By Glenn Walker
The problem with writing comic books that feature teams in an interactive continuity is that sometimes the superheroes you want on those teams are just unavailable due to events occurring in their own titles. Basically it’s been the same old story for a long time when it comes to the Justice League of America at DC Comics – you want Superman and Batman, but you can't have them.
When one thinks of the Justice League of America, one thinks of the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes. There’s Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and then it gets into a fuzzy area where bar fights start. I would add Aquaman, Hawkman, Green Arrow, maybe even Captain Marvel and Plastic Man, but as I said, it’s the realm of madness to go further without the words “in my opinion.” It would be great to have that top five on the JLA, but it rarely happens.
I like comic book writer James Robinson, the latest writer to take the reins of the Justice League’s comic. He did amazing work in the 1990s with an Eisner Award-winning run on Starman that showed his ability to take old characters and concepts and rejuvenate them. I love the heroes and villains of the Golden Age, so his work was of special interest to me. He treated them with a love and respect not shown since Roy Thomas worked in comics.
When Robinson took over the Justice League of America about a year ago, it was a mess. In the midst of the Blackest Night crossover event, the membership had been decimated, and any excitement about the title had kinda fizzled. Robinson began to introduce his own version of the team in his introductory mini-series Cry for Justice, but it was crippled by some hideous events in that series itself, which upset many readers – the destruction of Star City, Green Arrow becoming a murderer, and the loss of Red Arrow’s arm.
Maybe in response to readers’ dismay, Robinson began to rebuild the team in a different way. Piece by piece, he built what at first seemed a ‘gimmick team.’ Since Bruce Wayne wasn’t available because he was dead, or traveling through time, or maybe just chilling in the Bahamas with Tony Stark – Robinson recruited Dick Grayson who had taken up the cowl and cape of Batman. Superman was dealing with New Krypton and then felt the urge to take a walk, so Robinson recruited Supergirl.
Then an idea must have occurred to him. If he was moving Robin/Nightwing and Supergirl up to the ‘big league,’ why not graduate others of the younger generation to the main team? To replace Wonder Woman who had been rebooted into virtual non-existence, he brought in Donna Troy. Just to even things out he also brought up Dick Grayson’s fellow Teen Titan Cyborg. He had also temporarily added in Starfire and Mon-El as well.
Robinson’s recent attempt to return to the Silver and Bronze Age tradition of the Justice League/Justice Society summer team-ups helped to round out his new version of the JLA. From the JSA he poached his Flash and Green Lantern substitutes: daughter of Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle, and former Flash protégé Jesse Quick, and daughter of the Golden Age Green Lantern, Jade, recently resurrected in Blackest Night.
Along with his own pet characters – the blue alien Starman and classic-but-obscure hero Congorilla – this was set up as “James Robinson’s New Justice League.” Essentially it at first it looks like a gimmick, something that would have been a gag cover in the Silver Age just to get readers to look twice and go “What’s going on here?” But here it is – Dick Grayson and his female Justice League, along with their pet alien, gorilla, and robot. It’s a bit too Doom Patrol for me, but what’s cool is that Robinson is making it work.
Robinson had been floundering a bit, trying to find his groove, but with last month’s fiftieth issue of Justice League of America, I think he got it. In a far-reaching epic of multiversal proportions, he pitted his neophyte League against one of their deadliest adversaries, the Crime Syndicate, evil doppelgangers of the JLA’s big five.
Over and above the fanboy glee of seeing Supergirl fight Ultraman or the new Batman struggle with Owlman, there is also the fun of watching this new team dynamic start to gel. They might not be my Justice League, but I am invested in these characters and want to see them interact and triumph. And James Robinson is never a writer to make things easy for the heroes.
As if the Crime Syndicate wasn’t enough, there’s also the threat of some multiversal crisis in the air, and then there is also the Omega Man. Robinson has picked up the lost plot threads of Brad Meltzer’s Doctor Impossible and his Dark New Gods, and it turns out that not only are there dopplegangers of the New Gods, but also Darkseid – the Omega Man.