Current Reviews


Sunday Slugfest – Justice League of America #12

Posted: Sunday, August 19, 2007
By: Keith Dallas

Writer: Brad Meltzer
Artists: Ed Benes, Eric Wight, Sandra Hope

Publisher: DC Comics

Average Rating:

Bryant Frattalone:
Jon Judy:
Chris Murman:
Kevin Powers:
Thom Young:

Bryant Frattalone

Plot: An abbreviated re-run of what’s gone before. A statement of the current status quo. Our heroes discover Deathstroke’s up to something no good. Really? You’re kiddin me. Two veteran Leaguers watch on from the shadows.

Commentary: There is absolutely nothing spectacular about Meltzer’s farewell from this book. My plot synopsis above pretty much says it all. Why we needed yet another flashback to the League’s origin and rehash of the current team’s status and winding it up with a now cliché’ splash page of the team in action I’ll never know. Not much happens here to move the story forward or set up for the next writer other than the revelation that Slade Wilson is behind Brion’s power troubles. This doesn’t thrill me with anticipation at all since Deathstroke seems to be an overused DC character these days.

Meltzer started out bringing upset and innovation to the team. About the last cool things he did (which seem so long ago now) were to bring The Hall of Justice to the comics’ canon and a version of the Justice League Satellite back. Since then he’s just been used to return Wally West to the present and give us an underwhelming cave in adventure last issue just to tell us Vixen is leeching off the rest of the team’s powers and not animals anymore. Ho-hum.

The only thing that had me a little in anticipation was the shadowy mystery figures watching from behind the scenes. Alas, these just turned out to be legacy characters from the League’s beginnings. However, their presence was a little jolting since they have both been twisted almost beyond recognition in current DC storylines.

Ed Bene’s artwork was standard this issue. He didn’t have much to work with by way of story or adventure, so it’s not his fault. I really don’t have much more to say. The short Meltzer era just is not memorable, and he doesn’t go out with a bang. You could skip this issue and pick up the next and still be fine and not miss anything. He hasn’t said anything here we didn’t get from his whole run. I hope we can get back to high adventure with the new writer.

Final Word: A quiet uneventful departure for Meltzer.

Jon Judy:

If I judged Justice League of America #12 by its cover, I would think it was great.

But beyond those gorgeous Alex Ross covers - please tell me you didn’t pick up the Michael Turner variant instead! – this issue delivers exactly what the eleven before it have given us: very little.

Let’s recap those last eleven, shall we? Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman stood around a lot debating the future of the team; Red Tornado was suckered into taking on a human body, but now he’s an android again. Vixen and Geo-Force’s powers are all wonky; and Hawkgirl wants Speedy’s arrow in her quiver.

But wait, there’s more! The League has moved into the Hall of Justice. Yep. Double check that cover date and you’ll see it does indeed say ’07, not ’77, but we’re still being… treated (?)… to a nostalgic blast from one of television history’s worst cartoons.

Did I forget something? If I did, it couldn’t have been too memorable.

Issue #12 maintains that status quo, quite literally, as writer Brad Meltzer foes out with a yawn. Each of the book’s subplots is advanced slightly, while the Big Three, through unexplained means, spy on each of their teammates and evaluate them. Again. Only now, a mystery duo is spying, through unexplained means, on the Big Three and evaluating them. If you can’t figure out who these voyeurs are, go jump in a lake. On Mars.

The real problem with this book is that we’ve never been given a reason to care about any of the characters. Take the Red Arrow/Hawkgirl subplot; perhaps I would find their romance believable and compelling if I was familiar with the characters, but I haven’t read anything about Speedy since I bought the Green Lantern/Green Arrow trades, and who the hell can keep track of who Hawkgirl is these days? So when they meet and sparks fly, I just have to trust that these two characters would indeed be hot for each other.

That’s the problem with this book throughout: It’s all formula, no character development. Add some inter-team paranoia, throw a couple of the characters in bed, give someone some problems with their powers… it’s super-team 101. But why should I care?

Let’s take another example: OK, so Vixen’s powers aren’t working right. So what? Who is she? I mean really; I read the Detroit League back in the day, but who is she now? She’s a model and a superhero, fine, but what kind of person is she? What does she stand for? Believe in? I have no idea, so this could be anyone on the team with wonky powers and the story would be exactly the same; it’s plot first, characters never.

If you want a mediocre issue of a mediocre team book, grab this one up. Otherwise, grab up the next issue of X-Factor and save yourself fifty-one cents.

Chris Murman:

Being a Texan, I’m allowed by law to use the statement, “My daddy once told me, leave something in better shape than when you found it.” It’s sort of a catch-all phrase, applicable to many things. I’d tell you more, but I would be violating the terms of my redneck card. What does this have to do with comics?

Brad Meltzer is obviously not from Texas.

With his second straight comic series for DC, he has left something in worse shape than he found it, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad book. I just don’t see how the Justice League could be seen as the heroic team that protects truth, justice and etc. The current JLA runs amok with mistrust, shacking up and self-doubt in the Hall.

Please don’t mistake my words as condemnation for the book itself. Who doesn’t love a group of dysfunctional heroes? Vixen has powers she doesn’t understand, Dinah wants to pimp-slap Hawkgirl, and Reddy is just plain creeping people out. Batman looks to be keeping tabs on his teammates again, Roy is sowing his quiver of oats, and Jeff is still aligning himself with Lex Luthor (even if he’s making it up, it’s just wrong for a Leaguer to do that). I’m not even going to delve into the exciting Geo Force. Other than being Terra’s brother and a king, I don’t know enough to care that he’s having back alley meetings with Deathstroke.

Didn’t the holy trinity of the DCU get back together to put a team we could all trust and respect?

While this may be disconcerting to readers, I rather like Meltzer’s take on my favorite universe of heroes. I just wish we could have had twelve issues just like this instead of what we got. “Tornado’s Path,” while action packed and filled with interesting villains, seemed to only set the table for the “Lightning Saga” with Geoff Johns’ Justice Society of America. We all know how well that turned out, so there’s no sense in rehashing it. I can’t beat up Mr. Meltzer too much about it. If I had the chance to write a great story with one of my good buddies, I’d craft a story around that too.

Character study is this writer’s bag, and we got plenty of it in this issue. The concept of monitor duty is something rarely used in comics today. With all the action capable with this bunch, why would we want to see a rotating group of people sitting in front of a screen? Simple, it’s a behind the scenes look behind the curtain at the wizard. We all know heroes are normal people, just with powers, and today’s generation isn’t in awe of superheroes any more. As a result, it just makes sense that stories just like “Monitor Duty” accompany the usual fisticuffs the JLA gets into.

What was most interesting about this story was the narration of Martian Manhunter and Aquaman. Arthur and J’onn, being seasoned leaguers and soon to be members of Batman’s black bag Outsiders, were curious choices to monitor the current Leaguers and assess their progress to date. We have had a year with this group, after all. I just wonder what their involvement with this story will mean for future issues of this title. Surely this issue was written for Dwayne McDuffie as set up for what he plans on doing in the coming year. I may have to pick up Batman and the Outsiders after all to see what happens.

Infinite Crisis brought us a revitalized and revamped DCU Trinity. Bruce, Clark and Diana are the close friends they should always be. They trust and believe in each other; that’s what makes them heroes. Their choice of teammates may be a bit haphazard, but their getting together in the first place felt the same way, so it fits.

With the exception of the JSoA crossover, I really enjoyed this year in the life of the League. It’s hard for me to picture not buying this title as long as I’m into comics, so I am glad it was in good hands for the year. This writer provides stories full of real emotion and solid characters. The good news about Brad leaving the title is the reigns are being transferred to very capable hands. D-Mac will pump out heroism hard core, and if he combines it with a new Green Lantern like the solicits suggest, even better.

I’d give Meltzer’s 13 issues a solid four bullets. Nine or 10 solid issues out of 13 is quite a nice batting average. Come back to comics soon Brad. I’ll be patiently waiting.

Kevin Powers:

Brad Meltzer’s run on the re-launch of the Justice League of America comes to an end this week as the future direction of the DC Universe is still up for debate. I, for one, have really enjoyed Brad Meltzer’s run, and I think he did a great job focusing in on both the legacy and the team aspect of each squad member. He took a book which usually focuses on the team itself and showed what exactly that team means to each individual member. He’s done an excellent job in taking rather obscure, “C-List” characters and heroes (such as Vixen and Geo-Force) and giving them new life and purpose. While “The Lightning Saga” may have caused a few headaches for some, and others still complain that Meltzer took too long forming the League, I personally think he handled the job well and has left the door open and the expectations high for the next creative team.

I really felt that Meltzer’s run on Justice League of America was something different. With the initial story-arc of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman voting on who would be able to join the prestigious group, I just felt like there was something special happening. The team came together slowly but logically. Meltzer didn’t just throw them all together and say “here’s your new JLA.” He took his time, made sure that readers understood why each member was part of the team and made sure readers knew the history each member had with the team. The premise of this issue is not necessarily to establish certain things or to promote whatever crisis is on the horizon; rather it is Meltzer’s way of parting ways with his new JLA.

There was something about this issue that worked extremely well with me. A lot of it has to do with the way it was told. Meltzer made it seem like Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman were the three main and most important members of the Justice League when this series launched. That changes from the very beginning of this issue as Meltzer treats readers to a flashback sequence, excellently drawn by Eric Wight, which features the original JLA. The story as a whole is essentially told from Martian Manhunter and Aquaman’s point of view. Aquaman and Martian Manhunter are two of the original members of the team and, for the most part, have always been mainstays. I enjoyed the story being told from two of the original JLA members who are now members on Batman’s other team.

Meltzer also takes the opportunity to feature “a day at work” for the lesser known heroes who do not have a series of their own. He also takes the opportunity to open the doors to ideas he’s planted from the very beginning, such as Red Arrow finally sleeping with Hawkgirl. But this comes after Red Arrow introduces Hawkgirl to his daughter, which will no doubt elevate this relationship to the next level. There’s a great deal to appreciate about this issue, especially the way Meltzer takes the time to focus on the character relationships. Vixen and Geo-Force share a moment to discuss the lack of control over their powers, Black Lightning has a great scene with an informant, and Black Canary asserts her authority with Hawkgirl both as chairperson of the League and as mother-figure to Red Arrow.

The idea advanced throughout this issue is that no matter how the JLA changes, it always stays the same. This has a few different meanings, one being that the team will always have the same goal and ideals behind it. The other is the “literal” meaning, that no matter how much the DC Universe changes, it always stays the same, which has everything to do with the “Silver Age” approach to the DC Universe lately. It remains to be seen where exactly the DC Universe is headed with Final Crisis, but with all of the Silver Age innuendo as of late, “it appears that the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

One other problem I had with this issue is Aquaman. Although he is barely seen, he is one of the narrators. But isn’t the Aquaman featured in Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis an entirely different Arthur Curry than the original version? Is there something Meltzer knows that no one else does, or is it the same Aquaman?

While this issue is essentially Meltzer’s way of saying “goodbye” to his version of the JLA, it is still well-done and supported by the amazing artistic talents of Eric Wight, Ed Benes and Sandra Hope. While Meltzer focused primarily on the character relationships in this series, his successor, Dwayne McDuffie, should no doubt bring some big heroes vs. villains action to the series, but he cannot ignore the relationships and ideas Meltzer has built.

Thom Young:

This is how Meltzer’s run ends
This is how Meltzer’s run ends
This is how Meltzer’s run ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

I’m not sure it was intended, but I did get the sense that the members of the JLA really are “Hollow Men” in this issue. I don’t mind stories where nothing much happens in terms of action as long as we get something interesting in terms of characterization and ideas.

However, this issue didn’t involve the exploration of any intriguing intellectual ideas, and the attempts to explore the characters didn’t particularly interest me. Without going back through the issue to refresh my memory, here’s what I remember of the “character revelations” that Meltzer provided:
  • The Red Tornado is becoming emotionally cold, and trouble may be brewing in his marriage.

  • Red Arrow uses his daughter to garner some interest from Hawkgirl—the way some men are supposed to take puppies on a walk as a way of meeting women.

  • He then gets her in bed almost immediately even though the final scene in her recently canceled title shows her flying off into the sunset holding hands with Carter Hall (or Kator Hol or whatever Hawkman’s name is in the current incarnation of the character). The two looked very much in love. Ah well, c’est l’amour.

  • Black Canary has become more confident in her abilities and leadership skills since she’s been away from Oliver Queen (because he was dead for a while), which is why either J’onn J’onzz or Arthur Curry doesn’t believe her impending marriage to Ollie is a good idea.

  • Oh yeah, J’onn and Arthur like to use their old headquarters in the cave near Happy Harbor to spy on their former colleagues because, “they’ll need us again . . . someday.”
All of these characterizations struck me as hollow.

I’ll admit, though, that some of these “character revelations” look like they could blossom into interesting stories. However, Dwayne McDuffie indicated in a panel discussion at the San Diego Comic Con that he isn’t going to continue any of the storylines that Meltzer had in mind—including the “upcoming stories” that Meltzer hinted at on the final pages of Justice League of America #0.

While I haven’t hated reading Meltzer’s thirteen issues of this title (0-12), I have this nagging feeling that all I’ve done is waste some time and money. These issues haven’t been as memorable for me as Meltzer’s Identity Crisis mini-series (which I mostly loved, except for the lack of logic behind Jean Loring taking a flamethrower with her when she paid Sue Dibney a social call).

At this point, I’m not sure I’m going to buy the next issue when McDuffie takes over the scripting duties. I’ve been looking for titles to cut so that I can buy some graphic novels I’ve been wanting, and this title is looking like a prime candidate—not because it’s bad, but because it hasn’t been as good as it should be and because McDuffie has never interested me in the past with his writing.

Meltzer might have been better prepared for this title if he had re-read those 1970s issues of Justice League of America that he’s mentioned more than once are his favorites. In particular, he might have gotten some ideas from the runs that Mike Friedrich (#86-99) and Steve Englehart (#139-47, 149-50) did on the title back then.

If those stories are available in trade paperbacks, they’re well worth buying after saving your money from being spent on this current series.

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