Or – “Haven’t We Seen This Before?”

When Brad Meltzer relaunched the Justice League just a couple of years ago, he was brimming with ideas, from returning an all-star multi-era Justice League, to the return of Despero, to the Red Arrow (ugh) and Hawkgirl relationship, to Red Tornado ending up in a human body, there were a ton of fascinating story hooks to that first dozen issues of JLA.  Sadly, Brad didn’t end up hanging very much ON those hooks, but the basics were there.  After a long and drawn out crossover with Salvation Run that didn’t make a whole lot of narrative sense, we’ve returned to Earth, and the plight of John Smith, the “man” called Red Tornado.  But is this just Red Tornado II: Electric Boogaloo?

Previously on Justice League of America:  During the first arc of this new JLA, The Red Tornado’s android body was still wrecked after the events of 52.  When Felix Faust (posing as Boston Brand, Deadman) offered Reddy a human body, the Tornado leapt at it like a fat kid at a chocolate covered girl.  He somehow kept his tornado powers, but lost most of the resistance to injury that marked his android shells, and so gets his head handed to him (almost literally) by Solomon Grundy.  Big G reveals that he and Red Tornado are (somehow) linked in immortality, and that he has infused Reddy’s old robot body with the programming of Amazo, to give Solomon an all-powerful and immortal body to live in.  The plan went south, of course, and Tornado was returned to his robot body, which gave him a complex and a “I-am-a-soulless-machine-click-whirr” speech pattern that annoyed the living crap out of me.  When his body was (again) damaged, Reddy’s mind was uploaded into the JLA computer (shades of The Vision 20 years ago) and the JLA and their allies have set out to build him a new body, not realizing that the old one still houses a slowly repairing Amazo program…

We begin this issue with John conversing with his wife Kathy about how they’ve danced this whole dance, over and over before.  She accuses him of fatalism, but Reddy rightfully points out that every time he gets his humanity, something stupid happens, and he has to start all over.  He makes the point that, this time, his “soul” could be lost in the transfer, and Kathy orders him to stop talking about death.  Meanwhile, Will Magnus, (father of the Metal Men) Niles Caulder, (the Chief of the Doom Patrol, and the mind behind Robotman) Batman and Zatanna prepare for a mechanical/metaphysical/surgical procedure, to graft the mind of the Tornado back to a new, state-of-the-art body while John Henry Irons (STEEL!) works on the old form… 

As the players take the field on one front, we move to another, Detroit Michigan, where Benjamin Turner (The Bronze Tiger) is doing some sort of surveillance.  He is stunned when someone sneaks up on him, and easily bests him with his own moves.  The Tiger immediately realizes that this is his old main squeeze Vixen, and that she is duplicating his powers to use against him.  “You’re good,” he says, “but you were never THAT good.”  Heh.  No ego problems there. Vixen comes clean, explaining (while we all stare at her ever expanding cleavage) that she hasn’t told all the Leaguers about her power change yet.  Tiger reinforces what she already knows, and tells her she has to play it straight, and Vixen makes her decision.  They have a touching romantic moment where she marvels how well he knows her (and he points out that’s why they never work out as a couple) and we leave Detroit.

MEANWHILE, AT THE HALL OF JUSTICE!  (I’ve always wanted to write that.)  Red Arrow (ugh) and Hawkgirl spar in “The Kitchen” (which certainly isn’t a Danger Room) and try to work out their own romantic entanglementsby fighting.  Roy pins her to the wall with an arrow, smiling, “How about we call it a draw?”  Moments later, Red Arrow crashes out of the Kitchen, landing in the hallway in front of his teammates.  Hawkgirl threatens to give him his arrow back, preferably throw an organ, then calmly greets Hal and Superman.  The elder leaguers give advice (Hal saying dump the relationship, Superman pointing out that maybe they’re more serious than they want to admit) before everyone gathers for the resurrection.  Steel points out the startling truth: Red Tornado’s old body has repaired itself to perfect condition. 

Vixen admits to the team that her powers have changed, and gets benched by Black Canary (who shows impressive guts in overriding both Superman AND Wonder Woman and making the call that she has to make, then makes the suggestion to Vixen that she fix her power problem, with the implication that she can return to the team when she does.  Of course, it’s pretty much a moot point, as Amazo awakes, chokes Batman, takes out Steel, and transfers his consciousness into the new body prepared for Reddy.We fade to black with a fully armed and operational battlestation Amazo android. 

The return of Dwayne McDuffie to the main storyline is noticable, and admirable, even though we’re still cleaning up the previous writer’s plot threads here and there.  With the ongoing drama of Red Tornado’s life, as well as the Amazo interference, bits of the plot seem very familiar, but it’s nicely handled with some lovely story elements all around.  Ed Benes does what Ed Benes does, with some of his art feeling oddly unfinished and scratchy, but the second half of the issue (especially the interaction between Black Canary and Vixen) exceeding my expectations of Ed Benes drawings.  It’s a strong outing for JLA, and a welcome return to quality after several issues of “WTF,” earning a nicely done 3 stars.  Had there been a bit more bite to the character interactions, or if the Amazo twist wasn’t somewhat telegraphed, it could have easily nailed 4 stars.



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.

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