When I first heard that Dwayne McDuffie was the new writer for “Justice League of America,” I was overjoyed. McDuffie’s work in comics on titles like “Icon,” “Deathlok,” and “Hardware” made me a fan years ago. It’s hard to deny that one of the writers and producers of the “Justice League Unlimited” cartoon is a smart choice to write the “Justice League of America” comic book.
So why is it, then, that we’re eight months into his run on the book and I can’t help but feel like we aren’t getting much more than editorially-driven stories that don’t show off McDuffie’s talents as a writer? So far, we’ve had multiple stories that tie into “Salvation Run” and “Tangent Comics: Superman’s Reign”. The next issue re-introduces villains to be used in “Final Crisis”. The closest we’ve had to a genuine story from McDuffie’s imagination seems to be the current issue, #20, and even that seems to really only place Flash firmly onto the team (after Brad Meltzer tenuously had him join during his own “Justice League of America” run a year ago).
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this is probably McDuffie’s best issue on the book to date, but even then it feels a little slight as Wonder Woman and the Flash team up to take down Queen Bee. The best portions of the comic are in its first few pages, as Wally West uses his super-speed powers to stop a 400-acre wildfire. Wally West’s time as the Flash was probably best punctuated by his continual narration of his comic, and McDuffie brings that to life here with the greatest of ease, nailing Wally’s voice. Even when the initial conflict is done, McDuffie’s hitting on all cylinders, with Wally’s admission of always wanting to impress Wonder Woman and earn her respect coming across with just the right mix of awe and idolatry for her. And you know, this is just the sort of thing I was hoping for when McDuffie started writing the book.
But even then, the comic seems to lose a lot of its luster once Wonder Woman starts lecturing Flash on his duties to the League, and it never really recovers. It doesn’t leave a lot of time left for their fight against Queen Bee, which comes across a little too fast (no pun intended) to really grab me as a reader. It’s a shame, because Ethan Van Sciver’s art is good as always, with its rich detail on all the little individual items, be it burning trees or each strand of Wonder Woman’s hair.
When you consider that one member of this book was transferred off the team in an entirely different comic (Geo-Force’s removal in “Batman and the Outsiders”), it really makes you wonder what the heck is going on behind the scenes with “Justice League of America”. A recent interview with McDuffie mentioned that he’s planning stories about Red Tornado’s body and then Vixen’s powers next, and all I could think was, that hopefully this meant “Justice League of America” was no longer going to be a dumping ground for other people’s storylines and promotional events. (Although I can’t help but notice that both are also dangling subplots left behind by Meltzer.) This should be the flagship of DC Comics’ line; it’s the highest-selling monthly series from the publisher, after all. Let’s give it (and McDuffie’s talents) a little more respect, please? Readers of the book deserve better.