Or – “It’s Time For Some Payback…”

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Say what you will about the villains of the DC Universe, the Society really is an idea that they should have thought of earlier. After all, the classic JLA started seven strong (at least three of whom are as powerful as a dozen Shadow-Thieves) and the satellite-era team touched on a dozen members, yet most of the Injustice Leagues we’ve seen are either exact counterparts of the Leaguers or a six-to-eight person conglomeration of random guys. Now, faced with a JLA of extreme power, how do the villains of the Society respond?

With a bigger stick

Previously, on Justice League of America: Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman gathered together to try and pick a new League, but found that they were a step or ten JLA1.jpgbehind, as the new team formed of it’s own accord to stop the threat of Solomon Grundy, Dr. Impossible, and a script that was never entirely clear on the precise nature of the menace. Immediately after, they were thrust into a conflict (alongside their sister organization, the JSA) with members of the original Legion of Super-Heroes, who hadn’t shown up in years. After interludes with Red Arros and Vixen trapped in a collapsed building (in which we discovered that Vixen’s powers aren’t working correctly) and a day in the life of the Watchtower, (in which Red Arrow [ugh] and Hawkgirl gave in to their mutual attraction) events in the JLA Wedding Special indicated a conspiracy was afoot. Firestorm was taken out, and the other heroes ambushed, with Batman and Wonder Woman kidnapped by the villains (!) and Hawkgirl barely getting away. Now, it’s time for the standard-issue Batman channelling his All-Star goddamn counterpart… “They don’t know I’m awake yet… That’s not much of an advantage, but it’ll have to do.”

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“Blood… flooding… chest cavity… MUST! CLIMB! HIGHER!” Batman slips free, sliding past Shadow-Thief and Doctor Light (light and darkness in harmony? MADNESS!) grabbing his utility belt, and quickly finding Wonder Woman trussed up in a strange disco-bondage restraint package. He throws a Batarang, only to find it caught by the armored hand of Lex Luthor. Lexie and his associates (Cheetah, Grodd, Joker, and Doctor Light) confront him, with no use for his resourcefulness. “Recapture him. And fee free to use excessive force.” Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice (I’ve always wanted to type that…) Green Arrow volunteers to help out, since Red Arrow (ugh) is among the missing…

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Interesting… Green Arrow’s appearance here seems to indicate that this takes place BEFORE the wedding (as events of the wedding special would indicate, he’s somewhat indisposed) but I can’t be sure. If this IS after their wedding, then it’s probably also after the end of the Sinestro Corps War… I dunno. The team realizes that if Wonder Woman was taken, then the villains intended for Hawkgirl to get away, presumably to bait their trap. Batman and Red Arrow are also incommunicado, and the team has to assume that another of their big guns is out of action. Black Canary splits the team into groups, and sends one to the hospital to check on Firestorm, leading another to check the crime scene, and leaving Black Lightning in reserve to watch the monitors…

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Heh. I like the interaction between John Stewart and Jeff (Black Lightning) Pierce, and it’s good to see John take a leadership role. Hal usually does his own thing, backing up other team members when necessary, but John is much more proactive, even threatening to grow a goatee (one of many references to the JLU animated series this issue) before their commlinks go dark. Suddenly, Red Tornado is encased in ice, and Killer Frost, Fatality, and Shadow-Thief attack! Apparently, Fatality now bears a Sinestro Corps ring, and takes out Hawkgirl out quickly (though, in her defense, she was already injured.) John locks down Fatality, then confronts Shadow-Theif before doubling over in pain…

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Ahh, dammit. This sequence, by the way, is the point where the art started to bother me, as there’s not a background in sight the whole fight, and Killer Frost just seems to disappear halfway through it. Meanwhile, at the scene of the crime, Black Canary, Vixen and Superman start scanning the site. Canary suggests that Vixen use her animal senses, and she prevaricates (again! Would you just TRUST your friends for gawd’s sake, Mari?) while Canary starts searching. Superman draws her aside, and shows that Batman’s not the only one who can do the detective schtick.

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“Between us all,” says Clark, “if there IS a way to cure you, we’ll find it.” Black Canary comes back, asking why they haven’t responded to her comm signals, and they realize it’s an ambush. Vixen and Superman both use Kryptonian super-senses to pinpoint extra heartbeats in the room, and Doctor Light drops his holographic illusion. Canary immediately leaps into action, knocking Light’s block off, and hammering his face in before anyway can respond. Once again, NO backgrounds in sight, just color effects and photoshop gradients… Grodd plucks her off his teammate, only to get punched innaface by Vixen, old-school Kryptonopolis style. (Knocks one of the big monkey’s teeth, too…)

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Weird… is the biofeedback from Vixen channeling his powers causing Superman to fall as well? It’s not exactly clear to me. You can also see that artist Joe Benitez has a tendency to elongate the forms of his characters, making them impossible tall and thin (at least those that aren’t thick enough to be carved out of granite like John Stewart and Superman.) With Black Canary the last woman standing, Cheetah presses her advantage.

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Parasite drops Vixen and calls for a teleport, but the beam takes not only his teammates, but Black Canary and Vixen as well. “Okay. Now I know what happened to Green Lantern’s team.” Superman slowly gets up, and Lightning tells him that GL’s team seems to have gone missing as well. With Flash still missing, that leaves big blue and BL pretty much the entire Justice League. “So,” asks Superman, “what do we do now?”

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Well, that can’t be good…

Here’s the good news: I like Dwayne McDuffie’s characterization of the League. His hyper-vigilant Batman, his empathetic and approachable Superman, ultra-competent Green Lantern, and badass Black Lightning. But at this point in the plot, I’m not quite following whether there’s anything more than just kidnapping going on, and the art doesn’t help. When Batman throws his batarang at Diana, Luthor catches it, implying that he somehow got between Bats and Diana. But when we cut to Lex in his improbably huge battlesuit, he’s standing in front of a hallway with the other villains, with Wonder Woman nowhere to be seen. Benitez’ art has all the quirks of Ed Benes, but it’s even more stylized, which is (to me, at least) not a good thing. The characters tend to be posed, standing rather than moving, and it makes for a static art experience. All in all, I can’t tell if it’s the story or the art that’s detracting from my experience, but this issue really didn’t work for me. I liked the Vixen/Superman moment, and the ending is intriguing, but I can’t in fairness give the overall issue more than 2 out of 5 stars.

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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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12 Comments

  1. October 2, 2007 at 11:32 am — Reply

    Wait – didn’t Batman and Wonder Woman get captured in the Wedding Special? Shouldn’t that mean Ollie is dead, or at least sitting around with a gaping hole in his neck? Something strange is afoot at the Circle K indeed…

    Don’t you hate it when continuity is all out of whack?

  2. October 2, 2007 at 11:42 am — Reply

    I really hate this artist…His backgrounds are fuzzy or non-existent, his Superman seems to have been made otu of whipped cream, and his Black Canary looks like an anorexic teen.

    And, besides, everyone hated the Weddign Special…so we can just pretened it didn’t happen, and this is all pre-Wedding.

  3. Mark I.
    October 2, 2007 at 12:46 pm — Reply

    As well written as this seems to be, once again, the most powerful supervillains in the world don’t simply UNMASK AND KILL BATMAN when they catch him. It’s interesting to see Lex Luthor catch up with his two biggest grudges. But isn’t Vixen just going to save the day at the end of all this with her Power Ex Machina?

    And curse Frank Miller, that inner monologue just didn’t seem right. Not enough hell and damnation after ASBAR gets through with you. Damn it.

  4. Scott
    October 2, 2007 at 12:57 pm — Reply

    “the Society really is an idea that they should have thought of earlier”

    But this is not the Society, which is part of why this Injustice League Unlimited is so annoying. They’ve done this before (last year)! The only differencce this time is the involvement of the Joker and the real Lex Luthor (the Society had his doppleganger Alexander). Why do these villains keep getting together to hear another “strength in numbers” speech?

  5. Scott
    October 2, 2007 at 1:00 pm — Reply

    Stephen wrote:
    “Wait – didn’t Batman and Wonder Woman get captured in the Wedding Special? Shouldn’t that mean Ollie is dead, or at least sitting around with a gaping hole in his neck? Something strange is afoot at the Circle K indeed… Don’t you hate it when continuity is all out of whack?”

    The only way this can work is if Dwayne’s story arc takes place between the JLA WS and the GA/BC WS, since Bats and Wondy are at the wedding itself. This whole story has to take place between the Bachelor Party and the Wedding. So GA and BC are not married yet in this issue. If any character suggests that they ARE married, then continuity is totally blown for this story.

  6. Ben
    October 2, 2007 at 1:25 pm — Reply

    In general, I dislike DC comics…but JLA I really enjoy. For as much as I dislike the absense of background art, I think the characters look absolutely fantastic. The detail given to each characters face leaves you with the distinct impression of what the character is suppose to be feeling in every panel, and really helps to connect the emotion to the dialog.

  7. Brother129
    October 2, 2007 at 2:00 pm — Reply

    If you ask me, they should get Mike McKone to be the regular JLA artist. He can draw every hero and villain and everyone looks to be in proportion…with backgrounds too! This story had a strong into in the JLA Wedding Special so I would give a higher mark to this issue in that context. While Meltzer was interesting, you’ve got to love the McDuffie change up. Clear stories with clear bad guys…we aern’t so advanced that we can’t love the basic superhero/villain slugfest. I am also wondering why LL and company haven’t killed off the capured heroes, but for the sake of a fun story I’m going to pretend I’m ten again and not care. By the way, Marvel would kill to have DC’s continuity problems if this is the worst of their problems.

  8. jman
    October 2, 2007 at 7:53 pm — Reply

    I know he’s just a fill-in artists, but for a flagship title like JLA, you need to bring out your heavyweight artists. The anatomy(which is a great deal of poses) reminds me of Image early 90’s pin-up comics. Also, there’s nothing wrong with bringing an injustice gang back, they just need a REASON TO GET BACK TOGETHER in the first place. For instance, if they wanted to harness/exploit Firestorm’s powers for some reason(can’t he manipulate atomic energy or something? Seems like a handy talent to have…) instead of just putting him in the freakin’ hospital for the sheer hell of it. As I re-read this issue and the wedding special, McDuffie seems to have great characterization(especially Luthor, shades of JLU…), but random action without any real purpose. I assume they’ll get to the point later in the arc(I hope…).

  9. Mokin
    October 2, 2007 at 9:53 pm — Reply

    …I may be way off track here, but I disliked the art very much…

    …to me, it looked like the return of certain individuals who created a bunch of X-Men rip-offs and created their own comics company in the ’90s…know who I’m talking about?

    …and this is not a compliment at all…

    …ah well…

  10. J'osh
    October 2, 2007 at 11:44 pm — Reply

    I too was a bit confused by the whole Batman throwing the batarang at Lex thing. Until later we see Dr. Light say “It’s no use cloaking us they know we’re here.” or something like that, you mention it in the review. And since it turned out they were in occupying the same small space it worked for me then.

    I did think that the “Entertainment Weekly” cover pose that Lex and company do after their after their decloaked was rediculous. That spread looks silly much like the art in this book.

  11. Jim
    October 2, 2007 at 11:51 pm — Reply

    I feel like I’m usually more critical of the art than most people, but this issue didn’t bother me as much as it seems to for others. I guess coming from Ed Benes where all the male characters were impossibly muscular and the females impossibly busty, I prefer the elongated forms (though there’s still a lot of muscles and boobs). Mind you, I’m not crazy about the art, but it didn’t make me annoyed the way Benes often did.

    As for McDuffie, I’m hoping he doesn’t rest on his JLU laurels and simply do a rehash of the last season. It felt a bit like that for me here. It also seems similar to the whole “Justice” maxi-series by Ross and Krueger. But I’m willing to let it develop. I agree that he writes good characterization and dialog. And a rock-em, sock-em storyline could be a great contrast to Meltzer. Not to bash him, but it was a nice change to be able to read this issue of JLA and know who was talking at any given moment.

  12. October 9, 2007 at 10:43 pm — Reply

    Would somebody tell McDuffie that intestinal flora are bacteria, and not plants?

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