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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

Justice League of America #52 Justice League of America #52

Justice League of America #52

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 22, 2010

Cover date: February 2011

"JLA Omega" - Part 3: "D.C. Challenge"

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Mark Bagley
Inker: Rob Hunter & Norm Rapmund

Reviewed by: Ralph Silver

Click to enlarge

The dome has surrounded Washington D.C. for three days. Nobody on the outside can break through, not even Superman. This is certainly a cause for concern; but Superman feels confident that the five JLA members inside the dome will overcome adversity and triumph.

Inside, Omega Man is having an identity crisis. He asks if he is Hunter, before remembering and asserting that he is Omega Man. He is hungry to absorb energy. He has found some in the historic buildings of the nation's capital, but not a sufficient amount to satisfy his hunger.

Donna Troy lands a powerful blow to Omega Man's head, hoping to stop him. Jade creates powerful hands of green energy to restrain him; but Omega Man effortlessly busts out. Donna continues to land blow after blow, powerful enough to annihilate an ordinary opponent. But Omega Man shrugs them off, and retaliates with an energy blast that causes Donna excruciating pain. Donna exclaims that the blast would kill a lesser opponent.

Omega Man is looking for people, to feed. But Jessie Quick has been evacuating the entire population of Washington D.C., moving and hiding everyone at super speed. The effort is monumental. Omega Man wonders out loud where she is hiding the people.

When Omega Man turns and leaves, Donna and Jade guess that he is toying with them, and can attack them anytime he wants; since they are all trapped inside the dome.

Ultraman hides behind the Washington Monument and eavesdrops on the Justice League members. Superwoman pounds on the dome to attempt to create an opening, but has no better luck than the heroes on the outside. Power Ring wonders if Ultraman could crash through, but Superwoman is skeptical. Power Ring indicates that his ring is still drained from Jade's attack last issue.

Batman and Blue Jay are comparing notes. Batman credits Blue Jay with destroying the machine that was bringing the destructive dark energy into our world. But Blue Jay says the machine overloaded and self-destructed. Batman says that the team must defeat the genocidal Omega Man, and imprison or banish him. But if they banish him to the multiverse, Batman feels that the JLA would be culpable when Omega Man goes on a killing spree on some other world. And if they do not banish him, Batman feels they may be stuck inside the dome forever to prevent Omega Man from getting to the rest of the world.

Blue Jay asserts that until today, Omega Man was dark energy; but has now been given some kind of conscious humanity. He says that originally Hunter, one of Dr. Impossible's young accomplices, intended to be the host body for Darkseid, who they were trying to resurrect.

Owlman has been hiding and eavesdropping during their entire conversation.

Dark Supergirl shows up, demanding answers about what is going on. She expresses pleasure about her transition to Dark Supergirl, but does not really understand why it happened. Blue Jay shares his theory. Batman reminds Dark Supergirl that with Omega Man and the Crime Syndicate on the loose, they are holding the destruction of the world at bay. He tells her she will have to choose a side. She responds by kissing Batman passionately.

After Dark Supergirl leaves, Owlman steps out of the shadows, and confesses that he has been listening the whole time. Owlman says they will have to work together against Omega Man to save both their worlds. Owlman and Batman shake on it.

Omega Man wanders inside the Smithsonian. He again asks himself who he is, as if the Hunter and Omega Man personas are battling for control. But Omega Man again asserts himself, although he is very confused about his identity. He rambles on, as if soul searching and trying to find himself. He tries to decide what it is that he craves, and comes up with the answer: FREEDOM. A dissenting voice inside himself wants to stop the carnage.

The Justice League and the Crime Syndicate converge to join forces in the uneasy truce. There are still some very hard feelings, especially between Donna and Superwoman, whose battle got very personal.

Power Ring, who is still helpless from Jade's attack last issue, asks Jade for his powers back. But Omega Man shows up then and kills/absorbs Power Ring. The battle begins.

Jade again attacks Omega Man. As powerful as she is, she cannot really hurt him. He taunts her.

As the battle rages, Dark Supergirl arrives, and playfully knocks a few members of the combined team off balance. Superwoman smells a double-cross, and prepares to attack Supergirl. Donna tackles Superwoman to knock her out of the way of a deadly heat vision blast from the arriving Ultraman.

Ultraman gives them the very unwelcome newsflash that he has decided to side with Omega Man. Dark Supergirl implies that she is siding with Ultraman. When Owlman protests, Ultraman says that they cannot possibly stop him; and that every day the other members of the Crime Syndicate stay alive solely because he allows it. Ultraman says he is willing to sacrifice his own world to live on the Justice League's world and rule.

Omega Man wants the dome taken down so he can have his freedom to continue gobbling up souls. Donna urges Batman to show leadership at this crucial moment. In response, Batman kneels before Omega Man in a very submissive pose. We know Batman has a plan, but the details are not yet revealed.

4Story - 4: Robinson weaves an intricate storyline here. The threat level for the Justice League has been ratcheted way up! If they were just facing Omega Man alone, that would certainly be a monumental threat; because Omega Man is a supremely powerful villain who is able to shrug off their attacks and hurt them badly. But add an uneasy truce with the Crime Syndicate, a rogue Ultraman with his own evil agenda, and Dark Supergirl, whose behavior is unpredictable; and the danger level is "off the charts". The Justice League really has its hands full! I have never seen the Justice League in a tighter spot! When Batman tells Dark Supergirl they are "holding the world's destruction at bay", he is not exaggerating.

Omega Man is practically unstoppable. But besides his sheer power, Omega Man is a very daunting adversary for what he does; killing and absorbing hordes of people to feed off their energy. He claims that the souls of his victims live on within him; and in fact we can see their tortured skeletal faces inside his bident weapon, making him a satanic, and rather grizzly, adversary.

The Justice League members are being stretched to their absolute limit. For example, take Jessie Quick's amazing feat. Omega Man asks where all the people are hidden. He wants to feed on them. But since they are all stuck inside the dome, there is really not a hiding place that would keep them from Omega Man's gaze for very long. So Jessie Quick keeps moving people at super speed. But she calls it a "crazy shell game". So I assume she is moving the people (the entire population of Washington D.C.!) back and forth, over and over, so that every moment, they are not where Omega Man is looking; creating the illusion that they are gone. This is one of the most amazing feats of super speed I have ever seen anywhere in a comic book!

By the way, this maneuver did bring to mind a thought that I have had many times when reading stories featuring the Flash. I assume that when citizens get moved so fast, the speed force protects them from injury. Without that protection, instantaneous acceleration to supersonic speed from a dead stop would cause critical injury, such as whiplash or a broken neck.

I have a question about Jade. According to Omega Man, Jade took the energy of a thousand dying worlds, combined it with the power of Apokolips and her own power, and created the dome to keep Omega Man trapped within. But it is stated several times that Jade and the Justice League are trapped inside as well. Can't Jade destroy what she created? I must conclude that Jade does in fact have the power to remove the dome; but must not do so because it would unleash Omega Man into the outside world.

I have mixed feelings about the return of Dark Supergirl. I prefer Supergirl (and Superman) to be beacons of light; symbols of the best of humanity; not morally ambiguous, or worse, pure evil. But this version has not yet proved herself to be truly evil. She is threatening to make an evil choice, but has not yet committed herself. When she appears before Batman, she says "Like the look? I'm digging it. I'm dark!" These words make her seem more playful than evil, at least to me. She chooses to kiss Batman, not pound him. She might instead be called "Uninhibited Supergirl" or "Carefree Supergirl". I believe that the good version of Kara is lurking just below the surface, and may reassert herself when she is most needed.

I had many questions last issue, particularly about Omega Man; who he is and where he came from. Robinson answered many of those questions in this issue. We learned so much more about the nature of the threat. This is typical James Robinson storytelling. In a multi-part story arc, Robinson likes to let story details unravel slowly. He will not show all his cards in the first installment. I love this quality in his stories. Robinson likes to leave a few plot details for the reader to figure out. I like puzzles; so I love this aspect of his writing.

Although things look bleak for the Justice League, I see hope from many corners. Omega Man's confusion about his identity may play into the final resolution. Since he is struggling to define himself, maybe his Hunter persona will emerge and help keep Omega Man at bay. Maybe Dark Supergirl will transform back to normal in time to save the day. Maybe Tangent Green Lantern has something up her sleeve, and that is why she told Batman "I have nothing to say, yet". And maybe Batman's plan will be brilliant, and will turn the tide.

Robinson is keeping me guessing. I am looking forward to next issue.

4Art - 4: The artwork is solid. I like the detailed backgrounds showing the Washington monument, Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, and Smithsonian buildings. The heroes are all drawn well. I like the image of Omega Man on page 4, and the shot of Batman in the final splash.

4Cover Art - 4: Dark Supergirl flies upward and faces the reader, while the other members lie unconscious on the ground. This did not happen in the story. But the image of Dark Supergirl is well drawn. And an orange cover is eye-catching.

4Cover Art (Variant Edition) - 4: The variant cover by David Mack is interesting for the mix of colors; suggesting nighttime lighting. Blue tones dominate in Batman's cape and in the moon-filled sky. Dark Supergirl's outfit also shows some blue. But there is stark contrast in the purple underside of her cape, and in the bright yellow of her windblown hair in the center of the image.

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