JLA # 113 Review

Reviewer: Kevin S. Mahoney
Story Title: Syndicate Rules Part Seven: Worlds in the Balance

Written by: Kurt Busiek
Penciled by: Ron Garney
Inked by: Dan Green
Colored by: David Baron
Lettered by: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Mike Carlin
Publisher: DC Comics

The Justice League was fighting a war on at least three fronts this issue. For those who enjoy action-packed, quickly paced stories, this issue may hearken back to the blessed and adrenaline filled days of Morrison. There were guest stars galore, epic battle scenes, a couple of major twists, and some sly humor. This chapter had all the components of a bang-up action tale, but it is missing one key element: clarity.

There was more than too much going on between the pages; it felt directionless and hectic. It is a strange feeling to have a Kurt Busiek story fail to resonate. This is the same mind behind Astro City and Thunderbolts, two of the most well received comics in the last decade or so. This chapter, the penultimate installment, had no recognizable funnel towards a satisfactory conclusion. Either the subplots got in the way of the main story, or the sheer amount of situations juggled here overpowered the overall narrative. Either way, the issue turned out to be a disappointing read.

The art in this story certainly attempted to prop up the plot, and it even succeeded at rare moments. Images like Hawkman awash in clinging civilians from the alternate universe, the Crime Syndicate watching the JLA/Qwardian battle in Power Ring created deckchairs (with popcorn!), and the reveal of a certain super heroic substitution, all succeeded as beautiful, vibrant portraits in the issue. The problem was that these movements did not seem to connect or relate to either the main plot or each other very well. It felt like a very well executed graphical “greatest hit” performance or highlight reel.

There might be quite a bit of reviewer bias in this review. I never have enjoyed relatively “empty” blockbuster events (OWAW, the latest Gotham gang war epic, choose your own action packed turkey) because they don’t seem to mean anything once the fighting stops. In this tale, the conflict may continue for one more chapter, but I cannot see any way the resolution(s) will mean anything substantial for the team. The recent round-robin writer duties on this book may even be partially at fault; it’s tough to get into a groove with a book if the voice behind the story changes every five to ten issues. It’s probably no picnic for the writer either.