Have you ever tried to like something even as it keeps falling down? I think that’s akin to trying to read “Justice League of America” these days. I know Dwayne McDuffie is a good writer; his runs on books like “Icon,” “Hardware,” “Deathlok,” and “Beyond!” have more than proven his skill. His work on the “Justice League Unlimited” cartoon was top-notch. So why, then, does it feel like the rug keeps getting pulled out from under him?
After over a year’s worth of editorially dictated stories (either tie-ins to other DC Universe events, or cleaning up loose plot threads from Brad Meltzer’s run on the title), it looked like “Justice League of America” was back on track. Sure, the new directive from on high was to bring the Milestone characters into the DC Universe, but since McDuffie had co-created the characters that seemed like a natural. I even got into the first part of the story. But since then, we’ve had one fill-in issue written by Len Wein (although here it at least starts to connect to the rest of the story), plus an “interlude” where McDuffie gets to kick out most of the League so they can all take care of events in their own titles.
The sad thing? If this story hadn’t lost so much momentum, there would definitely be something there. The idea of a Justice League down to just Dr. Light, Firestorm, Green Lantern, Vixen, and Zatanna has actual potential, with the remnants of the team trying to hold it together as best they can. The group’s discussion on who if anyone should be the leader of this new JLA is fun, and the testy relationship between Dr. Light and Firestorm is entertaining to read.
At the same time, though, with all of the delays it feels like this is a story that’s been stretched out far too long thanks to scheduling problems. The start-and-stop nature of the storyline has destroyed all momentum there might have been here, and I found myself starting to hope that this would be the conclusion despite the skill in the script.
On the bright side, Ed Benes is replaced here by Rags Morales, who’s a much stronger penciler. There are a couple of spots that might make you wince (the “roll call” panels really shouldn’t have had Black Canary and Dr. Light adjacent, since they have the exact same face there; the same is also true for Wonder Woman and Zatanna) but at least they’re mild and inoffensive. Overall it’s a huge visual improvement.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it one more time: “Justice League of America” is supposed to be one of the flagship titles for DC Comics. Maybe it’s time they started treating it like one again. Let McDuffie tell stories that don’t have to connect with every other title in the line, let him keep the characters he starts a story with (the number of ones taken away from him at this point is getting a little mortifying), and put one of your big artists on the title. The potential is there, but I don’t know how much longer readers are going to stand for this poor treatment.