The Revolution was pleasantly surprised with the last issue of Justice League of America. McDuffie finally turned his attention to plotlines actually involving the Justice League rather than stories to be told on other titles. Imagine that.
At any rate, I have a good feeling that DC has refocused their attention on this title and are ready to re-establish it as one of their flagship titles rather than just a monthly advertisement for stories going on in other comic books. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for Justice League of America #23.
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Artist: Ed Benes
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Zatanna using her magic to try and uncover the source of Vixen’s problems with her powers. While casting a spell, a powerful force repels Zatanna. Undaunted, our sexy magician shrugs off the attack and casts another spell to reveal the identity of the person controlling Vixen’s powers.
Zatanna’s spell reveals the image of Animal Man and Vixen on puppet strings. We then see a gigantic spider-demon above our heroes pulling the strings. Zatanna commands the spider-demon to state his name. The spider-demon says he will not do so and tells Zatanna to be gone. Zatanna’s spell is rebuffed and the image disappears. Zatanna comments that whoever the spider-demon is it is way more powerful than her.
We cut to the robotics lab in the Watchtower with John Irons waking up. Irons sees Batman still unconscious. Irons touches Batman’s cowl to activate Batman’s JLA communicator in order to warn the other Leaguers. Irons is zapped by an electrical current the second his hand touches Batman’s cowl. Why? Because this is the goddamn Batman we are talking about. Batman immediately wakes up and instinctively contacts the other Leaguers and gives them a sitrep about Amazo’s attack.
We cut to another one of the Watchtower’s labs where Superman is brawling with Amazo. Amazo then drops Superman with a deadly dose of red solar frequencies. Flash then hits the scene and attacks Amazo. Unfortunately, Amazo is just as fast as the Flash and gets the upper hand on the Flash. Then Amazo uses all of the other Leaguer’s powers to kick ass on the Flash.
But, that crafty Flash is not done yet. Flash taps into the Speed Force and steals Amazo’s super speed. Hal Jordan, Red Arrow, Wonder Woman, Black Lightning, Firestorm and Hawkgirl appear on the scene and Flash lets them take over battling Amazo. Amazo then fights the Leaguers.
Amazo kicks Firestorm’s ass and separates Firestorm back into Jason and Gehenna’s human forms. Hawkgirl quips that she should have known Firestorm was two people. That Firestorm was way to annoying to be just one person. (Heh. I immediately like Hawkgirl for the first time.) Amazo then kicks Hawkgirl’s ass. Amazo then locks horns with Wonder Woman. While the two are battling, Hal attacks Amazo from behind and blasts a huge hole through Amazo’s chest.
Amazo then decides he must retreat in order to heal and turns intangible and drops through the floor. Superman uses his last amount of energy to employ his heat vision and blast a hole in the floor for the rest of the Leaguers to follow Amazo. Hal, Wondy, Lightning and Roy pursue Amazo. Black Canary, Zatanna and Vixen then arrive on the scene. Superman tells Zatanna to transport the tour group in the Hall of Justice outside of the facility so they won’t get hurt by Amazo. Zatanna makes it so.
We cut back to the lab where Irons and Batman are located. Irons had passed out again and we see him waking up from a cup of cold water that Batman splashed on him. We see the Batman standing over Irons. Batman snaps that he needs Irons’ help.
We cut back to Zatanna having whipped up a spell to heal Superman from the red solar radiation. All the Leaguers have joined up together and are searching for Amazo. Suddenly, a healed up Amazo crashes on the scene and attacks the Leaguers. Amazo uses Zatanna’s powers to make her mouth disappear. Amazo then uses red solar energy to take down Superman. Amazo then blasts Black Canary.
Vixen then squares off with Amazo. Vixen says that her powers allowed her to defeat Amazo the last time and she is going to defeat him again this time. Vixen says that she is going to sap Amazo of his powers and then smash him into a million pieces. Suddenly, a disembodied voice says to Vixen “It is not going to work.”
Vixen starts absorbing all the different Leaguers’ powers from Amazo. Vixen then stammers that it hurts and that something is not right. Vixen collapses to the ground. The disembodied voice then says to Vixen “I told you it would not work.”
Amazo then scans Vixen and realizes that she is vulnerable and that it must kill her. Amazo grabs several of Red Arrow’s arrows and is about to stab Vixen to death. End of issue.
The Good: Justice League of America #23 was another good read. McDuffie delivers a nicely paced story. This is certainly a fast paced issue, but at no point does it feel rushed. Justice League of America #23 is solidly plotted. While this issue is mostly action driven, McDuffie does finally perform some much needed advancement of Vixen’s plotline. This plotline has lagged for a while so it is nice to finally see McDuffie giving it some attention.
McDuffie has actually got me interested in Vixen’s plotline for the first time. Up until now I had practically no interest at all in this plotline. Part of that reason is because I find Vixen to be a bit of a one-dimensional character and not particularly worthy of a spot on the premier super team in the DCU. And the other part of that reason was how slowly McDuffie was dragging out this plotline.
Yet, the minute McDuffie tossed Animal Man into the mix with Vixen’s plotline, he immediately grabbed my attention. I love Animal Man and his appearance has got me completely interested in what is going on with this strange spider-demon pulling both Vixen and Buddy’s strings. I am curious to see where McDuffie goes with this plotline.
But, the fact is that Justice League of America #23 is all about the action scenes. McDuffie dishes out gobs of entertaining action in this issue. It was a blast watching Amazo destroying the Leaguers in this issue. Justice League of America has been in the doldrums for so long and has been such a dull read for many months that McDuffie was wise to shake things up on this title by injecting a hyper-dose of mayhem and violence with this issue.
Even though Justice League of America #23 is a pure bash-em-up issue, McDuffie still manages to work in a bit of character work. McDuffie continues to impress me with his job writing Batman’s character. I love how McDuffie writes Batman. It is a perfect blend of Dini’s traditional detective Batman and Miller’s goddamn Batman.
Irons getting shocked when he tried to touch Batman’s cowl was a nice touch. McDuffie knows that part of getting Batman’s character right is understanding that Batman is one of the most paranoid and untrusting heroes in the DCU.
I also like how McDuffie writes the Flash. McDuffie shows a nice feel for Wally’s personality during his showdown with Amazo. I liked the running narrative that we get from Wally during his fight with Amazo.
In general, McDuffie is beginning to win me over with his nice feel for the basic personalities of all the various Leaguers. While none of McDuffie’s character work is mind blowing or revolutionary, each Leaguer is properly handled and consistent with their basic personality type.
Ed Benes treats the reader to plenty of great artwork. I am a huge fan of Benes’ style of art, so obviously I loved how Justice League of America #23 looked. Benes does a wonderful job bringing McDuffie’s action scenes to life and making them practically explode off the page at the reader.
My favorite panel was where Wondy is using her super speed and her bracelets to deflect Amazo’s heat vision attack. I have not seen Wondy in an all out block-fest with her bracelets on the JLA in a while. It made me smile and think about Linda Carter in her satin tights fighting for our rights. And the old red, white and blue.
The Bad: Justice League of America #23 was not a plot driven issue. This issue was short on intricate plot work. This issue also delivers very limited character work. And McDuffie’s dialogue, while certainly more than serviceable, it is nothing particularly impressive that will intrigue the reader. You have to be a fan of a solid bash-em-up issue in order to really enjoy Justice League of America #23.
Overall: Justice League of America #23 was a great action issue. McDuffie infuses plenty of excitement into this title with a much needed dramatic showdown with a big-time villain like Amazo. It is also nice to see McDuffie continuing to concentrate solely on plotlines that actually involve the JLA and not other DC titles.
It appears that McDuffie is beginning to turn the corner on this title. If you dropped Justice League of America a while back due to the fact that it was nothing more than an advertisement for other DC titles, then now might be a good time for you to beginning getting this title once again.