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The worst comic of the week; or, I would bet my sanity that Banzai Girl is better than this!

by  in Comic News Comment
The worst comic of the week; or, I would bet my sanity that <i>Banzai Girl</i> is better than this!

Yes, that Banzai Girl.  The one by Jinky Coronado.  I mean, seriously, look at one of the pages!

But even that, I would bet, cannot approach the horror that is … under the fold!

                         


Yes, it’s Justice League of America #10, by Brad Meltzer, Ed Benes, Sandra Hope, Rob Leigh, Alex Sinclair, with Michael Turner and Peter Steigerwald on one cover, Phil Jimenez and Rod Reis on another, and Adam Schlagman as assistant editor and Eddie Berganza as editor!  It’s so bad I need to make sure everyone gets the blame they deserve!

I picked up this comic to review it for my weekly column over at Atomic Comics.  That means I didn’t have to pay for it, because they let me take the book home and then return it.  That’s why I got to read an issue of Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose.  Well, I’m going to go back and pick another book to review for that column, because this comic deserves to be lovingly eviscerated in a post all its own, and furthermore, it’s not really even trying to bring in new readers.  So let’s check it out!

First, the cover.  Is it me, or do Power Girl’s breasts look a tiny bit smaller than they did in the solicitation copy?  Maybe I’m just seeing things.

Okay, this is the conclusion of the big JLA/JSA crossover, “The Lightning Saga.”  Oooohhhh, that means there’s some terrible threat to the world that necessitates the two teams getting together, right?  That means this is going to be a big smash-’em-up, because when two superhero groups get together, they have to fight something that challenges them really seriously.  I mean, remember that JLA/JSA graphic novel, Virtue and Vice, by Goyer, Johns, and Pacheco?  That had Despero and Johnny Sorrow and the seven deadly sins possessing seven heroes, including Batman, and featured many fights and explosions and shit.  So this has to have that kind of blowing-up stuff, right?

We begin with a caption that says, “Five minutes to impact.”  So far, so good.  There’s a time limit, and something will make an impact, which is always a good way to blow something up.  The next caption box says, “They lied to me.”  Okay.  Who is this?  Is it a thought, or spoken dialogue?  It seems like it’s spoken, because Black Canary, right beneath it, says, “You’re sure?” as if in response.  The next caption box has, “They lied to us.”  We then find out that “worst of all,” they lied to Superman.  He shows up in the last panel of the first page, and apparently he’s pretty pissed.  In the previous panel, a silver-haired lady wearing a silver leotard is telling some people that she knew what they’d do.  Superman identifies her as Sensor Girl – or does he? – and says he can see her now.  Okay, that’s the first page.  Not bad.  We’re a bit in the dark about what’s going on – there are heroes in the background fighting what looks like Doctor Octopus’s arms, and Power Girl tells Dinah that “they’re not real,” but we don’t know who’s she’s talking about.  That’s okay – all will be explained, right?

On the next page we pull back and get the big picture.  Superman starts in the upper left and flies through a battle until he gets where he needs to go.  A bunch of heroes are fighting Doc Ock’s arms.  The people who lied to Superman are, apparently, the Legion of Super-Heroes, seven of whom came back in time.  We know this because the captions tell us, even though we still don’t know who’s talking.  Superman reaches his target, someone called Jeckie (who, it turns out, is actually Sensor Girl!), and demands to know where “they” are.  He grabs her and she says he shattered her shoulder.  It’s a ruse, though, as Power Girl tells him she’s already gone, and indeed, she fades away.  Superman tells Dinah that he wants those kids.

                         


With four minutes to impact, we’re in various cities.  In Tokyo, Dawnstar talks to someone named Val, who tells her to wait outside the Capsule Tower.  In Central City, some dude is “in place.”  In Smallville, Jeckie is standing in a corn field.  In San Francisco, Wildfire lands where he’s supposed to.  And in Gotham City, Starman (real name: Thom) is sitting cross-legged and speaking cryptically.  He’s speaking to Karate Kid, who is the one called Val, I guess.  Is Thom on some sort of hallucinogenic or does he speak this way because he’s a bit developmentally disabled?  We’ll never know.  In Keystone City, the silver-haired leotard lady says, “I know you’re arriving” as we’re three minutes from impact.  The old Flash shows up as she realizes Batman hid tracers in their costumes.  Her name, by the way, is Dreamgirl, not Sensor Girl, and Old Flash tells her that time travel messes things up so she should stop messing with it.  She says that her job is to stall the one person who’s fast enough to stop them.  Old Flash pauses, then, apropos of absolutely nothing, says, “We fought Hitler, sweetie.  Be serious for a moment … you really think I’m the fastest member on these teams?”  What the hell?  Does that mean that because he fought Hitler, he’s old and no longer the fastest?  Does it mean that they were such master strategists that they defeated Hitler, so what can the Legion do against them?  Does it mean he’s having a “senior moment” and he just likes reliving past glories and rubbing it in the younger generation’s face?  Does he really think the Legion hasn’t fought someone like Darkseid, who’s presumably a thousand times worse than Hitler?  What the hell?  He says the last part of this odd statement, by the way, as a voice-over, as Power Girl, Green Lantern, Red Tornado, and Superman confront the other Legion members.  Superman stands behind Jeckie with “two minutes to impact” and checks to make sure she’s really there.  He demands to know why they’re here, and she says that “to bring him back … there’s no Proty to take the fall.”  Okay, getting more cryptic by the minute here.  They’re bringing someone back, and the last time they did it, somebody named Proty was sacrificed somehow.  Wow, I’m glad it’s all clear now!  Meanwhile, the only thing that convinces Superman it’s really Jeckie is, and I wish I were kidding about this, “the salty sweet smell of her tears.”  What, indeed, the fuck.

              


Superman flashes back to a 1950s comic and thinks to himself that the mention of “Proty” convinces him that he was right: it’s like when they brought “Garth back t –” but then he cuts his own thoughts off and tells Dinah he was correct.  He also sees a lightning rod in Jeckie’s hand, one that looks like the one in the flashback.  Okay, this is getting a bit confusing.  Superman’s thought captions are yellow writing in a blue background.  They’re slightly different from the thought captions at the beginning of the book, which have the same blue background, but with slightly lighter yellow lettering and a yellow border.  So who the hell is thinking in the beginning?  Sheesh.

At one minute to impact, “Michael” is talking to Batman, and he exposits a bit: “And when the lightning hit one of them, their other dead teammate came back to life?”  Batman deadpans: “It’s 31st-century science, Michael.  Don’t expect it to make sense.”  He should have said: “It’s 21st-century comic book writing, Michael.  Don’t expect it to make sense.”  Michael wonders if they have a right to stop them if one wants to die to revive another, and Batman asks if he’d stop someone from putting a gun in their mouth.  They’ll stop them because it’s what they do.  Flash asks Dreamgirl if she knows who dies, since she can see the future and all.  Wait: if the Legion is from the future, can’t they all see the future, since it’s the past to them?  As the heroes move in to stop the various Legionnaires, Michael and Batman run upstairs to find the two missing members.  This is where it gets confusing (yeah, I know, but let’s just say more confusing).  On one page, we get Michael and Batman running toward stairs.  The next panel is Starman, talking idiotically as usual.  Both he and Batman are in Gotham City.  Are they in the same building?  We find out soon that the answer is yes, but it’s unclear here.  The next panel has a Batman thought caption, with Batman saying “Wait.”  Then the last panel is Green Lantern, who’s in Central City, saying “Wait.”  On the next page they both say “I’ve been here before” at the same time.  Then they say “I know this place” at the same time.  Batman sees a vision of the Flash melting, while Green Lantern sees the chemical accident that created the Flash.  Green Lantern’s thought balloon reads, “They’re not here to bring back Lightning Lad.  What they’re chasing … is something far bigger.”

              


With 23 seconds to impact, the Legionnaries get ready while the League threatens.  Michael leaps at Starman, but he’s protected by a force field.  Old Flash is trying to vibrate through Dreamgirl’s, and at that moment, Dinah turns the fields off.  Her thought balloon claims that Michael and Batman cooked up an override.  Here’s the thing: her thought balloons are colored like the ones in the beginning, indicating she’s thinking in the beginning.  That makes sense, but the first thought balloon, as I’ve mentioned, seems to elicit the response of “You’re sure?” from Dinah.  Is she thinking that and then saying “You’re sure?”  And why oh why do I have to fucking think so much to read a goddamned superhero comic book?

Anyway, Michael and Batman’s override doesn’t work, because the rings are “self-repairing.”  Dreamgirl points out that Braniac 5 makes Hitler look like a petulant toddler, so stick it, Grandpa!  The Legionnaire in Central City (who’s nameless so far) tells Green Lantern that “records say he saved your life too.  Plenty of times.”  Michael asks Batman if he wants to stop what’s happening.  He tells Batman to find Karate Kid, who’s unaccounted for, and Starman says that they don’t understand Val’s power. Starman says Val finds weaknesses, and then he looks at a scrap of cloth in his hand.  Apparently this is the part of Val’s costume with the tracer on it, because Val is not in the room, he’s in Blue Valley, USA, standing with his lightning rod up but his force field down.  Oh dear.  He says something Asian, but his whole look makes me think of Margaret Cho talking about David Carradine in Kung Fu: “That’s guy’s not Chinese.”  Is he meant to be Asian, or just some gaijin who knows martial arts?

              


So it’s impact time.  Val looks up as lightning comes toward his rod.  He says, “Lightning Lad,” and gets zapped, but his force field is up.  Wha-huh?  Dinah sees “electromagnetic readings from here to Japan” and begs Jay, Karen, or Clark to tell her that was them.  In Smallville, Superman stands over Jeckie, who is fading out while she cries for Val.  All the Legionnaires disappear as Superman, Flash, and Power Girl show up at the impact spot.  Green Lantern says to his fading Legionnaire that “he” had links to all the places they stood.  He says, “You’re bringing back …” but then we turn the page, and in the crater created by the impact is Flash, a woman, and two children.  The Flash takes his mask off and tells anyone who cares that he’s Wally West.  Yay, Wally!  Suddenly Val appears and tells “Brainy” to take him home.  Superman tries to stop him, but he vanishes, telling Superman that someday he’ll understand.  Wally tells his wife, Linda, that everyone is fine.  Starman gives his ring to Mr. Terrific (Michael) so he won’t fade away like the others.  At “the Fortress,” the Legionnaires are planning to head through a weirdly-lit door, presumably to return to the future.  They all enter, but a silhouette tells Val he can’t go back, and for him, “the mission’s just beginning.”  Dum-dum-duummmmm!!!!

Old Flash tells Wally that they “didn’t even have a funeral this time.”  Nice to see death means nothing in the DCU.  Wally says he “held on” even though it was so hard.  Then Green Lantern and Red Arrow (isn’t that his name these days?) show up and there are hugs all around.  In the future, Drake tells Brainiac 5 that Wally was “riding the lightning” and he saved his whole family.  Brainiac 5 finds that “curious.”  Superman is still grumpy and wants to talk to Starman, even though Power Girl tells him he has to trust the Legion that there’s a bigger picture.  Batman obviously thought Barry Allen was coming back, while Starman says “Flash is back.  Worlds will die again!”  Meltzer is channeling Grant Morrison, and doing it poorly.  Someone is running with Val (it’s a woman, I think, but she’s in shadow) and she asks how the lightning missed him, and he tells her he ducked.  Finally, we reach the last page.  Wally has already been accepted into the League, Power Girl and Black Canary shake hands and make promises that the two groups will get together again, and Brainiac 5 says, “All I really care about … is that we got who we wanted.”  We see the tip of his lightning rod, and a ill-defined face in it.  Who the hell is it?  You know, who the hell really cares?

Now, you may question why I went into such detail about this comic.  Well, if you didn’t read it, I wanted you to experience the pain I went through for the few minutes I devoted to reading this, plus the time I spent breaking it down.  This is so bad it makes the final issue of Identity Crisis, which was awful, look like a Don DeLillo book.  How is it that Meltzer has gotten worse at writing a comic book since then?

Let’s look at the obvious problem: there’s no villain.  This is a crossover between the premier team of the DCU and one that for the past decade has been shoved down our throats even though they’re made up of geezers, plus the added bonus of having a bunch of heroes from the future, and they don’t fight anyone!  I can’t speak for the rest of the crossover, so maybe they cleaned up the villain last issue and it turned out the villain was just a ruse, but this the climactic issue, and the closest we get to a fight is the tentacles at the beginning.  What the crap?  Added to this is the fact that the actual point of the issue is handled really poorly.  The Legion comes back in time to bring someone back from the dead.  The League thinks it’s Lightning Lad, but the clues in this issue point to Barry Allen.  But really, it’s Wally.  Fine.  But why is the League fighting them?  Why, even after they realize that they’re bringing someone back from the dead, do they try to stop them?  Why is the Legion trying to deceive them in the first place?  Why would Superman be so offended?  “You can’t bring anyone back from the dead – dead means dead!”  “Yeah, Superman, tell that to Doomsday.”  I mean, why on earth is the entire issue devoted to two groups of superheroes trying to stop a third from bringing someone back from the dead?  Meltzer doesn’t even give us a half-assed reason, like Superman saying, “I’ve tried this already, and it caused such a rift in the space-time continuum that I was arrested by the Time Police and made to watch the Peeping Tom scene from my movie* over and over until my eyes bled!”  All we get is stupid half-sentences and people speculating about what’s going on and Brainiac 5 with a face in his rod.  And it’s not like Meltzer tells us that the League expects it to be Barry, either.  “Barry Allen” is never mentioned in the issue.  We’re supposed to know, because haven’t we all read every DC comic ever published?

                      


Why does it matter if the plot is godawful?  This is the big superteam of DC, that’s why.  If you’re going to use the Big Guns, you must have them fight someone.  It’s not like this issue is chock full of character development, either.  It shouldn’t need it, after all, but it doesn’t even go that route.  I’m not sure if Meltzer is trying for that, but that’s why many members of the League have their own books, and some more than one.  I hate to invoke the God of All Comics, but he understood that when he wrote JLA.  He did a tiny bit of character development, but mainly it was about bigger-than-life threats that only the most powerful heroes in the DCU could stop.  The Giffen/DeMatteis League doesn’t count, because that was specifically NOT the powerful heroes.  But this League is full of big guns.  They should be fighting BIG-TIME FUCKING BAD GUYS!

Okay, so the plot is inane.  What about the writing itself?  Well, it’s jumpy and clipped, as if Meltzer wants to be Bendis, but it’s not as good.  Many people have commented on the annoying use of first names instead of superhero names, and it’s really, really annoying.  I get that it’s a book that relies heavily on our prior knowledge of who these people are, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: superhero comics are not meant to be “realistic,” so dialogue as if it’s two old friends chatting doesn’t work, because there’s an audience.  Therefore, the characters should call each other “Superman” and “Black Canary” occasionally, even if it feels forced.  That’s the way it is.  Meltzer doesn’t even try to explain what’s going on, why it’s going on, why we should care, or how it happens.  Apparently we’re supposed to know what the Legion is doing based on one reprinted panel from a comic published before most people reading this were born.  And it’s explained away because it’s “31st-century science.”  God, that’s shitty writing.  That’s all Meltzer does in this issue: make us rely on our knowledge of the characters to make emotional connections instead of trying to write a good emotional scene.  When Wally returns, the only reason we feel any emotion is because we once read the series that starred Wally and we felt bad about what happened to him.  I have no fucking clue what happened to Wally, and Meltzer doesn’t try to explain it or give me a reason why I should care that he’s back.  Yes, in a shared universe you can rely on our past experiences with the characters a bit, but to completely rely on that to get an emotional response is just lazy.

              


I wanted to break down some of the nuts and bolts of the people in this thing.  Here are the characters who appear in the book:

Stargirl.  Black Canary.  Red Tornado.  Tasmanian Devil (is that the guy in panel 2, page 1?).  Power Girl.  Karate Kid.  Dreamgirl.  Some Wolverine knockoff (the guy who goes to Central City and never gets named).  Superman.  Batman.  Dawnstar.  Green Lantern.  Hawkgirl.  Hawkman.  Starman.  Red Arrow (or Arsenal?).  Mr. Terrific.  Old Flash (Jay Garrick).  Sandman.  Wildfire.  Is that Hourman?  Vixen.  Sensor Girl.  Wally West, Linda, and their kids.  Brainiac 5.  Some other random Legionnaire.  The mysterious shadowy woman running with Karate Kid.  The chick who asks Red Tornado if it’s always this kooky in the League.  That’s 31 characters!  Now, a lot of them appear on only one or two panels, but still.

Here are the characters with speaking parts in the book:

Black Canary.  Tasmanian Devil.  Power Girl.  Dreamgirl.  Superman.  Sensor Girl.  Dawnstar.  Karate Kid.  Wolverine knockoff.  Wildfire.  Starman.  Old Flash.  Mr. Terrific.  Batman.  Red Tornado.  Green Lantern.  Wally West.  Linda.  Red Arrow.  Brainiac 5.  Mysterious shadowy woman.  Chick who wants to know if things are kooky all the time.  That’s 22 people.  Man, that’s a lot.

Finally, here are the people who are identified with their superhero names and their real names, plus the people who identify them:

Dinah (Power Girl, Superman).  Sensor Girl/Jeckie (both Superman).  Clark (Dinah’s caption box?, Power Girl, Sensor Girl).  The Legion of Super-Heroes (Dinah’s caption box?).  Dawnstar (omniscient narrator).  Val/Karate Kid (Dawnstar, Sensor Girl, Michael for “Karate Kid”).  Wildfire/Drake Burroughs (Val, Dawnstar for “Drake,” Brainiac 5 for “Burroughs”).  Starman/Thom (both Val).  Dreamgirl (Old Flash).  Michael/Mr. Terrific (Batman, Starman for “Mr. Terrific”).  John (Wildfire).  Bruce (Dinah, Michael).  Jay Garrick (Dinah, Wally, last name by Dreamgirl).  Karen (Dinah).  Wally West (Wally West).  Hal Jordan (Wolverine knockoff).  Linda (Wally).  Brainiac 5 (Wildfire).  So, 17 people of 31 are identified.  17 of 22 speaking parts, which isn’t that bad, I guess.  None of the extras are identified.  You’ll notice, however, that Dinah, Clark, John, Bruce, Jay Garrick, Karen, Wally West, and Hal Jordan are never identified by their superhero names.  Yes, I realize that we should know who they are, but why is it so important to know their real names when it’s not that important to know their superhero names?

And then there’s the art.  I can’t really say too much about it, because it’s just shitty early- to mid-1990s Image wannabe crap, which means we get weird figures and blurry computer effects and standard superhero art.  I’m not sure why Benes is on DC’s flagship title, but it’s not overwhelmingly awful art.  However, why do all his faces look exactly the same?  All the men look like every other man, while all the women look like every other women.  It’s bizarre.  But that’s about all I can really rant about when it comes to the art.

                                       


             









I really, really apologize for going on so much about this horrible comic book.  It has to be said, though: this sucks.  It sucks worse than The Flash #13, because although that ended with a stupid death rather than a stupid resurrection, at least there was a villain that Bart defeated (sort of) before he got kicked to death.  This has no bad guy, no big fight, no character development, no humor, no sense of grandeur, and no point beyond bringing a character back from the dead.  It’s astonishing that this comic is DC’s best-selling comic.  The only reason I can think of that is that people simply are desperate to see their favorite characters in a book together.  That’s a terrible reason to buy a comic book.  Okay, I can understand that people buy it for just that reason, but when it’s this bad, it automatically cancels any desire to see your favorite characters.  These are your favorite characters written by someone who has no idea how to write a decent comic.  It’s so offensive on so many levels that, unlike some other books I’ve tried and not liked (New Avengers, for instance), I can’t even figure out why anyone would buy this.  I really can’t.  There’s nothing at all remotely good about this comic book.  People seem to be happy that Dwayne MacDuffie is taking over this comic soon.  Let me tell you, they could drag a mental patient out of a drug-induced coma and he could write a better comic book than this.  Dwayne MacDuffie must seem like the Second Coming to people who read this comic.

I know there are people out there who buy this.  Well, I just can’t deal with that.  Therefore, I am challenging the people who buy this: check out the list of comics I bought this week.  Buy one of them, and read it.  If you think JLA #10 is better, send me an e-mail at chlothar1@earthlink.net explaining why, in some detail.  “I like the characters” is NOT a valid reason for thinking it’s better.  To the FIRST FIVE PEOPLE who send me an e-mail with a good reason, I will send a check for the purchase price of the comic you bought, so let me know how much you spent (depending on discounts your comic store might give or the amount of sales tax; in Arizona a $2.99 comic costs $3.23 with the tax, for instance) and, of course, include your address.  Remember: the first five people only – I’m not made of money!  I will put this comic up against even The Flash #13 and X-Men: Endangered Species One-Shot.  One exception: the two Warhammer books don’t count, because I didn’t buy those and I wouldn’t have read them if I didn’t get them for free.  But that still leaves you with 15 comics that I will bet are better than Justice League of America #10.

Man, this is a bad comic.  You know what?  I don’t even know what this particular chapter is called, because I can’t read the title!  Even the lettering in this issue sucks:

   


That’s just sad.  “The Villain in the … Story,” I guess.  So, will any of you readers get your money back after you’ve read a comic I recommend?  I will post the defenses of this comic if any are decent!  (And yes, I know it’s up to me whether your defense works, but I’ll try to be as impartial as I can.  I promise!)  Have fun! 

* Note: I still haven’t seen Superman Returns.