Justice League of America #25
“The Second Coming, Chapter Four: The Best Lack All Conviction”
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Pencils: Ed Benes, Doug Mahnke, Darick Robertson, Shane Davis, Ian Churchill & Ivan Reis
Inks: Ed Benes, Christian Alamy, Darick Robertson, Rob Stull, Ian Churchill & Joe Prado
Colors: Pete Pantazis
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artist: Ed Benes
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US/CAN
I want to like this title. I liked it when it debuted with writer Brad Meltzer at the helm. There were flaws in the storytelling, yes, but it harkened back to the colorful, epic super-hero stories of the Justice League of America series of the 1970s, as it was intended to do. When Dwayne McDuffie signed on to replace Meltzer, I was pleased, given the strength of his contributions to the Justice League Unlimited animated TV series. But the series has really lost any real sense of direction. Plotlines play tug-of-war with the reader’s attention, and Ed Benes’s muddied artwork is further hampered by the use of multiple art teams on this issue. JLA should be a big, flashy, fun super-hero romp. Lately, it’s been confusing and conflicted.
Anansi, the African trickster god, is wreaking havoc with the animal-based powers of Justice League member Vixen and Animal Man, and when the team investigates, the two distorted heroes find themselves whisked away to a world within Vixen’s Tantu Totem. Anansi is manipulating reality to tell the heroes’ stories differently, perhaps simply to amuse himself or perhaps to pave the way for a coming crisis. As the Justice League tries to rescue its friends and put an end to the magical manipulations, other members find themselves focused on more personal concerns, as well as a manhunt for the evil Professor Ivo.
I used to be a fan of Ed Benes’s work, mainly during his stint as the penciller on Birds of Prey. He’s clearly tried to develop a more realistic look in his style since then, but it falls flat, due in part to his limited repertoire of faces and figures. What’s really hurting his work, though, is his decision to ink his own pencils. The art is too dark and muddied. I was also disappointed to find that multiple art teams were employed to get this oversized issue together. There’s nothing special about this story that merits the larger format or the addition of some strong talent to the mix. I can only assume that the 25th issue was deemed to be important in and of itself. The extra effort is wasted.
The tail end of the Red Tornado/Amazo storyline wraps in the early pages of this issue as the meat of the Vixen/Anansi plot is finally exposed. We’ve also got some Ivo stuff going on, as well as romantic plotlines and inexplicable departures from the standard lineup. A few issues ago, we were teased with a glimpse of Tangent characters in the JLA’s world, only to abandon the storyline (apparently sending it along to its own series). This story arc has been about two stories, maybe three, and it’s made for a disjointed read. I think I understand what the writer and/or editor are going for, though. This is the Justice League; in theory, they’d have so much going on, their lives would be chaos. Unfortunately, that idea hasn’t translated into good storytelling.
Furthermore, the stories we’re getting are just so… boring, really. Does anyone give a crap about Vixen, her erratic powers and Anansi? About the true nature of Animal Man’s yellow aliens? Of course not. This is what Justice League of America — DC’s flagship title — is all about these days? Really? I’m honestly surprised this title has held on as one of the publisher’s top sellers; the series clearly lacks a cohesive vision. It’s a ship without a captain, a sail, an engine… and sometimes without an ocean. 2/10