay to which she playfully retorts "why wouldn't I be'. She then jokingly says the Batman cowl covers too much of Dick's face. This isn't flirting ... this is an overprotective brother being ribbed by his tough little sister. I thought it read nicely.

They aren't the only team out. Jesse Quick and Congorilla have to take down the air elemental Samurai.

So first off, to have Samurai say 'Kaze no yo ni hayaku' was great, bringing back memories of me watching the Super Friends on Saturday mornings. Heck, I can even say that with the right inflection. Nice touch.

But even better (and I wonder if it is intentional) is Bagley's use of the multiple images of Jesse in one panel to show off her speed. It is just the way Mort Meskin did it waayyyy back when Johnny Quick was in his own book in the 1940's. Is it an homage to Meskin and Johnny? I hope so as that would really be a nice little Easter egg for amateur comic historians like me. Even if not done purposefully, it reminded me of Meskin's work and that made me smile.

To show how the teams got there, we flash back to a meeting at the Hall of Justice earlier in the day.

There, Jade has to deal with her sudden return to Earth and some mild distrust around her. While she wants to help her family, others wonder if she is the root of the problem. Wildcat even wonders if she is a Durlan.

I liked how Jesse Quick, still mourning her father's death and dealing with his Zombie-like return in Blackest Night jumped to Jade's defense. If she can stop another daughter from feeling the pain of losing a father, she will.

One thing that did irk me is the apparent problem with Jesse Quick's costume throughout the book. It is a full shirt and full pants. But I think Bagley thought it was a half-shirt and tiny shorts. While the color is done showing full coverage, the lines of the half shirt and short were somewhat distracting.

The team realizes that at any time, teammates might be dominated by the corrupting influence of the Starheart. Even Power Girl got taken over last issue. I don't know if I 100% buy the 'I am a solar battery so I kind of am a sun elemental' explanation here. Seems like a contrived and convoluted way to set up the obligatory Supergirl vs. Power Girl fight last issue. I thought this was a misstep.

I did like that Bagley does a good job of varying the physiques and bodies of all the characters here. Donna is different from Karen who is different from Kara who is different than Jade. I like how they aren't all cookie-cutter supermodels.

Donna and Jade team-up to take on Klarion the Witch Boy. This is another good scene.

For one, I really like how Donna is being written here. She clearly is a veteran and a leader on the team. She is strong and confidant. I think she really deserves to be in the limelight.

Second, I like how despite everything that is happening, Jade feels a twinge when she remembers that Donna was together with Kyle just like she was. These feelings are natural; stuff like that shouldn't be swept under a rug or forgotten. Even if it is only mentioned this once (and in some ways I hope it is just this once), it shows an understanding of the histories of these characters.

Lastly, even Jade begins to question what her role is in this madness. Her emerald energy seems darker, more black with green highlights. Is there something wrong with her? Why hasn't she been effected like her father and brother? And why can't she mentally detect them the way she used too? It adds a layer of mystery on top of the resurrection mystery already surrounding her.

Jade suddenly comes up with the idea of using her father's lantern as potentially a way to find her family. She heads to her father's house and takes it.

It is a somewhat wonky explanation as to why it should work, but these are comics. While I don't know if I understand it, I bought it.

We are then treated to a great two page spread of Jade linking to the Lantern. I thought this was the visual highpoint of the issue.

For one, you get the sense that Jade might not be entirely in control here. Her eyes glowing, hair blown back, energy spilling off her ... she looks like she is somewhat possessed. Second, I am a big fan of the Alan Scott mantra so to see her say it was pretty cool. But even there, the word bubble aflame, you wonder if more is going on here than meets the eye.

And then that mysterious Black Lantern symbol in the background. Hmmmm ...

For whatever reason, linking to the lantern works. She senses her father and brother on the dark side of the moon.

With Supergirl and Power Girl possible victims to the Starheart's madness, Starman is sent to reconnoiter.

On the moon, he encounters an entire city made of Emerald energy buzzing with constructs of Alan Scott in his various costumes as sentries. Quickly discovered, Starman is attacked first by the constructs and then by Scott himself. Clearly mad, Green Lantern rips Starman's gem from his chest.

It seems a little gratuitous and unnecessary. I keep wondering when the bright part of Brightest Day is going to be. Hopefully this isn't the end of Starman.

So, overall some ups and downs here but I thought more ups. As always, the inclusions of the small things - be it Supergirl/Dick, or Jesse's devotion to her dad, or Jade's feelings for Kyle - mean as much to me as the big things. In this issue, maybe even more than the big things.

And slowly but surely I have come to really appreciate Mark Bagley's art. Solid layouts, strong characterization, small details ... nothing but good things to say about it here. I really like the way he draws Jade.

Overall grade: B/B+


Ravenwynd said...

I think the small things are what makes this right now. I look forward to those touches more than the overall story. That characterization is what will keep me going on this. The ties and feelings that the "legacies" have is for me the root of it.

Anonymous said...

I think Bagley's art has gotten much better. The close up's of the heroes faces are fantastic. He also seems to get body composition but i wish the costume's were better. Supergirl's skirt is not that low on her hips.

Anonymous said...

As long as she is the "Legacy Muscle" on the team AND she stays a while in this title...then I'm happy.

John Feer

Anj said...

I think the small things are what makes this right now. I look forward to those touches more than the overall story. That characterization is what will keep me going on this. The ties and feelings that the "legacies" have is for me the root of it.

I am with you. This 'legacy' JLA is what is interesting me right now.

TalOs said...

Just loved seeing Richard/Batman trying to be the elderly brother type for Supergirl and officially welcoming her into the League. Heh. :-D

Kel said...

Very cool. I like the relationship between Kara and Dick. While it does seem brother-sister like, I don't know any sister who would say the mask covers too much of your face. That seems more flirty to me. A real sister would say the cowl is an improvement.