Justice League of America is a title that has had numerous problems ever since Meltzer left. Last time I checked, the JLA was supposed to be DC’s premier super team and its flagship team title. Unfortunately, the fact remains that the Justice League of America is hardly DC’s best team title. Having said that, McDuffie has done a much better job on this title with the past couple of issues. Hopefully, that trend will continue with Justice League of America #25. Let’s do this review.
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Pencils: Ed Benes, Doug Mahnke, Darick Robertson, Shane Davis, Ian Churchill & Ivan Reis
Inks: Ed Benes, Christian Alamy, Darick Robertson, Rob Stull, Ian Churchill & Joe Prado
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with the JLA’ers working hard at repairing the damage that the Hall of Justice took during the fight with Amazo. We get some banter between Hal and Wally about how the “garish” qualities of their costumes. Red Tornado then takes a moment alone with Kathy. Reddy drops to one knee and asks Kathy to marry him. Kathy excitedly says “Yes.”
The human mood killer known as Batman stalks onto the scene and informs Red Tornado that he has the information that Reddy has been looking for. Batman says that it is a good lead and asks Reddy what he wants to do. Reddy responds that he wants to end this once and for all.
We cut to Buddy Baker’s backyard where Black Canary, Vixen, Red Arrow and Firestorm are on the scene. Buddy spits out the chicken leg that he was eating and exclaims that he does not eat meat. Vixen answers that she also isn’t supposed to mimic powers from metahumans. And that Buddy isn’t supposed to mimic powers from extraterrestrial animals.
Buddy’s wife, Ellen, asks Buddy if it could be the work of “them.” Buddy responds that he thought Ellen did not believe that “they” existed. The JLA’ers ask Buddy to explain what he is talking about. Buddy answers that he will tell them, but that they won’t believe him.
Buddy explains how the two yellow aliens (From Morrison’s classic run on Animal Man and later in 52) gave him his powers. The JLA’ers do not believe Buddy’s story. Buddy then asks Vixen if she remembers when they fought Hahmed Ali in Zambesi. Vixen responds that she cannot remember anything about that adventure. (Morrison’s story that took place in Animal Man #10-12.) Buddy says that is because the yellow aliens erased her memory.
Buddy continues that the yellow aliens fix mistakes in the space-time continuum. That the yellow aliens have altered Buddy’s powers as well as details of his history and his life. That their adventure in Africa was one of those times that they yellow aliens changed everything. That is why Vixen cannot remember anything about the adventure.
Vixen dismisses Buddy’s story and says that she came here for help not conspiracy stories. Vixen says that it is not aliens. That the answer lies in the Tantu. Vixen holds the amulet around her neck. Suddenly, the amulet glows and Vixen is sucked into the amulet.
We cut to inside of the Tantu and see Vixen trapped in a spider-web and face-to-face with the giant spider god Kwaku Anansi.
We zip up to the Watchtower where Hawkgirl is on monitor duty. Black Lightning enters the room. Jeff comments that he was surprised that Kendra did not go with the team to Africa. That Red Arrow and Kendra have been attached at the hip.
Kendra responds that it must not be a secret that she and Roy are a couple. Black Lightning says that all the JLA’ers know that they are dating. And that all the JLA’ers know that Roy and Kendra have been having some problems lately.
Kendra states that Roy does not know how to open up. Jeff counters that Roy is trying. Jeff asks Kendra if she misses Carter. Kendra answers that sometimes she does, but that Carter is the past and she hopes that Roy is the future.
Jeff then says that he came here to take over monitor duty for Kendra. Jeff continues that over the last twenty years that his only regret is that he did not spend more time with his daughters. Jeff tells Kendra to take the day off and spend it with Mia.
Kendra is stunned. Jeff says that he knows that Mia is not dead and that Kendra faked Mia’s death in order to protect her. Kendra asks if the whole team knows about Mia. Jeff answers that no one else knows and that he promises to keep Kendra’s secret safe. Jeff then adds that if it where him that he would tell Roy about Mia. Kendra thanks Jeff and adds that she is also not so good at opening up. Kendra leaves and we see Jeff calling up his daughter Jennifer just to talk.
We slide over to Dubai City where Professor Ivo is hard at work in his laboratory. Red Tornado arrives on the scene. Reddy says that Ivo has threatened the JLA for the last time. Ivo then unleashes one of his robots on Reddy. Suddenly, the robot overloads and collapses to the ground. We see Batman standing over the robot with a device in his hand that shut down the robot.
Reddy picks up the robot Ivo and the robot tells Reddy that Ivo can hear and see Reddy through the robot. Reddy then tells Ivo that he has a message for him. Reddy tells Ivo to look behind him.
We cut to Ivo in his secret location watching Reddy on a video screen through the robot’s eyes. Suddenly, Zatanna teleports behind Ivo and teleports Ivo to prison. Zatanna radios Reddy and tells him that she sent Ivo off to the Feds. Reddy thanks Zatanna for her help. Zatanna then adds for Reddy to tell Batman that this does not count as the night on the town that Batman promised her.
Batman replies that he is on the line and she can talk to him. Zatanna answers that she is not talking to Batman until after dinner and dancing. Zatanna then says good-bye to Reddy.
Red Tornado then thanks Batman for his help. Reddy then asks Batman to tell Black Canary that he is going to take a leave of absence. Reddy says that he needs to take care of a number of personal matters. Batman wishes Reddy good luck and tells him to call the JLA if he needs anything.
We shift back inside the Tantu totem with Vixen caught in a giant web. Anansi goes on about he is a liar and will say nothing but lies to Vixen. Anansi then adds that Vixen has no powers while she is trapped inside the Tantu totem. Anansi says that he will need the other one in order to begin.
We cut to outside of the Tantu totem with the JLA’ers all standing around the totem that is lying on the ground. Black Canary does not want anyone touching the totem. Black Canary contacts Black Lightning to coordinate for a support team. Buddy then reaches down and picks up the totem. Suddenly, some red goo shoots out from the totem and pulls Buddy inside of the totem.
Black Canary decides that they can no longer wait for backup. Black Canary tells Ellen to tell the other JLA’ers that they have gone inside of the totem. Firestorm whips up a metal pedestal around the totem. Black Canary, Red Arrow and Firestorm then enter the Tantu totem.
We slide back inside of the Tantu totem where Buddy is now trapped in the web next to Vixen. Vixen tells Buddy that they are dealing with Anansi, a West African spider god who gave Vixen her powers and also gave Buddy his powers. Buddy responds that the yellow aliens gave him his powers.
Suddenly, Anansi transforms into the two yellow aliens. Anansi asks “You mean us?” Anansi then says that some of the JLA’ers have entered the totem and that he is not ready to deal with them just yet.
Anansi tells Buddy that he should not trust Anansi. That everything that Anansi has said to Buddy has been a deception. Anansi transforms back into his demonic form and comments that there was no such thing as the yellow aliens. Anansi says that Buddy can trust him. That Anansi never lies.
Anansi says that he is a trickster god and part of his job is confusing people. We learn that Anansi’s father is the sky-god, Nyame. We learn that Anansi owns all stories. Every single one. (Dios mio. I am already getting bored.)
Anansi drones on about all the contrary histories of Buddy Baker, the many versions of simple children’s fairy tales, the inconsistencies between the memories of two witnesses from the same event, the rift in the bleed and the potentially catastrophic divergences that leave the Multiverse in constant crisis. Anansi says that he is the lie that reveals the truth. That he owns all stories.
Anansi says that Vixen’s life has been a web of deceptions, but also a single, grand narrative. Precisely what Anansi needs to reassert his control. We then cut to Black Canary, Red Arrow and Firestorm appearing inside of the totem. Anansi says that the JLA’ers are now in his world. His story.
A bunch of spiders attack the JLA’ers. Anansi says that the spider spins his web. Anansi says that Roy was once a heroin addict and has unfortunately fallen off the wagon. That this has affected the sureness of Roy’s aim. We see Roy fire an arrow at a spider and miss and the arrow hits Black Canary in the back.
Anansi then says that before Black Canary dies, she lets out a final death scream that kills Roy and injures Firestorm. The injured Firestorm is then devoured by Anansi’s giant spiders. Anansi then tells Buddy and Vixen that no one came to rescue them.
Vixen freaks out. Anansi tells her to relax and maybe he will be persuaded to tell the story differently next time. Vixen suddenly breaks loose from the web and attacks Anansi. Anansi comments that Vixen was clever to borrow Animal Man’s powers. (Yeah, so Vixen could not have done this earlier before this demonic spider-dude killed off her teammates?)
Anansi then says that spider spins his web. (Does he have to say this annoying catch phrase every time before he uses his tale bending powers?) Anansi says that bored by science fiction, Anansi denied Animal Man’s power to draw upon the abilities of extraterrestrial animals. Buddy’s morphogenetic abilities are repaired and Buddy is now powerless in a dimension where there are no Earth animals to draw upon. Therefore, Vixen is rendered powerless although, ironically, her original power to channel the ability of earthly animals has been restored.
Vixen replies that Anansi is who screwed with her and Buddy’s powers in the first place. Anansi says that he did so in order to draw Vixen here. Anansi adds that Buddy’s problems were merely a side effect of Anansi’s manipulation of the Earth’s morphogenetic field. (I hate this like poison.)
Vixen asks why Anansi would do this. Anansi answers that Vixen is an untempered sword that he can ready for future use. Anansi then says that perhaps he is lying because he thinks this would make a good story. Anansi then tells Vixen that more rescuers have arrived in the totem. We see that Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Black Lightning, John Stewart and Zatanna are all inside of the totem.
Anansi asks Vixen if she would like to hear the tales of her teammates. Anansi says that first the heroes would have to overcome Anansi’s spiders that killed Black Canary, Roy and Firestorm. Anansi then hesitates and says that maybe the three JLA’ers are not dead. Maybe it would be more dramatic to bring them back later. Anansi says that he can do that if he wishes. This is his story. (Yeah, I got that already. Move on.)
Anansi then says “Spider spins his web.” (Of course. Didn’t see that coming.) Anansi re-tells the fateful night that Bruce’s parents were killed. Only this time after the killer shoots and kills Bruce’s parents, the killer looks into Bruce’s eyes. For some reason, the killer is frightened beyond all reason, drops the gun and runs. (Umm, okay.)
Bruce picks up the gun and kills the killer. Forged in a crucible of vengeance, the boy became a man who became a legend. Bruce became the Paladin. It is sort of a cowboy version of Batman and the Paladin uses a gun to kill any criminal who attempts to ply their trade in Gotham City.
Evidently, the Paladin spent much of his time avoiding the law and dispensing his own deadly justice. Therefore, Bruce never joined the Justice League of America. Still, the JLA formed even without the Batman.
But, Anansi says that the spider spins his web. (Yet again.) Anansi says that after Superman sacrificed himself to save the world from Doomsday that Wonder Woman left the JLA. Without Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, the JLA quickly fell apart.
Anansi says that with no JLA, there is no rescue. We see Vixen, Buddy, Black Canary, Roy and Firestorm bound in the spider-web. We see small mirrors surrounding them containing the world of the story that Anansi just told Vixen.
Vixen then spits that Anansi made a big mistake. That he underestimated her. Vixen jumps into one of the mirrors to the world of Anansi’s story. Anansi watches Vixen running through the world via one of the mirrors. Anansi states that he hopes he is wrong about Vixen. Because if he is right then all is lost. That the story is no longer his.
Justice League of America #25 is not packed with action, but McDuffie properly inserts enough action throughout this issue in order to keep it a lively read. This issue was well plotted as McDuffie used this issue to conveniently wrap up Ivo’s plotline, gently move along the Kendra/Roy plotline and finally crank up Vixen’s long simmering plotline to a heavy boil.
McDuffie whips up some solid dialogue. The beginning of this issue sported some enjoyable casual banter between the JLA’ers. The dialogue between Jeff and Kendra was spot on. McDuffie’s dialogue will never blow the reader away, but it is always soundly crafted and very dependable.
McDuffie continues to impress me with his wonderful handling of Batman. McDuffie just gets Batman’s character. McDuffie gives Batman the proper attitude and take-no-shit demeanor. McDuffie’s Batman is a brilliant strategist who always has a plan for any given situation. Absolutely nobody gets anything over on McDuffie’s Batman. Yet, at the same time, McDuffie prevents Batman from being more of a caricature than a character by giving Batman a wonderful dry sense of humor.
I enjoyed how McDuffie handled the relationship between Zatanna and Batman. It was nice to see the relationship that Dini has cultivated between these two characters over on Detective Comics being carried out in other titles as well. Having Zatanna refusing to talk to Batman until he takes her out for their night on the town was perfect. Nobody else in the JLA is able to see past Batman’s persona like Zatanna does.
The scene with Jeff and Kendra was excellent. McDuffie does a fine job with both characters. McDuffie understands what it means to be a parent and I found Jeff’s sole regret in life of not being able to spend more time with his daughters to be a rather powerful moment.
The Bad: Justice League of America #25 started off nicely paced, but it tailed off around the mid-way point and really bogged down heading toward the end as it seemed that Anansi was determined to talk the reader to death.
I have to openly admit that I have always found Vixen to be a dull character. I have never felt that she deserved a roster spot on the JLA. For me, the JLA is reserved for the A-listers of the DCU. A character like Vixen should be on a team like the Outsiders.
And McDuffie does absolutely nothing to get me to change my opinion on Vixen. She is still a generic character that simply fails to hook my interest. McDuffie worked incredibly hard in order to put Vixen over with the reader. I think it was a bit too much and it definitely did not work for me.
Anansi is such a terribly dull villain. I will openly admit that I am not a big fan of any sort of obscure mythology. If it does not pertain to Greco-Roman, Norse or Egyptian mythology then I really have a hard time mustering up much interest. I will also admit that I rarely enjoy magic based stories. Having said that, I can still appreciate a quality magic themed story when I read one.
However, I simply do not find Anansi to be a quality villain. He comes across as a generic magic based villain. And as a result much of the dialogue de-evolves into a bunch of nonsensical magical mumbo jumbo. McDuffie completely failed to get me interested in Anansi’s character.
McDuffie certainly seems to have lost a bit of focus once we enter into the second half of this issue. Quickly, the strong plotting and pacing breaks down as McDuffie seems to get stuck in a quagmire of his own making. The reader feels about as trapped in a web as our heroes are in this issue as Anansi’s story gets bogged down.
The concept that some obscure and campy spider-god is behind every single story in the DCU, the rift in the Bleed and the Multiverse’s continual crisis is just way too much for me to buy into. McDuffie overplays his hand trying to artificially increase Anansi’s standing in the DCU as a way to impress upon the reader what a big bad villain we are dealing with.
Anansi simply does not have enough credibility or stature within the DCU in order for the reader to buy into what McDuffie is trying to sell us concerning Anansi. Hopefully, the fact that McDuffie mentions that Anansi is a trickster means that Anansi is simply lying about the scope and breadth of his powers.
Anansi’s dialogue was so boring and monotonous that I almost slipped into a catatonic state while reading this issue. It was extremely repetitive which gave the reader the feeling that McDuffie was trying to burn some panel space in order to stretch the story out in order to fill up this double sized issue.
McDuffie kept pounding the same simplistic themes concerning Anansi over the readers head. I understood that Anansi owned all stories the first time McDuffie mentioned it. It was not that complex of a concept and did not bear the constant repeating. In addition, the annoying habit of Anansi constantly says “Spider spins his web” grated on my nerves.
Unfortunately, McDuffie decides in this issue to take the wonderful story about Buddy that Morrison gave us on Animal Man and 52 and just ruins it. McDuffie’s “additions” to Buddy’s origin is wretched. My only hope is that Anansi is indeed a trickster who is completely lying about the yellow aliens and the entire origin that Morrison gave us about Buddy.
And on top of it all, Buddy serves no point or purpose in this issue. Buddy is nothing more than yet another helpless victim along with the rest of the JLA waiting for the Vixen to eventually save them. Honestly, there was no need to shoehorn Buddy into this story and I would have been happy if McDuffie had just left Buddy well enough alone.
The ending to Justice League of America #25 was a hot mess. McDuffie gives the reader some totally incoherent babbling from Anansi that completely fails to hook me into coming back for the next issue. At this point, I just want this story involving Vixen and Anansi over so that we can move onto something more interesting.
Overall: Justice League of America #25 was an average read. My interest in this issue was greatly diminished by the fact that I am not much of a fan of Vixen and that I found Anansi to be a terribly uninteresting villain. However, if you enjoy Vixen and you love magic themed villains that you might want to give Justice League of America a try. You will probably enjoy it much more than I did.