Justice League of America #17 Review

The last issue of Justice League of America was a disappointment. Hopefully, McDuffie will get this title back on track with Justice League of America #17. It appears that McDuffie is being placed into the role of writing the back-up story while Alan Burnett assumes control over the main story. I’m a little surprised that DC is already starting to shuffle writers around so soon after Meltzer left this title. All right, let’s go ahead and hit this review for Justice League of America #17.

Creative Team
Writers: Alan Burnett & Dwayne McDuffie
Pencils: Ed Benes & Jon Boy Meyers
Inks: Sandra Hope, Mariah Benes, Ed Benes, Victor Llamas & Serge LaPointe

Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Black Lightning brawling with three loser villains in Crowbar, Black Mass and Nightfall at an airport hangar. Black Lightning takes down the D-list villains pretty quickly. The pilot of the plane tells Black Lightning that the villains where trying to steal the plane and that the villains seemed scared like they were running away from someone.

We cut to Red Arrow paying a visit to Mr. Stikk. Roy enters Stikk’s apartment and finds that no one is there. Suddenly, a figure from the shadow emerges. Roy instinctively throws a punch at the shadowy figure. The figure easily grabs Roy’s fist. It is Batman. Batman says that neighbors reported a disturbance last night. Batman says that the apartment looks like Stikk put up a struggle with whoever came and abducted him.

We shift to a warehouse where a bunch of C-list villains are hanging out. They include Blind Faith who goes into a rant about the Aryan race and immediately earns this issue an automatic two point deduction for violating The Revolution’s Nazi Rule. Also present is the Key, Shrike, Houngan, Pollyanna and a bunch of other loser villains that I don’t recognize. They are all scared that the Suicide Squad is going to come get them and take them away.

Suddenly, the Suicide Squad busts onto the scene and we have a huge brawl. The Suicide Squad gets the upper hand until Polaris enters the battle. Polaris manages to temporarily trap the Suicide Squad by wrapping the metal from the warehouse around them. Polaris and the villains still conscious make a quick escape. The Suicide Squad busts free and then takes Hougan and Pollyanna into custody.

We cut to the Hall of Justice where the JLA members are having a video conference with Amanda Waller. Waller assures the League that everything the Suicide Squad is doing is perfectly legal and within the letter of the law. Waller refuses to answer Batman’s question about a supposed prison planet. Waller says that she will tell the President of the League’s concerns and have them apprised of any relevant facts. Waller then ends the conference.

Batman says he doesn’t like what the government is doing. Wonder Woman counters that at least when these villains inevitably escape from prison they will still be captive on another world. Batman retorts that when no one can see what the government is doing, what the government is doing becomes abusive. Wonder Woman asks “Why?” Batman responds “Why not?” (Damn, I love Batman.)

Suddenly, Polaris, the Key and the other villains from earlier bust through the side of the Hall of Justice. The Leaguers power up and get ready for a massive brawl. However, the Key says that they are not here for a fight. That they are here to seek sanctuary. End of story.

We get a back-up story about Vixen. We see Vixen the simulation combat room at the Hall of Justice. Vixen is practicing with a bow and arrow. She displays skills that are equal to Red Arrow. Roy then walks out from the shadows. Roy comments that Vixen is using his abilities.

Vixen talks about how she is confused that her talisman no longer allows her to access the abilities of animals. That she can only access abilities from metahumans. Roy comments that maybe Vixen is accessing the metagene in other super heroes. Vixen counters that Superman doesn’t have a metagene. Neither does Roy.

Vixen says that they need to test her abilities on a person with a power that isn’t a human skill or a manifestation of the metagene. Roy says that he know someone who can keep their mouth shut that they can test out Vixen’s abilities. Roy calls up Uncle Hal. Hal Jordan appears on the scene.

Hal gives Vixen the obligatory lecture that she needs to trust her teammates. Vixen says that Hal is probably right, but that she is not ready to face this with her teammates. Vixen then replicates the powers of Hal’s power ring. Hal says that this should not be possible. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Justice League of America #17 was a solid and serviceable issue. I enjoyed Burnett’s main story much more than McDuffie’s back-up story. Burnett does a nice job delivering a well paced story. His story is a quick read that effectively places all the pieces into their proper places in order to make way for a showdown between the JLA and the Suicide Squad.

I totally dig the idea of having the JLA eventually confront Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad. It should be interesting to see how this all plays out. The JLA is in a very tough situation. The fact is that, like it or not, Amanda Waller and her Suicide Squad appear to be operating within the letter of the law. That leaves the JLA having to carry on the crusade to appeal to the basic notions of what is considered right and wrong rather than what is considered legal and illegal.

The JLA has never been a radical group. They generally go along with the government and rarely play the role as a subversive group. That may change with this story arc. This is an interesting political firestorm that the JLA will have to deal with.

This is actually what the Civil War should have been like. This approach is much more interesting and captivating to watch our heroes have to protect the vile criminals that they have long battled against the very government that they have helped out in the past. And in the mean time the JLA will have to convince the people around them that while the actions of the government may be considered legal they simply are not moral and the people of the country shouldn’t allow their government to get away with it.

And the other great part of pulling off some post 9/11 commentary in this fashion is that you can still have a rift between the heroes in the JLA. You don’t need to actually have the heroes literally fighting each other to create plenty of quality tension. Burnett already showed the reader the different viewpoints that Wonder Woman and Batman had on this topic. Wonder Woman sees the Prison Planet as a sensible and pragmatic solution. On the other hand, Batman sees it as a government operating in secrecy which can only lead to the government being oppressive and overreaching. Personally, I’m with Batman. You should never trust your government.

I love the twist of having the villains break into the Hall of Justice only to swerve the reader by having the villains ask for sanctuary from the JLA. What a great move. This should certainly help spice up the already simmering bad feelings between the Suicide Squad and the JLA. And surely some the JLA’ers will be less than pleased having to fight to protect these villains.

Burnett dishes out some better than average dialogue. Burnet certainly writes a proper Batman. I also like how Burnett handles the down on their luck villains. Burnett succeeds in actually getting the reader to sympathize with the villains in this issue.

I enjoyed the artwork in both the main story and the back-up story. I am a huge fan of Benes and he turned in a solid effort. It wasn’t his best looking issue, but that is probably because there was inking by committee on this issue. I liked the manga styled artwork of Jon Boy. It was pretty cool. I don’t think I would want this style of art as the permanent art on a title like the Justice League of America. But, it works over the short term in a back-up story format.

The Bad: Justice League of America #17 would have received 6 Night Girls out of 10 for the story, but because of the main story by Burnett, this issue got nailed with an automatic 2 point deduction for a Nazi Rule violation.

McDuffie’s back-up story was a total miss with me. I will admit upfront that I just do not particularly care that much about Vixen. Other than the obvious T&A factor that she lends to the title, I just don’t find her character appealing at all. And I definitely don’t think that Vixen is Justice League material. She is way too much of a C-list character. However, if you are a fan of Vixen then you will probably enjoy this back-up story quite a lot.

McDuffie’s dialogue was rather generic. The characters all seemed rather flat and shallow. McDuffie certainly hasn’t performed any type of serious character work with Vixen to get me to care about her or invest any concern about what is going on with her powers. This entire plotline is rather minor and I would much rather see the JLA versus Suicide Squad get more panel time over Vixen’s plotline.

I’m also rather surprised that DC is already platooning writers on the Justice League of America so early into McDuffie’s run. And, in general, I’m simply not a fan of getting issues that have a main story and then a back-up story. I think it works a bit better on a solo title rather than a team title. And I defiantly don’t like DC’s flagship title in the JLA sporting a main story/back-up story format. And I’m not crazy about platooning the writing duties on a high profile flagship title like the JLA.

Overall: Justice League of America #17 is a solid issue, but it certainly isn’t anything special. For me, I feel that this title has dropped in quality since Meltzer left. Of course, may people probably much prefer the more action based and simple story arc formats of this current JLA.

At any rate, this is the JLA and is one of DC’s flagship titles and, therefore, I have higher expectations for this title. I expect quality reads on this title on a consistent basis. I can’t say that we have gotten that as of late. I feel that a title like the Justice League of America needs to have that something special. That secret spice that makes you excited to read the next issue. And the past couple of issues have lacked that important ingredient.

If you are a Vixen fan then definitely buy this issue. If the thought of watching the Suicide Squad knock heads with the JLA excites you then certainly hop aboard this title. However, I certainly wouldn’t wholeheartedly recommend Justice League of America to everyone like I do some of the other titles that I review.

2 Comments

  1. Burnett is doing a Salvation Run tie-in from this issue until March’s, with McDuffie doing backup stories; I can’t remember exactly what the reason for this is (maybe McD was busy with his other work, or else didn’t want to write yet another tie-in to an event); after that, McDuffie’s back to doing the full story, first a Wonder Woman/Flash issue drawn by Ethan Van Sciver, and I believe after that it’s an arc involving the time-travelling villains from “The Lightning Saga.”

    I continue to wonder at DC’s use of this series; pretty this makes three stories straight that basically amount to setup for something else (Salvation Run, Tangent, now more Salvation Run).

  2. I’m also agreeing. I liked the story but it seems to be lacking the epic or character feel that Justice League should be and what both Brad Meltzer and even Grant Morrison instilled during their runs on the series.

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