Oh Justice League of America… You’re a mess of a book, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that part of me loves how terrible you are.
There are a number of problems with Justice League of America, and when you take a moment to assess how you could improve it, you eventually realize you just need to destroy everything. Scrap it. Start from scratch. Pretend like none of this ever happened. Then, once you’ve done that, magically bring out a new, shiny Justice League of America that is produced with much better execution… We know that won’t happen though (yet, anyway), so I guess we just need to make the most of what we’re getting, right?
If I have to praise anything about this book, it has to be that there an element of fun to it. This is, in no way, an admission that the book is good. Don’t put words in my mouth. I’m just stating that I find certain aspects of this random collection of characters to be entertaining. In that same respect, one of the big problems plaguing JLA is purpose.
When you break it down, there is no reason for this team to exist. Nothing brought them together except for Batman wanting to try something new and different… Unfortunately, nobody knows what that actually is (which probably includes Orlando and DC Comics). The JLA are essentially Duke 2.0. This lack of purpose gives the book itself no direction. Every time I read an issue of JLA, I just feel like I’m reading a book that’s wheels are spinning, but it’s going nowhere.
Following the trend of the stories that have come before this one, “Curse of the Kingbutcher” jumps right into the story with no set-up. This is another big problem plaguing this title. When you break down a story in the most basic parts (beginning, middle, and end), JLA always appears to be missing it’s beginning. There may be five pages or less to set up these stories, and quite frankly, I’m being generous in my count. Typically we’re just thrown right into the body of the story with no reason to care about what’s happening, or who it’s happening to.
In this issue, we travel to Ray’s hometown. Citizens are having dreams where they are granted a wish, then when they wake up, they find that wish has come true. These people are then visited by the Kingbutcher, who undoes their dream, and subsequently their wish. Does this sound interesting? Not really, but as ridiculous as the Kingbutcher is, he’s also quite interesting. For one, he’s a physical force and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Also, there’s a subtlety about the character that many people might miss – he’s an agent for the Lords of Order, and we all know one powerful Lord of Order – Doctor Fate.
This potential connection makes Kingbutcher carry more weight than perhaps he should, and I’d love to discover that this is just the beginning of an on-going arc involving the Lords of Order. I’m ninety-nine percent positive this isn’t the case, but it would be one hell of a way to make Justice League of America relevant. Especially if it eventually led to a story involving Doctor Fate and…. Wait for it…. Dr. Manhattan!
The League naturally views Kingbutcher’s work as an act of evil, but that may not necessarily be the case. These wishes that are being granted aren’t natural, and there’s no way of knowing how they will impact the rest of the world. Orlando tries to force the narrative to take a personal turn by having these event impact Ray, but I couldn’t care less.
Outside of the poor storytelling, characterization has also been rather anemic. None of the characters are written well, and I can’t say that I have much interest in anyone other than Lobo. But as fun as Lobo is (he legitimately is the only reason I remotely look forward to JLA every other week), his inclusion in this team is illogical.
There’s also a strong push on Orlando’s part to also paint an opposition between Batman and Ray. Yes, they’re each respectively a symbol of dark and light, but it all feels forced and heavy-handed. In fact, all of the themes found in this title feel heavy handed. I know it’s harsh, but when you break JLA down, there’s no substance, no purpose, and no reason to read it.
The Art: The revolving door of artists continues with this issue as Andy MacDonald steps in to bring “Curse of the Kingbutcher” to life. Point blank, the art is awful. Awful. I don’t think there was a single panel where I thought, “That looks nice.” They quality if poor throughout the entire issue, and even then, there’s inconsistency from panel to panel ranging from poor to severely poor. If your opinion of a comic weighs heavily on the quality of the art, then don’t bother picking up this issue.
- You’re one of those, “I’ll read anything that has (insert JLA character here) in it.
- I honestly don’t know. This book befuddles me.
Overall: Have you read Justice League of America? The nonsense that presented itself in the first issue is still the same nonsense we’re getting today. Yet somehow, as terrible as this book is, and despite the fact there is no sense of purpose found here, I still like JLA for reasons I can’t explain. The book is bad. Really bad. But for whatever reason, it doesn’t make me want to pull my hair out when I read it.