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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

Justice League of America #1 Justice League of America #1

Justice League of America #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: August 23, 2006

Cover date: October 2006

Writter: Brad Meltzer
Penciller: Ed Benes
Inker: Sandra Hope (with special thanks to Mariah Benes)

The Tornado's Path - Part One: "Life"

Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge

Justice League of America #1 Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman sit in the Batcave discussing possible members of the new Justice League of America. Their discussion is spirited but friendly, a sign that the discontent from the previous year has past.

In Hoboken, New Jersey, at the laboratories of Dr. Will Magnus, Kathy Sutton sits over the android body of the Red Tornado. Magnus had put him back together and Kathy waits for his spirit to return, as it has seven times before. She is upset, which causes her to snap at Magnus. Magnus leaves Kathy with Platinum, who asks her what made her fall in love with the Tornado. Kathy tries to explain what it was that attracted her to the man she came to call John Smith but Platinum doesn't seem to understand.

Kathy takes a call from her daughter, unaware that the Tornado's spirit is hovering above them along with the former aerialist known as Deadman. Deadman has been helping the Tornado with his latest attempt to resurrect himself.

Back at the Cave, the three heroes debate the prospects of Hal Jordan, Supergirl, Bart Allen and Power Girl.

Meanwhile Hal catches up with Roy Harper at a boxing gym in Star City. The conversation is lively and Hal even tries to bait Roy into a sparring match. A call from Dinah Lance interrupts their talk and the two head out to help her with Kathy Sutton.

Jefferson Pierce uses his underworld sources to meet with an informant in Metropolis. Pierce finds irony in the situation since if he showed up in his other identity of Black Lightning he would get nowhere. The informant, an old Batman villain who went by the name Signalman, tells him about some weird disappearances in the super-villain community involving Plastique, the Electrocutioner, Trident and a villain claiming to be Mister Miracle's brother named Dr. Impossible.

Elsewhere Deadman helps Red Tornado in putting his spirit into one of the duplicates of the villain called Mulitplex. After Multiplex died several of his duplicates were left behind as empty shells. The one laying before them collapsed the previous day and was left brain dead.

Back in the cave the debate continues. Bruce wants Mister Terrific but the others disagree. Ray Palmer, the Atom, is brought up as well as Vixen and Hawkman.

Vixen, meanwhile, is in a bar in Hub City. She believes she received a note from the Question but when she is told that the Question hasn't operated out of Hub City in years Vixen smells a set-up.

Red Tornado is successful in putting his spirit into the empty Multiplex shell. He soon discovers that he even has his powers. After getting dressed he thanks Deadman, whom he can't see anymore, and leaves. The image of Deadman changes to that of Felix Faust. He asks a shadowy figure for his money. The figure reminds him that Faust agreed to do this for free, but Faust still wants his cash. The figure believes that Faust is scared, which he is, just not of the figure. Faust knows that when the Tornado's friends find out what happened to him they're going to want to tear the lungs from the shadowy man's chest.

Green Lantern and Dinah Lance travel to Star City and knock on Oliver Queen's door. Queen tells them he will get his bow, but Hal has to tell him that he and Dinah aren't there for Green Arrow. A shocked Oliver watches as Roy leaves with Hal and Dinah and feels pride at the man Roy has become.

In Hoboken Platinum and Gold are attacked by Dr. Impossible, who steals the Red Tornado's shell.

In the Batcave the debate continues.

In New York Kathy Sutton and her adopted daughter Traya hear a knock at the door. Kathy is uneasy, but Traya answers the door anyway. Standing there is the new John Smith and a family is reunited.

5Story - 5: There are rare times in recent months where I pick up a book and really, really like it. It's kind of unfortunate, too. Infinite Crisis fostered a lot of good will on my part where just about every book I bought was fantastic. After One Year Later I went from liking everything to a sense of reading dread and feeling like the momentum built during Infinite Crisis slammed into a brick wall and died a horrid death. Sure the Superman titles have been great and there are smatterings of other titles that have held my interest but overall I've quickly gone to a very low place as a reader.

Then along comes a book like Justice League of America #1, and a sliver of hope breaks through the haze of depression.

Ok, maybe that is a bit melodramatic but at the same time it adequately captures the feeling I had after finishing this book. Brad Meltzer exceeded all of my expectations and handed in one of the best first (though I guess it would technically be the second) issues of a comic that I've read in years. We got a whole story with a beginning, middle and an end that still set-up a larger story with an air of mystery to it. I hate to make the comparison, but it was a lot like the first issue of Identity Crisis where the villains converged and bits of business with other characters framed a relatively obscure hero going through an emotionally driven moment in their life. In Identity Crisis it was Elongated Man telling Firehawk about his wife and then finding her dead. Here it was Kathy and Red Tornado discussing their relationship and Red Tornado comes back to life.

It's different and yet the same. This is not meant as a slam against Meltzer or trying to convince you that he is a repetitive writer. Actually I liked the familiar feeling because I really dug Identity Crisis and am rather fond of Meltzer's comic book work.

Meltzer is obviously a fan who knows his stuff but he writes in such a way that newer readers who are not as versed as people like me in the minutia of DC history don't have to feel left out. It's almost tongue-in-cheek really. A perfect example is the scene where Jefferson Pierce is getting information from the former Signalman. All of the information is given in the narration but reads smoothly. Signalman seems like a pretty silly concept and Meltzer doesn't try to pretty it up. In fact he makes him a drug addict, though even there we get neat little references. I never thought of the Scarecrow's gas or the effects of the Medusa Mask as something someone would take hits off of, but Meltzer makes it believable. Meltzer also delves into Pierce's recent past as a part of Luthor's administration and puts it to good use. This was one scene that lasted three pages but it was interesting, advanced the mystery plot and dropped references to remind you how vast and nifty the DC Universe can be.

The scenes and squabbles among Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were another highlight. Thanks to the zero issue Meltzer didn't have to devote a whole lot of screen time to them because the groundwork of their new relationship has already been developed. This was pure character work (though to be fair the entire issue was chock full of character work) and appealed to that part of me that enjoys watching super-heroes banter and bicker. It also gave us more of a glimpse of what the three most prominent heroes of the DCU think of their fellow mystery men. Everyone liked Power Girl. Superman is still unsure of his cousin. Bruce still has issues with Hal. The dialogue was great and made for several interesting and well-written moments. It also lays further ground work so when the team finally comes together Meltzer won't have to waste time by going over what Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman think of their new League.

I really dug Meltzer's use of the Metal Men, or at least two of them. I've never been the biggest fan of the group, as I've mentioned in my 52 reviews, but there is a certain charm to them. Kathy's conversation with Platinum reminded of the better scenes in Star Trek: The Next Generation where some crew member was trying to explain something about human emotion to Data. Kathy tells a sweet little story and Tina just doesn't get it. The remark Gold makes at the end about her infatuation with Dr. Magnus was cute as well and made me care about them seconds before they're attacked. It was a neat writer's trick and I gladly fell for it.

Then there was the scene where Ollie was told they wanted Roy instead of him. I actually felt bad for Ollie at this point because in the last arc of the previous series Ollie was the one who wanted to hold the League together. Now he's not even in the line-up. Oh well, I like Roy so it isn't such a big deal.

Still, funny scene.

All in all I felt that this was a fantastic way to start this series. Meltzer knows how to shape a story in such a way that I don't want to sit back and try to figure out who the mystery man in shadow was. In some cases it's better to let the story unfold. Thus far we have interesting collection of villains and the Deadman/Faust thing was a nice touch. There is the distinct possibility that things could go south, but somehow I doubt that.

5Art - 5: You know, I know that Benes was trying to introduce Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman in an interesting way by showing the symbols they wear, but something about the fact that we open with a shot of Wonder Woman's chest makes me laugh. It's a tad uncomfortable, but amusing at the same time. I felt that way when I saw the preview and I feel that way now. I'm not upset or outraged, just bemused and curious as to what the intent of the piece was.

Like the writing the first thought I had when it came to the art (after the breast shot thing) was how similar it was to the first issue of Identity Crisis in terms of structure. The use of panels to draw the reader's eye was evident as well as the echoes from one panel to the other. When Kathy is explaining her relationship with John to Platinum, Kathy is sitting back and the Metal Man (or woman I guess) has her hand on her face. In the next panel Kathy is in a similar position and John has his hand on his face. It's an interesting bit of storytelling and different from some of Benes past work.

Benes has his big moments as well, like the reveal that the spirit of the Red Tornado is hovering above Kathy. The Tornado's costume looks fantastic here and it takes me, as the reader, from a rather tight scene with a lot of emotion to a grander, larger place where the dead converse in a cloudy, quasi-mystic realm. It was an abrupt transition but made for a great visual experience.

There were a lot of flared collars in this issue. Tornado had one. The supposed Deadman had one. Dr. Impossible had one. I'm glad to see it coming back. I like the look.

Another great scene where the reader is pulled into several directions was Jefferson Pierce's conversation with Signalman. It starts with a basic three panel page and a severely disheveled Signalman. This guy looks like people I used to see beer and cigarettes to on third shift back during my convenience store days. The next page, though, is different. It's a two page spread composed of six panels read horizontally. It was a bit jarring, but in a good way. It's also interesting to see Signalman fidget in his seat, looking around as he gives Pierce the information. Its touches like this that made this issue such a good read.

On a personal level, though, the all time best shot in the issue, outside of the last page, was the look on Ollie's face when Hal and Dinah tell him that they aren't there for him.


5Cover Art (Covers A and B) - 5: Not one but three, count them, three covers. Well, this must be a special book to warrant such a thing. In all honesty it was a special book, but there is still something about the one for ten variant covers that makes me uncomfortable. Not that I fault DC (and Marvel or any other company for that matter) for creating retailer incentives, I just don't want to have to pay extra for a third cover.

Luckily two of the covers were released in equal numbers. Put together the two images make one awesome collection of super-heroes. Ed Benes really knocked it out of the park here and I especially liked the image of the American flag in the background. Some may consider it a tad jingoistic but I think it is the perfect way to drive home the point that this is the Justice League of America. Maybe that is a bad thing, but I really can't see anything wrong with it.

It is interesting to see the differences between the original promotional image (an image that adorned the monitors of countless fans, including mine) that was released months ago and the final version. Black Lightning took John Stewart's place while Roy took Ollie's position. Certain characters, like Booster Gold (with Big Barda serving as a replacement), were eliminated for obvious reasons while others like Batwoman and Nightwing were added, replacing Animal Man and Roy. I also thought it was neat that Kyle Rayner's outfit changed to fit his current look.

You can also take the conspiracy route with this cover as well. If Booster Gold is gone, then why were the Question and the Elongated Man switched with the Martian Manhunter and Green Arrow. Just what is going to happen in 52? These are the questions that will launch a thousand message board threads; of this I have no doubt.

On a personal level I love group shots like this. When they're done right, like this one, they're iconic. Ed Benes, Mariah Benes and Alex Sinclair delivered and gave us two covers that instill a feeling of excitement for this new incarnation of the Justice League.

4Cover Art (Variant Edition) - 4: While not as grand as the two Benes covers Michael Turner and Peter Steigerwald deliver another iconic piece of art in what I call the spoiler cover. When I went to the shop on Wednesday I saw this cover and thought, "Wow, if people were annoyed about the Martian Manhunter thing then this line-up is going to give them fits." Fan debates aside I liked this cover and the line-up. It has a nice composition and the character designs are great. It's a group shot, but a nice one and serves well as the variant cover.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2006

February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006

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