JLA # 121 Review

Reviewer: Kevin S. Mahoney
Story Title: Call to Arms

Written by: Bob Harris
Penciled by: Tom Derenich
Inked by: Dan Green
Lettered by: Jared K. Fletcher
Colored by: David Baron
Editor: Mike Carlin
Publisher: DC Comics

The Justice League isn’t a team anymore. That fact is even gaudily stated on the cover of this issue. The team dissolved in bickering and infighting two issues ago. The members that are still speaking to each other are slowly adjusting to that fact. Delayed confrontations are finally playing out. Material resources are being reestablished for the future League. A new series of backroom manipulations threatens the very reemergence of the team. And all the while, a certain psychotic psychic struggles with the burden of his mental might. There are a lot of things going on in this issue.

The cast of this issue (Green Arrow, GL John Stewart, Aquaman, Black Canary, Dawn) seems appropriate to its theme of dislocation. Green Arrow, a staunch liberal, has the harshest reaction to Bruce’s double-dealing the team via the OMACs. John Stewart, (one of two GL’s for the sector that includes Earth) has dealt with menaces on this planet as well as others, all the while contemplating the philosophical differences that cause conflict within specific cultures in books like Green Lantern Mosaic. His more moderate stance on what it will take to rebuild the team is an excellent and apt use of the character. Aquaman, like the monarch he is, balances fair criticism of Batman’s methods with a regal and determined effort to reestablish the resources necessary for the success of the DCU’s most epic team. Black Canary, in a sensible if unimaginative turn, serves as confessor and den mother to the members of this new league. Dawn rounds the ensemble nicely as the ingénue newcomer as well as Cassandra-styled doomsayer. While the group interactions might not be enough to sell newcomers on the current less-iconic team, they are interesting enough to distract even careful readers from the fact that the JLA is still fighting itself and a certain villain has been cavorting unchecked for a couple of issues now.

The villain himself is a bit of a puzzle compared to his previous appearances in recent years. His suspended animation in a previous JLA arc and scant appearance(s) since (Gotham Knights?) didn’t foreshadow this development one bit. On the one hand, a more powerful villain is usually a more interesting one. On the outré, he seems less deranged and threatening and more troubled and sympathetic. A whiny telepath doesn’t even make it as a threat to a weakened rookie super team, let alone the experienced if fractured Justice League. And whoever decided his gaunt and creepy look needed retooling ought to get a smart rap o’er the face. A homicidal brainiac in a metal collar and blue jeans is a truly risible image.

Conversely, certain heroes featured in the chapter look better than they have in ages. The Cartoon Networkâ„¢ version of John Stewart has never seemed anything but a “bleed” from another medium before this issue. The massive and somehow steadfast depiction of Aquaman is another highlight. The versions of Black Canary and Green Arrow seem a bit less specific (especially Dinah’s facial structure and Ollie’s shifting hair color) but present no obvious faults. Combine the well-rendered heroes with adequate settings and a balanced color palette, and this book looks like a winner regardless of the reader’s stance on Infinite Crisis, OMAC Project, or even Dawn’s marital infidelity.