Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Back Issue Box: Justice League Unlimited #7

With regular super-books either cancelled or on hiatus as we await the coming of Bendis, I have been dipping into the back issues for comics to cover. As usual, I try to tap into some zeitgeist when I review older stories. And there has been a confluence of events that made me revisit Justice League Unlimited #7.

For one, it was Jack Kirby's 100th year birthday this year, resulting in a ton of Kirby stuff hitting the market. Whether it was the Allred's Bug mini, the Kamandi Challenge, or the ongoing and critically acclaimed Mr. Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, there is more Kirby specific books on the rack now than ever.

Then the news that a New Gods movie was going to go into production with Ava DuVernay behind the director's chair broke.

And then, Supermates Chris and Cindy Franklin started up the JLU cast looking at the Justice League animated show. Find it here:

With all that happening, it seemed like this issue with Supergirl embroiled in Fourth World war while learning a lesson about family seemed due for a thorough review. There is a lot of action and a lot of emotional heft to this story told in an all ages book. So sit back and enjoy.

We open with a quiet moment between Clark and Kara on the Watchtower.

Kara is having a hard time adjusting to life on the farm. She can't do chores and be a super-hero ever on the go. She can't always do the things that Ma and Pa Kent want her to do.

You can tell that Supergirl is struggling with this. She wonders if the Kents have the right to ask her these things; they aren't her parents. But that slight look away when she says it makes me wonder if she truly believes it. I get the sense she doesn't understand why they would care.

Depending on your outlook, Superman is either a voice of wisdom or a paternalistic jerk. But he has lived through adolescence and understands having loving parents ... regardless of biology ... is better than no parents.

The Supergirl in JLU did have a bit of a brash personality and definitely was fierce in her quest for justice. So here getting flustered about helping on the farm actually jibes with the character.

We then leave the bucolic Kent farm and are suddenly at the Source Wall where a huge battle is happening.

"Orphans" was written by Adam Beechen with art by Ethen Beavers. It is in this wartime setting that we explore that idea of being an orphan, of wanting to be loved, of thinking you deserve to be loved, and making it happen.

And I have to say that this issue is like a Who's Who. The entire League is present, trying to shut down a cannon Darkseid has made which draws energy from X-Element and which can breach the Source Wall. If you want to point out a lot of characters to a newbie, grab this.

And Beavers brings a very Bruce Timm feel to the proceedings. It truly is lovely, vibrant, and bold.

This is no easy fight. Parademons and Darkseid's elite are swarming everywhere. Heroes are exhausted or injured.

And in the midst of it is Orion and he has broken ranks. His anger has overwhelmed his senses. He only wants to engage with Darkseid as opposed to destroy the cannon and defend the wall. Looks like Supergirl has a side mission ... help control the son of Darkseid.

And Darkseid seems to be goading Orion into an attack. Darkseid sits at the cannon and declares that only his will is valid. Taunted, Orion breaks free of Superman's grasp and demands a final battle. It is only Supergirl who can stop Orion from this fool's errand.

Finally Superman is able to get through to Orion. They need to defend the wall. A frontal assault is folly.

But the second panel is the most important. This is more than an intergalactic war to Orion. It is personal. It is family.

If he can't take out is anger on his father, he'll take it out on the forces of Apokolips. He has always been a hothead but even Supergirl is surprised by his blood lust.

And then a bit of realization on Supergirl's face. Orion knows that Darkseid is his father and the iltimate evil in the world. There is no chance for any meaningful relationship. At least Supergirl has that chance.

It is a little off. The Kents are more akin to Izaya the Highfather, Orion's adopted parents. That could have been an interesting relationship to compare and contrast to. But I think it is this anger and distance that Supergirl can better relate to know. Will she only become more and more mired in it if she refuses the Kent's guidance and affection, becoming a rampaging soldier like Orion?

The cannon goes live and almost breaks through the wall if not for a near suicide block by Superman, Wonder Woman, Zauriel, and Captain Atom. If the cannon fires again, it most likely will succeed.

Suddenly the only option seems to be the foolish one. Orion gets his wish and speeds off to take on Darkseid.

It isn't much of a fight. Without batting an eye, Darkseid unleashes his Omega Beams on his own son.

This idea of hurting your own child is repulsive to Supergirl, so much that she decides to get her own fists a little dirty.

She smashes Darkseid back into his own cannon, destroying it and ending the threat in one fell swoop. Maybe a direct assault wasn't such a bad idea??

This is great art by Beavers ... a very palpable hit!

With the cannon gone, Darkseid and his army retreat.

I do like when righteous fury builds in Supergirl. She is trying to cope with the loss of her parents and the love of a new set. She probably wishes she had more time with Zor-El and Alura. The idea of Darkseid not wanting to spend time is insanity.

And can I say that I love when I see Supergirl wallop Darkseid?

You might recall she had the best shots in against him in The Great Darkness Saga!

She 'one punched' Darkseid.
She is called a warrior by Big Barda.

This is a great showcase for the impulsive, eager for action Kara of the show.

But she is once again reminded that Orion is in pain. He doesn't have the love of his father. He is an orphan in a sense.

Again, this seems to ignore Izaya. But I get it.

In the end, we see Supergirl again at the farm, this time doing some chores. Maybe putting down a fence.

She apologizes. After all, the Kent's don't have to be part of her life. But there is Pa giving his old school, sepia-toned wisdom. It's dinner time. Time to get together and break bread as family.

Maybe having someone who cares for you, who'll be there for you and help you, is a good thing.

It's a life lesson and a good one.

I liked this issue, pretty meaty for Johnny DC from an emotional aspect. It has Supergirl bash Darkseid. And it has a ton of characters in the fight scenes. All in all, well worth it.

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

Real, real good issue.

I don't know whether I like Kara living with the Kents, though. Treating them as close family, yes. I liked when Post-Crisis Kara did that. But I don't want her to be their -kind of- adopted child like her cousin is.

I guess the counter-argument is Superman dumping her on his parents is better than dumping her in an orphanage.

We need more panels of Supergirl taking on Darkseid in order to shut up the "Supergirl couldn't have won against Superman!" crowd.

Regardless... This is off-topic and a month old, but Lauren Faust tweeted a glimpse of her DCSHG cartoon. I'm putting the link in case you didn't see:

Anonymous said...

The STAS Book hinted that Kara wasn't particularly comfortable with farm life with the Kents, the JLU animated series intimated the same in passing on at least two occasions, so this book is simply harvesting the seedlings planted earlier.
But in truth IF Supergirl is Superman's younger cousin and IF she an orphan as is he, then the options with respect to her "homelife" are kind of limited. She can live with Clark but that creates continunity challenges and 'looks weird" to the audience, she can live with one or both of the Kent if they are alive and in continuity, she can fend for herself (which is a boring option IMHO) or bunk with an appropriate member of the supporting cast.
And thats pretty much it, kudos to everyone for extracting drama from one of the above options....
BTW can I just kvell and note how much I miss this version of Supergirl, brave and little bratty, impulsive but with a chunk of good experience whatsoever and yet unafraid....she was the Gold Standard til Benoist sticked her first landing.



Anj said...

I agree John.

When you see her fly off to fight the invulnerable Amazo robot in the second season while the other heroes keep falling back ... well it tells you all you need to know.

She is going to be brash and pro-active. And she is learning.

I loved it.