Or – “Bait?Â Meet Switch!”
It’s no secret that I’ve been consistently underwhelmed by most of the current volume of Justice League.Â It seems that the creative teams have misunderstood hyperbole to mean action, and vague throwaway moments to mean character development.Â I had high hopes when Dwayne McDuffie was chosen to helm the title, given his brilliance on the animated Justice League series, but a scant three issues into his run, we’re already seeing the story hijacked by Alan Burnett for a story that promises to cross-over into “Salvation Run.”Â Can a big “Event Story” rekindle my faith in DC’s premier superhero team?
Previously, on Justice League of America:Â The League has been through great strife in the past 18 months, running up against a conspiracy of some sort (I wasn’t quite clear on what the threat was, to be honest, but somebody ripped Red Tornado’s arm off in a gruesome bit) followed up by the time-spanning events of “The Lightning Saga,” thrown headlong into a war with the Secret Society, and butting heads with Amanda Waller and her Suicide Squad.Â Last issue, it was discovered that the Martian Manhunter, last seen in the pages of “Batman & The Outsiders,” has gone undercover in the hopes of figuring out where the villains of the DC Universe have been disappearing to, only to have Waller try to throw a spanner in the works.Â Adding to the complications, a group of DCU villains has come to the Hall of Justice seeking asylum from Amanda’s “Villains In Spaaaace” rehabilitation program.Â Luckily for us, Batman used his greatest super-power (“Having the writer for an accomplice”) and tracked J’Onn’s broadcast to find the Salvation Planet, and now the Justice League prepares to go find their missing
Skrull founding member.
Issue #19 starts with the team scrambling in the launch bay, as Red Tornado announces that the planet has been identified: Cygnus 4019.Â John Stewart, Green Lantern, identifies it as being in Space Sector 1214, and Wonder Woman explains that “the planets have to be in alignment” for them to be teleported there using the government’s machines, explaining why they have to use their Javelin to fly there.Â AmandaÂ Waller arrives, and we spend the better part of 3 pages jaw-jacking about the ethics of the situation.Â Red Arrow (Ugh) leaps to the defense of some of the villains, indicating that they’re not ALL murderers and nutjobs like Luthor and the Joker, and Hawkgirl bristles again at the implication that he’s more concerned about his ex, Cheshire, than he is about her.Â He tries to protest, saying not everything is about Cheshire, but she isn’t buying.Â “Somehow, she’s always in the room with us, isn’t she?”Â This scene is somewhat dramatic, but it would be more so if Ed Benes drew either of the characters with any semblance of expression on their faces.Â Even their body language is stilted, and I question the wisdom of blocking this emotional scene with both characters masked…
One long car ride later, (apparently, intergalactic flight for the JLA is about the same as driving to Horizon’s Hamburger Palace is for me) the JLA (plus Rick Flag) arrive at the Salvation Planet to find… nothing.Â There’s no sign of Luthor’s camp, or Joker’s marauders, or the corpses of the many dead villains.Â There isn’t so much asÂ a discarded lapel flower, razor-tipped boomerang, or dead gorilla to be seen.Â The psychic voice of the Martian Manhunter breaks through their reverie, and the team splits up to reconnoiter.Â The members are picked off, one by one, even Superman and Vixen, (who is duplicating his powers) each one lured away by some sort of projection, including one of Cheshire, only to find that they’re in the unbreakable clutches of KANJAR RO!!!!!
Yeah, I know you don’t know who he is.Â He’s an old-school JLA villain, revamped a few years ago by Morrison, but he didn’t figure on Hawkgirl being present.Â Kendra’s Nth Metal wings and belt disrupt his forcefield generator, allowing her to get back to the Javelin…Â which promptly explodes.Â God, this is like a bad slasher movie.Â Somewhere underground, Kanjar reveals his plan: extract the DNA of the JLA, and make mad money, PDQ.Â Ro reveals that he had INTENDED to utilize the villains DNA, but that they never arrived.Â An eavesdroppingÂ Amanda Waller is shocked, as Kanjar indicates that a second teleportation beam rerouted the villains of the DCU as they were materializing on the planet (explaining why they ended up on the theme park of Deathworld, rather than in this pastoral paradise.)Â Hawkgirl attacks, unsuccessfully, and is thrown into Red Arrow (Ugh.)Â Her Nth metal frees the former Speedy, who impales Kanjar’s hand with an error, allowing him to get pressganged by the entire League.Â As the JLA heads for home in a green force bubble, Superman and Batman opine that if the villain’s get home, they’re going to be mighty pissed….
…and that’s it?Â Seriously?Â This was an adventure worthy of the greatest superheroes on Earth?Â You could fly an interstellar Javelin through the holes in the plot, which seems ironic since the interstellar Javelin IS one of the holes in the plot. The whole issue feels like filler, and I don’t understand exactly what the POINT of this whole exercise actually was.Â We didn’t accomplish anything, other than explaining in slightly more detail what the first issue of ‘Salvation Run’ already told us, and theÂ DC timeline once again confuses me, what withÂ developmentsÂ in theÂ Suicide Squad title not really jibing with what we see last issue and here.Â I will say that Ed Benes is more impressive than usual here, providing more depth and background than in recent memory, but his figure work is still stiff, and his faces nothing more a series of unmoving lines.Â Overall there’s not a lot to recommend this issue.Â Justice League of America #19 ranks a disappointing 1.5 out of 5 stars, with the hope that McDuffie’s return next issue will invigorate a book that could be awesome every month.