Let’s be real. Let’s just shoot the sh*t for a second. Justice League of America has, for all intents and purposes, been at a standstill since original writer Brad Meltzer left the series. It’s gone through a couple of different hands, including the talented Dwayne McDuffie, but nothing compared to the immense excitement Meltzer created and subsequently left. That’s why when the announcement that one of the current architects of the DC Universe, James Robinson, would be taking over the book with issue #38, there was much rejoicing for the hopes of a series that would tie-in better with the DCU as a whole. And, when it was further revealed that exclusive artist Mark Bagley would be on art duties, well, the fanfare doubled.
So, when my copy arrived on my doorstep, I opened it with great haste and plowed through it. Does the issue deliver on the hype? Yes and no. First, let me say that it’s great to see a talent like Bagley on JLA. While I enjoyed a bulk of Trinity, I would have much rather have had Bagley tackle the main DCU before being tied up for a year in a weekly series that only delivered the goods every so often. His style is that essential mix of meticulous detail, classic cartooning, and overblown superhero machismo/feminity, and it’s great to see it applied to a book where we will see such a wide variety of our favorite characters. As a bonus, he also happens to draw a wicked Plastic Man that is constantly melting into goop.
Robinson has made it no secret that he plans on diversifying the roster during his run, but where the issue runs into problems is its similar setup to the early issues of Meltzer’s run that saw Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman discussing the merits of the League and who should or shouldn’t be a part of it. Except here, we have a defeated Vixen, melting Plastic Man, optomistic Dr. Light (no, not that Dr. Light) and peacekeeper Red Tornado discussing their own merits as members. It gives the issue a certain repetitiveness, an itching feeling that we’ve gone through this all before. Interspersed with some surprise villains, the issue seems less of a beginning to an epic run than it does a filler issue to fill the gap before the book heads into a Blackest Night story, as evidenced by the last splash page of the issue. That’s all well and good of course, I can’t get enough Blackest Night, but the fact remains that I was left feeling a bit underwhelmed by the events that occur in this issue.
That said, this issue is full of good moments for the featured characters themselves, namely Plastic Man, who is long overdue for a significant focus in a major book. I was particularly impressed with Robinson’s forward decision to address that Plastic Man is kind of a deadbeat dad. Sure he’s a superhero, but a lot of people forget that he has his origins as a criminal. Even though the line mentioning his son and his son’s mother is only one panel of dialog, it’s the kind of resonant line that Robinson is so capable of delivering. There are others too, for the other characters, and it’s these dangling threads of characterization that are keeping me on board to see where Robinson goes.
I have no doubt that Robinson’s run on Justice League will be, in the long run, epic and perhaps even legendary. However, this is the issue that will be looked over when it comes time to form a definitive collection of his run, or when you are pulling through your longboxes to re-read it as a whole. But, I’ll be damned if I’m going to pass up more Plastic Man action.