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A League of his own :Hibbs assays JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #12

Brian Hibbs

I’m a little conflicted about Brad Meltzer’s run on the JLA. My first thought is “well, 12 issues is a mini-series, not a run, man”. My second thought is that I have generally enjoyed the “density” of his comics writing — while one may or may not like the specifics of the content, any given issue issue of JLofA has not been a 4-minute read like too many comics these days. My third thought is that there’s a very fine line between characterization and vamping, and that line is often drawn through conflict (“FONFLIF!!”) between characters.

Meltzer’s run has largely been three stories. “The Tornado’s Path”, “The Lightning Saga” and the “Trapped in a cave-in issue”… and that’s it. Again, that’s not even a “run”, kinda. It feels to me, as a reader, like Meltzer tried the monthly comics game, then suddenly realized “shit, this isn’t for me” — I bet $5 that’s not even close to the truth, but that’s what it feels like for me.

JLofA #12 is the third issue of the run to feature two 50/50 covers that form a single issue. This bothers me really deeply. Surely this is exactly not the kind of high-profile-if-not-event comic that can stand on its own without artificial outside gimmicks spiking sales? Weirdly, I probably wouldn’t have minded if this was JLA #511 (261 of v1, 113 of JUSTICE LEAGUE [blank/international/america], 125 of JLA, and 12 here), and Holy Mother of God, I just realized that Meltzer’s first issue is thus #500…. Has no one else said that outloud yet?

This one’s a nice cover, too — probably everyone who buys it WILL want both halves — I know that I, just looking at the left side right now want to see the other bit, too.

JLofA #12 is also $3.50, being “double sized”. It’s got some fairly effective character studies going on, with the sole problem that, really nothing happens. There are beats here — but there’s not any conflict; well not at least any conflict that, as far as I know, Meltzer is going on continue.

See, here’s the thing: its all well an nice to set up future plotlines for characters for someone else to carry the ball on. But I tend to think that history shows us that the next person or two in line tends to want to make their own mark on a book/character, and tends to ignore those kinds of hanging chad.

We have: Vixen has no animal powers, Hawkgirl and Speedy are screwing, Black Lightning is a snitch, and Tornado… Tornado is a dick? I mean, Meltzer went out of his way to bring Reddy back, and this is where he leaves him?

Geo Force… does he even have a plot? What’s he doing in the league? Has he even ever been in an “adventure” with them? He’s so generic a hero that I tend to mentally edit him out of comics not drawn by Jim Aparo

I don’t know, if I were the incoming writer, I’d want to ignore most of those fairly boring concepts, and ditch some of those characters and bring in others that I wanted to put the spotlight on.

In a way, this issue is just “look, the Magnificent Seven are the League” (even if 2 of the 7 in the framing device didn’t appear to slightly reflect their current manifestations {cue DC editorial: “that’s on purpose!”}), “plus here are 5 other characters I like”

(though, reading this back, I just realized I’ve left Canary out of the mix…. so, Magnificent Eight, then? Canary belongs in the League, in my opinion, because she’s the Bridge between Society and League. Hell, Moore made her an Archtype in WATCHMEN)

Like I said, I’m torn — I thought I got my “$3.50” of value out of the issue over all; it is GOOD in that regard. But this is a run, by dint of its promotion, and its “pedigree”, that seems like it wants to be “quintessential”… and is kind of just… there.

My idea of the “perfect” League is the Mag7 (or 8) and a small additional cast of oddballs or outcasts — Zatana, Firestorm, Booster Gold, characters with something slightly askew to them. Both Reddy and Vixen could fit those bills, but it seems to me that Meltzer left both characters at a nadir.

Geo Force and Hawkgirl are really basically just dull characters (sorry), and, really, I’d have to say that if either have any consumer interest it’s probably more likely because of their connection to other characters. I mean, the only reason I’m even willing to take the time to type the words “geo force” is because the swerve of Terra in Wolfman and Perez’s TEEN TITANS worked so damn well 20-something years ago. But Brion has barely any defining characteristic beyond “brother of Terra”.

And Black Lightning, poor Black Lightning, trapped in plothammer after plothammer as some desperately tries to figure out what the hell to do with him. Plus, yar, that’s a damn ugly costume.

You have to give Meltzer credit for trying — he’s really really terrifically earnest in his attempts to make it all feel “epic”. But, at the end of the day, I sorta don’t think these 12 issues are going to make so much of a mark. And you can quote the last line of Meltzer’s last issue for the reason why: “It’s the true beauty of [the League] — for all its changes, the League never really changes”

That’s not what I’d call a thematic note with any weight or resonance.

What do YOU think?


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