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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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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20 Comments

  1. ~wyntermute~
    September 1, 2009 at 1:43 am — Reply

    Yeah, there’s one thing I gotta agree with (even though I particularly like the “insignificant” Leaguers like Blue & Gold, Fire & Ice, Plastic Man & Elongated Man, etc): The Avengers seem to be in the middle of everything these days — all four squads of them (or whatever the count is now). The JLA feel like a mop-up pitcher in the bullpen of a 3rd place team. “Oh. Yeah. Put Vixen’s bunch in. They got this.” _EVEN_ some — not all, but some — of the “Big Deal” g-mo JLA seemed to be on the fringes of things. Oh well.. These things are, hopefully, cyclical. Let’s ride out the cycle! :)

  2. Salieri
    September 1, 2009 at 3:20 am — Reply

    I don’t get why they haven’t killed off Dr. Light yet. She’s basically all of the attributes that people don’t like in Damian Wayne, expressed in an adult, with a healthy amount of racist Japanase caricature mixed in. At the very least, she ought to be told that her arrogance and general idiocy should disqualify her as a member of the team.

    Plus, she was the subject of a brief Internet feud a month or two ago between Jamal Igle and her one devoted fan, ending in him goading the DC editorial into wildly insult him. I think the logical thing to do would be to humiliate, then annihilate the little pissamt’s favourite character…

  3. Navarre
    September 1, 2009 at 5:52 am — Reply

    I remark often how any character, no matter how good we know they can be, are only as good as the writer makes them.

    We can only objectively see, within the confines of the story, what the writer gives us.

    Anything else is meta-book thinking, forming thoughts on what we know as outside readers, not what we receive in-story.

    This should be balanced and rarely is.

    And, in the attempt to create this balance, why would the very best writers be assigned to the (potentially) very best characters and teams?

    … Yeah, I don’t know either.

  4. duckface
    September 1, 2009 at 6:18 am — Reply

    I hate that despite making a big deal about the Big 3 leaving they continue to show up on the covers! Makes you think how much faith DC really has in this book, which seems only to continue to exist because the ‘Justice League’ is one of DC’s biggest tags in popular culture. Despite me liking the idea of a Vixen-led team, her lack of publicity on the covers and in general when a black woman leading the JLA should be a big deal has me not picking this book until it gets another revamp.

  5. Navarre
    September 1, 2009 at 6:32 am — Reply

    Much fewer readers know who Vixen is. I didn’t know who she was until I saw her on Justice League Unlimited.

    So, yeah, I think they put the Big 3 on the cover solely to sell books…which only serves to undersell other characters and prevent good characters from gettign the spotlight they deserve.

    I’m glad Marvel never does that. *cough*(Wolverine)*cough**cough*

    • September 1, 2009 at 5:00 pm — Reply

      I agree. I thought it was odd that the Roll Call on the splash page was more about who’s NOT active than who’s actually on call!

  6. Brian
    September 1, 2009 at 7:26 am — Reply

    I dropped JLA with issue ?31? where it shows the big three on the cover walking away. This is as close to a Trinity comic as I’m going to get and now i don’t even get 1/3 of that. I really can’t keep reading these titles until they put at least 1 of the 3 in a regular rotation.

  7. Brother129
    September 1, 2009 at 8:34 am — Reply

    Isn’t all of this JLA mess the past year just a dressed-up placeholder between Brad Metzger’s run and the start of James Robinson’s-the latest “savior” of the JLA?

    It is so definitely about writing and characterization. This is an interesting line-up and yet I’m bored. This whole I’m quitting the league to go find myself or justice or whatever is so tired. Has DC forgot how to do the big team books?

    If Marvel can sell 4 Avengers titles a month, there is no reason why DC can’t put out at least ONE GOOD JLA BOOK!

    • September 1, 2009 at 3:27 pm — Reply

      I would just love for Marvel to put out 1 GOOD Avengers book a month!

      Not that I am biased, I would enjoy one good Justice League book as well.

    • September 1, 2009 at 6:35 pm — Reply

      Isn’t all of this JLA mess the past year just a dressed-up placeholder between Brad Metzger’s run and the start of James Robinson’s-the latest “savior” of the JLA?

      That’s the sad part. Dwayne McDuffie was on the title for something like 12 issues, but with crossovers and stupidity, it doesn’t seem like it. The Meltzer run was, bluntly, not good. There was too much going on and not enough of it making a lick of sense, and too little explanation of what DID parse.

      Now, we’re awaiting Robinson to take over the book, but ‘Cry For Justice’ #1 wasn’t precisely what I really crave for JLA action, either. Hopefully a balance can be struck between this ridiculous “BIG THREE” thing and some actual storytelling.

  8. September 1, 2009 at 4:58 pm — Reply

    This is where McDuffie’s revelations about the behind-the-scenes drama is so interesting–he couldn’t use the characters he wanted, he had to use characters he didn’t want, etc. He claims he was planning on building Canary back up from her lowest point. But it looks as though the change in writing staff is going to cause this development to be lost–which means her failure as League chair becomes canon, rather than her ability to recover and rebuild. How sad for her.

    The real question is who’s going to die next issue? My money’s on Plas, since 1) he was introduced out of nowhere last issue (though maybe Wein just likes him) and 2) Dr. Light called him a doofus before being teamed up with him at the end of the issue. That pairing just screams disaster in the making. But maybe it’s Dr. Light who buys it, given her cocky attitude (though her recent storylines have shown that she can back up her words). I’m betting that somehow Light and Plas get into a fight and as a result, one of them gets killed in the line of duty….

    • September 2, 2009 at 12:30 pm — Reply

      The real question is who’s going to die next issue? My money’s on Plas, since 1) he was introduced out of nowhere last issue (though maybe Wein just likes him) and 2) Dr. Light called him a doofus before being teamed up with him at the end of the issue.

      Well, Brainy, I’d say two things about this: All the solicit promises is “somebody dies,” it doesn’t necessarily say we’re losing a Leaguer.

      And killing Plastic Man would be a sacrilege… I would never forgive them.

      • ~wyntermute~
        September 2, 2009 at 6:26 pm — Reply

        Heh. I just finished rereading the “Obsidian Age” arc, where Plas survives 3000 years in fragments at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. If they kill him off, 1) it’s gonna have to be some serious mammajamma bad mojo, and 2) it probably won’t even last unless Plas’ ‘unkillability’ has been retconned.

        • September 2, 2009 at 11:40 pm — Reply

          Heh. I just finished rereading the “Obsidian Age” arc, where Plas survives 3000 years in fragments at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. If they kill him off, 1) it’s gonna have to be some serious mammajamma bad mojo, and 2) it probably won’t even last unless Plas’ ‘unkillability’ has been retconned.

          It shouldn’t be. He’s one of the few survivors of the Golden Age who hasn’t been “improved” into something horrible in intervening years. They best not mess with Plas, if they know what’s good fer ’em…

        • September 3, 2009 at 6:40 pm — Reply

          oh yah, I forgot about Plas living 3000 years…. Still seems odd that he shows up out of nowhere last issue — at least the other folks have had some contact with this version of the League…

          I hope it’s not one of those deaths where it ends up being the fake Jimmy Olson whose younger brother (whom his fiancee knew NOTHING about) has the same name….

  9. Jim
    September 1, 2009 at 5:11 pm — Reply

    I tend to agree with with Brother. With the exception of Dr. Light, I like all of the characters in this JLA and they have a lot of power if you think about it. But this has the feeling of a cartoon — lots of running around and smashy smashy but it will all get wrapped up neatly in 3 issues.

    A lot of this is probably due to some power struggles. McDuffie was going one way with the JLA but got caught up in Final Crisis, which ended up being his final crisis. Matthew has a point, too, that Melzger’s run, other than a few issues, was pretty unexciting.

    I haven’t been reading “JLA: Cry for Nachos” but maybe these two titles can get folded into each other and have one ongoing with some narrative momentum.

  10. ~wyntermute~
    September 1, 2009 at 5:48 pm — Reply

    … Y’know, something just struck me. We’re all “The AVENGERS can do more than one book”, and now we have Team Vixen and Team Hal (over in the corner, crying about something)… I wonder if this _IS_ the attempt to “restructure” the Big-Name Team in the DCU into multiple ‘theme’ teams. Vixen’s gang are the “Public JLA”, Hal’s bunch is all “XTREME JUSTICE~!” and, like, we get somebody (Adam Strange?) leading a team of Space-JLAers to deal with things concerning Earth before they become “imminent”. (*puts down the crackpipe, steps away from the keyboard.*)

    • duckface
      September 2, 2009 at 3:37 am — Reply

      Haha well Cry For Justice was going to be an ongoing so that’s probablty what was supposed to happen. It would have been great, but the tie-ins to events and all the crap storytelling ruined it all. DC needs to step away from line-wide events for a while and get back to plain old story-telling, as all it’s doing is complicating everything and making DC books unaccessible to new readers.
      As for your space JLA idea, that sounds good but Green Lantern books already do that job don’t they?

      • ~wyntermute~
        September 2, 2009 at 6:17 pm — Reply

        The Lantern Corps’ gonna be busy sorting out its own house for a while, methinks, what with this whole “War of Light” going on… You think Superman & Batman (New Flavor is STILL a master strategist, just like his adoptive-papa) et al. will just leave space-things alone until the Whichever Lantern Corps ends up as the last one standing? It might not even BE the Green, at least not at first. I’m not saying this is how it WILL go down, just how it could. :) Pencil me in for a spot on the JLSpace roster.

      • September 3, 2009 at 6:41 pm — Reply

        How is it that Batman can have 19 different titles — including some where he’s not dead yet — and there’s no continuity issues, but the JLA gets slapped around every time a major character has to run to the restroom?

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