Writer: Brad Meltzer
Artists: Ed Benes and Sandra Hope
Publisher: DC Comics
Plot: While the DC Universe's big three pick the roster for the new J.L.A., the Red Tornado's loved ones agonize over whether the hero will return to life.
Comments: Some people will hate it. Those who found Identity Crisis too violent or too gritty for comic book fare will be predetermined to hate it because Brad Meltzer is writing it. Others will give it a chance, simply because they love the characters.
I fall in the latter camp. The cynic in me would have believed that DC's rebooting of the J.L.A. following the events of Infinite Crisis was just a pretext for DC to give their premiere team book to a hot creative team including former Superman artist Ed Benes while slapping a hefty $3.99 cover price on it. To a degree that may be true, but this comic still has enough visual and narrative oomph to it to warrant the proverbial price of admission, and then some, in spite of Meltzer's fondness for multicolored captions..., or maybe because of it. After all, good writing and good characterization always trumps the trite and the hackneyed.
Besides, what fan would not love turning to the first page to find the arresting visuals of the logos on the costumed chests of DC's most powerful trinity? Those three images are iconic enough, seldom have three panels told so much, and it only gets better from there. Meltzer's pacing of the story is great as he masterfully intertwines the big three putting the pieces of the shattered Justice League back together while coming up with a new roster and telling Red Tornado's story in the process. Half the fun is finding out who will make the roster into the world's greatest superhero team.
There's so much good stuff here, it's hard to know where to begin: The marvelous way in which Arsenal and Hal Jordan speak about their relationship with Green Arrow. The palpable desperation in Red Tornado's desire to be in a human body, just so he can be reunited with those he loves, no matter the cost or the possible loss of his powers and the smart references to a non-corporeal existence as described by a familiar character clad in red. The dialogue between Gold and Platinum, and the poignant way in which Ollie says, "Go get 'em Roy" when the boy gets the call from his former teammates. These are all fun and true to the spirit of these characters and handled with expert care by the creative team.
The book is concurrently a tribute to the long histories of these characters while at the same time it's another modern mystery in the making. The type of story Meltzer loves to craft with unexpected twists and turns, none of which I care to spoil here. While there are enough references to events in current DC continuity to satisfy long time readers, there aren't so many to make this book inaccessible to new readers. The artwork is stunningly solid. Characters look the way they are supposed to, whether in costume and in action sequences or out of costume in more subdued scenes of reflection and conversation. I could have done without the excerpt plugging Meltzer's latest novel at the end of the comic, but that's a small nit to pick in light of all that is great about this introductory tale which focuses not on an established character like Batman but on a long running, albeit less well known, hero such as the Red Tornado. Perhaps the book's only discernable flaw is the fact it leaves you wanting more, but that's hardly something to complain about.
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