Monday, February 15, 2010

Steaming Pile of Shit #41

On Sunday, I read a comic book that single-handedly soured me on reading the rest of the books I bought that day, kept me from placing an advance order on DCBS and has me in a shit mood.

That comic book? Justice League of America #41.

I've been disappointed with a lot of what James Robinson has written without a partner over the last few years. His Atlas arc in the Superman books, the first few issues of Justice League: Cry For Justice and other bits here and there were just terrible. Filled with cliche situations, bad dialogue and exposition measured in metric tons (it's so heavy, get it? I didn't say I could write better).

Why did I give this book a shot? A friend of mine tweeted to James Robinson that he loved the issue and felt it respected so many previous versions of the JLA. My curiosity was piqued.

The result was that I wished I could take not only that issue back for a refund, but the rest of my $33+ purchase, as well.

Where does it go so wrong?

  1. It directly picks up from stuff that happened in JL: Cry For Justice. As stated previously, the writing on that long-delayed, "originally supposed to be an ongoing series but shrunk down to a mini" series was horrendous. The manner of introducing the characters was cringe-inducing, particularly the need to have them all boil their situations down to a "cry for justice". It was as if it was written to be what some writer "slumming it" in comic books thought a comic book was supposed to read like. It read like the worst of 80s/90s comics. And they spend several pages doing a bad job of trying to establish the weight of what went on in that mini. It gives the book a mediocre-at-best start (and, honestly, it can't see mediocre from where it's standing). They, also, have this spin out of Blackest Night, but just barely. Even still, it is a sounder move to have this work with aftermath of the biggest selling DC project, rather than an ongoing that got downgraded to a mini and started ridiculously long after it was initially supposed to come out.
  2. You have heroes quitting. No, I'm not talking about Vixen talking about leaving the JLA. That sort of thing has been done to death, but you can't necessarily knock it. If the membership is going to change, you'll need scenes like this. No, I mean Donna Troy quitting being a hero. I don't just mean deciding not to gather with other heroes to fight crime. I don't mean not going on patrols or anything like that. I mean showing up at the scene of an ongoing crime and telling the police present that she won't lift a finger to potentially save lives. Has this been done before? Possibly. Has it rang false most of the time? Yup. Does it come off as unbelievable here? You betcha.
  3. In about five panels time, we have Donna Troy convinced to not only keep going as a hero, but join the Justice League and start recruiting others to be a member of the biggest super-heroing-show on Earth. Let's see...on one page we have "those people might die? fuck those people" and "I'll go convince others to help me save the Earth from evil-doers" on the next. Holy shit, that's bad.
  4. In this book that couldn't manage to properly make you feel the weight of past events on the characters and had Donna Troy go from "fuck everyone else" to top JLA cheerleader so fast that my head is still spinning, we're given several pages of a poorly written flashback to 1777? If there have been a less enjoyable or useful four pages in a DC Comic book in the last 5-10 years, I haven't seen them (and I'm glad, as I can't imagine what my reaction to THAT work would be). Like so many of the problems I have with this book, I don't think I can say it better than "it reads like the worst 1980s comic book you ever read".
  5. So far, the only purpose the flashback served was to introduce us to some possibly alien artifact that a scientist at the Smithsonian delivers the clunkiest exposition while examining. How clunky? The kind you haven't read outside of the worst 1980s comic book. What's worse is that it tells you that it is bad. Robinson writes the scientist as recognizing how bad the dialogue is. It is as if he realized he was writing shitty dialogue and, rather than fix it, had the character acknowledge it as if it made it cool and meta, rather than lazy and shite.
  6. Donna gets her cheerleading on. She takes a half page to recruit Starfire and the other half to recruit Cyborg. One of the biggest problems I have with this book is that it makes all the wrong choices with how it chooses to spend pages on the story. I get that you have to be efficient and economical with how you dole out space in a book where you're throwing together a whole new JLA. But you have to do that smartly...and that is where this book fails.
  7. Donna then recruits Dick Grayson Batman. And in the five pages used for this bit, Dick calls Damian a drama queen. I know Dick is so much more lighthearted than Bruce...but drama queen? Really? It seems a bit out of character and oddly placed. I can't explain why it should bother me so much as to rate its own spot in this list, but it does.
  8. Please don't make me talk about how terrible the dialogue between Donna Troy and Dr. Light was. I don't think I could survive having to read it again.
  9. Mon-El Superman gets recruited. Two pages/four panels of showing how heroic and stoic he is, followed by a monosyllabic Guardian asking him who he captured and confirming that he captured him and tied together with a bow by Dr. Light recruiting him by simply pointing out that Superman was in the JLA. Really, because we needed a splash page and a three panel page establishing Mon-El Superman so he could be recruited by saying, "you want to be like Superman? Superman was in the JLA." Pages wasted on bullshit and Robinson having the characters having to TELL everything and show nothing. He wants to spend pages on "cool visuals" for throwaway scenes, painting himself into a corner where he has to give you microwave character development and terrible, exposition-heavy dialogue.
  10. I was about to say the Green Lantern/Green Arrow bit was the only part I didn't have a problem with. But then I re-read and caught the "what do I do that'll make the rage burning within go away?" line. Holy shit, this book can't even manage to handle a two page scene without having something hack fall out of a character's mouth.
I'd really like to refine my points above more. At the least, I should really come up with a paragraph or two that sums things up and makes a bit more of a constructive statement than the griping you see above. But I just can't do it. I'm trying to put this issue behind me. What I've shared here is an attempt at catharsis. I'm hoping it will set me free and I can begin reading any of the other comic books (possibly mediocre, but undoubtedly better than this one) that I bought last night. Maybe I'll revisit this next week and try to dissect the book with more care and thought. But I need to try to get away from it now.

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