Justice League of America #27
“Be Careful What You Wish For…”
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Pencils/Cover artist: Ed Benes
Inks: Ed Benes, Rob Hunter, Norm Rapmund & Drew Geraci
Colors: Pete Pantazis
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
I’d promised myself I was done with Justice League of America, at least until writer James Robinson takes the helm with a more unconventional lineup, but my curiosity about the manner in which DC and Dwayne McDuffie planned to revive and reintroduce the Milestone characters got the better of me. To my relief, the writing seemed more focused as compared to the past story arc or two; there seems to be a clear direction (though what that direction is isn’t clear yet, which is fine). Unfortunately, the script is riddled with references that are bound to perplex newer readers. And of course, JLA remains hampered by Ed Benes’s artwork. His performance on this title has slowly degraded since its debut, and his artwork appears to be at its most rushed in this issue.
A former member of the Justice League who lost her powers suddenly finds herself in dire need of them as a strange group of metahumans confronts her at her home. Meanwhile, Black Canary confronts colleagues about how they’ve undermined her leadership of the team, and another hero turns down an offer to join. The heroes are soon on alert as they get a summons for help, but it turns out to be a distraction, intended to leave them vulnerable.
Benes’s art is slightly inconsistent throughout this issue, and the explanation is to be found in the credits: four inkers. Mind you, I think the problems with the art can’t be explained so easily. Benes’s style, which has developed into something bright and dynamic in recent years, seems… degraded here somehow. I was reminded of Rob Liefeld’s work as I made my way through this issue, and I don’t mean that in a kind way. There’s a rough, unfinished even sloppy look in this issue. So often, the characters’ eyes aren’t even finished, leaving white, pupil-less, blank stares on far too many faces. Benes spotlights the women’s sexual attributes far too much throughout the issue. A nude Hawkgirl was bad enough, but even more irksome is the fact that while Black Canary is trying to assert her authority, the artist focuses our attention on her ass and then the camel toe.
For those who don’t know, Milestone was an independent super-hero imprint DC published in the 1990s with a focused on African-American characters. The best known of those characters was Static, who had his own WB cartoon for a time. I did appreciate a few of the Milestone character designs spotlighted in this issue, notably Twilight. Starlight’s look would have been cool too if it weren’t so apparent that Benes splashed whiteout over the figure rather than to mimic a star field meticulously. Benes proves he’s the wrong guy to bring Hardware to life. Artist Denys Cowan always made the design look intense and formidable, but as depicted by Benes, the character looks as though he’s sporting a bear-attack survival suit.
This issue, like one a few months ago, carries a special label above the masthead. “Sightings” seems to be some kind of logo to connect this issue to a larger event, presumably Final Crisis or some other cosmic crossover concept. It’s a shame that DC offers its readers no clues as to its significance, and on top of that, the design for the brand is rather unattractive.
No one knows the Milestone characters better than Dwayne McDuffie, so it’s no surprise that there’s energy and personality radiating from them in this comic book. McDuffie portrays as them as just as smart and powerful as the Justice League, and I’m genuinely curious about what they’re trying to accomplish. The writer also makes it clear that while the Shadow Cabinet has a lot in common with the JLA, there’s a more intense, harsher quality to the way they operate. Unfortunately, there are little quirks and repeated references to little-known bits of continuity that get in the way of the story. I don’t get why Black Lightning recognizes Static’s name, and an apparent reference to the “corpse ” of the villainous Dr. Light (a character killed only a couple of months ago in Final Crisis: Revelations) are just one of the minute details over which the plot must stumble to move forward. 4/10