Or – “Claustrophobia And Revelation…”


Two things about this issue made me really think about the issues of Justice League to date. Brad Meltzer’s scripting has worked better for me in the quiet moments, the subtler character pieces, but if the writing can be said to have a failing, it’s in the huge plot reveals. My other thought (and I know this is a cruel and snarky thing to say) is spurred by this issue’s Gene Ha art: What if an artist of thiscaliber had been on the book from the beginning? Would the dramatic moments have worked better under a different pen? Could a different writer have made more of Ed Benes’ distinctive art? It’s not as though JLA has been a disaster, but I have felt twinges of disappointment here and there. This issue takes an up-close-and-personal look at two Leaguers who have been around for years, but finally hit the big time, only to find that maybe the big time hits harder.

Previously, on Justice League of America: After his forest ranger father’s death in a fire, Roy Harper was taken in by Brave Bow and a tribe of Native Americans. After being raised in their traditions, and become expert with a bow, Roy was adopted by Oliver JLA1.jpgQueen, becoming his ward and Green Arrow’s sidekick Speedy. Oliver’s laissez faire attitude led to Roy eventually falling in with the wrong crowd, and becoming addicted to heroin, but he rebounded, eventually joined Checkmate, and led both the Titans and Outsiders before being recruited into the League. Now going by Red Arrow, he’s only the second Teen Titan to graduate to full membership in the JLA. Mari Jiwe McCabe was likewise orphaned, but was old enough to emigrate to the United States and set up an identity as a fashion model. Upon her return to her native Africa, Mari stole the mystic Tantu totem from her evil uncle Maksai, and used it to channel the powers of the animal world as Vixen. Though her first tour in the League was as a member of the much-maligned Detroit League, she has proven herself to be a capable and formidable superhero in the Suicide Squad, as one of Oracle’s Birds of Prey, even working with the Justice League Task Force. That’s all the JLA history you need to know for this issue. The story starts in the pitch dark, as Red Arrow regains consciousness and finds himself trapped in a tiny airpocket in a pile of rubble. “My neck… My neck is… All that glass. There’s shards of glass in my NECK.” He starts to panic, calling for help…


He manages to pull his hand off the rebar impaling it, realizing that he’s trapped, that’s he’s swallowed his back molar. “Fine. Tooth’s fake, anyway. Had it knocked out four times.” He focuses on his training, taking deep breaths and concentrating, allowing him to hear the voice calling his name. But Vixen isn’t trying to find HIM, she’s trying to find help. “Roy… My arm… It looks… It’s snapped.” She’s obviously panicking, but Roy tries to keep his cool and hers. The building settles a bit, and Vixen starts to freak out again, worrying that the section they’re trapped in will flood, as the building they’re in has fallen in the river.


Red Arrow talks to her, calming her as best he can by distracting her. “Mari, is that your mom on your totem?” She catches what he’s doing, but the moment works, her panic has stopped. She tries to tell him something, but he interrupts her, thinking she’s giving up again. “Mari, I keep a picture of Lian taped… hhh… taped inside my quiver. It’s taking everything within me to keep from pulling it out and saying goodbye. Dig. Please.” The sound of digging can be heard, and Vixen asks for an arrow to help her dig. The building is suffused with lead, and they both keep worrying that even Superman’s x-ray vision won’t be able to find them. She breaks through to water, and seal the hole with a patented glue arrow, and they realize that swimming may be the only way out. Roy tells her to grab some fish powers and get ready to run.


“I haven’t had my animal powers since our fight with Amazo two months ago.” And suddenly, I realize that I wasn’t just nitpicking, I was noticing a clue when complained about Vix keeping up with Jay Garrick during the Lighning Saga! Red Arrow doesn’t understand, he’s seen her use her powers since then, but Mari explains that when she lost herself in the morphogenetic field, she finally escaped by locking onto “the human animal…”


She admits that she has, and that the only powers she has right now are Black Lightning’s electrical abilities, even less than useless in the wet surroundings. The trapped twosome silently decide that swimming is their only option, and Vixen tells him she’s going alone, demanding that he give her a ropeline. “If I drown… if the power don’t come back, I’m not taking you with me.” Vixen’s resolve causes him to agree with her plan.


She quickly swims, and he glues shut the exit again (I wonder what the fumes are like in that tiny space?) Roy waits, knowing that Vixen could be drowning even now, anticipating a tug on the rope… waiting… waiting. He gets so desperate that he tugs lightly on the rope, but feels no resistance. A harder tug causes his heart to nearly stop, as there is no resistance at all. Red Arrow thinks that he’s been abandoned, when suddenly, the water sprays in again, and Vixen enters, gasping for air.


Red Arrow knows in his heart that it’s over, that if she can’t swim to the surface, they’re officially out of options. “Right there, with the roof two inches away, I know how it ends. Not with a fistfight, not with a death ray. But with a prayer.” He takes the picture of his daughter from his belt, and prays that the person upstairs take care of her, and finally gives up.


He suddenly comes to the realization that they’ve been working the wrong direction, that they’ve been pinned to the BOTTOM of the wreckage, facing UP. He realizes that she had to have been swimming DOWN, and the answer is suddenly simple. “You didn’t fail, Mari! All you did… you were swimming the wrong way.” He grabs her hand, and they break free, swimming upwards against the pressure.


“…it’s all within us. As they reach the surface, the Leaguers find that the people they saved are all on shore, ready to pull them to safety. The voices of the bystanders end the issue as they began it, worrying about Vixen and Red Arrow, and rejoicing that the heroes were there to save them. It’s good to see Vixen finally accepted as a top tier player, as I’ve loved her ever since she wore a powder blue leotard and some sort of deer head helmet.

It’s a very interesting issue, and there are a couple of moments that work REALLY well for me. The reveal of Mari’s power situation was a shock for me, even having seen the signs in earlier issues that something wasn’t right… I wonder if they’re going to permanently have her use the new power set rather than her old abilities, whether they’ll “fix” her, or even keep BOTH powers in her arsenal. Either way, it’s easy to see how Vixen will fit in the new League, and we also see that Roy is more than ready for the big leagues. Gene’s Ha’s art is breathtaking, using a muted palette to simulate the dark and murky river setting while never skimping on detail, even showing us the individual teeth in the zipper of Vixen’s bodice. I found the story is a little bit gimmicky, going out of it’s way to hang a lantern on the reasons why Superman doesn’t just sweep in and save the day, and most of it’s effectiveness is due to the cramped layout and the facial expressions. I was a little bit bothered by Roy’s (previously referenced to have beliefs more in keeping with his Navajo upbringing) prayer, but overall the issue was very well-done. Points were deducted for the “not-quite-as-awful-as-usual-but-still-pretty-bad” Mike Turner cover, but that’s a minor whine, and Justice League of America #11 earns a nicely done 3.5 out of 5 stars.


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

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.

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  1. Brother129
    July 22, 2007 at 4:46 pm — Reply

    It was an interesting run with Meltzer at the helm. Some good stories that were a bit convoluted. I could read each issue in the run three times and still not get everything. I’m really looking forward to Dwayne McDuffie coming aboard.

  2. Brent F.
    July 22, 2007 at 7:21 pm — Reply

    I’m glad that they’ve finally managed to find a way to make Vixen much more than a female Animal Man.

  3. kim
    July 24, 2007 at 1:01 am — Reply

    I loved this issue and your reveiw is pretty much spot on. I wasn’t surprised about Vixens powers, it was pretty heavily hinted at in previous issues, but it was great to get confirmation of my suspicions.

    Like you mentioned the ‘prayer’ was a tad out of character considering the last couple of decades of character development that included Roy’s Navajo beleif system. Other then that the issue was terrific.

  4. September 22, 2007 at 11:02 pm — Reply

    A nice character piece. I don’t like the way Meltzer writes dialogue, though — he does the Bendis thing of cutting sentences off all the time. And I think I caught a continuity nit you missed. Roy thinks that Vixen sounds “like Gar after we lost Terra”. What you mean we, kimosabe? Roy was only an occasional guest star in the New Titans days. (And I seriously doubt he meant the new Terra.)

    – Z

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