Or – “It Took Seven Months To Give Us The First Issue?”


I’ll say this for the new League, they’re a diverse lot. While still overwhelmingly Caucasian (even if you discount the pink skin of the non-human John Smith and Clark Kent), they’ve given two legacy heroes a chance to step up, righted one of the greatest wrongs of the Detroit-era League by re-inducting Vixen (and putting her back in her old costume), revitalized an old favorite in Red Tornado, finally given Black Lightning a spot at the big table, and have a female chairman, something that I think has previously only happened during the “JL America/Task Force/Extreme Justice” era. It’s an interesting start, with an interesting mix of heroes from all eras of the League, and I haven’t been this excited about a lineup since the days of the Maxwell Lord Justice League back in ’87. So, where do Earth’s Mightiest Heroes stand after their first story arc?

JLA1.jpgIn the last seven (counting #0) issues of Justice League of America, DC’s Big Three (Swamp Thing, Blok, and The Odd Man… Well, who the heck do you THINK I’m talking about?) decided that it was again time to restore a League of Justice. At the same time, a bizarre plan to steal the body of The Red Tornado was set into motion, culminating in a conflict with Amazo and Solomon Grundy (who had some confusing plan regarding immortality that wasn’t quite clear to me) and a group of former Leaguers got involved, as well as former Outsiders Arsenal and Black Lighting and the JSA’s Hawkgirl. They thwarted the plan, but in the process Red Tornado gained, then lost a human body (a traumatic process), and the Big Three were chagrined to find that they weren’t the center of the universe after all. After these events, we find one Jefferson Pierce, the man known as Black Lightning, arriving at the Batcave, greatly enjoying the moment. After a bit of smalltalk, we hear that Zatanna turned down Hal Jordan’s offer of membership…


“…would you like to join the Justice League of America?” B.L. is having too much fun with this. Batman asks if they don’t find it a little simplistic to just invite the people who showed up for the Grundy fight last issue, and Black Lightning rightly points out the fact that they STARTED the whole group that way, banding together the seven heroes who fought the Appelaxians… Batman deflects it with the meaningless statement, “that was a different time.” Besides, points out Lightning, just because we offer those people a membership doesn’t mean they’re going to all say yes, right?


I really like the return to the old-school certificates of membership, as seen in the original run of the book, and I very much enjoy seeing Roy “Arsenal/Speedy” Harper on board. To have another Teen Titan (after Wally West) jump up to the first team is nice, especially given the old theory that the Titans were training the next wave of superhumans. Roy, especially, has worked hard to overcome the mistakes of his youth, and I completely enjoyed this moment. And, of course, they ruined it for me moments later, with a little more ham-handed Kingdom Come foreshadowing, as Hal and Dinah give him a crimson version of Oliver’s old Neal Adams costume, and he renames himself Red Arrow. “Family business… family name.” Ooookay. That moment rings false to me, especially after all the time he spent creating his own identity, and rebuilding his credibility after his heroin addiction. Just like Nightwing shouldn’t have called himself Robin-Man, this Red Arrow name grates on my nerves. On the other side of the country, Vixen has a run-in with a fan who thinks she’s awesome (and puts in a vote for Black Canary as chairman), and Black Lightning has a disturbing meeting with an old Outsiders teammate, Prince Brion of Markovia, a.k.a. Geo-Force.


Terra, for those of you who don’t remember, was Geo-Force’s younger sister, a sociopathic killer who nearly took the Teen Titans down working as a spy for Deathstroke. What this development means is unclear, but I hope Black Lightning doesn’t agree to keep it secret. They need to get him to Doctor Midnite STAT, and get this checked out. When the man with Earth controlling powers has odd symptoms, you really want to do what ever you can to avoid the giant earthquake, ‘kay? Still, it’s nice to see the nod to continuity with Geo-Force & Lightning, long-term friends who almost never see each other anymore. But whatever problems are affecting Geo pale next to poor Red Tornado. Having tasted humanity, and had it ripped away (along with a limb or two), he’s managed to clear his systems of all Amazo parts and programming, but it’s clear that Reddy is still not all right…


It seems like his trauma has reverted him to acting more mechanical again, which worries me. Meltzer’s captions here are at their very most awkward, with the Oprah-style horrific observation, “Just because you can fly, doesn’t mean you’re not in a cage.” Gyah. I’m starting to get whiplash from the changes in scenery, too. It’s nice to have a lot happening in the issue after the glacial pace of the first arc (I think Vixen spent like, sixty-four years flying with a flock of geese) but this is like hearing a long and involved joke from a toddler, leaping from topic to topic and not quite making storyline logical sense with some of the jumps. Black Lightning arrives at the new JLA Headquarters (Batman financed it, Wonder Woman and John Stewart designed it), and Superman has a nice line here… “You think we were just sitting around all those months?” Umm… Actually, I thought Diana was joining the Department of Metahuman Affairs, Bruce was trekking around the globe to find his lost smile, and you were a powerless reporter all those months, Clarkie-boy. But, still, it’s a good line. As for the new building, you might recognize it, if you’re of ‘a certain age…’


I love and hate this, at the same time. I love it because A: it’s nice to see the heroes acknowledge their history, B: it’s a pretty nice looking building, and C: it’s the frickin’ Hall of Justice, man! “In the great hall, of the Justice League…” Dada DAAAAAA da DAAAA dum! Seriously, I’m getting goosebumps just writing about it. But I hate it because A: This building is in Washington, DC, and The All-Star Squadron’s headquarters was in Flushing Meadows, New York, B: This building is in Washington, DC, and the JSA’s two headquarters were in Civic City and Gotham City, respectively, and C: It’s the frickin’ Hall of Justice. Superfriends is a lasting influence, and I dig continuity, but this seems like nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. It was 35 years ago, folks… Don’t we have anything NEWER? Oh, wait… we do? Okay!


Somebody owes Dwayne McDuffie a dollar. This flat-out annoyed me… We’re cribbing TWO headquarters from the cartoons? Why? It seems like a conscious decision to make the JLA comic seem more like the Justice League cartoon, for some sort of “corporate synergy.” While I usually applaud the effort to make comics accessible to non-comics-fans, this bugged me. Also on my list of annoyances: the battle sequencer (we won’t call it a Danger Room) is called “The Kitchen.” Why? “If you can’t stand the heat…” Oy guteno, but that is weak! It seems like the new League wants to make sure that all the clichés of superhero lairs are included (the trophy room, the arsenal, the not-a-Danger Room), in case anybody forgets what the orbital platform is actually for. And the teleportation device is called “Slideways.” My brain hurts. Interestingly, though, when the big three get back together, and find their (honestly rather condescending) plan to build a new League has been co-opted, it’s SUPERMAN who questions, and Batman who trusts, a nice inversion of the old formula.


Huh. Batman making an argument for faith? That’s kind of refreshing. Batman makes the point (rightfully) that the League is bigger than the three of them, no matter how big they may be, or think they are. It’s not about “The Big Three,” its about the synthesis, and this new group has a TON of potential (me talking, not Batman) if they can get past a few small hurdles. A moment I very much liked came when Red Arrow walked through the room (completely ignoring EVERYTHING) to talk to Hawkgirl. “No hat?” she asks of his new suit. “I thought the hat was kind of dorkish,” Arrow replies. “Actually, the shoelaces-up-the-chest-thing is kinda dorkish,” is Kendra’s reply. Ooh, burrrn. Hal needles Roy about hitting on Hawkman’s ex (“Ollie will kill you…”) and the team gets together for a group photo (seen up top) which is a bit of nostalgia I can live with, especially since the Detroit League gets a little overdue respect in the image, appearing with other lineups of former teams. Steel and Vibe REPRESENT!

A little later, Hal meets up with old friend Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) who asks anxiously, “You gave him the costume?” I still hate the name, but I love that momentand the obvious nervousness from the proud papa. Hal says he did, and he didn’t mention that it came from Ollie. Oliver thanks him, pointing out that nobody does things just because ‘Dad’ wants them to, and Hal asks why Oliver didn’t join. “We all love the League… there are some things I’ll always love more.” Okay, that I REALLY like. Oliver didn’t come along on the first mission (and apparently turned down a membership off-panel) because he feels like he failed Roy, and he’s finally going to be a good parent… by letting his son grow up, and take the chance that progeny will outshine parent. Nice. But it’s obvious (especially to old friend Hal) that it is a hard decision, and he does what any good friend would…


…mocks and tortures him to make him feel better. It’s tough to write sentiment well, and Meltzer can lapse into a mawkish sickly-sweetness when provoked, but this moment rings totally true for me. In fact, on the whole, the new League works for me, with a blend of personalities and powers that feels fresh, and a lineup that is more politically correct without feeling like characters were shoehorned in to make a quota. The issue ends with a cliffhanger and a setup for the JLA/JSA crossover, with captured villain Trident’s DNA being run through the Bat-computer, only to find that the man doesn’t exist… except in the computer banks of the Fortress of Solitude, because he won’t be born for over 900 years. He’s Val Armorr, Karate Kid of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and he’s supposed to be dead, and his timeline wiped clean by the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Dun dun DAAAAAH!

Now, the bad news: The big fold-out spread makes the page order so gangle-futzed that it took FOUR re-readings for me to figure out the way the issue should be read. There were three good “Hell, YEAH!” moments, but each was balanced by an equal “Oh, dear lord…” disappointment. The art was slick and pleasant, but Benes isn’t the most expressive artist with respect to faces, so some of the moments came off a little flat. Meltzer’s tendency to over-romanticize things (and the annoyance factor that came with the whole “on the site of the old headquarters” bit, regardless of the fact that NEITHER headquarters was in Washington, DC, or, indeed IN THE SAME CITY as the other) brings me down a bit. Another double-cover gag (issue one was also a two-part cover, and every issue of this run has had an ADDITIONAL variant cover) irks me, and my overall feeling was “tried really hard, didn’t get there, but didn’t suck either.” That seems like a custom-made case for 2.5 stars, if you ask me. All in all, this reads like a first issue, and I’ve read enough of those to know first issue of a Justice League run generally bears little to no resemblance to what comes next. As such, I can’t be too negative about it. I have mostly good things about this book and this incarnation of the League, and look forward to seeing it firing on ALL cylinders.



About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

1 Comment

  1. I like the change of name for Roy, it seems right. In my eyes when Roy and Dick decided to grasp a hold of “their own identities” they seemed to be ignoring the fact that regardless of what they call themselves they will always be the original Speedy and Robin and the legacy of their mentors will follow them to their graves. I think the best way for them to make a name for themselves is to honor their mentors, and by taking the name “Red Arrow” I think Roy’s training to become a full fledged super hero has come full circle at last. That last panel you showed us with Hal and Ollie talking about Roy convinced me that the Red Arrow will make his own spot in the history books while honoring his mentor at the same time.

    Although, I do dislike his costume. That’s far too much red for his own good. Put some black in there dammit!

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