Current Reviews


Sunday Slugfest - JLA #123

Posted: Sunday, December 18, 2005
By: Keith Dallas

“Key Encounters”

Writer: Bob Harras
Artists: Tom Derenick (p), Dan Green (i)

Publisher: DC Comics

Average Rating:

Kevin T. Brown:
John Hays:
Shaun Manning:

Kevin T. Brown

The third part of a six-part storyline is never easy to review or gauge. It’s primarily still in the set-up aspect of the story, but you’re getting a better idea of where the writer is intending to take the reader. I wish I could say that’s the case here. Bob Harras is probably doing one of the tougher jobs out there today; picking a team apart, trying to keep the tie-ins to Infinite Crisis, and trying to keep the reader interested enough in coming back.

As far as I’m concerned, he’s basically failing.

I’ve no interest in what is going to happen in the next issue. The big villain he’s chosen to use is one who has been so altered from his original appearance, I don’t even recognize the character. And I have absolutely no idea what is going on beyond the fact that Donna Troy appears and takes away more heroes.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. That’s just my initial reaction to when I first read the issue. I do know that Harras is trying to present a story in which the non-powered JLAers are the stars, a story in which it’s already being touted as “World Without a Justice League” on the cover. He does succeed to a point. However, if I wanted to read a Green Arrow story or Batman story, I would read their titles. Perhaps it’s editorial edict, but I was more excited to read this story when you had the likes of Red Tornado a part of it. In taking him, and others, away from the action, it does the story a disservice. The moment that happens is the moment I just felt like flipping pages to the end to see what the cliffhanger is going to be. But dammit, Harras has this knack of keeping it together. It’s far from perfect, but he does just enough to have me coming back for another issue, especially in his handling of Batman. After is all said and done, I would love to see Harras on a monthly DC title. Perhaps one that won’t be so constrained to outside forces (i.e. tie-ins to the big event).

So while Harras’s story does barely enough to keep me coming back for more, Tom Derenick’s artwork is what definitely has me coming back. This guy draws big action. Every page is not one of 18 tiny panels, but 3 or 4 panels showing you…, well…, action. He is far and above a much better artist and storyteller than he was when he did World Watch. Like Harras, DC needs to find Derenick a regular assignment. And keep him teamed with Dan Green! Green is unfortunately one of the more under appreciated, though highly talented, inkers working in comics today.

Overall, this issue falls victim to the need of a tie-in and disbanding of the JLA. Both the creators and fans are left to deal with this crisis in a not so satisfying way.

John Hays

While Donna Troy gathers Red Tornado and Supergirl to aid her in her galactic quest, Aquaman decides to return to Atlantis to assist his wife and people, leaving Green Arrow and Black Canary to deal with The Key, and try to save their captive comrade. Fortunately, Batman is also on the case.

I’m really starting to think that Bob Harris has A.D.D. In one issue, he has Supergirl and Red Tornado join the JLA to help them with their murder case, and then in the very next issue, they dump them like yesterday’s news for a new adventure. Has nobody ever heard the words, “we’re busy”?

I just don’t understand why DC is allowing its premiere titles, such as JLA and Flash, end in whimpers instead of bangs. These titles are ending! Yes, they will eventually return, but who will care after these boring stories? Bring Grant Morrison in to finish off the JLA…I’m sure he’d love to do it in style.

The art in this issue is good. I am loving these covers, and the interior art has improved over the last few issues.

I’m looking forward to the final confrontation between Green Arrow and Batman, but this storyline has been extremely disappointing overall. I just hope that DC will still care enough about the title when it returns to bring it back in style.

Shaun Manning

Green Arrow’s plan to revitalize the League runs awry when Donna Troy takes half his recruits into space. To make matters worse, the formerly-dead heroine gives Ollie an inferiority complex by suggesting he might not be an ideal fit for an interstellar mission. The archer and Black Canary keep busy, though, trying to track down the Key, now a psychotic mass-murderer, and save their teammate Manitou Dawn.

“World Without a Justice League,” the final story arc of the series before an inevitable relaunch, has much the same feeling as the end of the original Justice League of America. All is chaos, the less-powerful leaguers are left to save the day, and anything can happen as everything runs down. A seemingly minor villain—then Professor Ivo, now the Key—shows previously unknown depths of inhumanity, and proves a much more dire threat than anyone imagined. This time, though, there is the added dimension that the Justice League has already disbanded, and efforts to resuscitate it have failed. This adds some static into the mix, since there is no clear path to victory for Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Dawn.

The static, though, also detracts a bit from the story, since the narrative seems to be largely without direction. The Key plotline is not as engaging as it might be, and Donna Troy popping in to whisk away Supergirl and Red Tornado interrupts the flow of the more compelling examination of the need for a JLA. Plus, while the Key has offed a few dozen civilians, this lacks the weight and dread seen when Ivo systematically hunted down each member of the JL Detroit all those years ago. Still, this arc is already exponentially more entertaining than the story that closed out the Justice League volume two—the absence of “the Yazz” is enough to ensure that.

From a fan’s perspective, there are myriad reasons for a JLA—but not everyone wants the same thing from DC’s flagship team title. From a hero’s perspective, though, the Justice League must serve each member’s established goals of creating a better world. Even if such a goal would justify the existence of the alliance, however, this does not necessarily mean that the requisite teamwork is possible to make the League work. After Identity Crisis, that is the status quo, and that is the issue the first few installments of “World Without a Justice League” set out to address. While it is not desirable to have just a bunch of costumed do-gooders talking about their problems for five issues, it would be nice if the “B-plot” more directly represented the conflicts within the JLA. With the arc more than half way over, the Key’s rampage does not appear to fulfill that role. Tying everything in at the end is not the same as having an underlying theme present throughout, and it’s really looking like either this is building to a shoehorned resolution or else readers will be left hanging to see things shake out in Infinite Crisis. Either way, this arc could have been a solid conclusion to a frequently-glorious series, but instead this JLA will end with a whimper.

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