“All Along the Watchtower”
Plot: Ollie's of two minds about the current team. It reminds him of earlier days, when everything was better. But he's planning to take actions that will make everything worse. Also, the mysterious team of villains continues to collect bits of arcane technology and they still have Blue Jay their captive.
Comments: This is the first issue in awhile that has even a modicum of hope, and it's easily the best looking one since Rags Morales last graced these pages. Bagley is a seasoned storyteller and he makes sure each character stands out clearly even in the most active battle scene. He has a very large cast to work with this issue and it's comforting to know that even in some confusing sequences he always has a plan and everyone is accounted for. I was initially confused, for example, by a scene of Donna Troy crashing into a plane until I realized she had just flown through a spot where the villains transported themselves away, and what happened to the plane was what she meant to happen to them! The devil may care side of Amazon culture, featured in both Donna and one of the villainesses, is definitely a factor in DC scuffles these days.
This story brings more spotlights to Mikaal/Starman and Bill the Ape, two unlikely but not unwelcome additions to the team. They're needed, because in short order we also see the departures of Hal, Green Arrow, Guardian and Doctor Light, and learn of distracting duties for Cyborg and Atom and Black Canary. Starfire (heartbroken again) takes off, too, but looks great doing it under Bagley's curvaceous pencils. Even Red Tornado, his head still detached from his body, has a moment of spotlit heroism.
So the core group boils down to Mikaal, Bill, Donna, and Batman (as played by Dick Grayson). It's an unusual starting point, but Robinson makes sure to demonstrate some chemistry and teamwork before issue's end. We also find out a few more things about the villains, so Robinson's tapestry, as crowded as it is, has the same clarities and through-lines as Bagley's art. Sub-plots are developing and have been for several issues now.
Brightest Day intrudes in one sequence, a reminder of the distracting threats often plaguing this title from company-wide events. But that moment is overshadowed a few pages later by the revelation of part of the villains agenda: a DC Elseworlds style spread of several alternate realities, the multiverse back again, this one including the Shazam Family, Man-Bat, Vampire Bat, Batman Beyond, the Freedom Fighters, even Gen-13, the Amalgam League, and of course long-term faves the Crime Syndicate. I'm surprised the Authority didn't muscle in, too! Don't know what it all means, but the best parts of this team concept have always involved multiple versions of the main team interacting, and hopefully Robinson is getting back to what makes the Justice League work.
They don't need company wide distractions. They've been staging their own internalize multi-world crossovers for decades now, with a cast that can apparently multiply to infinity (or at least 52 different worlds, probably). Here's hoping the four core members revealed this issue provide a basis for a truly classic lineup to come.
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