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Justice League of America #20

Posted: Thursday, May 1, 2008
By: Bryant Frattalone

Dwayne McDuffie
Ethan Van Sciver
DC Comics
Plot: The Return of the JLA!

Commentary: Well, actually there is more to the plot than the synopsis given above would indicate. What can I say? I’m excited. Not a hoax! Not an imaginary tale! Dwayne McDuffie is back to writing a full issue of the JLA! The title of this issue is "Back Up To Speed!” Boy the undertones of meaning in that are staggering. Has McDuffie or DC editorial been reading our JLA reviews of late here at Comics Bulletin. They’ve indicated for the past few months that JLA as a whole has been anything but “Up To Speed”. With that said we get a heck of a self-contained JLA story here that returns the book, at least for this issue, to A-list greatness. What are the factors that contribute to this development?

1. No crossovers with current DC Specials or Projects.
2. Dwayne McDuffie writing the entire issue with no cheesy back up story
3. The presence of a hot artist in Ethan Van Sciver
4. All out action, danger and rescues
5. An engrossing monologue and commentary on a hero’s powers which advances the character while still giving a respectful nod to his past.
6. Dialogue between characters that has weight and rings true not cheesy forced relationships
7. Lives are changed and decisions are made

Not since The JLA Wedding Special have we had any of this. Here is the kicker, only three members of the JLA are present in the story but the exciting team dynamics that should be what the JLA is all about are here too. The book is marvelously narrated by Wally West / The Flash. The scene where he puts out a multi-acre fire is some of the best super-hero writing I’ve read from DC in a long time. Wonder Woman enters the scene with as much power and majesty as we would expect and even Black Lighting’s 'phoning in' drips with action and intensity due to no small measure to Ethan Van Scivers dynamic pencils. Admittedly, his anatomy gets a little weird at times but on the whole his characters fairly leap off the pages. A big nod of praise goes to Brian Miller and Hi-Fi for the fantastic coloring this issue which makes Flash’s powers a feast for the eyes. You have to see it to believe it. It literally embodies iconic phrases like, “Ride the lighting" or "Faster than a speeding bullet.”

The Queen Bee is the villain here and besides having the ugliest presentation of any villainess I’ve ever seen, she’s always been a “one trick pony” kind of throw away villain to me. McDuffie, Sciver and Miller even make her and her HIVE cronies interesting to watch. The story really isn’t about Flash and Wonder Woman stopping Queen Bee though. What it is about is demonstrating the potential for greatness that has been missing from JLA since it’s re-launch. It was almost there under Brad Meltzer. We saw a glimpse of what could be in The JLA Wedding Special and then it was down the tubes again. McDuffie with this issue has gotten the epic team concept that is the JLA back on track. I hope it's not a fluke. Next issue boasts a tie-in to Final Crisis with art by Carlos Pacheco (another A-list talent in my book). Let’s hope McDuffie and DC can get it right by keeping up the momentum they’ve built with this single issue while still participating in the BIG DC EVENT.

Final Word: This issue the JLA is indeed “Back Up to Speed”.



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