Thursday, July 30, 2009

Because (one of) you demanded (well, asked for) it!: 1,500 words about how JLoA is no damn good and what I think of those black splotches

Robert, an EDILW reader, emailed me last weekend to ask if I’d be doing a post about the semi-announced line-up of James Robinson and Mark Bagley’s upcoming run on Justice League of America, as he was wondering what I thought about it.

Because I am a jerk, I haven’t yet emailed Robert back. But, because I am also an eager-to-please jerk, I figured I would do a post about it.

This is that post.

So, if you haven’t seen the image, here it is again:

DC is using the old blacked-out characters on the cover gag, which they’ve done repeatedly with JLA line-up changes over the years, most recently with the new team that would be starring in the newly re-launched, 2006 Justice League of America.

At last week’s San Diego Comic Con, writer James Robinson confirmed that the team would include Donna Troy, Mon-El in a new Superman-esque costume (and hopefully going by the new codename SuperMon) and Batman Dick Grayson (In one of his Comics Of The Weak features, Tucker Stone asked if Dickbat was this new Batman’s clever nickname; has the Internet decided yet? I kind of like DickBats, as it is parallel to the AzBats construction used to refer to the Jean-Paul Valley-as-Batman character, and also because it sounds like a terrible venereal disease), Hal Jordan and Congorilla, who is apparently the big gorilla-shaped silhouette in the upper right hand corner.

As far as what I think, I guess my main response is that I just don’t really care anymore.

Well, I care a little (enough to devote several hundred words to the subject, and how I don’t care all that much), but not like I did in 2006. This current volume of the Justice League comic has really dulled my enthusiasm is Justice League comics, to a point I didn’t even think was possible.

A big part of that problem is just how bad Justice League of America has been.

Yesterday the thirty-fifth issue of the series was released. It was written by Len Wein, the fourth writer to work on the title in just three years (following Brad Meltzer, Dwayne McDuffie and Alan Burnett). I can’t even guess how many pencillers and inkers were involved up until this point, but, off the top of my head, the pencil artists included Ed Benes, Eric Wight, Joe Benitez, Rags Morales, Carlos Pacheco, Allan Jefferson, Shane Davis, Gene Ha, Ethan Van Sciver, Allan Goldman, CrissCross, Eddy Barrows, Adrian Syaf, Tom Derenick and Pow Rodrix. Some of those guys are really great artists, some of those guys I’m honestly surprised DC would even hire, but that is a lot of pencillers on a single book, let alone in the first three years of a book.

The direction of the book has reflected the slipshod nature of the visuals. There was a three-part crossover with Justice Society of America, a half-issue story devoted to setting up a Tangent miniseries, three and a half issues tying into Salvation Run (itself a tie-in to Countdown…a tie-in/prelude to Final Crisis), one issue devoted to tying into Final Crisis, and an eight-issue arc bringing the Milestone Universe characters into the DCU, while reacting to events in Final Crisis, the Superman books, the Batman books, Wonder Woman and Justice League: Cry for Justice, which hadn’t even been released yet.

How can anyone read a book produced in this fashion, let alone like doing so?

The other problem is that the narrative choices made by the writers and editors—granted, some of them in reaction to what was going on in other books and thus events beyond their control—reinforced the perception that Justice League of America doesn’t matter at all.

Brad Meltzer spent the first twelve issues of the book—the entirety of his run on it, and a third of it’s overall issues up to this point—telling an origin story for his line-up. Among the characters joining the team was long-time sidekick and Teen Titan Roy Harper, adopting a new codename and costume specifically to mark his “graduating” to the Justice League, and Black Lightning, another B-lister who, after decades on lower tier super team, finally made it to the big leagues. Oh, and after about a year of appearing in the title but emphatically not being on the team, Geo-Force consents to joining the team.

Then Geo-Force immediately leaves the team (in the pages of Batman and the Outsiders, not in JLoA), presumably so he can be on the Outsiders again. Roy Harper leaves unceremoniously after the events of Final Crisis, to mourn his girlfriend who died during Final Crisis in one draft of McDuffie’s script for an issue, although he later changed it when he was informed Roy’s girlfriend didn’t die after all (it was retroactively decided that she survived her suicide mission in FC, so that she could be murdered in the pages of Blackest Night). Harper has been appearing in Titans. Likewise, Black Lightning disappeared from the title, and has been appearing in Outsiders.

In all three cases, that’s an awful lot of build-up to what was presented as major events in these fictional characters’ “lives,” which were quickly and unceremoniously reversed.

Given the state of the title then, it’s hard to give a shit that Dick Grayson might be re-joining the Justice League temporarily or whatever, as who knows how long that will last, or why it might matter at all.

Long story short, I don’t really care about the Justice League any more, since DC seems to not really care about the Justice League anymore, and have been actively encouraging readers to not care either.

As it currently stands, there are two Justice League-related teams. The team in JLoA (as far as I understand) consists of Firestorm II, Dr. Light II, Vixen, Green Lantern John Stewart and Zatanna, with several other characters on some form of leave absence or sabbatical or whatever.

The team in Cry For Justice, which is of course written by the incoming writer Robinson, will consist of Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Green Arrow Oliver Queen, The Atom Ray Palmer, Supergirl, Batwoman, Starman Mikaal, Congorilla and whatever they’re calling Captain Marvel Jr. these days.

It’s probably safe to assume the new team will entail some combination of the two, with Supergirl, Batwoman, Captain Marvel Jr. and Starman least likely to stick around for various reasons (If SuperMon and DickBats are in for Superman and Batman, the lady versions of the characters become rather redundant. The Marvel Family needs some time out of the spotlight to let the radioactivity of Judd Winick’s attempts to rework them wear off, and as for Mikaal, having a Starman on the JSA and the JLA seems a little excessive for a character who doesn’t belong to one of the bigger character dynasties).

John Stewart is almost definitely out, since it seems unlikely Robinson would want to write two Green Lanterns on the team. (I hope I’m wrong though; giving Hal both Green Lantern and JLoA seems pretty unfair, and would make John the only of the five Lanterns without a book to call his own).

Dr. Light is almost definitely in, as Robinson has been writing her in Superman, and recently advertised a sub-plot with her continuing in JLoA.

Beyond that, I couldn’t even offer guesses, although I guess I’ll try.

The silhouettes on the Bagley cover make it pretty difficult too, as the bright white light of the background overlaps the borders of the characters, making the blacked-out ones seem less distinct and hard to see clearly.

Let’s see, he character just below DickBats is pretty obviously Starfire, whom I wouldn’t really expect to ever join the Justice League. Given that there are already at least two former Titans—Donna and Dick—adding Starfire seems like Titans overkill. Additionally, there’s the matter of the Titans. What are all these characters doing in JLoA when they’ve got a perfectly good Titans book to star in (And that book, by the way, is dedicated to the grown-up, former Teen Titans like Starfire, Dick and Donna, so filling up the roster on that book is a lot harder than it would be on, say, Teen Titans, where there are dozens of super-teens to choose from at all times).

Looking at figure behind Mon-El’s left boot. That looks a bit like Raven of the Titans, but I’m going to guess that’s Dr. Light, who wears a cape, and that perhaps explains the bright, luminous background.

Just to the left of Donna’s hip is an archer character; you can see the bottom half of the bow, and a quiver full of arrows. Both Roy “Red Arrow” Harper and Oliver “Green Arrow” Queen make equal amounts of sense. Roy was just on the team, and had just taken some time off to mourn his not-dead girlfriend, so could easily return, and he would certainly fit in with Donna, Dick and Starfire. However, Ollie is co-starring with Hal in Robinson’s Cry For Justice, and would thus make sense if this team includes Hal on it. So I’m going to guess it’s Green Arrow Ollie Queen.

As for the remaining shapes, theyre too abstract for me even to guess where one figure begins and another ends, so I got nothing. I can’t figure out what could possibly be in the lower right hand corner to fill that space (looks like a second gorilla to me, but that would be pretty crazy), or what could account for the vaguely mushroom-like shape beneath the “Trinity” characters there.

I’ll be pretty surprised if Flash Barry Allen isn’t on the team (unless Geoff Johns is doing his own Justice League book…but then wouldn’t Johns want his boyfriend Hal on his team…?), and from the few issues of JLoA I’ve read lately, I don’t see any reason why Vixen or Firestorm II would quit the team, so maybe they’re part of those blobs somehow…?

Of course, DC could have just released a somewhat doctored image, to mess with fans, like they did last time.


This concludes my ranting and raving about a single cover image. If any of you have a topic you would like to see me rant and rave about, please feel free to suggest it in the comments section (and/or just ask questions you’d like me to answer). I can’t promise I’ll get to them in anything approaching a timely fashion (or at all if they are super-dumb or along the lines of "Why do you suck so much, Caleb?"), but next time a post falls through because I can’t get to a scanner or I’m plumb out of ideas, I’ll try and take some of ‘em or all of ‘em up.

So request and/or ask away!


RELATED: I have a post that also spun out of that JLoA cover image above over at Blog@Newsarama today that may be of interest. It's much shorter and has more pictures. You can check it out here.


Mr. Iciper said...

HA! Thanks for giving in to my "demand" and taking the time to jot down your thoughts here on the "new and improved" JLA. It will definitely be interesting to see what happens when Robinson takes over.

Personally, I'd like to see Hal, Barry, and Ollie on the same team. Hey, maybe they can even, uh, "mentor" the rest of the team just like Alan, Jay, and Ted do for the JSA!

Speaking of which, it's interesting how there's a real possibility that there might be 2 ongoing Justice League titles along with the two Justice Society titles (Justice Society All-Stars was announced at Comic-Con as well). More crossovers?? The Lightning Saga: The Sequel?? I don't even want to think about it.

Great post. Again, thanks for taking the time to write this up.


esteban138 said...

We've been calling the Dick Grayson Batman "Batdick," which amuses me more than it probably should at my age.
Really odd time to bring in the Substitute Trinity, though... Superman's year away is more than half over and Batman's will be by the time this sees print.

Don MacPherson said...

Your Starfire guess also makes sense in the context of Gerry Conway and Chris Batista's The Last Days of Animal Man series, as she's a member of the JLA of the future (called "the League of Titans").

Jacob said...

I relly, really, really don't want Starfire on the team. I hate Starfire. And if that is Raven in the background I'm officially not picking this up. I read Titans to read about the Titans, not Justice League.

Also, I think Robinson confirmed that Ray Palmer is gonna be on the team, too.

Dean H. said...

Look, part of the problem is that the Justice League is not the Avengers. You can not just rotate in anyone, slap the JL-of-A logo on the cover and say it is the Justice League.

Even the jokey Giffen-DeMatties League had Batman, Martian Manhunter and a Green Lantern from day one. It diminishes the impact of Dick Grayson "graduating", if the JLA he joins is half filled with former Titans.

The JLA is Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, a Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter. I like John Stewart best in the GL role as well, but even Guy Gardner is more interesting than Hal in a group setting. There are another half dozen characters who could also fill out the roster, including Aquaman, Hawgirl, Black Canary and Green Arrow. Without pretty much all of the first six and a few long tenured B-listers, it just doesn't feel like the JLA to me.

LiamKav said...

I agree, although I also think that for an Avengers line-up to count as an Avengers line-up it needs at least two of Iron Man, Captain America or Thor.

Kid Kyoto said...

You summed up my thoughts on shared universes in general.

I moved to trades a while back when I moved overseas and I find myself ordering almost none of the current output of the big 2. Give me nice stand-alone indy series like the Boys or Ultra. Or old 80s books where progress seemed possible. Or manga which constantly move forward and don't reboot.

The big 2 have pounded the 'churn' button too many times for me to even pretend to care that Superman and Batman are 'gone' for the second time since 2006.

Filipe Freitas said...

That's like having U.S.Agent, War Machine and Beta Ray Bill on the Avengers!

Unknown said...

So J. Caleb Mozzocco, if you were Dan Didio(you're already the same from the forehead up), what would you do to bring the JLA to form using only the talent and resources currently available to DC?

snell said...

That's like having U.S.Agent, War Machine and Beta Ray Bill on the Avengers!

That book would so immediately be on my pull list

Hdefined said...

"That's like having U.S.Agent, War Machine and Beta Ray Bill on the Avengers!"

USAgent, War Machine, and Thunderstrike, actually.

chiasaur11 said...

See, that's the thing.

Bill on the Avengers would be awesome.

Thunderstrike is lame.