Review: Justice League of America #36

by

Or – “Why I Expect So Much More From This Title…”

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There are those who say that the Justice League isn’t the Justice League without the Big Three DC heroes…   This, of course,  raises issues every couple of years when the creative teams have to work around a Dead Batman, a de-powered Wonder Woman or a Reign of the Supermen.  The simple fact of the JLA (as well as The Avengers, I might add) is that the lineup doesn’t matter a whit…  It’s what you do with them.  This book SHOULD be the center of the DC Universe, it should never be just an afterthought, and this incarnation of the Justice League’s book has seldom been anything but an atterthought.  Can classic writer Len Wein pull off a miracle with a new Vixen-centric League?

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Previously, on Justice League of America:  Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman entered this incarnation of the Justice League with a very condescending mandate: to “oversee” the activities of the team and to keep their eye on leader Black Canary.  Upon discovery of their little Star Chamber, Black Canary fought immaturity with more immaturity, taking her ball and going home.  Of course, Dinah shutting down the League only works if she has the agreement of the League, and the headstrong hero called Vixen has no intentions of letting that happen.  Gathering a team of versatility and surprising power, (Firestorm, John Stewart, Doctor Light, Zatanna, as well as a visiting Red Tornado and Plastic Man) Vixen and her League are forced to face down the crimelord Roulette, and old-school villain Amos Fortune, acting as Roulette’s pawns again Fortune’s Royal Flush Gang.  Can a handful of heroes face down an deck of fifty-two?  (As always, my advice is to vote for the guys with the matter-rearranger on board…)

 

We open with The Flush Gang in action (someone recently asked if the JLA must always fight this team, and the answer is: yep, just like the Fantastic Four must face the Frightful Four, the Legion of Super-Heroes must face the Legion of Super-Villains, and the Avengers must face the Masters of Evil) and the League arriving to oppose them.  It’s a pretty impressive splash-page, actually, good work from Tom Derenick, who I found less-than-stellar on the recent Red Circle: Hangman mini.  The five elemental heroes (Earth, Wind, Fire, the Stars and…  um…  Plastic) leap into battle, but can’t quite pull it all together, with Doctor Light opining that the team would be a joke without her efforts.  Still, a portion of the Flush Gang nearly escapes, but gets taken down by the arrival of Wonder Woman.  But when the Amazing Amazon tries to get the truth out of their prisoners with her magic lasso, the Flush Gang members die before revealing anything of value. 

Elsewhere, Amos Fortune and Roulette discuss his sacrifice of his own players, and Amos takes a moment to deliver a soliloquy about his own low origins, and the formation of the original Royal Flush Gang out of his gang of teenage friends.  Amos makes the story of how four teenage punks rose up to face the mighty Justice League, and how he created his network of footsoldiers to represent the entire deck of cards.  “There is now a branch of the Royal Flush Gang in every major city in the country…  It’s reached the point where even Intergang is afraid of us.”  Back at the Watchtower, Wonder Woman and Vixen discuss Vixen’s recent recruitin drive.  “The JLA will continue,” says Vix, “even if the entire membership winds up consisting of me, Ultra the Multi-Alien and a squirrel in a jumpsuit.”  Heh…  Isn’t Ch’p a Black Lantern now?  The JLA alarms go off, and the team follows the old JLA tradition, breaking up into teams and heading out to stop the bad dudes. 

One of the highlights for me of the old Justice League Europe was the mellowing of Kimiyo “Doctor Light” Hoshi from ultra-mega-bitch to merely kinda snotty, a characterization that seems to have been reversed in recent months.  Moreover, having her feud with the extra-lovable Plastic Man sets her up to be even less likable.  The cards (pun fully intended) are against this team from the get-go, leaving us with another arc of JLA that feels a little bit off.  Whether it’s the not-so-fresh feeling of the RFG, the art job (passable, occasionally impressive, but not stand-up-and-take-notice good) or the realization that new creative team James Robinson and Mark Bagley will probably leap off into a bold new direction, this issue manages to come across feeling a lot like filler.  It’s nice to see Len Wein’s writing again, but sadly, Justice League of America #36 earns a disappointed 2 out of 5 stars overall.  I’m not sure how long Len’s on the book, but I’m hoping that he has a slam-bang ending that knocks the story out of the park coming…

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