Thursday, August 15, 2013

Issue Review: Justice League of America 7

This issue represents the fourth part of the 6-part (plus) "Trinity War" Justice League event, and the crossover continues to be lackluster.  The story begins with Lex Luthor salivating over the fact that Superman has somehow been framed for killing Dr. Light, and in the middle of his prison, Pandora shows up with her skull-shaped box.  She encourages Luthor to open it.

As these events unfold, elsewhere, members of the three Leagues (JL, JLA, and JL Dark) burst into Dr. Psycho's base, and battle him.  They think he used his mind powers to trick Superman into killing Dr. Light, but they find out that he was not involved.  He does, however, implicate a "secret society."  Atom finally admits that the JLA was formed to fight the JL, and everyone feels betrayed.  At the same time, Steve Trevor leads another group against a mysterious house.  Inside, they find a mirror that shows the Phantom Stranger, who had traveled with a fourth team to seek out the dead soul of Dr. Light.  Unable to find it, the Stranger returns the team to the house through the broken mirror, and then disappears.

Superman's group returns to Amanda Waller, ready to accuse her of wrongdoing, but the secret society blows up Dr. Light's body, causing the entire building to explode.  Meanwhile, back in Luthor's prison, Wonder Woman stops Pandora from giving Luthor the box and takes it herself. The issue ends with Diana drawing her sword, and the clear implication is that now she has turned evil and everyone will have to fight her ("The box has me!").

As my synopsis hopefully makes clear, this is a very disjointed story that the writers clearly struggled to make coherent.  Probably thanks to space limitations, we see only fragments of each story, with many details and explanatory scenes that should have been there, left out.  As with the other installments, the story seems extremely forced, as if the writers have been told to get the characters to a certain place, and couldn't figure out how to do it naturally.  Another problem suffered by this issue, as well as the entire crossover, is the sheer magnitude of the character population. There are just too many characters here, and the vast majority of them don't have much, if anything, to say. Not one line of text is spoken by Hawkman, Star Girl, or Katana.  Even Batman only appears in one panel, and has not one speaking line in the entire issue. Many of these characters have incredibly cool and interesting powers that could be used in clever ways, but instead most of them stand around allowing only a handful of the characters (J'onn, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Atom, Catwoman, and Green Lantern) do almost all the talking and take almost all the important actions. This tells me that the story really only needed one team, and the other two teams have just been shoe-horned in to let DC do a "crossover" and make more money.

One major irritant in this series has been Pandora.  I know the comic geeks at my local shop love her.  I don't know much about her, but every time I've seen her she has just annoyed me.  I think the problem is that Johns and Lemire are working a little too hard to make her seem mysterious, and it's coming off as superficial and phoney.  It feels like, rather than being a mystery woman, Pandora is putting on an act.  Now, I know she's not acting... but that's how the panels read.

The other major problem I have with this series is related to what I mentioned above. With just plain too many characters in each issue, and hardly anyone getting significant "screen time," there is hardly any attempt by the writers at actual characterization.  They do a bit with J'onn, Catwoman, and Atom, but otherwise, the lines of dialogue spoken in this issue, even more than the first two parts, are extremely generic -- if they moved the word balloons around without making any other changes, so that Deadman is saying Flash's line, or Vibe is saying Green Arrow's, one would hardly even notice.  The writers really ought to do a better job of characterization.

In addition to the story, the art leaves a lot to be desired. Although Mahnke did all of the pencils, there are five (count them -- five) different inkers and three colorists on this issue, giving the art a very inconsistent feel.  Some pages look much more "finished" than others, and the overall art style seems to change from page to page thanks to the different embellishing styles.

Overall, this was a mediocre issue.  I will give them one thing -- at least the plot seemed to go someplace this time. But it got there by traveling through a jumbled mess, and the art did nothing to help the story along.  I remain on the fence about this series.  I don't like it enough to formally put it on the pull list... but it's close enough to being actually good that I keep waiting for it to improve enough to make a formal committment worth it.  At this stage, however, there is a very strong chance that I will not be back to this series once Villain month concludes. My score for this issue: 6/10.

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