Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Comic Review: Justice League of America #50

James Robinson's re-introduction into the DCU hasn't been an entirely smooth process. For every incredible Mon-El and Jimmy Olsen story - there where plenty of issues that simply didn't pan out as expected. Cry for Justice is probably the best example - as the series under went many transmutations from announcement to actual print - with the end result being very controversial.

Robinson's tenure on the JLA has suffered the same uneasy fate. The actual team line up is nothing like what was originally announced, and the plot-lines have so far been rather lack luster. The recent JLA/JSA team-up became nothing but a plodding plot-line for 6 whole issues - and before that there was confusing foreshadowing, featuring the anti-New Gods and mysterious parts to a machine found throughout time; all of which have made the past year's worth of issues a blur in my mind. This is not to say nothing has been good. If there is one strength James Robinson always delivers on - it's his characterization. He's been making Donna Troy into an exemplary character, rather focusing on her future rather than her convoluted past. Dick Grayson as Batman has also been doing well, being in perfect synch with Donna. The only down-side to these characterizations has been an obscene over-use of dialogue boxes (taking the place of traditional thought bubbles). There where, at some points, 5 different inner monologues taking place at the same time! It was just insane - and another reason Robinson's run on the JLA hasn't been as good as his fabled tenure on Star Man.

All of those problems, though, seemed to vanish in this stellar 50th issue! The team line-up has been stabilized, with a core cast of Batman (Dick Grayson), Donna Troy, Super Girl, Jessie Quick, Jade, Starman (Mikall), and Congo Bill. Not a fault on Robinson's part, but this line-up isn't the fabled big-seven (Superman, Batman, WW, ect); while the series might continue to be ignored by some people because of that fact, Robinson has been using it to his advantage by bringing in lesser known and forgotten heroes and working his magic with them. This issue, especially, hammers out the great characterization that is being formed for these heroes. Jessie Quick's sudden change from the JSA to the JLA is explained more deeply by her experiences during the Blackest Night, and she finds genuine common ground with Supergirl, who has suffered similar personal tragedies. I'm actually always impressed by how Robinson can create these unique insights into characters, seemingly on the fly given the cast shake-ups he's had to suffer by DCU editorial. Simply put - this isn't the big-seven, and Robinson goes out of his way to point that out in their dialogue - but he's finally been able to hammer down a unique and solid line-up that mirrors the big seven.

The mirrored big-seven is further utilized when the JLA face the alternate reality duplicates of the JLA: the Crime Syndicate of Amerika. The CSA have been driven from their alternate Earth and have fled to the regular universe in hopes of saving their Earth. The characterization of Ultra-Man, Owlman, and Superwoman are spot-on, and the complicated past of characters Johnny Quick and Power Ring are simplified. The battle between the JLA and CSA seemed like a classic comic fight - to stellar effect. Mark Bagley's art really shines in this issue, especially in the fights. This extra-sized issue also allowed for some great confrontations between the JLA members and their duel opposites.

Also, the over-use of dialogue boxes I mentioned before? No longer present! The story flows exceedingly better with their exclusion; characterization is not diminished in any way.

Additionally, the confusing elements from over the past year - like the Anti-New Gods and parts of a mysterious machine finally converge - as the machine is turned on by Doctor Impossible. The history and origin of these Anti-New Gods is somewhat explored - but they are still a bit confusing as characters. But their goal is simply stated at the end, as they wish to resurrect Darkseid. What they get, though, is a powerful new foe: Omega Man.

This issue is simply the best improvement to Robinson's JLA - and I am now much more excited to see where this storyline continues. With Bagley's incredible ability to draw so quickly, this extra-sized issue delivers at it's price point of $5. There's no back-up tale written and drawn by someone else - it's simply a larger and bigger issue. It's avery nice change from the recent disappointments with the over-padded anniversary issues DC has been publishing of late. Really, simply, a stellar issue all around.

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