In a previous review of “Justice League of America,” I wrote, “Hopefully McDuffie has some ideas how to rejuvenate this title before it slips further into four-color morass.” I think it’s safe to say that even if McDuffie had some ideas to save this title, it’s too late now, especially since McDuffie was reportedly fired from this book for reasons covered elsewhere. Following that news came the announcement that James Robinson and Mark Bagley would be the creative team to handle “Justice League of America.” In October. Unfortunately, it’s only late June and McDuffie’s work in progress had to be completed.
With over half of the Leaguers unattainable, the Justice League (consisting of Green Lantern John Stewart, Vixen, Firestorm, Zatanna, and Doctor Light) team up with Hardware and Icon to vanquish Starbreaker and Shadow Thief. Surprisingly, the characterization in this issue is less shallow than one would expect. Vixen is more like the character she was in the heyday of Justice League Detroit. Firestorm (why is Gehenna not calling him “boyfriend” when she talks to him?) is a capable hero out to prove himself and John Stewart has stepped up with a plan. One can’t help but imagine what McDuffie could have accomplished if he had room to work on the characters his way.
Barrows and Syaf are an unusual choice for art on this book. Their art, under a brigade of inkers (including Don “Tiny Bubbles” Ho) is serviceable, but neither dynamic nor sharp. Parts of the issue — Firestorm waking up, Dharma’s conversation with Superman, and Icon and Vixen’s attack on Starbreaker — just feel mailed in. Backgrounds are kept at a minimum and the detail in the art is simply crosshatching and extra, frequently unnecessary muscle outlines.
Taken as a slice in time, this issue is far from the worst the Justice League have ever been published in, but it certainly doesn’t do anything to dissuade readers from pointing to the future and saying, “I really can’t wait until Robinson and Bagley are on this book.” McDuffie’s departure is untimely, but fortunately for him, his run is largely forgettable, mired in shoehorned stories and crossover residue. McDuffie’s run ends like this issue does: not with a gigantic splash, but with an underdeveloped ending that could have, and should have, a bigger impact on the DCU rather than vice versa.