Last issue saw the evaporation of the big Justice League down to the present four members. The reaction to that was generally hostile with, as Ralph at the Superman Homepage notes, even the characters in the title doubting its direction. It’s telling that the line that gets cited the most is from this issue is from Etrigan’s baiting of the League:
The “League” you say? I see but zeroes. Rabble more like substitute heroes.
(At last somebody who can write half-descent rhyme for Etrigan.) The almost meta-textural awareness of the characters about their own predicament is intelligent and I like the idea that Donna and Dick are having to try and learn how to work with Mikaal and Bill. It blunts the book’s critics when even the characters are questioning their own status.
Where this issue gains over the previous is that it isn’t a gathering-the-team or crossover-fallout issue. The League, even just a quartet, can really get going on a brand new adventure. While reading this I felt that the title had dealt with its baggage last issue and was now moving forward in a positive fashion. The critics reactions (table below) to this issue were generally more even that last month with an average score around 6-7 out of 10.
The exposition delivered during the training session is a little forced and is more of a coffee shop conversation – but if I were to labour that point I’d be damning a convention used across the entire genre (c.f. the General Glory pastiche in the JLI). However, it is noticeable that the characters with the best dialogue in this story are the ones who aren’t fully human – namely Etrigan and Congorilla. The humans, by contrast, often sound rather wooden. The dialogue so annoyed DS Aresnault of Weekly Comic Book Review that he may not buy the next issue (“if I’m paying $3.99 for a book, I expect the editor to have checked if it was well written”, ouch).
This is a 30-page comic, but those 30-pages are not used very economically. There isn’t much more in here that in a standard 21-page comic. All that extra space provided by the 30-pages is used for big double page expanses that let Mark Bagley draw big. I rather like his take on Etrigan (both writer and artist lifted their game on that character). Doug at CBR definitely attributes an upswing in the art quality to the arrival of a new colourist:
Bagley’s [art] seems less frenetic in this issue and is definitely more complete and not as sketchy. Apparently, the change is in no small part due to the addition of new Colourist Ulises Arreola. Welcome aboard, I say.
I haven’t been aware of Mexican colourist Ulises Arreola until now. He’s done some Marvel work (Wolverine: First Class and Marvel Adventures The Avengers) and a few issues of Superman/Batman.
JLA heading in the right direction again. We might actually get somewhere if it can do that for more an a single issue at a time.