Justice League of America #38 Review

The Revolution dropped Justice League of America during McDuffie’s run on this title. I just could not stomach the lame roster and the endless tie-in issues for stories to take place on titles outside of the JLA. Well, I have decided to give the new creative team of James Robinson and Mark Bagley a chance as they come aboard this title with Justice League of America #38.

While I do think that Robinson is a talented writer, his work on Justice League: Cry for Justice does not inspire me with confidence concerning his taking control of Justice League of America. Hopefully, we will get more than just “JUSTICE!!!!” in the pages of Justice League of America. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for Justice League of America #38.

Creative Team
Writer: James Robinson
Pencils: Mark Bagley
Inks: Rob Hunter

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Blue Jay being chased by an unknown assailant. Blue Jay is dodging energy blasts from this unknown attacker. It appears that Blue Jay is in a trophy room of sorts. (Maybe this is in the Hall of Justice.)

Blue Jay thinks how his world Angor has gone bad or dead. Blue Jay thinks about his time with the JLA and how they always accepted despite his faults and mistakes. Blue Jay says that he must repay the JLA and warn them about the dangers that lie ahead.

Blue Jay says that the JLA is going to face such danger and enemies from all sides. Blue Jay says that he must warn the JLA. Suddenly, the mysterious attacker blasts Blue Jay.

Blue Jay collapses to the ground and is apparently dead. The unknown attacker says that Blue Jay was a fool however the mysterious attacker always liked Blue Jay.

We cut to Vixen, Doctor Light (Good version), Red Tornado and Plastic Man meeting at the original JLA’s first headquarters in Happy Harbor. Vixen launches into the speech about who are they? Are they the Justice League? Is there a Justice League anymore? Why are they in the Justice League at all? Why are they bothering anymore? Is there even a point to the Justice League anymore?

Vixen says that she put out a call to all the members of the JLA and barely half of them showed up here in Happy Harbor. Vixen says that her attitude about the Justice League changed after Prometheus broke her leg in four places. That compared to the loss of all the other people, Vixen is actually one of the lucky ones. (See events in Cry For Justice.)

Dr. Light has her arm in a sling due to her injuries from Prometheus. Plastic Man then says Prometheus messed up his powers so badly that Plastic Man has to use all his concentration to keep his normal shape and form. Also, that Plastic Man is unable to turn into any shape like he used to be able to do. It is too painful.

Vixen points out that both Dr. Light and Red Tornado have their own family and children to take care of rather than being with the Justice League. Vixen says that Plastic Man needs to see a doctor at STAR Labs immediately.

Suddenly, Despero appears on the scene and yells “Déjà vu!” and attacks our four heroes. Despero reveals that he has an unconscious Gypsy in his possession. Despero then tosses Gypsy at the heroes.

Plastic Man attacks Despero. Unfortunately, Plastic Man’s powers are so weak that he is unable to contain Despero. Despero then quickly takes out both Dr. Light and Red Tornado.

Despero is about to attack Vixen when suddenly Zatanna appears on the scene. Zatanna begins to cast a spell to send Despero to the center of the Earth. However, before Zatanna can finish saying her spell, Despero is teleported away from the scene by an unknown force or person.

Zatanna says that she has been looking for Vixen. Zatanna asks the four heroes if they have any idea about what is going on right now. Zatanna then reveals that the dead have come back to life and are armed with black power rings and have been attacking Earth. Zatanna says that all the dead villains being stored at the Hall of Justice have come back to life.

Vixen then says that Despero answered any questions that they might have had. Vixen says, “We’re nothing.”

Zatanna tells Vixen to think positively. Zatanna then tells the heroes that they have to go. Zatanna says that Firestorm last reported at the Hall of Justice and that if they can connect with him then they may have a chance to stop these zombie villains.

Zatanna teleports Vixen, Red Tornado, Plastic Man and Dr. Light to the Hall of Justice. Zatanna says that all she knows is that nothing good awaits for them at the Hall of Justice. We cut to the Hall of Justice and see Black Lantern Dr. Light (Rapist version.)

Comments

The Good: Justice League of America #38 was an unimpressive beginning to this supposedly “All New” Justice League of America. It is not like this was a terribly crafted read. Instead, it was simply a generic read that did little to get me excited about this new direction for the JLA.

Having said that, there were some positives to this issue. Robinson loaded Justice League of America #38 with a great brawl between Despero and the JLA. It was basically just a mindless brawl utilized to demonstrate the relative impotency and ineffectiveness of Vixen, Dr. Light, Plastic Man and Red Tornado as the rag tag JLA.

The best aspect of Justice League of America #38 was Mark Bagley’s artwork. Bagley cranks out plenty of solid artwork. Bagley does a good job conveying the downtrodden mood of the beleaguered JLA’ers in this issue. The reader truly gets a good sense of how beat down these characters are. Bagley always draws nice facial expressions. And, to be sure, Bagley draws one exciting and dynamic brawl between Despero and the Leaguers.

The Bad: Justice League of America #38 was such an underwhelming debut issue for this new creative team. I was incredibly disappointed. I was expecting so much more from Robinson than what we got in this issue. This issue was a rather boring read and completely failed to hook me into wanting to come back for more with the next issue.

I was expecting to see at least some of the new roster for the JLA and the new mission statement for this team. Unfortunately, all I got was a grab bag of leftover loose ends that were cobbled together into a debut issue for this “new” JLA.

Justice League of America #38 was a poorly paced issue. Robinson moves the story along at a slow pace as there is no real sense of urgency at all to the story. The story also lacks much of a purpose as Robinson spends most of the issue focusing on the never ending bellyaching by Vixen.

I am completely bored with the constant starting and re-starting of this team. The constant questioning about whom they are and are they worthy to be in the League and why should they bother anymore has become quite stale and uninteresting.

Justice League of America #38 was not well plotted at all. This issue has a terrible flow and comes across as completely scatterbrained. The reader is jerked randomly from scene to scene that appear to have nothing at all to do with each other.

This issue starts off with a generic “mysterious” villain plotline who murders Blue Jay. The use of Blue Jay was an odd choice. Clearly, Robinson has to use a d-list character that he could kill off without any fan resistance.

However, the problem is that Blue Jay’s death had no impact on the reader because the vast majority of readers probably had no idea who he was. Blue Jay first appeared in Justice League of America #87 back in 1971 and was a member of the Champions of Angor who were DC’s imitation of Marvel’s Avengers. Much like how Marvel’s Squadron Supreme was an imitation of DC’s JLA.

The fact that few readers will recognize much less care about Blue Jay robs this death scene of much of its impact. Also, the fact that Blue Jay fails in his mission of trying to warn the JLA of the dangers that they are about to face saps any meaning that Blue Jay’s death could have had.

Instead, this death lacks a purpose other than to try and show the reader that bad things are headed the JLA’s way and that this mysterious villain is one really bad person. That just is not enough to make this an interesting and purposeful death.

At this point, Robinson has done nothing to get me interested in this generic “mysterious” villain plotline. To make matters worse, it seemed like the various artifacts from the JLA’s villains were featured more prominently in the opening scene than either the mysterious villain or Blue Jay. My focus in this scene rested on the various artifacts rather than what was going on between the villain and Blue Jay. Robinson can still breathe some life into this plotline, but at this point I have little interest in the mysterious villain.

Despero comes crashing into this story like a rogue plotline from another title. The Despero fight scene felt so completely out of place and totally random. And Despero departs the scene just as inexplicably and randomly as he entered the scene. The entrance and departure of Despero made this scene seem so forced and contrived. Robinson was simply trying to find a cheap plot device in order to emphasis to the reader what bad shape the remaining four members of the JLA are in.

The opening scene coupled with the Despero scene and the scene with the JLA’ers standing around bemoaning their current situation game me the impression that I was reading three scenes from three different stories that had been oddly and disjointedly smashed into the same issue.

Multiple plotlines are important on a team title. But, the seeds to each plotline should be properly planted and there should be an overarching spine that serves to connect the various plotlines together. That was totally lacking in Justice League of America #38.

The plotline involving Plastic Man having problems with his powers was so generic and unappealing. Any plotline revolving around a character having issues with their super powers immediately loses my interest. This is a plotline that we have seen beat to death on just about every super hero title from Marvel and DC.

Also, it is a poor use of Plastic Man’s character. Plastic Man and his powers lend this character to being some fantastic comedic relief. And, to be sure, this plodding issue could have used some comedic relief to make it a livelier read.

The ending to Justice League of America #38 did absolutely nothing at all for me. Oh boy, we get another obligatory Blackest Night tie-in issue. We are in store for another heaping helping of mindless zombie action. We are almost to the halfway point of Blackest Night as Blackest Night #4 comes out this week. It is time to move pass this initial “zombie attacks” stage of Blackest Night that should have concluded after the first or second issue.

Of course, this leads me to a much larger problem with Justice League of America #38. The fact is that not all the blame for this issue can be placed at Robinson’s feet. Much of the blame must be placed on the editors. Editorial mandated stories have largely ruined this title ever since McDuffie took over the Justice League of America.

During McDuffie’s run, the JLA were nothing more than a vehicle to promote stories that were to take place on other titles outside of the Justice League of America. There were basically no plotlines unique to the JLA and dealing only with the JLA on this title. The Justice League of America was nothing more than a series of tie-in issues for events like Tangent: Superman’s Reign, Salvation Run or the return of the Milestone characters.

Now we have Robinson taking over the Justice League of America and the editorial staff is mandating that Robinson begin with another tie-in issue. This time for Blackest Night.

This is not the best manner in which to kick off the “All New” Justice League of America. It would be nice if the editorial staff would stop meddling so much with the JLA and allow Robinson to simply focus on writing stories that focus only on the JLA and that are unique to the JLA.

Overall: Justice League of America #38 was an unimpressive beginning to this new direction for this franchise. Hopefully, once Robinson gets past the obligatory Black Night tie-in story that he will be able to quickly resuscitate this moribund title. It is imperative that Robinson give this title a clear direction and waste no time establishing the new roster for the JLA. At this point, I would recommend waiting to purchase Justice League of America until the Blackest Night tie-in has concluded and the new roster for this team actually is assembled.
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Rokk

5 Comments

  1. I am worried about the boot in the opening scene. It looks like a Monarch boot! He would have known Blue Jay. Add in the reference to Armeggedon via the black board in Booster Gold, and you have a glimpse of the future of this title. It is not a glimpse I am willing to pay for.

  2. Robinson did state in a CBR interview that his 'Justice League of America' run would begin with a three part Blackest Night story-arc, that would take out the current version of the team. The new team is supposed to officially debut in the January issue. Therefor, you should blame DC for soliciting and advertising this issue as a "new beginning" or the start of a "new rooster".

    That being said, Robinson did lay the foundation for a new plot/plots on the book. Anyone can see that the 'boot' villain and Despero are connected somehow. However, I was hoping that these characters would be given more respect and Robinson is simply lacking originality by starting his run with Blackest Night. A better writer would engineer his own story and give the obligatory two or three page reference to the event here and there.

  3. JUSSSSTICCCCCCE!

    I can't believe I'm saying this, but you were too kind.

    I found Vixen too bitchy and whiny, is that supposed to be one of Earth's greatest superheroes? She was so annoying I hoped Despero killed her.

    Also, I'm not following Cry for Justice anymore, but from what I hear it hasn't finished yet, so why are they refering to it as something that already happened?

    Speaking of CfJ, Robinson's dialogue is still as stilted and heavy-handed as it was on that series. I thought that it was just the tone of the book and that it wouldn't carry over to JLA, but phrases like "You've made me angry! Big mistake!" and "All I do now… nothing good awaits us in the Hall of Justice" sound so bad when you read them out loud. Meh, I hope things turn better when Robinson leaves the tie-ins and can start with the new roster, which I kind of like.

  4. I feel like with McDuffie's run the dialogue got dumbed down to 90's comics style. And I think the same thing is going to happen in Robinson's run.
    The constant tie-in, the flux in roster, the meaningless deaths of d-list characters… I wonder if the JLA will ever be worth reading again.

    – seafire

  5. Yeah this is just filler issue for Blackest Night which I could honestly care less about. Once its over, things can go back to normal in the DCU. More importantly Bagley does a good job here on pencils. I'm not entirely convinced however that Robinson is a great writer. His dialog so far on Cry For Justice miniseries has been seriously lacking. Its hard to believe that series took over a year to finish just for the art. There was no time to improve the story, at all?

    I'd expect Robinson and Bagley to carry JLA for awhile. The Jim Lee/Geoff Johns A-list JLA book might not come out in time at all. Lee is notorious for delays and it'll probably lead to Robinson getting his mitts on the Big 3 much earlier than he was expecting.

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