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Justice League of America #38

Posted: Saturday, October 24, 2009
By: Shawn Hill

James Robinson
Mark Bagley (p), Rob Hunter (i)
DC Comics
Plot: The team is in disarray, with half the members injured, missing or defecting to an alternate team. And Vixen has no idea what to do about it. Meanwhile, zombies!

Comments: Here's hoping Robinson is building to something, because this first issue is a series of familiar, formulaic retread moves. Sometimes that kind of thing can be comforting. Busiek's issues on the previous iteration of this title brought us some classic plots with new twists, and Morrison in the nineties found ways to re-energize several classic villains.

This issue gives us a rampaging Despero, and begins with an unfortunate scene meant to up the drama that just adds to the litany of lower tier/homage characters from their past who end up sacrificed to make the JLA look cooler.

Then it's a meeting at the original JLA clubhouse, where Mari has confused everyone by convening a discussion of just how wrong it's all gone, both here and in the pages of Cry for Justice. She's injured, she's angry, and she's on the brink of calling it quits. Just like Black Canary a few issues back, and just like everyone sooner or later who leads but who isn't one of the Big Three. I continue to fail to understand why the Big Three get to sit in judgment over everyone else (usually while absent), and why it's important to portray the secondary characters as losers. It's just not any fun to read.

Robinson is going to have to do more than retread the McDuffie missteps, and when Zatanna shows up to explain some of the absences (zombies!), you almost feel an exciting moment of unity and effective achievement emerge. But, no, it's not even she that dismisses Despero (who was ravaging the team); he just vanishes due to some unknown power.

And then she interrupts everyone to drag them off to Blackest Night. Which I'm not reading. This makes this another par for the course issue for this ill-stared title. First we get lackluster Meltzer issues, then continuous interruptions and disrespect from TPTB for anything McDuffie tried, then a disappointing fill-in by Len Wein (failing to recapture former glories), and now more formula and interruption.

The only things preserving this issue at "readable" level are Bagley's gorgeous art, and the amazing fact that in a few simple lines of dialogue, Dr. Light becomes something besides "bitch."

For the first point, just look at the full-page of Zatanna, Vixen and Gypsy on p.18.Those are three super-heroic warriors ready for battle, not three victimized girls.

And as for Dr. Light, she quite reasonably questions Mari's point of view, she mentions her children and her work, she nurses her injured shoulder without whining about it, and she tries to make a constructive contribution to the discussion. She offers professional help to Plaz (who is sort of melting), and jumps into the fray when Despero attacks. Robinson achieves in one issue what no one else has managed in years. And I know he's done great work in the past with teams, though mostly informed by the perspective of nostalgia for DC's oldest characters. He's got to be new and flashy for the JLA, and interestingly he's interviewed about enjoying Joe Kelly's run from years back (which was somewhat controversial and strange). He must have some ideas for real stories, so here's hoping they get started soon.



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