Build a Better Justice League 1: The Problem
- A clear vision of the kind of stories you want to tell
- An editorial regime willing to get out of your way and let you tell it, and
- A roster of characters that will make those stories sing.
Unfortunately, after reading a recent Justice League collection, it looks like James Robinson has none of those things.
While I’d heard his return to comics had been pretty shaky, I have a deep and abiding love of his Starman series (Jack Knight had a real impact on my teenage self). So I really wanted him back to form.
But…yeesh. There’s no real way to defend this. A ridiculous plot, shallow characterization…it is, in fact, so crappy that it got bad art out of Mark “Dependability is my middle name” Bagley.
This may not entirely be his fault. This JLA iteration started with Brad Meltzer’s annoying Red Tornado-centric pilot story. Then editorial interference destroyed the late, great Dwayne McDuffie’s efforts. So, maybe the current climate at DC just makes it impossible to write a decent League.
But Robinson also shot himself in the foot with his lineup. I have no problem with Dick Grayson as the League’s Batman (he’s earned the spot), but do we really need Donna Troy taking Wonder Woman’s place? And while it sure is a novelty having Congorilla and the Mikaal Tomas Starman on the team…what, exactly, are they contributing, here (beyond “This guy is really strong, and this one has a chest-laser”)?
Robinson’s League was already kneecapped by the patchwork of characters that were available to him.
While the easy-fix response – the one that reinvigorated the title after the post-JLI wilderness years – was Grant Morrison’s “Big Seven” roster that basically lasted a solid six years before falling apart, Robinson doesn’t even have that option.
Martian Manhunter, Aquaman and the Hawks have all been occupied in Brightest Day, the Green Lanterns are all embroiled in yet another “war of the guys who use their superpowerful wishing rings to shoot beams at each other in space” mega-story, Bruce Wayne’s awfully busy, and Superman apparently needs some space to sort some things out and get his head together.
But while I’m sure we’ll see the “classic” lineup again, Justice League Unlimited proved the DC Universe is filled to the brim with odd-duck characters (say, Vigilante) that just need a chance to show off what they can really do (which, again, is why I was a bit baffled that Congorilla doesn’t fill any role outside of “The Strong Guy” on Robinson’s team).
So, next post, we’re gonna use creativity and logic to put together a JLA roster without having to fall back on the Magnificent Seven paradigm.