“Justice League of America” #40 is, unfortunately, exactly what I feared that all “Blackest Night” tie-ins would look like: an overly monotonous and violent parade of zombies attacking our heroes over and over again. I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself, though. So, first, the good news. Three issues in, James Robinson’s “Justice League of America” is a slight improvement over his much-ballyhooed “Justice League: Cry for Justice.” That’s a small victory right there.
The bad news? Perhaps it’s because Robinson’s new line-up is almost entirely wiping the slate clean (bringing in a combination of characters from “Cry for Justice,” “The Titans,” and his run on “Superman” in their place), but this issue feels mean-spirited. The characters here don’t come across as victorious because they’re heroes, but rather because they got hysterical and flailed out at the Black Lanterns until they won. Under the best of circumstances, that’s not terribly good storytelling when you’re dealing with characters who have all been around the block for some time as superheroes. That said, it’s more cringe worthy when you realize that the heroes left standing (and getting hysterical) this issue — Vixen, Zatanna, Dr. Light, and Gypsy — are all women. As if the stereotype of hysterical women overwhelmed by bad guys isn’t bad enough (and when the voice of calmness is a mostly-flattened male hero, it’s hard to ignore this), one of them only is able to defeat her foe because her children are threatened. Throw in some father issues and it’s a full range of stereotyping, here.
Mark Bagley’s pencils here look rushed, and with three inkers assigned that’s almost certainly the case. His art on “Trinity” and “Batman” looked much nicer than this; it’s jagged in places and cluttered, something I’m not used to seeing with Bagley. There’s an early panel where Vixen attacks Vibe, and it’s just a mess. Energy blasts seem to jut out from the scene almost randomly, Vixen’s arm and breast outline the triangle on Vibe’s chest in a way that just looks bizarre, and the background is an explosion of speed lines amidst shades of black. Later on, there’s a climactic scene which literally looks like it was drawn with nine or ten lines and then colorist Pete Pantazis got to fill in the rest. I expect more out of Bagley, and hopefully when the new line-up of characters show up next month we’ll get something more in line of his talent.
At this point, I’m not sure why Robinson even came on board for these issues to shuffle out the old cast in favor of “The Titans” cast-offs and characters he was already writing elsewhere. I’d almost rather him have disbanded the old team in-between issues, because this wasn’t pleasant for anyone who’d enjoyed the characters that were still sticking around. Clearly, Robinson didn’t like them. Hopefully he has more interest in his own line-up.