JLA # 116 Review

Reviewer: Kevin S. Mahoney
Story Title: Crisis of Conscience Part Two

Written by: Geoff Johns/Allan Heinberg
Penciled by: Chris Batista
Inked by: Mark Farmer
Colored by: David Baron
Lettered by: Rob Leigh
Editor: Mike Carlin
Publisher: DC Comics

The JLA isn’t a harmonious seamless unit these days. As a retroactive result of the Identity Crisis revelations, Batman is angry and distrustful of most of the Silver Age JLA. The other members of the team have varying feelings regarding the hero-on-hero brainwashing that began Batman’s withdrawal from the team. There are those who believed it was necessary, and that there was no other sensible choice. The mage who took a few minutes of Batman’s memory sincerely regrets it. And quite a few remaining members seem on the fence about the whole thing.

The friction between the various League members has certainly electrified the book. Longstanding rivalries and differences of opinion have degenerated into bickering and (in this issue) violence. This story is difficult to beat in terms of effective shocking surprises. While long-term fans of these characters know that they are capable of giving in to their baser emotions, it’s certainly another thing to witness them explode. Combine that bittersweet dramatic conflict with an appearance of a few mentally repaired supervillains, and there’s no shortage of thrills in this issue.

If there is a problem with the plot or pacing in this issue, it might be the quieter moments. Certain throwaway lines seem too pat and relaxed given the sheer amount of strain the team is under. Certain events of the issue (like the destruction of a certain crimson JLA hero) don’t get the attention they deserve, either because the other team members are too involved with their own problems or the writers have so much emotional heavy lifting to do in this chapter. The final page reveal certainly points to the balance being harder to maintain as the story continues, what with yet another threat coming for the fracture team beginning next installment.

The art in this issue rises above the generic, if only slightly. The well-detailed figures (over a dozen characters) don’t seem to feature either the basic flaws or the energetic élan that lesser or greater renditions of the title have featured. The coloring seems careful and even pushes the envelope a bit with some excellent shading and dropped in medical diagnostic photos. The scripting and inking are more than adequate. It’s just that the art in other JLA arcs have usually surpassed the standards of the day. This issue merely meets those standards, sticks a toe over the line, and stands fast. It’s not a disappointment on its own, but compared to the art of Identity Crisis or the current issue of Flash, it’s lukewarm.