What does it mean when you say something is average? It doesn’t fail, but it doesn’t particularly succeed above and beyond what’s expected. It’s just, well, average. That, for better and for worse, is how “Justice League of America” #52 shakes out. After an initial promising chapter, “JLA: Omega” has settled down into a book that is by no means bad, but it also isn’t doing anything out of the ordinary.
The main plot this month is one we’ve seen before; the heroes in a confined area fighting the uber-villain, while other (former) foes are forced to team up with our heroes to stop a greater threat. James Robinson tries to make the Omega Man stand out by making him more than just the average bad guy, instead having him stand for big concepts involving death, destruction, and entropy. It’s not a bad tactic, but there’s something about this issue’s narration and plot that doesn’t quite click for him and make him come across as dangerous as Robinson envisioned him.
The main characters themselves are also a little lackluster this month. There are a few nice touches along the way, like Jesse Quick evacuating the people of Washington DC to safe places from the Omega Man, or Jade rapidly becoming the only hero who can do anything of note in an attack. In temporarily removing Congorilla and Starman from the rest of the team (in order to have a five-on-five match-up of the Justice League and the Crime Syndicate members), we’ve ended up with a slightly boring mix of characters, and it makes you quickly realize how much Robinson needs someone with a lighter touch in his comics.
Mark Bagley’s pencils also seem a little uninspired in places. There are some moments that try, like having the heroes show their bruises and cuts from the fight rather than them mysteriously vanishing after a page, or actually doing the leg work to know what the Museum of Natural History looks like. On the other hand, the image of Superman on the first page doesn’t even look like Bagley drew it, and not in a good way; it’s stiff and unattractive. Every now and then we get another image that just doesn’t quite click on the page, and it’s another reminder that for whatever reason Bagley’s “Justice League of America” run (coming to an end shortly) hasn’t had the same energy or excitement that his art for “Trinity” did.
I’m glad that “Justice League of America” #52 isn’t bad, but it would also be nice of it was great instead of just average. As one of DC Comics’s flagship titles, it should be more than just average; maybe the upcoming shift in artists will give the book a punch of energy. For now, though, it’s an unenthusiastic note to end the year upon.