Or – “Remember That Time Karate Kid Showed Up On The Cover And Confused Everyone?”
That was weird, huh? It seems like only yesterday that Brad Meltzer was writing the book and it made only marginal sense. Now, we have James Robinson handing the JLA plotting and… Um…
So, how ’bout them Huskers, huh?
Justice League of America #50
Written by JAMES ROBINSON
Art by MARK BAGLEY with POW RODRIX
Inks by ROB HUNTER and NORM RAPMUND
Gatefold cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
Variant covers by JIM LEE & MARK BAGLEY
Letters by ROB LEIGH
Colors by HI-FI
Published by DC COMICS
Previously, on Justice League of America: The JLA was shattered by the events of ‘Cry For Justice,’ with a new core team growing around Donna Troy and Batman II, the artist formerly known as Robin. Many heroes have come and gone, never quite fitting into the group dynamic (Mon-El, we hardly knew ye, except for your 50 year history and all) and the team has finally stabilized to Amazon, Control Freak, Dead Chick, Gorilla, Kryptonian, Legacy Speedster & Mik (attorneys at law?) The League seems to be enjoying a momentary lull in their endless cycle of loonies that want to kill everyone, so it’s obviously time for everything to blow up in their collective faces, right?
We open with a really cute sequence wherein Jesse Quick (also known as Liberty Belle II, recently of the Justice Society) and Supergirl race through the JLA satellite doing their “chores,” making a game of the dull drudgery of repair and cleanup duties. They even have some time for bonding, as both women share about the loss of their fathers during Blackest Night (Johnny Quick and Zor-El were both among the zombie ring-bearers, you might recall) and discuss the fact that the real binding characteristic of the current JLA roster is loss. Before they can paint each others’ toenails and watch Big Time Rush, though, a flash (not that Flash) of light heralds the arrival of Green Lantern! (Not THAT Green Lantern…) Mark Bagley is one of my favorite artists, but I’ve been a bit ambivalent on his work on this title thus far, but this issue reminds me of what I love about his work. I don’t know if it’s the inkers or the colorist, but if anyone at DC is listening: KEEP DOING THIS! Kara and Jesse look phenomenal, and the random frammistat machines are awesome as well. We see Batman and Donna having a deep discussion about the new League, same with Jade and Sebastian Faust (who would make an excellent magic-guy now that Zatanna seems to be off the table) before the League is collected to figure out the mystery of the pretty Asian woman who thinks she’s Hal Jordan.
Of course, that’s not the case at all, indeed this is the Tangent version of the character, who has a bombshell for the JLA: The Crime Syndicate is back, they’ve destroyed her homeworld and have targeted Earth-1 (or whatever we’re calling the Prime Reality these days) as their next victim. Donna walks her partners (and us, through some nicely handled exposition) through the whole “Multiverse” thing, even talking about her days partnered with Jason Todd (“Yeah, I think I’ve heard of him,” replies Batman snarkily) during the best-forgotten days of Countdown, just in time for the Crime Syndicate to bust in and start cracking skulls. I’m sure it was planned this way, but the Leaguers make a pretty good counterpoint to the CSA (Jesse Quick/Johnny Quick, Power Ring/Jade, Ultraman/Supergirl, Superwoman/Donna, and Owlman/Batman fights quickly break out) making me wonder if James Robinson isn’t building towards something important involving superhero archetypes or some such. We get some interesting flashbacks from the CSA (Owlman and Superwoman are a thing, even though she’s married to Ultraman, and Power Ring and Johnny Quick are recently back from the dead, inexplicably) explaining their thing. All the dialogue is nicely handled, balancing out the “WTF?” factor with character work, and we even get some smart thinking from Batman, while Jade kinda flips out and drains away all of Power Ring’s energy. Hopefully it’s not more Starheart madness, but I’m sure that train has sailed. As the fighty-fighty continues, we discover that it’s all a ruse to cover a plot by Owlman and Doctor Impossible to resurrect… DARKSEID!!! (Collective groan of fandom in 3… 2… 1…) Luckily, though, things don’t quite work out the way Doctor I had planned.
I have to say, this is the most impressive issue of JLA in some time, as whatever rust was in Mark Bagley’s drawing has been fully busted loose, and Robinson gets to play his usual existential questions with characters that truly work in that frame. Supergirl’s lack of identity, Batman’s long history of tragedy, Donna’s long history of even GREATER tragedy, even Jesse & Jade’s legacy status are all rife with potential, and a quick side-trip involving Congorilla and a missing Starman is a juicy little teaser for things to come. All in all, it’s a solid anniversary issue of a series whose main consistency has been inconsistency, dating all the way back to the Brad Meltzer relaunch of the book in ’06. I’m liking this team (though I’d like it more with Faust as a member), I’m loving Bags’ art again, and the story is suitably big without being another smarmy “EVERYTHING IS IN PERIL!!!!” plot. This title is DC’s flagship book (at least in my mind) and it’s time that it was legitimately good again. Justice League of America #50 is a couple-three steps in the right direction, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall, even with more Darkseid stuff in the margins…
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: My latest brainchild is a mandatory cooling-off period for characters (like Darkseid) who are in danger of being made irrelevant by overuse. What do you think would be an appropriate amount of time to declare a character “off-limits” to protect it’s legacy?