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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

Justice League of America #49 Justice League of America #49

Justice League of America #49

Scheduled to arrive in stores: September 22, 2010

Cover date: November 2010

"The Bogeyman"

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Pow Rodrix & Robson Rocha
Inker: Christian Alamy, John Dell, Julio Ferreira, Sandra Hope, Keith Champagne, Rodney Ramos, Don Ho, Tom Nguyen, Derek Fridolfs

Reviewed by: Ralph Silver

Click to enlarge

We begin with an image of Supergirl carrying a giant saxophone; a souvenir from a recent case where she and Batman/Dick Grayson fought the Murder Maestro. She is helping Dick set up what appears to be an alternative batcave. The two of them have been working together recently, and seem to be bonding as a new World's Finest team. He invites her to stay for lunch.

As a new member, Supergirl wonders what the other Justice League members are doing right now. And we the readers get to see. Congorilla is romping in Manhattan's Central Park. Jesse Chambers (Jesse Quick) is in bed in a lovers' embrace with her husband (Hourman/Rick Tyler). Mikaal Tomas (Starman) is alone in a bar looking depressed and having way too much to drink, as he pines for his deceased former lover Tony.

And Donna Troy and Jade are flying together, arriving at their destination, San Francisco. They banter about moving to San Francisco as they arrive at their destination, Alcatraz Island, to speak with the warden. They discuss Carl Sands, the Shadow Thief, who is incarcerated and seems to be in some kind of trance. Jade confirms that his mental state is not caused by the recent Starheart problems.

At the warden's request, Donna goes to see the inmate known as Bogeyman, a creepy villain who has a history with the Teen Titans back when Donna was a member. His "power" is to invade the minds of children to feed off their bad memories and influence their associated emotions. Donna finds him particularly distasteful. When he stares at Donna's cleavage and makes comments that are vaguely suggestive, Donna is disgusted and leaves in a hurry. She recalls whacking the stuffing out of him back when he fought the Titans.

Donna and Jade head for Titans Tower, and several TT members are there to greet them. But suddenly, the Titans begin to act way out of character. Wonder Girl/Cassie lands a haymaker to Donna's jaw, sending her reeling. Ravager offers up a shower of bullets, giving Donna's bracelets a workout.

Jade has disappeared, and apparently is confronted by demons from her life past and present; apparitions of familiar faces, who chide her about her past behavior. As Jade swears that she will improve her behavior, she seems to face a facsimile of herself, dressed in Black Lantern garb, who is openly disdainful of Jade.

Meanwhile, Donna is confronting a large group of Teen Titans, including members from both past and present versions of the team. All of them are taunting her menacingly and engaging her in battle. She even is attacked by a younger version of herself as Wonder Girl. As she continues to battle the Titans and even Wonder Woman, Donna figures out quickly that none of this is real and that Bogeyman is behind everything. These events, although realistic, are really visions. Donna seems to be fighting them on a physical level; but the battle is really a mental one. Her opponents are imaginary but seem quite real. Although Bogeyman seems stronger now than in the past, Donna is stronger too, and is determined to defeat him.

Donna confronts Bogeyman, who is hiding in the image of her younger self. She declares her intent to find Jade by making the connection through Bogeyman's mind into Jade's. As she makes mental contact with Jade, Jade is despondent and agitated because she fears that she is still affected by the Black Lantern and the dark Starheart energy that she absorbed last issue. Donna tells Jade to fight the self doubts and Bogeyman's influence. Jade manages to rally her self confidence and self-esteem, and eradicate her mental demons in a blaze of green energy.

We suddenly see Jade and Donna back at Alcatraz; unconscious and lying on the ground. This confirms that their battles, although quite realistic, were mental rather than physical. Doctors are called in quickly to help them. They arise as if waking from a very bad dream.

Back in the real world, Donna and Jennie-Lynn Hayden plan their next step. This time, they decide to skip Titans Tower. Donna declares the obvious; that the Titans are in her past, but now she is JLA. Donna and Jade talk about relocating to San Francisco and perhaps opening a photography studio together.

In the epilogue, Supergirl and Batman, having finished their meal of chicken salad, are discussing a very heavy topic: why some people manage to move on from grief while others are unable or unwilling to. They bat this topic back and forth for a few moments, and then head out to continue the battle against crime.

4Story - 4: I enjoyed this issue, although I had some questions and concerns.

Because Donna and Jade were defending against a mind-control attack, it was not crystal clear to me the exact nature of the attack; what the motive was; and what was at stake. At first, I thought Donna was conscious and battling simulated attackers; not real, but lifelike simulations or illusions that could cause real physical pain. Donna's battles seemed real. Look at her blocking machine gun fire at super speed, or taking one on the chin from Cassie. It seemed like a fight for survival, with Donna battling aggressively and holding her own.

But we quickly learned (and of course many readers suspected all along) that Bogeyman was the culprit. When we see Donna and Jade lying unconscious after the battles are over, that suggests that they have been unconscious all along, and that the entire episode was more like a bad dream than a simulated attack.

Although Bogeyman was invading their minds and controlling the dreams, were they in any danger? If Donna had failed to block one of the bullets from Ravager in her dream, would she die in real life? I do not think so. That is never suggested. More likely, dying in the dream would have the opposite effect, and "pop" her out of the dream, as discussed in the recent excellent movie "Inception".

So if the point was not to hurt Donna and Jade physically, or to put them in mortal danger, what exactly was Bogeyman's motivation? As I pondered this question, two possible answers came to mind, based on the little I know about Bogeyman from Donna's interactions with him in this story and the background information we are given.

One possibility is that the point is merely to humiliate and demoralize the two heroes. This is particularly suggested in Jade's case. Her attack is more psychological, while Donna's imaginary attack is more physical in nature.

If that was Bogeyman's goal, to humiliate and demoralize; then it could in fact be payback for the pounding he took from Donna in her Teen Titans days. He just chose to attack Jade as well, since she had come along for the ride.

My second theory is as follows. We see from Bogeyman's brief dialog with Donna from his prison cell, he has a strong perverted streak. And he clearly has a thing for Donna. So the purpose of the mind meld might be merely a twisted kind of self-gratification; that he derives sadistic, perverted, and titillating pleasure from the faux intimacy of the mind-link. His dialog when she confronts him in the dream supports this interpretation.

Beyond the above concerns, I was pleased that Robinson once again focuses to a large extent on characterization. This story continues to explore and reveal character traits about the JLA members. Here are some things we learned (or had reinforced) about the heroes this time around:

- Donna is very determined and strong-willed. Mentally, she may be the toughest member of the team.

- Jade, having been through death and resurrection, plus a crisis within her family due to the influence of the Starheart, is full of self-doubt. She currently lacks confidence and direction; but hopefully her new membership in the Justice League will help her find balance and strength in her life. Donna has taken a personal interest in helping her rebound emotionally and get settled in her new life.

- Dick is much more compassionate than his mentor Bruce. He has taken a real interest in Supergirl. There is no indication yet whether this interest is romantic, or just the concern of a very good friend.

- Supergirl is very lonely, and still recovering from the death of her parents and the destruction of New Krypton. Time will tell whether she can make a full emotional recovery from recent events.

- Congorilla loves life so much that he takes to romping and leaping in the park. That upbeat attitude is admirable. But would I be so happy if I was trapped in the body of a giant golden gorilla? I do not think so.

- Jesse Quick has a very close marriage that is the central aspect of her life. Her love and concern for Rick are always at the forefront of her thoughts.

- Mikaal Tomas seems to be by far the saddest and most isolated JLA member. Hopefully, things will turn around a bit for him.

4Art - 4: Drawing Justice League is a tough assignment, because of the variety of heroes you need to portray. But Robinson has a strong art team behind him. I was surprised to see nine inkers; but I am guessing that decision is a response to deadline pressures rather than driven by any artistic concerns. The artwork did not suffer as a result.

There were a few panels that stood out for me. I liked Supergirl carrying the giant saxophone in the opening splash; the look of joy on Supergirl's face when she gets invited for lunch; the delightful image of a giant gorilla leaping above the trees in Central Park; the warmth of Jesse Chambers snuggling with her husband; the frenetic energy of Donna Troy deflecting machine gun fire.

2Cover Art - 2: I do not like crowded covers.

4Cover Art (Variant Edition) - 4: This is the next in a series of variant covers that each depict a single member of the team. I have enjoyed this series. In this case, we have an image of Donna Troy, hovering above the clouds and manipulating her blue magic lasso. The image suggests her strength and confidence.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

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