Justice League of America #38

James Robinson and Mark Bagley (with the other fine creators mentioned above) hit the pages of "Justice League of America" and apparently forgot to stock up on Justice Leaguers. This issue is completely without Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Flash, Hawkman, Atom, or even Firestorm. In some ways, it feels like a spiritual descendant of the Detroit era of the League. Robinson uses a pretty big chunk of that formula here as he has a longstanding League member -- in this case, Vixen is playing that role as much as Aquaman did in the Detroit era -- question the League's purpose and membership. Add in a mysterious menace (anyone recognize that boot?) threatening a Leaguer from the past and a menacing threat from the League's past and this issue's done.

With this issue, we get a glimpse into the future for those reading "Cry for Justice" and we get our bearings straightened out for where that continuity hits "Blackest Night." If nothing else, this issue answers a few of those questions. What it doesn't do, however, is feel like the JLA.

Bagley's art is serviceable, and he is called upon to draw a major cross-section of the history of the Justice League -- from Starro to Despero to Happy Harbor as well as some Black Lanterns -- in his first issue. Bagley's storytelling is crisp, but his art just doesn't feel big enough to be on "Justice League of America." Bagley manages to make the characters heroic and the villains powerfully intimidating, but his art doesn't feel like JLA caliber art. He'd be perfect on "Batman," especially considering the vast amount of shadows used in this issue, or even "Superman." His art just lacks visual punch for this story.

Or maybe this story just lacks punch altogether. Robinson and Bagley are thrown into the deep end, having to set up a "Blackest Night" tie-in while trying to determine and set their own direction. Maybe my expectations were too high, but this is the "Justice Leaggue of America" not "Justice League Task Force." This comic needs to be DC's shining gemstone -- the one book that everyone who loves DC Comics should look forward to each and every month. Instead this issue is just hollow and lackluster. Maybe it will pick up steam on the other side of "Blackest Night.. Robinson and Bagley are capable of doing much better work than this, I just hope DC lets them.

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