Or – “Superman And Black Lightning Ain’t Got Nothin’ On Me…”

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Ed Benes’ art is what Opus T. Penguin might refer to as a “full-blown bull-moose gonzo whopper of a mixed blessing.” On the one hand, he has a slick line and the kids really seem to dig his work. On the other hand, just look at Wonder Woman’s pectoral region in that shot. The Amazing Amazon shouldn’t be a quarter-millimeter from a Janet Jackson moment, in my opinion, and compounding the issue is the presence of Vixen’s protruding sompin-sompin and Black Canary’s fishnetted how’s-your-uncle clearly in view on either side of the Princess, and I’m reminded of the hubbub over the Heroes for Hire cover. Aside from gratuitous bazongas, you say, how was the issue? Well, thereupon hangs a tale…

JLA1.jpgPreviously, on Justice League of America: To be frank? A whole lotta something happened, but I’m mostly at a loss what. The first seven issues kept setting up massive, earth-shattering menaces, only to have them just sort of go “pfft.” By the end of seven issues, we had a huge 11 member Justice League, but the overall effect was a lot like hearing a knock-knock joke from a five-year-old: the point was somewhat muted by the digressions. Three issues of the ‘Lightning Saga’ worked better for me, but the story was as much about the long-lost Preboot Legion as anything else, and issue 11 was a one-shot focusing in on Red Arrow (ugh) and Vixen. Issue #12 was a day in the life story of the JL monitor room, for all intents and purposes, with Meltzer writing an interesting but highly flawed tale that tried to cast more light on the characters, but really cast more light on the fact that there wasn’t a whole lot of substance to the first year. Now, Dwayne McDuffie has taken over the League, and proceeded to put them through the wringer, capturing all but Black Lightning and Superman, and confronting those two with none other than ex-President Lex Luthor…

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“Hologram,” says Lightning. “Should have figured.” Superman asks what it is Lex wants, and the bald bull replies “Isn’t it obvious? I want your rage. Your blind, unthinking, anger.” Lex wants to make Superman so very angry that his power will be trumped by the distraction of his outrage. As Lex continues to prattle, Black Lightning starts to lose his patience…

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“Yeah. I can see why they call you a genius,” snarks B.L. and I suddenly wonder why he never joined the League before. He’s a hell of a lot of fun… Lex decides to stop talking and start the irritating, bringin up images of the Leaguers in various bondage/torture devices. Batman hangs from the ceiling, while Red Arrow, Hawkgirl and Green Lantern are bound and forced to watch something. Red Tornado is disassembled in the background (I’m getting sick of the whole ‘tear apart the android’ routine, already) while the three bodacious female leaguers are sensuously rendered in the foreground, setting that frown line in my forehead to work again. Superman watches as Geo-Force is bludgeoned by the new Shaggy Man. An irate Superman roars for Lex to tell him where he is, and Luthor simply smirks. “You’re Superman… FIND me.” Punk-ass. Supey quickly goes for the holographic projector, which explodes and covers him with a glowing green liquid…

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Suddenly, The Cheetah bursts in, screaming that Grodd is about to kill Geo-Force. Luthor interrupts the abuse, reminding the Gorilla that they ‘have an agreement.’ “He’s fun to hit,” replies Grodd, but Luthor talks him down…

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Luthor suspects that Superman won’t be long, in any case, and I wonder what the heck kind of plan this is, exactly. After all, this isn’t a Superman story, it’s supposed to be a Justice League story, and catching 10 birds to kill one stone doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Black Lightning blasts the cap off a fire hydrant to wash the paint off Ma Kent’s big blue boy, asking what the plan is gonna be. “Plan? I’m going to take him apart. That’s my plan.” Superman is angered to see his partners captured and abused, but Black Lightning has managed to keep his head about him… “You’re the most level-headed guy I know, but everyone’s got buttons to push.”

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Wait, what? Did Superman just snap at Black Lightning that he doesn’t lose? I’m not following the logic, there. Flying off at hyper-speed (Supey by himself, Lightning in a Javelin ship) they approach the swamps, and the hidden Hall of Doom. Superman smashes through the roof, grabbing the Parasite and throwing him into the sun like the Sentry. As Luthor tries to regroup, Black Lightning hits hard, and the cheesecake fairy blesses us all with her bosomy goodness again…

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Black Lightning nails Lex Luthor with an electrical arc, holding his ferromagnetic armor (And by the way, cats and kittens, taunting the human dynamo while wearing a super-conductive steel body condom? Not so much with the smarts…) still before getting shot in the back by one of the most useless characters of the 90’s: Fatality.

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I hate Fatality. Granted, not as much as I hate Dr. Light, but still. While the big red S is on the floor, Fatality, Dr. Light and Killer Frost blast his physical form while Grodd attacks his mind. The combined assault is too much for even a Kryptonian to bear, and the Legion of Doom Injustice League finally has the whole League at their mercy. Lex takes a moment to savor his victory, dragging his old foe up by the cape, and gloating, “Wake up, Superman.”

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Mmm… yeah. Is it wrong that I’m just kind of, “Whatever” about Superman about to have his face carved open? These last two issues have been a bit of a revelation, in that the focus is completely different than under Meltzer’s pen, but there’s still an element of ‘What the hell just happened?’ going on. When I read a Justice League tale I’m not looking for Superman (or Batman or Wonder Woman) and their amazing friends, I’m looking for THE LEAGUE. The group effort, the team working together to overcome an unbeatable foe. I got SOME of that this issue, and I hope that we’ll continue to see a focus on Black Lightning (as well as Red Arrow, Red Tornado, Geo-Force [WHEN did he join, again?] and the other members who haven’t gotten their face-time yet) but I also need to have a ‘big damn heroes’ moment. Morrison’s run had the battle with the Hyperkind, Waid had the ‘Babel’ story, the satellite League had the Thanagar War, heck even the Detroit team went head to head with the Overmaster and came together as a unit. So there’s no excuse for why this issue scores 2 out of 5 stars, with a nagging feeling of incompleteness in the storytelling and a little too much T&A in the art… Hopefully there’s a slam-bang ending coming that will totally make me change my tune, but this incarnation of the JLA honestly hasn’t had one of those yet.

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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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13 Comments

  1. Alec
    October 25, 2007 at 8:48 am — Reply

    I just can’t get into this story. Not because it’s not an interesting one (tho, really… it isn’t) but because I’ve more or less already read it. Or I should say SEEN it… is anyone here familiar with Justice League: Unlimited? If not, you should be.

  2. Tremaine
    October 25, 2007 at 9:30 am — Reply

    Ah Benes, I liked his old style when he was penciling Gen 13 & Supergirl but to each his own. If Poison Ivy AND Cheetah are in A book, much less the SAME book, there is NEVER too much T&A

  3. October 25, 2007 at 9:46 am — Reply

    “The films we’re making of their humiliation and defeat are instrumental to our long-range goals.”

    Okay, so is DC forgetting the lesson that the villians learned in Identity Crisis?

    Matthew: Fatality needs a costume change. If she was given a nifty Sinestro Yellow costume and she may seem like a different character. Cut the hair as well. Speaking of Sinestro, I guess this series is taking place after the war?

    I think this is just set-up for Salvation Run.

    Alec: I agree, JL: Unlimited is a great series, in comic and cartoon form. In the comics it gives a feeling of the old JLA, and in cartoon it was one of the best super-hero cartoons to date, right up there with the 90’s Spider-Man series. The also have some of the most satisfying action figures out there, of which I have gathered quite a few!

  4. Baal
    October 25, 2007 at 10:26 am — Reply

    Yes, a slight similarity exists between this and the JLU story but there’s plenty of villain team up stories throughout the last sixty odd years. I’d like to see fresher criticisms, peopel! Don’t go for the easy shot, especially when you have ‘art’ like this in what could have been a flagship title for DC!

  5. Maximus Rift
    October 25, 2007 at 10:38 am — Reply

    You know, I really didn’t notice the cheesecake factor until you pointed it out for me. Also, you said nothing about how they’re taping every moment of their torture. Isn’t this the same as New Avengers?

    I do agree that a team book should be about the team, though.

  6. BadBad
    October 25, 2007 at 11:00 am — Reply

    I like Benes’ art but just like Ian Churchill and crew they have a tendency to draw splash pages at the expense of layout. Each individual page looked nice but the flow of action has been pretty poor.

  7. Ben
    October 25, 2007 at 11:01 am — Reply

    But the art in this book continues to blow me away…

  8. Xavier Summers
    October 25, 2007 at 11:25 am — Reply

    Hate Fatality all you want, but at least she’s one of the few women in this comic that was wearing pants, for God’s sake.

  9. October 25, 2007 at 11:41 am — Reply

    You know, I really didn’t notice the cheesecake factor until you pointed it out for me. Also, you said nothing about how they’re taping every moment of their torture. Isn’t this the same as New Avengers?

    It’s remarkably similar, yep… I didn’t rant about it to that level because they were torturing men, women and machines all together, and peek-a-boo eagle bodice aside, I didn’t feel the same level of sadism and sexual overtone to it.

    I only point out the cheesecake factor in books where it bothers me. I mock Frank Cho and Naked Ultron, but the female characters in Mighty Avengers (while obviously sexualized) aren’t as distracting. This factor (as with most art) is pretty much in the eye of the beholder. Ed’s Wonder Woman looks titillating and on the verge of exposing herself. Terry and Rachel Dodson draw an equally sexy W.W. in the same costume, but manages to keep it from feeling like she’s half-naked. It’s difficult to quantify exactly, but look at the teaser image, and tell me that the giant, pendulous, half-exposed gazongas aren’t the focal point of the composition.

  10. Mark I.
    October 25, 2007 at 11:49 am — Reply

    Hell, Poison Ivy looks like she’s wearing a teddy and no panties in the panel where she gets zapped!

    I’m not overtly complaining, mind you. Just point out ridicu-alities.

  11. Roy
    October 25, 2007 at 12:00 pm — Reply

    Meh. I liked the art. The story, I’m still a little lost on when it takes place, but it’s not bad. It DOES feel a *little* like an episode of JLU, though, and that’s not neccessarily a bad thing.

    As for cheescake, I love cheesecake. Suddenly I’m hungry for chocolate covered pretzels…..

  12. Michael
    October 25, 2007 at 1:02 pm — Reply

    I like Ed Benes’ art style I’m not ashamed to admit it, I have the Black Mary Marvel cover of Countdown as one of background images on several of my computers…that said his layouts could use some work…

  13. jman
    October 25, 2007 at 4:17 pm — Reply

    “Matthew: Fatality needs a costume change. If she was given a nifty Sinestro Yellow costume and she may seem like a different character. Cut the hair as well. Speaking of Sinestro, I guess this series is taking place after the war?”

    yep, that green military vibe she has is pretty 1994. Keep the hair, though…it kind of reminds you of who she is(an african-american elf…I guess). She has a yellow ring now, right? Is she a part of the corp or not?

    Ed Benes art is like a combo of Jim Lee/Michael Turner. Meaning I both love it and hate it, essentially. He definitely channels Lee and Turners cheesecakeosity(right out of the Don King Dictionary…lol).

    I think I stated before during the JLA wedding issue that the injustice league needs a reason to be together, which is why this issue falls flat. Pissing Supes off isn’t much of a world-shattering plot. Once again the Man of Steel is reduced the man of impotence; I hate the way Superman gets his ass handed to him in every story. Does making him seem weak make him more interesting? Ever notice how most splash pages and covers show him taking a beating or crying on Wonder Woman? They should rename him Supermilksop, SuperP##$y, or I-forgot-how-to-use-my-powers-all-at-once man.

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