Justice League of America Annual #1 review

Buckle-up, bastiches! We’re going to go save some space dolphins!

There will be no middle ground here. You will either enjoy this issue, or you will absolutely hate it… And a lot of this has to do with how you feel about the crazy fact that Lobo has a soft spot for space dolphins. Yes, you read that correctly (for the second time now). Space. Dolphins.

Before we get into my opinions on this issue, let’s talk about the story itself. Batman convinced Lobo to join the JLA following the events of Justice League vs Suicide Squad. Up to this point, we’ve had no idea what Batman promised Lobo, we just know that both men have self-serving reasons for Lobo’s inclusion. Well, this issue gives us that answer, but it will probably piss a number of people off because the answer itself is quite humorous (though, endearing when you really think about it), and honestly doesn’t carry much weight in the end – as in, it’s not a critical plot point for the book.

With this information revealed, Lobo and Black Canary set out on a romp through space to stop the baddest of bad dudes. Who is this bad dude? What is he doing that’s so bad? Why is Lobo taking Canary? All of these questions are answered as we get to explore a different side of Lobo than we’re used to seeing… in addition to the same brute, wise-ass, frag we are used to seeing.

Without giving too much away, I found this issue enjoyable, but it’s far from perfect. Most of your enjoyment of the issue will depend on whether you like Lobo’s love for dolphins. New readers – especially those unfamiliar with Lobo – will probably be confused when reading this, and think that Orlando has lost his mind. I assure you, however, that this dolphin thing dates back to the early 90’s.

Aside from the dolphins though, there are some other elements that negatively impact this issue. For one, it takes the story a good while to get going. There’s way too much dialogue between Lobo and Black Canary in the beginning, as Lobo tries to convince Dinah to come with him on this mission in space. The dialogue isn’t terrible, but it could have been simplified and shortened. In fact, I feel as though most of the approach could have been handled a little better, but that’s strictly a matter of preference.

I do however feel that the extended page count of an annual is too much for this story. There are times where it feels as though Orlando is dragging out the plot a little, and that hinders the pacing a bit. Despite its opportunities, there are still redeemable moments though. For one, we get a flashback of Lobo as a child. It’s only a page or so in the issue, but I thought it was pure gold. We also get to see Lobo encounter someone from his past, and it’s an altercation that leads Canary a little miffed with Lobo. But let’s face it, we all knew that was coming. What might surprise you, though, is the humanity you find in this issue. It’s tiny, but it’s there, as only Lobo could manage to show it.

The Art: Kelley Jones delivers art, and I’m sure this will be a talking point for many people. Like the issue itself, some will love Kelley’s work, and some will hate it. I find myself falling somewhere in the middle, but leaning more towards the “enjoyed it” side of the scale. But let’s be honest, compared to today’s standard, Kelley’s pencils are nowhere near the pristine quality of the likes of Jason Fabok, Mikel Janin, Clay Mann, Tony Daniel, etc – all artists that are considered “top notch.” Kelley’s art is more “artistic.” He plays in exaggerations, and that – quite frankly – is what he’s known for.

A legend in his own right, Kelley’s artistic strengths played into horror elements. He’s credited for redesigning Deadman to have more of a gaunt figure, with a skeletal face. He’s also known for his run on Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, Batman’s “Contagion” story, and many of the covers for the “Knightfall” trilogy (where you often saw Batman with long, extended points to his cowl). Kelley was a prominent artist during my most influential years of reading comics, so I find his work nostalgic – something that actually makes this issue work for me.

Every page of this issue looks and feels as if I’d picked up a fringe title from the late 80’s/ early 90’s. Kelley’s pencils and Michelle Madsen’s colors are the perfect throwback for such an obscure story. And while I like that throw-back vibe because I’m familiar with its history, I understand many readers aren’t. I know, and understand, that many readers will see unproportionate figures, inconsistency in panels/ pages, and general execution that looks sub-par compared to what they’re used to. And if I’m being honest, at times, I felt that way as well. The nostalgia ultimately won me over though.

Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.


The Good:

One Thing. Just like Meatloaf’s “I Would Do Anything for Love,” there’s one thing we’ve been trying to figure out. In Meatloaf’s case, it’s what he won’t do for love. In Lobo’s case, it’s the deal that he struck up with Batman. So, what is the agreement Batman made for the Main Man to join the JLA? Batman had to find the planet of space dolphins so Lobo would know how to get there when he decides to “settle down.” Yep. I’m not joking.  Laugh away, because Lobo is literally looking for his own, galactic version of Florida.

Kid Lobo. I loved this page. I absolutely loved this page! You know what it reminded me of? That scene in The Grinch (the Jim Carey, live-action version) where it’s a flashback of Grinch as a kid in school… I totally got that here.

Dolphins. As I stated, I love Lobo’s fondness for dolphins. It’s so absurd and strangely funny that it never gets old… I did expect some dolphin rape jokes though… I’m not going to lie. I mean, after the “Didn’t have time to rub one out, so I decided to rub one in.” line a few months back, it wouldn’t have surprised me.

Tribb. Ok… This may have come up before and I just don’t remember it… But Lobo calls people “Tribb” because it’s the last name of someone from he didn’t like on his home planet. Did this make anyone else think of Rick Santorum? Because that’s what I thought of immediately…

Canary Cry-Oh $#!%! Dinah freaking uses her Canary Cry to rip a dudes face off… That’s insane. And awesome. But totally insane.


The Bad:

Canary. If I’m being honest, Dinah’s involvement in this issue felt a bit forced. It could have worked, but I didn’t feel as though Orlando stuck the landing with her contributions. Canary’s involvement wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t great.

Pacing and Execution. There were definitely some structural issues here that prevented the issue from being what it could have, and should have been. Most of the opportunities came from placing reveals and emphasis in the “wrong” places throughout the plot, while these moments may have been more serving to the narrative had they happened differently. (See below for more details.)

What I Would’ve Done Differently: First and foremost, I want to openly admit that hindsight is twenty-twenty. Since the story took a little too long to get going, I would’ve skipped the bit of Lobo convincing Canary to join him in space. Instead, I would have had Lobo and Batman talk, then have Batman reach out to Canary to have her join Lobo. No details, a simple request for a mission. The mission could have started much sooner that way, and there could have been some fun play with insults between the two. I also would have saved the reveal that this mission is for Lobo, and that it’s because of his love of space dolphins until after the two were on the planet. I feel like we would’ve received a better payoff, and that Lobo’s request would’ve come off even funnier in this context.

Recommended if:

  • Lobo.
  • Space Dolphins.
  • You want to learn where the word “Tribb” comes from.
  • No, seriously… Space. Dolphins.

Overall: I’ll make this simple. If you enjoy the humorous juxtaposition of Lobo’s love for dolphins, then you’ll probably enjoy this issue. If you think Lobo’s love for dolphins is stupid and weird, then you’ll undoubtedly hate this issue. I lean more towards the “enjoy it” side of the spectrum, but I do feel as if this issue could have been executed a little better. What can I say, it was the sum of all of those wonderfully weird moments that pushed me over the edge.

SCORE: 5.5/10