Or – “Before The New Comes In, We Have To Out With The Old…”

After 30-odd years as a comic reader, I’ve come to the realization that there’s a sad truth about a Justice League of America comic book:  There is NO way to win.

Either you’re damned for including the “boring” Big Seven characters, or you’re damned for NOT  including the “bankable” Big Seven characters.  Either way the story suffers from the same nay-sayers who argue, alternately, “I don’t know why anybody would care about these people” and “We know nothing can change because everyone has to be alive in their own title.”  It’s a Catch-22 unmatched by any other title (though LSH and Avengers suffer from similar issues regarding their respective core three characters) and it has killed many a JLA lineup in the shell.  As we wind down the last days of the DCU as we know it, a JLA featuring Superman’s cousin, Batman’s ward, Wonder Woman’s half-sister, The Flash’s rival’s daughter, Green Lantern’s baby girl, an oddly-colored alien unrelated to but functionally similar to the Martian Manhunter and a gorilla much like the one who waltzed with Aquaman that one time, James Robinson tries to split the difference…  But does the halfway approach work?

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #59
Writer: James Robinson
Penciler: Daniel Sampere
Inker: Wayne Faucher
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Editor: Rex Ogly & Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, on Justice League of America:  When Hal Jordan pulled away from Black Canary’s JLA leadership (a moment that, combined with other character bits in the last two years, combines to make it seem that Hal Jordan is a completely misogynistic jerkwad), he founded his own team, which immediately plunged the JLA into it’s darkest moments since ‘Breakdowns.’  (The ‘Darkseid Rising’ arc technically never happened, thanks to a time loop, or it would be my call here.)  Dick “Batman” Grayson was able to revive the League with help from old partner Donna Troy, the team of Congorilla and Starman III, and occasional zappy kablammicus from all portions of the DC Universe.  For the last couple of months, though, Dick and his team have been battling the machinations of Eclipso in a story very reminiscent of his stunt in the DC annuals about a decade ago, and everyone is suffering.  Jesse Quick has no powers, Jade is possessed, and Donna Troy has just been impaled by Eclipso’s sword of darkness.  This could get ugly.

Crying For Justice…

We start with a triumphant Eclipso remembering the moment that brought him to his triumph, and MY LORD is it wordy.  The first SEVEN PAGES of the book (out of 20 pages of total story) are nothing more than Eclipso monologuing about how he destroyed the moon, killed the JLA, took over the world and eventually brought even the Guardians of the Universe under his thumb, laughing heartily all the time.  We then see a flashback of the Justice League trying to find a weapon that will stop the living darkness, leading to Batman’s plan:  Saint Walker will use his inherent Blue Lantern powers of hope to show Eclipso his heart’s desire, trapping the lord of darkness in a mindwarp loop and giving the JLA a chance to defeat him.  From a reader’s perspective, I’m annoyed that this is EXACTLY how The Martian Manhunter defeated Despero during the aforementioned ‘Breakdowns’ crossover, but I’m more offended that I don’t recall ever hearing that Blue Lanterns had this ability.  Did I miss an issue, or have we fallen back to the old ‘Lantern’s ring will save the day!’ trick from the Silver Age?

…Vamping For Time.

Either way, it really doesn’t matter, as the JLA (plus The Atom and the original Green Lantern) puts their heads together and takes down Eclipso with with kind of speed you usually see reserved for squash matches against the Brooklyn Brawler.  Starman overcomes his own limitations to free The Shade, which then leaves Eclipso vulnerable to a multi-pronged light attack from Starman, Jade, Green Lantern and Saint Walker (with cameo appearanced by Cyborg and Doctor Light II) and then… nothing.  To call it an anticlimax would be an understatement.  Jesse Quick suddenly gets her powers back, promising to “explain later,” Green Lantern up and flies away to get crippled in that recent JSA arc, and the Atom pats our heroes on the back.  “I hope you get to be the JLA as long as you want,” says a proud Ray Palmer.  Smash cut to the next page, where Dick Grayson announces that they are disbanding their League effective immediately.  

Wait…  What?  The caption assures me that five weeks have passed, but the letters page lets us know that this is the final issue of the current League, and thanks us for our support.

The Verdict: A Hurried, Muddled Hot Mess

Given the eternal, glacially paced build-up to Eclipso’s reign of terror, it’s pretty clear that the plans for this issue had to be changed when the trigger was pulled on the DCnU.  Regular penciller Brett Booth is mercifully absent from this issue, which gives the visuals more oomph (Donna Troy doesn’t look like a starving waif, for one thing) but there’s no way to overcome the strong feeling that about three issues worth of developments were shoehorned into this one to wrap things up quickly.  Robinson’s run on this book has been a shaky sort of thing anyway, always seeming within inches of running completely off the rails, but now we don’t even get a real conclusion to the ‘Rise of Eclipso.’  We don’t know why Jesse is suddenly speed-forced again, we don’t find out about Supergirl’s sudden return, we don’t even know whether the Shade (essentially lobotomized by Starman’s light-bursts) is dead or alive.  But, the editorial team wants to make it clear that Donna Troy is not and was never intended to be in the JLI, and whomever that girl was, it wasn’t Donna.  All in all, this book is completely inessential to anyone but the most hardcore JLA completist, delivering only fragments of story and ending with a final ‘thud’ that’s hard to swallow.  Justice League of America #59 can be a skip month for those saving up for September, earning only 1 out of 5 stars overall… 

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Some have theorized that the removal of the mysterious dark-haired girl from the upcoming JLI debut cover proves that the DC revamp is already a failure.  Can anybody explain to me how that particular bit of tortured logic actually works?

 

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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25 Comments

  1. Slappy
    July 22, 2011 at 5:26 pm — Reply

    The JLA has often been one of my favorite team books, but I have found that this volume has often been unreadable at which point I would drop it for a year and check it out again hoping for something better that I never did find. JLI Generation Lost has been the only good Justice League book in the last two years.
    To answer your logic puzzle it is simple, it is a self fullfilling prophecy. The naysayers who always want something different and are sick of reading the 23rd iteration of Secret Last Final Civil War Crisis of the Gods are the same people that will bitch first when something is going to change and they don’t know what it will mean because they didn’t read it before.
    Get over it people!! If Comics didn’t change, Flash would have always worn a tin hat, there would be no Green Lantern Corps, Batman would use a gun and Superman would only be strong and jump high.

  2. Brainy Pirate
    July 22, 2011 at 8:10 pm — Reply

    The DC site is still advertising #60 for August, which I guess will explain Jesse’s speed issue and the disbanding of the JLA (just in time for Flashpoint, which of course no one in the comic could know anything about).

    I agree that Robinson’s stint has been miserable. Too much talking, too slow a build-up and never any substantial payoff. The fact that you compared this to an annual really hits home the problem: this could have been an interesting annual, given how little really seems to happen (and how quickly it’s resolved).

    You didn’t mention the way the this issue makes the ending of the previous issue nothing more than a cheap trick: Oh, we didn’t kill off Donna Troy after all–she didn’t even get hurt! It was all in Eclipso’s blue-ring-induced hallucination! I assume Robinson had planned this switcharoo all along, which makes the ending of the previous issue a really lame cliffhanger. Yuck.

    And Atom’s speech was simply more lame writing on top of all the bad plotting.

    Matthew: As for your membership question, do you think the membership of the satellite era League avoided both the problems you mention? To my mind, it was a great mix of Big 7 (though to my mind at the time there was only a Big 3, and Wonder Woman was often absent from whereas Supes and Bats were over-used) with lots of really good second-tier heroes. I like the revolving membership strategy for exactly that reason: you satisfy the folks who want the big names while also allowing lots of other heroes their moment to show they can play in the big leagues as well. I think Black Canary is a great example of a character who probably can’t sustain her own book but who benefits greatly from being placed side-by-side with bigger names–she more than proves that she deserves to be on the A-list. The same could be said for Vixen, Elongated Man, etc.

  3. TaZ
    July 22, 2011 at 8:14 pm — Reply

    “If Comics didn’t change, Flash would have always worn a tin hat, there would be no Green Lantern Corps, Batman would use a gun and Superman would only be strong and jump high.” Hmmmmmm….. Well, at least they’re going back to that with the Action Comics “Lil Abner Kent” Superman anyway.

    And there’s nothing wrong with Jay Garrick’s helmet. Came in hand like a small Captain America shield several times. I’d have popped if they had re-done Wally West’s (ya’ll remember him…right? Original Kid Flash? Flash for over a decade before Barry Allen comes back and he’s now “Mr. Dad”?) uniform in a tribute to Jay.

    As for the critics, it is impossible to please a group of people that have become convinced that they have “evolved” beyond comics simply being “fun” and that nothing, essentially, will please them.

    I hate that this “re-launch” has stopped this group, which I really liked and cut the story line off so suddenly. But such is life. The “brooding” Superman now awaits.

    And as to the Blue Lantern ring being able to use another persons hope/desire to make a construct of that hope/desire, that’s been mentioned several times as one of the abilities of the blue ring. Same as yellow rings can cause constructs that represent deepest fear.

  4. Brainlock
    July 22, 2011 at 8:23 pm — Reply

    Apparently, Robinson’s run has been “Hate it!” for not being the Big 7, or “meh” because Robinson soured many a fan with CFJ and weren’t too happy to hear he was on the parent title. then there are those who hate it because it’s the Titans “posing” as the League. Even one friend admits to “Loving!” the old NTT team, yet hates this group? sigh….

    I guess I fall under “meh”, as this might have had better pacing and …well, just about everything else under a different writer and artist. Dick was tapped to lead the JLA once again because the Big 7 were unable to “play” for whatever reason (see: Obsidian Age), yet he lets Donna lead the team. She is now full of self-doubt following the Blackest Night fiasco and…you see why I fall under the “meh”? These were favorite characters mishandled by someone who wanted to use others but couldn’t. McDuffie turned that into an advantage, while Robinson apparently didn’t seem to “get” who he was playing with?

    ah well, at least Donna’s death was a fake out.

    Goodbye DC, I’ll see you when this “DCnU” experiment fails and you hurry to usher back in the…well, actually, the past few years have become sort of a miasma, haven’t they? I still have some back issues and tpbs to remember the good times.

    • Brainlock
      July 22, 2011 at 8:29 pm — Reply

      oh yeah, many (myself included) thought that JLI brunette was Donna in a new costume, but apparently, it was GYPSY? and allegedly, she was removed for the UPC box?? someone at DC laughed part of her power was turnign invisible, so she’s technically still there…just like that “Invisible Kid” in the MattyCollector Legion 12pk exclusive coming later this year. (They left a figure bubble empty, having an odd number of positions, so put in the “joke” slot of I-Kid. HYUK!)

      • Brainy Pirate
        July 23, 2011 at 12:08 am — Reply

        I think it’s been revealed that the mystery woman is not Gypsy but Lady Godiva, currently seen in the Lois Lane Flashpoint series.

        • July 23, 2011 at 7:23 am — Reply

          I think it’s been revealed that the mystery woman is not Gypsy but Lady Godiva, currently seen in the Lois Lane Flashpoint series.

          Godiva would make sense, as she is an extension of one of the old international heroes of The Global Guardians… Of course, I was under the impression Godiva was also blonde.

          • Slappy
            July 23, 2011 at 8:20 am — Reply

            She was.

          • brainypirate
            July 23, 2011 at 5:29 pm — Reply

            I think the recent art that shows her in action with the JLI does have her as blonde.

  5. wdchefdave
    July 22, 2011 at 8:31 pm — Reply

    I came in at “The Fantastic Fingers of Felix Faust”… look it up… #10 on a barber shop floor.
    Batman and Superman were added (occasionally) and Hawkman and Atom had not joined yet.
    The Justice League was just that! The best of the best (Sorry World’s Finest) and world threatening events occurred.
    Simple recipe, and all they have to do is get together when the world is threatened.
    Some or all.
    Kinda like the JSA before them.
    The ultimate combination of heroes “called” was what made it great
    (Not unlike the Avengers… but, you never know their roster.)
    But, DC gave us a possible roster on the first page. Face and title.
    You never knew what character would do WHAT to save the day.
    (Or, a combination.)
    Assorted mini-teams…

    • Brainy Pirate
      July 23, 2011 at 12:09 am — Reply

      But the JSA was composed of characters that weren’t popular enough to get their own books — and as soon as they got their own books, they were replaced on the JSA. So even the JSA was the world’s best second-string heroes….

      • July 23, 2011 at 7:21 am — Reply

        But the JSA was composed of characters that weren’t popular enough to get their own books — and as soon as they got their own books, they were replaced on the JSA. So even the JSA was the world’s best second-string heroes….

        Not entirely accurate… Wonder Woman continued to appear even after her solo title. And since that was editorial caveat (and also before the dawn of time) I’m not sure that it counts.

        I’m also not sure why people insist on using the term “second string” to define characters. Haven’t we proven that second-stringers can move up to the first rank, or is it still “I don’t like the Martian Manhunter because he wasn’t in Super-Friends” time?

        • brainypirate
          July 23, 2011 at 1:50 pm — Reply

          RE: Second String–true, and I meant simply in terms of sales. As you can see from my comment above (and I’d like to get your response to that), I think the team books are great places for characters to prove their A-list worth.

        • July 25, 2011 at 12:54 pm — Reply

          … is it still “I don’t like the Martian Manhunter because he wasn’t in Super-Friends” time?

          Judging by attitudes lately, I’d say that comics fandom as a whole is in “I hate it because I didn’t grow up with it” time and has no plans to grow out of it.

          • brainypirate
            July 25, 2011 at 6:40 pm — Reply

            That’s an interesting comment, because as someone who grew up reading the satellite JLA–during the years when MM was pretty much absent from DC continuity–I’ve never understood the folks who consider him all that important.

            But it’s like you said: he was never that important to the JLA I knew. In fact, in the JLA I knew, there was no big 7, only a big 2 with 10+ rotating guests, each of whom could easily claim to be part of a big 7 had they been higher profile when the League was created.

  6. July 23, 2011 at 5:46 pm — Reply

    I am holding out hope that the dark-haired young woman is Gypsy. I would like to see Vixen reunited with her former JLA teammate. Gypsy’s powers are still evolving and she would make a great addition to this title. Besides, she has teamed with Booster Gold once before as a member of his Conglomerate and had an important story arc in the original Justice League International comic when Despero killed her parents.

  7. July 25, 2011 at 1:02 pm — Reply

    Some have theorized that the removal of the mysterious dark-haired girl from the upcoming JLI debut cover proves that the DC revamp is already a failure. Can anybody explain to me how that particular bit of tortured logic actually works?

    To some, it shows that they’re not fully committed, somehow, by changing a cover to avoid a spoiler or tweaking an outfit. I don’t get it, either. This has happened before (I remember REBELS being solicited with a totally different cast on the cover than was released to hide where the story was going), but because it’s the relaunch, there’s this “all or nothing” mentality that was never there before. Expecting anything in solicits, even covers, to be carved in stone is foolish and (like most things I’ve seen with the relaunch so far) fishing for reasons to gripe about an unreleased product.

    PS – I also hope the woman in black is Gypsy. She hasn’t really been used in a while and could use some play.

    • brainypirate
      July 25, 2011 at 6:37 pm — Reply

      I think Jurgens denied it was Gypsy.

  8. brainypirate
    July 25, 2011 at 6:36 pm — Reply

    Well, now that we know (by DiDio’s own account) that the relaunch wasn’t really discussed company-wide until October and put into action only after December, we can see why they don’t seem as committed or as in control as they’d like to appear.

    • July 25, 2011 at 11:44 pm — Reply

      Well, now that we know (by DiDio’s own account) that the relaunch wasn’t really discussed company-wide until October and put into action only after December, we can see why they don’t seem as committed or as in control as they’d like to appear.

      Okay, I can buy that… But even if we accept the logic behind it, how is that situation:

      A: Any different than what we have now?

      or

      B: Any indication that the relaunch is already doomed?

      • Brainy Pirate
        July 26, 2011 at 11:53 am — Reply

        I don’t think it means the relaunch is doomed. But I do think it weakens the image they’ve been trying to give out that this event has been in the works for years (DiDio keeps saying they wanted to do it after Final Crisis) and that it’s been fully thought-out.

        In other words, it’s not as different from what we have now as they want us to think.

        I have no predictions regarding the success of this relaunch. I’m more interested in how their explanations sometimes undermine their PR claims. They want people to trust them that they’ve really thought things through,** but then they reveal that some costume designs have been changed again from the initial images. Or we learn that some creators thought they were on a book but weren’t–at a point when it would seem a little late to still be assigning teams to books. Or characters get edited out of already-released images.

        Again, I don’t think this means the project is doomed, but it does raise suspicions that the company isn’t as far a long as they need us to believe.

        **Wow, that’s a lot of “th” words in a row…..

  9. Noobian74
    July 26, 2011 at 9:15 am — Reply

    I’ll admit it, after a while, Robinson’s run on this book started to disappoint me. Had me thinking he was at a party doing his drunken impression of Grant Morrison’s writing. Wasn’t impressed with this Eclipso story arc at all. I agree with a previously made comment, Justice League: Generation Lost was the best JL book that was being published for the past year.

    The runs that stuck out to me, besides the Mighty Morrison years, were Joe Kelly (Obsidian Age rocked), Brad Meltzer (who stiill gets respect for Identity Crisis) and Dwayne McDuffie, a man that had to make the book work despite heavy editorial resistance and being unable to use the Big Seven.

    Membership is always going to be an issue, Mr. Peterson. The Detroit Era wasn’t a favorite of many a person, but at least you got some new characters out of it. Personally, I think the best JL membership move ever made was including Plastic Man on the team. Comedy relief and a decent fighter.

  10. David
    July 27, 2011 at 3:21 pm — Reply

    James Robinson’s Starman run and his role in the JSA’s relaunch was terrific…I don’t know what happened to that guy, but I wish he’d come back. He has fallen in my esteem to the level of Dan Jurgens.

    • Noobian74
      July 28, 2011 at 8:20 am — Reply

      Yikes!

      • Brainy Pirate
        July 29, 2011 at 3:08 am — Reply

        At least Jurgens has nice art to look at…..

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