Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Review: Justice League Of America #58

Justice League of America #58 came out last Wednesday, the penultimate chapter of the Eclipso Rising storyline. The second to last chapter of story arcs like this are crucial for me. I have to feel at the end of these issues that the arc is teed up to be completed. If there is too many plot threads hanging, I worry that the conclusion will be rushed, that plot points will be glossed over or unanswered.

James Robinson does a good job here lining everything up for next month's conclusion. He even adds a number of small flourishes that show just how extensive his knowledge of the DCU is. I enjoy hearing some of the crazier or more esoteric DC stories referenced in stories like this. And they are never crucial to the story; the newer reader can just move on without wondering what is going on.

But more importantly, Robinson continues to show just how this League is growing together. There has been something of a formula in these stories, the team regrouping somewhere in the middle of the arc and Dick coming up with a great plan. But here, Dick uses his knowledge of prior adventures as well as characters other skills to put together a solid plan. And Robinson plays out the plan slowly, flashing back to the strategy discussion and then moving to the actualization of that part of the plan. It works better than hearing the whole plan and then seeing it play out.

Miguel Sepulveda (who did the recent Superman/Batman Annual) and Daniel Sampere split the art here, presumably to give Brett Booth some lead time for his new Titans book. It is a very different look than Booth's but it is solid, with a lot of wide action shots of the brawling on the moon.

We only have 2 more issues of this JLA moving forward ... heck we only have 2 more months of 'this' DCU ... but I have enjoyed this group a lot.And how wonderful has it been to have Supergirl in the League!

Now last issue ended with Eclipso splitting the moon like an avocado, the culmination of his plan to destroy Earth and therefore kill God.

As I have said before, Robinson has really ratcheted up the threat levels that the League has fought. From the Starheart to the CSA and the Omega Man to Eclipso, it has been world threatening to universe threatening to deity-threatening villains that need to be squashed.

In one of those small moments, Robinson shows us that the Eclipso's ascendancy to ultimate Shadow power has effected the universe, the people of Talok VIII (and long lost LEGION member Lydea Mallor) are suddenly overwhelmed with bliss, succumbing to the evil shadow wave. I know this was a page taken away from League action but it showed just how encompassing Eclipso's plans are. This truly is a universal threat. I thought this added something to the story.

Meanwhile, on Earth, the splitting of the moon is wreaking havoc on the planet. We see heroes scrambling to save people from all manners of disasters while Eclipso sits smugly on the moon. That is, until the League comes over the hill for one last assault.

While we see most of the Leaguers struggling against Eclipso's army, we flash back to Batman discussing his plan.

He realizes that The Shade and his mastery of Shadows is how Eclipso is controlling so many people. And the Shade, who has turned over a new leaf, must be being dominated by Eclipso in a more subtle fashion. The Shade seems like he is self-aware but Batman realizes that is a sham. The Shade is under Eclipso's control ... and if that control is broken, Eclipso's army will stop fighting.

So how to stop the Shade? The first step is to get the Atom up to the moon.

And then shrink the Atom and Starman down, put them into a blue energy bullet, and have Congorilla shoot the Shade in the head. Again, I like how Dick uses Bill's skills as a hunter to his advantage.

Dick reminds the Atom how he 'kick started' Batman's brain waaayyy back in The Brave and the Bold #115, an issue from the 70s where The Atom keeps Batman from brain death with direct physical intervention. Maybe the same can be done to the Shade's brain.

While I think it is silly and awesome that Robinson brings up this pre-Crisis story as though it happened a short time ago and is in continuity, I am pretty sick of the Atom (or others using his powers) walking on people's brains.

Didn't we see enough of that in Cry for Justice and Identity Crisis? And kicking the brain into right thinking?

Once in the brain, Starman and the Atom begin walking, trying to find the focus of Eclipso's control. Again, Robinson drops a nice Silver Age reference, the Atom meeting Edgar Allen Poe way way way back in 1964's The Atom #12 ( 'The Gold Hunters of '49'). How does Starman know about that story?

I don't know what the heroes are breathing in there ... but if I can buy that they were shrunk, put in an energy bullet, and shot into a super-villain's brain, I guess I have to buy that they can breathe something when shrunk and walking inside someone's skull.

And I wanted to include the panel below where Batman talks about how while the Atom and Starman are dealing with The Shade, the rest of the League will try to free Zauriel.

I include it to show that the panel and some dialogue is repeated ... this time with the added element that Zauriel is not the goal, but a decoy. Again, by slowly revealing the plan, Robinson let's the reader be as surprised as Eclipso is when the League changes tactics. Up until that point, I thought Zauriel was the goal. But I was wrong. Nice use of repeat panels and dialogue ... I usually find it lazy but this time it worked.

And it turns out that the real plan is to get Donna one on one with Eclipso. Remember last month, Saint Walker said he detected that someone had the power to defeat the villain. It turns out it is Donna. Walker knows that Donna can unleash her anger and pain onto Eclipso, let her 'bright energy' shine.

Now I have been a Donna fan since forever. I thought she was such a steady influence in the Wolfman/Perez Titans, probably where I really latched on to her. I really think that putting her through the mill has become almost cliche with every possible tragedy foisted upon her. And yet, through that, she has remained a fierce hero. Even when bristling with anger, she has always channeled it into heroics. Robinson had her defeat Prometheus in Cry for Justice. I am glad she had a chance to be the big hero here.

While I guessed just about every female character last month when Saint Walker talked about this hope, I did think it would be Donna. Here were my thoughts last month:

My best guess is Donna. Somehow it will come out that her ability to persevere and carry on, to continue to look to the light despite the horror in her history, is able to dispel Eclipso. Okay, it's a stretch ... but I am a Donna fan.

Well, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Now another comic tradition I like is having germs or body-invading organisms take on human or animal characteristics. Here Eclipso's control of Shade takes the form of large spiders. So the Atom and Starman have to eradicate these things to free the Shade. It is sort of reminiscent of the climactic battle in The Incredible Shrinking Man.

My favorite version of this is when the Kryptonite germs in Superman's body in 'Critical Condition' took the form of K-Supermen. Look at how beautiful that Matrix costume is!

And for a second, it looks like Donna might win. She just takes it to Eclipso, focusing all the negativity in her life into her fists.

I have to say, I thought this was great. I was really hoping that Donna would stop being the cursing, always angry hero we saw. I wanted her to have the quiet dignity I have seen in her before. And it looked like this might have been some catharsis. Donna-tharsis??

Until this ...

Donna dies ... again!?

Well, she is pictured on the cover of Justice League of America #60 so maybe not? Maybe somehow she survives this? And, of course, there is no mention of her in the reboot! Knowing we might not see her in the near future, I hope she survives this and leaves the current DCU on top, as a hero. But if she dies here, at least Robinson has treated her as the warrior she is.

So the table is set for next month's finale. The Shade will get freed. Eclipso's army will desert him. And then, I think, Jade has to be the one to ultimately defeat him. She has been trumpeted throughout this run as stronger than ever, massively powerful. Freed from Eclipso's control and seeing Donna, I bet trounces him. Now, as for the moon, I bet the Starheart somehow undoes the damage to recreate the mystic city.

As much as I am looking forward to seeing how all this wraps up, I actually am looking forward to JLA #60 more, Robinson's epilogue/love letter/finale to this team. I constantly remind myself that I only came to this book because Supergirl was on the team. I am glad I came because this has been a year plus here, bringing this quasi-'Big Seven' team together.

Overall grade: B


Aaron said...

I remember reading an interview in Wizard where Robinson talked about how much he loves that issue of B&B. must have made quite an impression on him.

Anonymous said...

I bought this book like you, out of high hopes for the inclusion of Supergirl in the line up, all of those hopes are entirely dashed at this point. Lets see now, most of the run were given over to "Dark Supergirl" (who wasn't even all that dark, more like "Snarky and Vexed Supergirl in black leather") and by the time that got resolved it was time to shoot SG back over to Action Comics so she could prop up her cousin's tottering throne.
In sum, a disheartening reading experience.
Oh and Donna dead again? Could DC be that callous (Answer: YES!) however I suspect this Donna is some sort of simulacrum and not the real girl. Likely I am wrong, no one ever went broke underestimating the unoriginality of DC comics.

John Feer

Anonymous said...

Just wondering who drew that beautiful cover art of Supergirl in TAOS #580. Can't see the artists on the cover there. Plus, I'm thinking Donna's not "herself" lately. (She DID get to beat up The Boogey Man a while back so maybe that's him as her or heck, maybe even a decoy.) -ealperin