This issue is a masterclass in setting up your new direction for the Justice League by misrepresenting an older version. So it is that current JLA members Vixen and Dr Light face Black Lanterns who seem more interested in slagging off their heroic careers than actually grabbing their hearts. While the bad guys’ MO is to get an emotional reaction by upsetting the living, new writer James Robinson, who is about to fill the team with Superman B-listers and former Teen Titans, just doesn’t let up. So we hear how utterly crap Vixen (‘a weak sauce version of Animal Man’) and Dr Light (‘a real %&?@!’) are. Also on hand is Vixen’s former JLA Detroit teammate Gypsy, allowing fellow former members Vibe and Steel – their personalities resurrected in Black Lanterns – to go and on about how rubbish they are and how they laughed at them, back in their League days.
Well, if any members of the Detroit League were failures as heroes, I’d suggest it might be the guys who got killed rather than the ones who still fight the good fight around the DCU. But I wouldn’t point that finger – I remember the Detroit team and while they weren’t all powerhouses, the then-new characters having an unhappy reunion in JLA #40 were interesting and at least as endowed with ability as many a JLA-er before and since. Vibe and Steel were killed by Professor Ivo, but they died as true heroes, and they’d likely be alive today had it not been for the fact DC were about to launch another new direction for the team. (Ironically, the next version, the JLI/E, once their time in the sun was over, was put down as regularly in DC titles as the Detroit League before them, even though they were – when not kidding around off duty – an effective force against evil).
No one dies here, but the villainous Dr Light, now a Black Lantern, does try to rape the newer, heroic version; he doesn’t manage this, but he does tear her down as a hero and human being, imply he did vile things one time he was in control of her body, and by the end of the issue she’s an unconscious wreck in a costume that’s gone from tattered to absent. Vixen receives more injuries to add to those she suffers in an issue of Justice League: Cry For Justice that’s not actually appeared yet, and passes out. Gypsy is simply exhausted and shellshocked.
I get that the heroines finally won the day here. I realise there’s a difference between the writer’s own views of a character and what he has someone in a story say about them. But intention or not – and I suspect there is some deliberate diminishment going on here – the cumulative effect of page after page of characters being torn down is that newer readers could begin to think the dissers have a point. And when they disappear as the next version of the JLA beds in, as Vixen and Gypsy seem set to do, there’s no chance for the record to be set straight.
Also lying in a heap at the end of the issue are Red Tornado and Plastic Man, shredded and bent out of shape respectively, and Zatanna, who spends this issue tackling a Black Lantern version of her father, Zatara . . . off-panel. All recent JLA-ers, all deemed too useless to win a fight or only good enough to just survive.
It’s pretty annoying; to my mind any character admitted to the League is by definition one the ‘world’s greatest superheroes. Of course they can pay a price for victory, but they shouldn’t be seen to be pitiful saps along the way.
So apart from that, how was the theatre, Mrs Lincoln? Actually, the nastiness was pretty much the whole show – Black Lanterns spewing spite and bile as if they’re being paid by the insult. There’s a recap of the origin and brief career of the second Steel, but that’s it.
The art of Mark Bagley and Rob Hunter looks a lot better this issue than last, with the faces in particular improved, and the action pops. It’s just a shame I found so much of what they are called on to draw so distasteful.