Justice League of America #38

From: DC Comics

Written by James Robinson

Art by Mark Bagley and Rob Hunter

Review by Troy Brownfield

While Justice League of America #38 might not be the mighty exhalation of relief that we’ve been waiting to have, it’s definitely getting closer.  

The largest elevation in this issue is the arrival of Mark Bagley.  Bagley more than proved that he can handle the whole DCU in weekly fashion on Trinity, but he really shines here.  Look what he can do with a whole month!  Seriously though, Bagley is the right kind of action-oriented, technically proficient, character-shaping artist that this title sorely needs.  While Ed Benes had his fans, the truth of the matter is that the focus of his work dwelt almost entirely on pin-up shots (and that includes fights, not just cheesecake) that had very little organic flow.  Bagley’s pages move, and his women can be athletic and sexy without looking like they’re inviting back problems by trying to position their asses in the sweet spot of the panel.  Bottom line: Bagley on his own is a formidable storyteller.

Now, James Robinson.  I’ll admit to not enjoying Cry for Justice overmuch, largely due to what seemed to be odd character decisions in terms of topics like torture and what seemed to be abject confusion among the cast about what constituted justice instead of revenge.  However, I’m willing to give the writer of The Golden Age and Starman a HUGE break, and the last issue seemed like it was turning a corner with the fact that Green Arrow got his, er, ball-arrows back and put his foot down on torture.

As it turns out, Cry is rather critical here, because the action of this issue takes place AFTER that mini-series.  Therefore, we do, unfortunately, see some of the consequences of that series without having yet seen the conclusion.  For the most part, it fits with what we knew, in that the League is down to lower-than-Detroit-era power levels.  Vixen, Dr. Light II, Plastic Man (all injured after “Cry”), and Red Tornado seem to be the only active members, and something bad is headed their way.

If I cry foul on something right away, it’s that we appear to lose a background character early on that could have made a comeback.  Instead, this minor (and tiny) character appears to meet his maker.  I’d hope not, as he’d be an interesting guy to have around.

As far as the rest of it goes, a familiar League foe attacks, an obscure Leaguer and a popular Leaguer return, and the cast heads off by issue’s end to join in the havoc of “Blackest Night”.  Robinson gets all the characters pretty spot on, and Bagley makes them look great.  If this issue is mired in what came first and what’s about to happen, that’s not so much the fault of the creators as it is the bad luck of the way that the comics business is some times.  

For their part, I think that Robinson and Bagley can really do something here if they just get the ball and get to run with it.  Morrison and company managed to incorporate all kinds of continuity (like the awful Electric Superman stuff) and still keep the train running.  I’d like to see Robinson and Bagley get to do their thing.  If they want to join in the big games, that’s great, so long as they get to do what they do.  Overall, though, I’d like to see this proven writer and proven artist take this concept and blow the doors off of it.  This issue takes a cautious step in that direction, and it’s one of the better JLA issues in a while.  If they get to put their own stamp on this in a meaningful way, then the sky’s the limit.

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