Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Review: Justice League Of America #56

Justice League of America #56, written by James Robinson with art by Brett Booth, came out last week. A middle chapter in the current Rise of Eclipso arc, the issue is something of a big slugfest with very little movement in the overall plot. The art is beautiful, there are a couple of nice character moments, and the plot revelations are all interesting. But in many ways this felt like a sort of pause in the story.

Last issue, Eclipso and his army came to the moon and kicked the snot out of the citizens of the Emerald City and the JLA. This issue Eclipso and his army, which now includes a possessed Jade, continue to kick the snot out of the characters. And that is sort of the bottom line.

The one thing that I have said about the last year of this comic it is that Robinson really has done a great job of putting together huge threats for the team to battle. There isn't Doctor Destiny and the Materioptikon vying to control a city. We have had the CSA, the Omega Man, the Star Heart, and now Eclipso. And Robinson does a very good job of justifying these threats as real threats. So maybe an issue like this is done to prove that once again this JLA is up to the challenge.

With Batman and Starman away in space with Supergirl dealing with Doomsday, Donna Troy is stuck holding her own. And now she is facing off against Jade.

Jade has certainly showed a dark side to her persona, especially since she absorbed some of the Star Heart's energies. So her being possessed so quickly makes internal sense to me. She also has been shown to be extremely powerful since her resurrection. So this can't be good for Donna.

And Donna realizes that the Emerald City is now ... crap city. Really ... Donna called it crap city?

Now I am a big Donna fan and I remember when she was the voice of reason in the Titans. And I know that she has gone through a lot since then ... retcons, loss and gain of powers, death of husband and children, death and rebirth herself. I know that her history has made her angry and fierce. Robinson has definitely shown this aspect of her throughout his stay here. And I know that he has shown that she is self-aware of her anger, and how she is sick of being angry.

But when she has been reduced to anger and punches and cursing and lines like 'crap city' we are veering just a little bit too close to Lobo territory. I hope that once this 'dark' adventure is over, Donna can come to terms with some of the things inside herself.

As much as I am kind of annoyed at Donna's characterization, I am thrilled with the new World's Finest of Batman and Supergirl. Robinson really has done a great job of showing Dick and Kara's relationship, how it has grown, and how much they care for each other ... the same sort of loyalty and friendship seen between Bruce and Clark.

Batman learns that St. Walker cannot detect where Supergirl went and he also learns about the Eclipso attack. With  some reluctance, Batman knows he is needed more on the moon than searching aimlessly in space. And he hopes Supergirl can hold her own ... wherever she is. It is a nice moment.

In one of the revelations in the issue, Donna is stopped from defeating Jade by the Shade, a Shade who still seems to have his faculties about him. Unlike the silent drones fighting for Eclipso, the Shade still has his debonair voice. But despite this free will, he tells Donna that he is serving Eclipso.

Why do I get the feeling that he was really saying 'I serve my lord .... for now.' There definitely is going to be some sort of turnaround by the Shade in this arc.

Before Batman, Starman, and St. Walker can get to the moon, Congorilla shows up with some JLA reserves: Cyborg, Dr. Light, Animal Man, and others.

Eclipso mocks the team as the 'oh so mighty JLA'. We saw in the earlier arcs here that Robinson seemed to be going out of the way to say that the current roster is *the JLA* going as far as having Superman say it and a throng of heroes cheer the team when they defeated the Omega Man. Is this another jab at this team? A way that when it is over they can say 'yes we are the JLA'? Or is it more a comment on these reserves?

Now you would think that Dr. Light would be an excellent hero to have fight the shadow army. But unfortunately these heroes not only get beaten ... but possessed! It seemed too quick.

Even Zauriel is brought up to the moon to fight Eclipso. It would make sense. Eclipso is a formed spirit of wrath. Zauriel is formerly of the heavenly host.

Unfortunately, I think that Zauriel has become a 'yard stick' character, his only purpose to show how tough a how is when they defeat him. I suppose I am supposed to say 'wow, Eclipso is so tough he beat Zauriel'. But I can't do that for him anymore than I can for the Spectre. I can't remember the last fight either of them one.

Finally Batman, Starman, and St. Walker arrive and join the fray. Unfortunately, the team is woefully outnumbered. Eclipso's army has only grown on the moon.

Another nice piece of characterization here is Robinson's use of St. Walker. Even in this situation, he doesn't lose hope. And he is so disgusted by Eclipso that he jumps for the chance to fight him one on one. I don't recall that sort of pro-active nature in Walker before. It was refreshing.

What's more is that for some reason his ring is able to manifest constructs on the moon. Is that because of Jade? Or the vicinity of the Starheart? Or the fact that Alan Scott is somewhere in hiding on the moon.

I have never been a fan of St. Walker before this issue. This is the first time I actually cared about what he was doing.

Just when it looks like all hope is lost, the JLA surrounded, they are engulfed in darkness by Obsidian. It looks like he might be working for Eclipso with the 'as you command' but the comic book veteran in me says this is a last second rescue.

Since we know what will happen if Jade and Eclipso merge, I am glad he is going to take off with the crew. Unless merging with the possessed Jade is some way to save her ... hmmmm.

I was sort of disappointed that we did not see any of Jesse Quick this issue. Her revelation last issue that she is slowing down was the most interesting hook from that book. She must be the hero of next issue. I just hope she doesn't get depowered or worse ... killed.

Anyways, this was a decent issue although it felt like a sort of 'treading water' issue. Overall I am enjoying this arc but I was hoping things would progress a bit more. Still, some new threads were added to this storyline.

Brett Booth continues to do an excellent job here, conveying the action in a very dynamic, high-octane way.

Overall grade: B

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