As we look at the comics affected by the events of Blackest Night, we turn our attention toward Justice League of America, where the return of Jade is having a significant effect on the DCU.
Writer James Robinson is telling the story of Jade's return and how it affects not only her family members in the Justice Society of America, but also the Starheart through which she wields her powers.
Robinson, who's co-writing the War of the Supermen event for DC in May, is tying into Brightest Day with his upcoming issues, including a crossover with Justice Society of America, which he's writing.
The writer has built a group of JLA members without using what fans call the "Trinity." But in their place, the Justice League has similar members, including the new Batman, Dick Grayson, along with Donna Troy and Supergirl. Rounding out the roster as Robinson introduces more members are Jade, Starman (Mikaal Tomas), Congorilla, and Jesse Quick.
Newsarama talked with Robinson about how Jade's return affects the DCU and what brings together these heroes during the next few issues of Justice League of America.
Newsarama: James, let's start with the return of Jade. We saw some indication of how her return is affecting things during last week's issue, but can you tell us more about what is happening now that Jade is back?
James Robinson: Some of that, I can't reveal because it's part of Geoff's master plan. But what we will see right away is that Jade's resurrection is a massive jolt that shakes of the stability of energy in the universe. Her resurrection in particular affects the Starheart, of which a small part had already come to earth and is the lantern of power that Alan Scott wields.
What her resurrection does, as you saw in Issue #44, is it brings the whole Starheart to Earth, which in turn affects the world. It affects every meta with magic or elemental powers, which are two of the main energies that are within the Starheart. It's also causing the Earth to have terrible natural disasters of various kinds. And most specifically, it affects Alan Scott, Obsidian and Jade.
It's all basically the Starheart, which has the mind of an infant, having fun as it learns about the planet. It needs to be controlled. That's always what it wants. And Alan Scott had the ability and the will to do that, to control it…at least when it was a small amount of the Starheart that was on Earth. But once it's all of the Starheart, it's about finding a way to control that.
And to do that, and also to break its hold over Alan Scott and over Obsidian and the various characters, it requires all the skill and all the power and the strength of mind that the Justice League and Justice Society have.
Nrama: How was it getting back to the JSA again?
Robinson: Well, they're very different characters now. Most of the characters who were in it when I was writing it aren't in it. I mean, there's Jay, Alan and Wildcat. Sand is off somewhere, there's a different Dr. Fate, and I could be wrong, but I don't think any of the other characters were in the book when I was writing it.
But I'm having fun coming up with moments for all these characters. One of the things that interested me about the new Dr. Fate is that, unlike the original Kent Nelson, this Dr. Fate is a real doctor. He's a psychiatrist. So I'm actually using that as one of the factors that helps save the day, actually.
I've been trying to come up with moments for Dr. Mid-Nite and Mr. Terrific and obviously Jay and Wildcat and everyone. And Lightning, a very underused but great character. They all have their beats. I'm trying to give them all attention.
I've also been enjoying fleshing out the dynamic within the five issues that will most logically facilitate Jesse Quick coming over to the Justice League by the end of the series. She'll be joining the Justice League. That's going to happen by the end of the five-issue crossover.
Nrama: Her encounter with her father during Blackest Night explains why she chose this costume and identity now, but why do you think it works for her to join the Justice League?
Robinson: Well, you'll have to read the story to see how it happens. But what I like about her joining the Justice League is there's a natural link between the Justice League and the Justice Society because of her marriage to Hourman, which we can play upon. There's a natural organic link between the two teams now, which is good.
Nrama: The Justice League and Justice Society seem like very different teams. Does that come into play?
Robinson: I do play with the relationships between them, and the generational aspect of it. Also, there's now a sort of generational aspect to the Justice League in that Congo Bill is over 100 years old.
But at the same time, the focus of these five issues is Jade, Alan Scott and Obsidian. It's really about bringing Jade back into the DC Universe, make her a compelling character, and setting up that relationship with her and her father that will pay off in another big arc, a year from now or maybe two years, whenever the next JLA/JSA crossover is. It will pay off in another big arc that I'm already sort of planning now.
Nrama: So you're obviously staying on Justice League for a while. But are you continuing to work with the Justice Society?
Robinson: No, it's just for two issues of Justice Society. This arc was my idea, and I think it was easier for me to just write the whole thing. Bill Willingham was very gracious about that. I have to commend him. And he's using it as a chance for him to get himself and his artist to get ahead, since Mark Bagley is doing my whole storyline. Bill will be taking it back over with Issue #43, doing great things with it as he was before.
It's just my opinion, but I think it's hard to write two team books. I commend Brian Michael Bendis for that. But I would have difficulty bringing the same energy to two team books. I applaud Bendis for that. But I don't think I'm a good enough writer for that, so I'm happy to do one book and make it as good as I can.
Nrama: How will the return of Bruce Wayne affect the JLA?
Robinson: Everyone asks me this, but it's not really my question to answer, partly because I don't know. I mean, I know some of it, but I can't really answer those kind of questions.
The bottom line is my book will have Dick Grayson in it, whether he's Batman or something else. Right now, he's Batman. And to my knowledge he'll continue to be around as Batman. But whatever identity he takes on, I love writing his character.
Nrama: I suppose he brings the same dynamic to the team roster as any Batman would, but he's a little different, isn't he?
Robinson: There is a lightness and a sense of free association to his thoughts that you don't get with Bruce Wayne. Bruce is completely focused and driven. One of the great things that Grant Morrison did, which I love and I use to as much effect as I can in Justice League, is that great issue Frank Quitely drew of Batman and Robin where Dick is feeling dejected being Batman and doesn't think he can do it, and Alfred says, "You were in the circus. You know showmanship. Bring that to the game, and act as Batman."
So he does have a difference, in that he's not just about solving the crime and avenging his parents' murder. There is a sense that his mind can go other places. There's a freedom and whimsy to him that doesn't exist with Bruce Wayne.
But I'm still making him a leader, and a strategist, and the thinker of the team. And that's definitely the role that he was groomed for by Bruce Wayne. He honed those skills in the Teen Titans and the Outsiders, and graduated to the point where he's in the Justice League of America. He's much more familiar with team situations, and he likes them. He always has. I think they've been his sanity and escape from the insanity that is growing up around Bruce Wayne.
Nrama: Supergirl is coming in with the next issue. What does she bring to the team?
Robinson: She brings a sense of exuberance and youth. After the events of the Hundred Minute War, she will be needing people around her and needing a support system.
Because of events that have already happened, which will be revealed down the line, she already has a closeness to Bill. But she's going to need other people.
As for what she brings, she is seeing everything through fresh eyes. She's been a member of a few teams, but for very short time periods. So she's never really been a long-term part of a team before. She's never gotten used to saving the world in such a public way either. So she really appreciates that she's a part of the Justice League, and has a lot of gratitude for that team. And hopefully through her eyes, the readers will see what a great team this is.
Nrama: You mentioned once that Supergirl would grow close to Dick Grayson. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Robinson: Well, what I mean by that is... I was thinking about how she's never had any siblings, and Dick Grayson didn't grow up being around siblings. And what I wanted to try to do within the Justice League is to turn them into their own version of the World's Finest team. Nothing sexual, mind you. Just a sibling type relationship where they're close friends in a way that starts off with her needing a shoulder to cry on a little bit. And that becomes a deep friendship. But I want to stress it's not a sexual relationship. Everyone always assumes that's where that's going.
Nrama: So you've got Supergirl joining the team, then a five-issue crossover with Justice Society of America where Jade's membership on the team is explored, as well as why Jesse Quick joins. Can you tell us anything about what comes beyond that?
Robinson: It's going to be this team for quite awhile, but you're always going to have that unexpected extra character from the DC Universe popping up. One of the things about this book is it's always going to feel like it's right in the heart of the DC Universe. And there will always be that character you don't expect who will help the team when needed. So even within the JLA/JSA crossover, expect to see a few surprising guest stars popping up here and there.