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JLA #117

Posted: Friday, August 12, 2005
By: John Hays



Writer: Geoff Johns, Allan Heinberg
Artists: Chris Batista (p), Mark Farmer (i)

Publisher: DC Comics


Crisis of Conscience Part Three! While J’onn has to deal with Despero, Wally finds out that Lois is in danger! The Leaguers (or is it former Leaguers… more on that later) fight the Secret Society of Supervillains, only to be end up being faced with a very familiar decision once again!

Okay, let’s get this out of the way. There were some art issues, specifically on page 4. J’onn’s left eye was, in fact, his lower eyelid. Dinah had an inked outline double hovering below Wally. Fire’s hair wasn’t green and Ice (if that was supposed to be Ice) should have had white hair and white gloves. Did I miss anything?

Now that the most glaring errors are out of the way, back to the fun stuff. Geoff Johns loves the Silver Age. It’s obvious, and I can’t fault him for it because so did I. Seriously, how great is it, after the past year or two of blasé JLA stories for the most part, to be this excited about the JLA again? You’ve got all the elements of a classic Silver Age story: Despero, the hero/villain roll calls, the Secret Society… the list goes on and on.

HOWEVER… and let this be clear… this is NOT your typical Silver Age story. In fact, if you think about it, this could really be the culmination of what Identity Crisis was trying to do to the Silver Age, which was to “darken” it, make it more “realistic,” or explain away the innocence of the Silver Age villains (I use the quotation marks since I don’t personally believe the Silver Age NEEDS any excuses for the stories told during that time).

Johns is moving right along on this path that Identity Crisis started. When Zatanna and the Flash are talking, it’s not about the possibilities of a romance between the two as in the old Silver Age stories with Barry… it’s about how Zatanna HAS no family to protect from the Secret Society other than the League itself. Yes, Batman is fixing the Red Tornado (as usually must happen in any classic Silver Age JLA story… poor Reddy), but when he finds out that the Daily Planet is under attack, does he call his old chums in the JLA? No. When the JLA is done with the bad guys, do they hand them over to the authorities? No, they decide to take yet another vote... because, you know, doing that never bit them on the rear in the past or anything.

So for the most part, like it or not, Johns (and Heinberg… don’t want to forget about him) faithfully continues this sequel of sorts to Identity Crisis, making us wonder if Superman will take a stand next issue, or if he will fold under the worry of seeing Lois in danger and make a decision that could tear apart any remaining trust he and Batman have. For the most part, I thought this was well done. I especially liked the early flashbacks to previous incarnations of the League and their battles with Despero. However, I just don’t seem to be following who the League is right now. The last I heard before this storyline was that the league was a group of people that DIDN’T include Hawkman, Black Canary, Green Arrow, Hal Jordan or Zatanna. Now, these very people suddenly seem to BE the league from which Batman resigned, and Superman is threatening to quit. Why did Batman quit again? The league he’s a part of (before this story at least) is light years away from the group of people he’s mad at. The same can be said of Superman. That distinction seems to be getting lost in the shuffle of this story.

My other nitpick is that I just don’t like how Superman has been portrayed, both in Identity Crisis and here. DC is making him a gray character morally speaking, and Superman is one character that I would never really portray as morally uncertain. I think most of the second tier are open to that type of portrayal, but I really see the big three as being polarized in their respective ideals, and so the references to Superman “hearing what he wants to hear” and turning the other cheek doesn’t ring true to me. At least in this issue Johns redeems him a bit by telling us that he didn’t know about Batman’s mind wipe, but if the next issue shows Supes voting for the mind wipes again after it is SO obvious now that this isn’t a good solution, then I will be very disappointed in a storyline that I’ve really enjoyed so far.

I really want to like this storyline, and I really have until this issue. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not totally derailed for me just yet, but I see a big obstruction on the tracks up ahead, and I don’t know if the train’s going to make it through safely or not. Whatever happens, though, with Johns at the wheel, I’m on for the duration of the ride. (Oh, and did I mention that I loved seeing Jimmy Olsen get some panel time, if only for a brief moment?)



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