Current Reviews


Justice League of America #39

Posted: Monday, December 7, 2009
By: Shawn Hill

James Robinson
Mark Bagley, Rob Hunter (i)
DC Entertainment

Plot: The team is in disarray, with the Hall of Justice trashed and injuries for core members Dr. Light and Plastic Man. And Vixen has no idea what to do about it. Meanwhile, zombies!

Comments: Oh, no, they aren't zombies, Zatanna clarifies for us, as the team blunders into their now spooky and desolate Hall. They're evil, and they eat hearts, but they're also smart. So, like zombies then, but with extra added head games thrown in.

I'm not asking for much from Blackest Night, as I'm not reading it except where it shows up in titles that I already buy. So all I want is that it not screw up things too badly, and maybe provide a little zombie thrill or two. The formula, in the books I've come across so far, seems fairly simple. Somebody who's dead narrates the intro, telling their life story up to the point of their death (usually with little rancor), before the black ring completes with its transformed download, and then the non-zombies go after their suddenly hated loved ones.

Basically, the black-ringed ones have all the motivation of Superboy Prime--they're one endless snit-fit, a very schematic way to be the worst nightmares of our heroes. What if someone you love actually hated you, like totally? Bummer! But once you sign on, there's room for a few scares earned with the right psychological pinions in place.

Robinson and Bagley turn their formidable skills to this less than worthy story, upping the atmosphere and making the Hall a pretty decent haunted house setting. Bagley and Hunter shroud every page in black shadows, so that our heroes' faces and defensive gestures become beacons of light in the darkness. The colors by Pete Pantazis are also designed to standout amidst the somber tones, like candles flickering. It's a little hard to keep track of the foes, as they all have a requisite Lantern-y costume design mixed with their own old costumes, in shades of helpful black.

But I think this issue the foes are Vibe, Zatara (who died a long time ago in a Swamp Thing comic IIRC) and maybe Steel. The group seems very worried about Aztek for some reason I can't fathom, but even the Detroit League can be a deadly threat with ring power. The desperation of Zatanna's counter-spells to her ersatz father's attacks are compelling and as she flees to protect her mates and draw the battle away, the other heroes split up (of course), in order to encounter their own tailor-made enemies.

The worst part of the entire book is the premise that the bad Dr. Light be revived again, as having been reduced to a pile of sludge by the Spectre was an ideal fate for that creep. I'm tired of seeing him fight his distaff namesake, who has always been more worthy of the costume than he. I hope Robinson, who makes the dialogue stick this issue, keeps his renovation of the good Dr. Light going strong next issue, as I'd love her to say lights out to the villain for the final time.

What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!