Or – “When There’s Trouble, You Know Who To Call…”


One of the unanswered questions of Brad Meltzer’s JLA run (and trust me, there were a LOT of unanswered questions raised by Brad Meltzer’s JLA run) was the origin and identity of the mysterious Doctor Impossible, sort of an evil duplicate of Mr. Miracle.  Some said he was a minor thug who lucked out with Apokaliptian tech, others wondered if there was more to it.  As for Matthew, I’m going on the record as saying “Earth-3 Crime Syndicate Doppelgangers.”  Either way, looks like at least some of the questions aim to be answered in the near future, if only five years and four creative teams later…

Justice League of America #42

JLA2.jpgWritten by James Robinson
Art and cover by Mark Bagley and Rob Hunter
Inks by Rob Hunter, Norm Rapmund & Jonathan Glapion
Colors by Pete Pantazis
Variant cover by Adrian Melo and Mariah Benes

Previously, on Justice League of America:  In the wake of the (as yet mostly unseen) tragedies that ended the ‘Cry For Justice’ miniseries, the League once again splintered as it has a dozen times in recent years.  The question has become not ‘Who will be in the JLA?’ but ‘Why do these people insist on continuiting to try and create a JLA when they know that their own foibles will bust it up in six months?’  Indeed, the loss of the core three DC heroes (one to Krypton, one to death, and one to Gail Simone) could pose a problem in the new Trinity-centric DC universe.  The obvious answer came in the form of Donna Stacey Hinkley Troy Long, aka Wonder Girl, Troia, er Woman’s cloned playmate.  Donna has agreed to lead a new Justice League, bringing along a few familiar friends, and has merged Hal Jordan’s proto-League from CFJ into her squad.  With the addition of some new blood via Daxam, Suicide Slum, and Tokyo, the League has reformed just in time to confront an entirely new menace, one with some decidedly Fourth World overtones.

We open in familiar territory for James Robinson readers, as The Shade (of ‘Starman’ and recent Blackest Night special fame) consults with Oliver ‘Green Arrow’ Queen, inquiring as to whether the Emerald Archer is really sure of his plan. “If I give you what you want,” warns the immortal king of darkness, “there’ll be NO turning back.” GA (who seems to have symbolically returned to his hooded ‘Longbow Hunters’ garb, the clothing he wears during periods of soul-searching, it would seem) agrees, and both men walk into darkness together. Smash-cut to Atlanta, Georgia, broad daylight, as Batman, Starfire, Donna Troy and Green Lantern leap into action against Atlas. I suspect that the presence of the Big A, a Jack Kirby creation, is a hint as to the nature of the threat to come, but I like how Robinson handles the interplay between the team, with Hal respecting Donna’s leadership, Dick “Batman” Grayson getting used to giving orders to dear-old-adoptive-Dad’s teammates, and Starfire dealing with her feelings for the former Robin. They find that their foe is being mind-controlled, and take him down easily, as a mysterious man watches from the shadows, a strange Rob Liefeld starburst coming from his eye. (Could it be Longshot???) The first flashback of the issue then occurs as we see the Challengers of the Unknown (more Kirby ties, I might add) discovering a strange device in the wake of a battle with their arch-foes, the League of Challenger-Haters. Yes, their villains are actually called The League of Challenger-Haters. Deal. Ace Morgan touches the device, and flies into a rage, as if controlled by an external force. Only the assistance of the Metal Men saves the day, as the device is taken to STAR Labs for dissection.

In the present, those self-same STAR Labs are under attack by Doctor Impossible and his new pal, a man called Hunter. With his helmet and astro-glider, Hunter bears the same resemblance to the New God called Orion that Impossible himself bears to Mr. Miracle. The are engaged in battle by The Power Company (remember them?) at great personal cost. We are told of the aftermath of the battle by Mon-El and The Guardian, who arrived just in time to help with cleanup and save the lives of Josiah Power and company. The Atom puts two and two together and figures out the Apokalips connection, while Cyborg studies the remains of Red Tornado. Tornado has been fully functional, if unable to talk, during the events of the last several issues, but Cyborg has reactivated his speech functions and vows to build him a body that is a bit more durable. (FINALLY! I think Reddy has been destroyed FIVE times in 42 issues of this comic…) Cyborg discovers a report from 1944 that triggers our second flasback, showing Plastic Man, The Freedom Fighters and the Blackhawks engaging another device of alien origin, this one a brain-frying conglomeration. After the battle, the ‘Hawks returned it to their home on Blackhawk Island, where we sudddenly find Mikaal Tomas and Congorilla fighting with more New God replicas, these in the formimage of Metron and Big Barda. They quickly overcome the former Starman and the great ape, but before they can kill their prey, the new Justice League of America arrives at full-strength, allowing us our first look at the full roster: The Atom, Batman, Black Canary, Cyborg, Doctor Light, Green Lantern, The Guardian, Mon-El, Starfire and Donna Troy. They do look quite impressive, although the sheer number of former Titans could be a bit disconcerting. With the team away, though, their headquarters on the Watchtower is invaded by Doctor Impossible and his friends, who are seeking out another lost object. Just then the teleporter kicks in, and Green Arrow arrives… Looks bad for Oliver.

This is the first issue of Robinson’s run that I have really gotten into and enjoyed, mostly because of the dynamics of the team assembled. Cyborg casually relates to a puzzled Red Tornado, Green Arrow goes to The Shade for help, as he did once before, as related in ‘The Archer’s Quest,’ and Bill and Mikaal get in a coule of good licks in their fight. I’m not sure WHY the team has shaken out the way it has, but I have to say I’m more engaged in this team of former teen heroes and lesser-known lights than I was with the all-star JLA in previous issues. The old battle of “Should we use big names with all their hassles?” versus “How can we get people to read a book with no big names?” is a valid question, but Robinson handles it with deftneseftness, making the characters voices distinct and entertaining. Artist Mark Bagley has an occasional issue with symmetry in the faces, especially with Doctor Light’s headdress, but he puts in a good showing here, especially with Donna Troy’s facial expressions. Overall, it’s still a somewhat flawed book, as I can see how the multiple flashbacks and cameos could be offputting to someone who isn’t versed in DCU lore as I am, and the central problem of starting a new story before the old one is finished is still an issue as regards CFJ, but all in all, this is a more focused and somehow more relevant JLA than we’ve seen in some time… Justice League of America #42 earns a respectable 3 out of 5 stars overall from me, as I’m warming up to the lineup and the execution, as well as finally beginning to answer the question of who Doc Impossible actually IS.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

— On the suggestion of Faithful Spoilerite Astrodinosaurus, I am going to be testing the addition of the “Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day,” a query that came to mind while reading the issue reviewed, and one that I hope will spur some discussion amongst us all. —

Today’s Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Do you prefer a super-team (be it JLA, Avengers, or what have you) consisting of the most popular and powerful heroes, or a team where lesser heroes are allowed their time in the sun?

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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  1. Kirby
    February 19, 2010 at 5:44 pm — Reply

    Team w/ lesser known heroes their light in the sun. Ala Super Buddies.

    • brainypirate
      February 19, 2010 at 6:24 pm — Reply

      Same here. I think some of the lesser heroes actually become major figures thanks to their association with the JLA. Canary and Vixen, for instance, are much more important as Leaguers than as solo heroes, and at this point they have to be taken seriously whenever they guest in other comics. I think having Donna, Dick, Kory and Vic in the League will help them move beyond TT status and make them more versatile members of the DCU.

    • Greg A
      February 20, 2010 at 9:49 am — Reply

      If I have any issue with the line-up (and I really like this team) is the nagging notion that Dick, Donna and Mon-El are only marking time until Bruce, Diana and Clark are able to return to the team. (Heck, I’d love to see an Avengers team with Bucky, Beta-Ray Bill and War-Machine, but I’d have that same feeling of marking time.)It’s my hope these former junior superheroes are able to remain in The Show as long as possible before being returned to the minor leagues.

  2. brainypirate
    February 19, 2010 at 6:28 pm — Reply

    Why is Ollie wearing the hood at the start but the cap at the end? Did I miss something or was that unexplained?

    I have to admit that this is the first time I’ve seen Kirby-style costumes and didn’t find them ugly. Maybe it’s the color schemes or maybe Bagley’s style is non-Kirby in the right way, but I find these are much more aesthetically pleasing.

  3. James
    February 20, 2010 at 4:59 am — Reply

    In response to the spoilerite question, It always seemed like with the all-star JLA you had to constantly ramp up the “Universe is doomed” factor. The big bad in each new story arc had to be a bigger threat than the last. Also, this does tend to flesh out lesser known heroes to the extent that if anyone might develop an interest in them, they could seek out back issues of titles they were featured in to find out more. So I guess the short version to a rambling answer is: “I prefer the use of lesser known heroes in super teams to give them some time in the sun.” Also, you do not have the nightmare of continuity issues with lesser players on a team like you do with having the 1st tier heroes and their books bring with them.

  4. Bobby
    February 20, 2010 at 9:02 am — Reply

    I agree with James: I’m not really interested in the synching-up of a solo character’s book and the team book he’s involved with; and if it has to be an issue, then I’d rather have lesser lights… My main gripe on this subject is the continuous relaunching/rebooting/regrouping of the team. It seems like everyone has been a JLAer now, and the book has, for years, seemed like it was searching for an identity…

  5. February 20, 2010 at 9:54 am — Reply

    It seems like everyone has been a JLAer now, and the book has, for years, seemed like it was searching for an identity…

    And there we have the issue with relaunches… They drive sales, and boost interest, but not for the long-term. The big name relaunch of this book was infuriating, honestly, because there was a super-hot artist and a super-hot writer, and they had a key crossover in the first 12 issues, but none of it was actually that much fun to READ. The cover of issue one was the tell for me: hundreds of heroes standing about, possibly ready to be on panel for about six seconds. And that’s exactly what we got from Meltzer’s run on the League.

  6. February 20, 2010 at 9:55 am — Reply

    What? There’s a comic? Sorry, I’m just too distracted by the cover to look or care. ;p

  7. Brother129
    February 20, 2010 at 3:50 pm — Reply

    On the matter of your review…thank you for providing much helpful background. I’m not up on all of this Fourth World stuff and aside from the Mr. Miracle analogue, I totally missed everything else.

    This roster has to be given a chance to flourish. I complained before that Dwayne McDuffie had some mojo going before he got thrown off the book. Ultimately, the writer has to make us care about any team of heroes, whether they are A-listers and second tier guys. I think the original New Warriors and Thunderbolts series are good examples of this.

  8. Allen Jones
    February 20, 2010 at 5:15 pm — Reply

    You got me wanting to jump back on. This is something I’ve wanted to see, the younger heroes step up to take the mantle of leaders. Though I would’ve rather seen Dick as Nightwing (because I love the modern costume and it’ll be him as his own, rather under than under the shadow of the Bat), it’ll do for me.

  9. February 20, 2010 at 6:08 pm — Reply

    Though I would’ve rather seen Dick as Nightwing (because I love the modern costume and it’ll be him as his own, rather under than under the shadow of the Bat), it’ll do for me.

    If you want Dick as Nightwing leading the League, I suggest you check out the Obsidian Age arc from a few years ago… It’s a really interesting take on what happens when the worst case scenario actually occurs…

  10. Navarre
    February 21, 2010 at 10:46 am — Reply

    I prefer the main teams be the characters who have made the team great. But I’d like to see a lesser known character or two to round it out, similar to Armor of the Astonishing X-Men.

    A team of only the big leaguers grows stale and excludes others with potential. But a team of only the second-tier may not get off the ground in sales.

    or just add Wolverine or Deadpool to the title and it’ll sell.

  11. Jim
    February 21, 2010 at 11:58 am — Reply

    I thought this was a promising start to the new JLA. Still seems like a lot of members, so I hope they can develop all of the characters and not just have some in the background who punch people during battles.

    Q: Is this Guardian related to the Kirby character (not sure Kirby created it but at least worked on it early in his career) who later appeared occasionally in All Star Squadron and, I think, COIE?

    • February 21, 2010 at 5:40 pm — Reply

      Q: Is this Guardian related to the Kirby character (not sure Kirby created it but at least worked on it early in his career) who later appeared occasionally in All Star Squadron and, I think, COIE?

      If memory serves, he is a clone of Jim Harper, the original Simon and Kirby Guardian from All-Star Squadron, yep.

  12. ~wyntermute~
    February 21, 2010 at 6:22 pm — Reply

    “GA (who seems to have symbolically returned to his hooded ‘Longbow Hunters’ garb, the clothing he wears during periods of soul-searching, it would seem).”

    Well, I dunno if “Green Arrow Vs. Black Canary” is required reading or anything, but Ollie DOES cap it up at the end of the most recent ish of that… Making a crack about how his last hood just got torn up in the preceding battle with (ugh…) Cupid (who was a semi-interesting lunatic with a horrible, terrible name). And, like, is it “destroy anybody with ‘Arrow’ in their name” month? Roy loses an arm, and Ollie is set up to take a horrendous beating (lest some Deus Ex Machina shows up in the next ish)… The message I get from this is “Unless you’re wearing a BatMantle, ‘baseline’ humans need not apply.”

    As pertains to the Question Of The Week…Review, I gotta say that my favorite “superteam” was the Bwa-ha-ha JLA. When you’re able to show the team hanging out in NON-crisis situations because they don’t have “other jobs/titles” to deal with, it adds an element of humanity that is oft-overlooked. I mean, we used to get issues devoted to Booster Gold and Blue Beetle’s latest “get rich quick” scheme because there was no great cataclysm going on. Sure, maybe some people hate that kinda stuff in their comics, but I’m a fan of it _because_ it’s different and humanizes these spandex gladiators. How ELSE would we have learned, for example, about the Martian Manhunter’s fondness for Oreo-like cookies?

  13. Damascus
    February 21, 2010 at 11:35 pm — Reply

    I also like seeing the younger and the lesser used characters getting a chance to shine, but I agree with Navarre that a team full of B-Listers or worse would probably not sell or hold my interest for very long. If they take down Darkseid or somebody I’d be sitting there wondering how the hell is that possible, and if they’re only tackling smaller villains then I’d get bored. But those events that have pushed lesser known characters to the forefront recently have been great, such as 52, where I really started liking characters like the Pied Piper and Trickster and The Question, characters I was mostly unfamiliar with. So I look forward to seeing the younger heroes prove that they have something to offer on a larger scale, and I’d like to see Animal Man on the team. Possibly unrelated but I love that character and I’d like to see him utilized more often. And would it kill someone to write another book about the Great Lakes Initiative? I mean seriously, that’s the best super team EVER!! Heck they even had Deadpool on their team for a while before he was in every title.

    • ~wyntermute~
      February 21, 2010 at 11:42 pm — Reply

      I find it… interesting that you say a title full of B-Listers would not hold your attention, but then you demand the return of the GLI, a team full of C-Listers (except for Squirrel Girl, who is most definitely A-List based on how many people pee their pants at the merest mention of her name). Deadpool was a “b-lister” who profited from his exposure during his time as such, so much so that he turned into Wolverine-With-A-Funny-Bone. You are at odds with your argument, it seems. :) Or is it just that you don’t give a whit for the DCU B-Teamers cuz you likes the MarvelU? (Which is okay, cuz my tastes are similar, but inverted to favor the DCU.) I mean, I’m reading “The Great Ten” pseudoreligiously, but I probably wouldn’t buy a Daredevil comic if you offered to pay me back for it. :) It’s just how I roll, generally ‘downhill’ and ‘towards the DeeSeeYou’. :)

      • Damascus
        February 22, 2010 at 8:42 am — Reply

        I reread my statement and I did contradict myself, sorta. I was more or less meaning that a full team of straight characters (and by straight I mean not purposefully meant to be goofy or oddball) probably wouldn’t sell that well, at least not in a long-run setting, having witnessed quite a few teams like that get cancelled or hastily ended. The GLI are B-Listers, obviously apart from Squirrel Girl, but they are hilarious and that’s what makes them great. They aren’t taking the characters too seriously and trying to introduce Flatman as a real major player or anything. These aren’t even characters that they will probably ever try to piggyback some event to turn them into a big deal. And to where my allegiances lie, I’m really not for one or the other more, I want both to do well so I have lots of great stuff to read. I do get bored with Superman and Wonder Woman, but Batman, the Outsiders, JLA (in general), GL, GLC all that stuff is great. With Marvel I have a ton of stuff I like there too, although I haven’t been too keen on the X-Franchise for a while if anyone knows a good jumping on point that isn’t horribly convoluted I’d be willing to give it another try, I used to love them. I personally love the obscure characters, especially if they really were in comics in the past and they’re returning, just like The Twelve and Congorilla. I just think that they seldom are profitable without having some tentpole characters, at least until they’re established as a cohesive unit.

        • ~wyntermute~
          February 22, 2010 at 2:04 pm — Reply

          Okies, I can see from where thou comest. :) The comics (and pop culture, in general) industry seems to suffer from a bit of a circular conundrum: We won’t produce things that won’t sell, but we want to be creative and different but it won’t sell. Obviously I am not blaming you (or any individual) for that, but as a group, should we be given more credit by the braintrusts? I mean, who’da thought Deadpool would sell? He’s a less-good (in the good vs evil sense) Spider-Mouth, with guns and Wolverine-level healing, and he’s insane… Nobody’s ever gonna get behind that, right? But, ‘lo and beholdontoyourhat, here he is guesting in everybody and their dog’s comic. Booster B-List is on his second series (and it’s my favorite comic book) and so on, and so forth. Maybe the “casual reader” won’t buy anything new/different, but is that any different from, say, Hollywood’s penchant to do only “big deal” movies? Then when “indie films” come along that are actually quality goods, they find a way of attracting people who like quality goods. Do we even _want_ comic book companies to pander to the ‘casual audience’ or should they pay attention to the long-timers who lap up these shiny mags like cats in the creamery? Long story short, I think there IS a market for “different”, but it’s never going to top the monthly sales charts. That, however, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. I’ll be reading it, and it seems you will be also. :) The minority deserves stuff they (we) can enjoy too!

          • Damascus
            February 23, 2010 at 3:08 am — Reply

            Then we come to the issue of “To Trade or Not to Trade?” I personally don’t buy the trades when they come out; some do and that’s great too. I don’t feel the same about a story that if I’m finally reading the arc way after it’s ramifications have been felt all over the DCU/MarvelU then it doesn’t resonate as well as hanging after every issue and waiting for the next slice o’ meatloaf to be dished up. That being said, it’s just a matter of a) really getting this different type of team/storyline out in front of people and b) people buying it in magazine form so that the companies know that it’s selling well and worth continuing the storyline. When I hear people saying they’ll wait for the trade, I just think that they may make a trade but if it seems like no one is buying the book that it shouldn’t continue. I do buy into getting the trades on storyline that haven’t been collected in quite a while though, but I know there’s a huge market for trades too. To each their own.

  14. Carl
    February 22, 2010 at 9:13 am — Reply

    I think the Justice League’s main weakness in recent years hasn’t been the lineup or even the changes. It’s that it’s been used to tell tertiary stories relating to crossovers. If the League is Earth’s premier team and the first line of defense, it should be at the center of nearly every crossover. It hasn’t been. It’s members have been, but the League itself hasn’t.

    This is one area where Marvel has the right idea. Like Bendis or hate him, he made The Avengers the central team of the Marvel U. Yes, the main title still gets relegated to flashback stories during the crossovers, but the team is at the forefront of what’s going down.

    I’ve felt for some time that whoever is writing the JLA needs to be one of the DCU’s showrunners, like Geoff Johns or Grant Morrison. At the very least, the JLA needs to be involved in the planning meetings, so he or she doesn’t get cut off at the knees the way Dwayne McGuffie was. How are you supposed to put out a quality team book when you don’t even know who the members are.

    As with others, I’m a little uneasy with the current lineup due to the idea that they’re probably placeholders. We know Mon-El’s fate. He’s going back into the Phantom Zone sooner, rather than later since he needs to stay a teenager when he joins the Legion. At some point Bruce and Diana will be back, so where does that leave Dick and Donna. They’re great characters on their own, but shine brightest when out of their mentors’ shadows. However, the current lineup finally addresses the whole weakness with the “Adult Titans”. They’re JLA level heroes stuck in the minors due to a lack of roster spots. It can also give the League a balance between the classic League, who are mainly a team of professionals (with a few friendships and cliques) and the Super-Buddies which was a group of friends who worked together.

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