Another day, another Justice League of America relaunch. Writer James Robinson and penciller Mark Bagley are the latest creatives bidding to bring back the glory days and they begin with a bang as one of the team’s scariest foes, Despero, attacks the most recent incarnation. Robinson would get a demerit for here killing off another minor Leaguer, in both senses, but I suspect it’s a feint; he’s sharp enough to know an awful lot of readers are tired of offhand deaths, killings there purely to build up a villain’s rep or motivate a new storyline (see Justice League: Cry for Justice by, hmm, James Robinson).
Apart from Dr Light and, possibly, Plastic Man, the new JLA line-up aren’t around this issue, which is fine by me – I’ll take Vixen, Zatanna, Red Tornado and Gypsy any chance I can get. A few of them are in a poor state of health as the story begins, though we’ll have to wait until the end of Robinson’s current Cry For Justice mini series to find out why. God bless spotty scheduling. Vixen has a bum leg, Plastic Man has lost his bounce (he looks for all the world like Law & Order’s John Munch), Dr Light has a broken arm . . . they’re ill-prepared for an attack by a heavyweight such as Despero.
But despite being one of the most casual groupings in JLA history, this lot aren’t crap. And that’s my problem with this issue – from the cover on, the team are positioned as poor substitutes for the more iconic line-ups. Yet we’ve seen again and again that Vixen is one of the most intelligent and determined Leaguers ever, always ready to fight to the last for the League, and her powers are no small potatoes. Red Tornado commands the power of an elemental. Zee has undefined magic. And so on. None of this bunch are Superman or Wonder Woman, but against Despero any one of them is a lot more immediately useful than Batman.
So it’s annoying to have Vixen full of doubt as to whether this JLA – who have provided a lot of fun over the last few months, while fighting off the same threats as more lauded line-ups – should carry on. It’s even acknowledged in the book that she’s acting out of character; she explains that having her leg broken has shaken her. Right. That’s about as logical as her calling the recent members to the JLA’s original HQ in Happy Harbor – it’s a setting of strained significance that makes little story sense.
I just hope that the next few issues, which phase in various New Teen Titans, established JLA-ers and Robinson favourites, don’t make the interim team look rubbish to ensure the new lot looks better by default. If Vixen and co are going – Robinson has indicated the team will be bigger than the announced members, so who knows? – I want them to go out fighting hard, with their heads held high.
Meanwhile, let’s not have them put themselves down as quickly as does Despero. If someone has been granted JLA membership, with all its benefits and privileges, then they’re worthy. That’s it.
Bagley’s work is as action-packed as you could wish for, with his people looking less like startled ponies than is often the case. Despero is power personified and the heroes look formidable too, though the female faces need some work – Gypsy shouldn’t look like Zee’s twin, while Dr Light appears far too young and sweet. Overall, though, it’s good comic art and kudos to inker Rob Hunter, colourist Pete Pantazis and letterer Rob Leigh for their contributions.
One final, trivial word, though – if you’re giving us a new era for the JLA, DC, jolly well put the proper logo on the cover!