The Justice League has been through some rough times lately, what with final crises, charter member’s deaths and some guy named McDuffie. Fortunately, James Robinson is here to save the day, whipping up on his type writer like he had a big “S” on his t-shirt.
The book starts out with Hal giving the Justice League a speech about Justice. He never quite spells out what his particular concept of Justice is all about, but the reader can see the he is clearly looking at law, righteousness and fairness.
He, as others, are disturbed by the state of the DC Universe after the events of Final Crisis. More than any other story sitting on your local comic shop’s shelves right now, this one actually feels like Final Crisis not only happened, but mattered. Sure Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman’s stories are happening in a darker world, but those tales could have happened with out the events of Morrison’s channel surfing epic. This book embraces Libra’s mysterious mechanics and the tone has been set for a world that is surviving after Evil won.
At its core, this issue is all set up. The reader is given four expert portrayals of characters that cut a wide swath across the DCU. Robinson takes characters as big as Hal and Ray alongside characters as obscure as Congo Bill and Mikaal and shows how they react to the deaths of people that matter to them. The reader gets to crawl in their heads for a moment and then see them quite literally “Cry for Justice.” It’s just a little much. The saccharineness of the conceit may be meant to lighten the tone, but it comes off all a bit Creative Writing 101-ish.
It would be great to report that this is the single flaw of the book. To an extent it is. Often Robinson gets too clever for his own good and this is no clearer then during the Atom sequence of the book. Having two little blue and red guys is confusing enough, but the inner monologue gets muddled when he tries to give it a call and response feel. Between trying to capture the panache of Simone’s characterization of Choi and the clumsy handling of a common comic book trope (even Superman/Batman has employed the back and forth narration more effectively making it all the sadder that the scribe behind Starman Secret Files #1 misses it so badly here), it gets confusing.
The two slight missteps are forgiven as Robinson pretty much knocks the rest out of the park. He reestablishes the comradery of O’Neil’s green buddies. Ray Palmer becomes a fierce beast. The crazy blue alien Starman makes an interesting debut and then just to make the hardcore fanboys forget themselves and squeal for joy, he throws in Congo Bill. The stories are compelling and as half the proposed team for the book, the readers should be given a delightful romp through comic book nirvana.
Cascioli provides his incredible painted art. The character designs are iconic, his action crisp, and the storytelling and emotional resonance is superb.
The artist’s only misstep comes during Robinson’s biggest area of weakness. When he first bursts onto the pages of this comic, Ray is tiny and in costume, but when he grows back to normal size, he is in street clothes. Ryan is in costume at both molecular aspects. It is easy to assume that this was to make the two characters easily distinguishable, however there is no explanation for it. Surely, the internet’s wrath will fall upon me for not knowing the history of the Atom and knowing that issue 324 of Amazingly Tiny Guy’s Adventures showed that he does this, but there needs to be an acknowledgment on the page. Otherwise, the reader, like myself is ripped out of the book, hurting his suspension of disbelief. Given the less then clear script at this point, it only further exacerbates a problem.
Making it all up though is the back matter. Robinson provides an essay showing not only his vast knowledge of comic history, but also his intense love for it. When I read his reflections on the medium, I always wonder what it would be like if he had become a historian instead of a mere comic writer. His passion bursts in his prose in a way that only The Golden Age (hey DC, Absolute this already) and, of course, Starman have done in his comic scripting. As an added bonus we get Wein and Syaf on the “Origin of Congorilla”, a competent way to catch newbies up to speed.
An interesting start to a Justice League story has been long overdue. Here’s to hoping the spark of the writer ignites this story like his best work - his essay certainly shows the necessary enthusiasm.
Anyhow as far as scoring goes, the story gets a 7 - because the Cry for Justice crap is way heavy handed and the Atom sense is muddled as hell.
The art gets a 9, it would get a 10, but that muddled Atom scene seeps into the art and the artist should have told RObinson to figure some way around it - why the hell does Ray grow big into street clothes?
JLA worth reading again. Thanks Robinson.
Last edited by thefourthman
on Fri Jul 03, 2009 11:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.