We’re just about at the one-quarter mark for “Justice League: Generation Lost” (technically it’ll be halfway through the next issue), and the book is just now starting to get a real motivation. Up until this point it’s been hard to shake the idea that the heroes are chasing Maxwell Lord because he’s a bad guy, rather than any one specific thing he’s done. It’s not an unreasonable motivation, but it’s also not terribly compelling. Aside from wiping himself from the minds of the planet, Lord’s main acts since coming back to life have been to try and sabotage anyone who tries to hunt him down.
So, with this issue, Judd Winick raises the stakes and gives us a more definitive answer to the question, “What happens if the team doesn’t stop Maxwell Lord?” And of course, the answer is, “Nothing good.” Winick uses Captain Atom as a spotlight character to help the reader see what will happen; with his time-traveling powers, he’s a natural for this sort of story. It’s a good use of the set of characters Winick has at his disposal, and it results in a great reveal around the halfway point of the issue.
What I actually found more interesting, though, was Winick starting to play with Captain Atom’s potential loss of his humanity. This is a character who’s been thoroughly abused over the years. Brainwashed, bounced all over time, brainwashed again, trapped in the Wildstorm universe, brainwashed some more… it’s not easy being Captain Atom. But with all of the bad things that have happened to him over the years, this shifting of his mind and his body into something else actually feels like the next logical step. Considering he seems to only show up half of the time when there’s some odd energy to be absorbed into his body, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility. Perhaps most importantly, it’s the most interesting story hook I think we’ve had in this series to date.
The art this month is just all right. Fernando Dagnino (working off of breakdowns from Keith Giffen) is probably the weakest of the three pencillers on board “Justice League: Generation Lost,” with his strangely slim character designs and overly exaggerated faces. It’s not bad art, but it just doesn’t do much with its material. Even with Giffen’s layouts, it’s not terribly exciting to look at. The one exception to that is the big reveal where Captain Atom discovers where he is, and even then it has more to do with Giffen’s breakdowns than the actual pencils for the page. It probably doesn’t help matters that Cliff Chiang’s cover this month is gorgeous, the kind of finished art that would look great as a poster. Chiang’s an artist who just gets impossibly better every time you turn around, and seeing him even on the cover of a comic is always a plus.
“Justice League: Generation Lost” is just now feeling like it’s coming together. As a bi-weekly series it at least gets to accomplish this in three months rather than six, but even then this is a point in the story that feels like it should’ve appeared much sooner. I’m glad that the book is starting to play to its strengths, but I hope this isn’t the best it can get.