Justice League: Generation Lost #18
Written by Judd Winick
Art by Aaron Lopresti
Well this was the worst issue of this series in a while, and it pains me to say it. I adore this book for the most part, from the characterization to the pacing, and especially the villain. Anyone who’s read my reviews knows this, I can’t get enough of this title, so why do I have a problem with this issue? I mean, this issue was set up under the premise that Power Girl is sent after Captain Atom under the control of Max Lord, and under the impression that she’s seeking justice for Magog and the thousands that died in Chicago a few issues ago at the conclusion to the Magog and Captain Atom fight. We know this because last issue ended with Peeg showing up and saying as much, as well as last weeks issue of Power Girl ending with Max giving her the mental command. So when and where does this go wrong?
A few pages in when Peeg’s mental control exerts itself and she lets enough information slip that Captain Atom knows she thinks he’s a murderous Superman, and despite Max sending her to take on the JLI, she sees the team as a mixer of JLA level big guns (Starfire is debatable). This doesn’t make sense to me, at all. Max has been shown to have no problem getting people to achieve his exact goals, which can be evidenced by the fact that Magog fought Captain Atom…and, hey, again, last issue. It makes no sense at all for her to be needing to see a Superman condoning murder in order to have the motivation needed to continue the fight, and while yes, it does say a lot about Max’s mental control that she’s not seeing or hearing anything that’s actually there, but it also creates a sizable single issue plothole that really hurts what could have been an amazing issue.
Why do I think it could be amazing? Because every part of the issue that doesn’t involve Power Girl’s seeing of a murderous JLA in a wasteland of an area, or yelling at people that heroes don’t kill, is great. From the opening page flashback of the blooming of Peeg and Atom’s friendship, to Max and Blue Beetle, and even the JLI having to figure out how to stop a raging Kryptonian without a red sun, magic, or kryptonite; this issue has so much right with it that it’s just painful to see one major part of the issue fail so hard. It just keeps ripping me out of the issue, even more so than having to operate under the understanding that Captain Atom knows that Superman is Clark Kent. Yes, that comes up too, right after he realizes she’s not actually seeing or hearing him (she starts ranting a reply that makes no sense in context) he asks out loud who she thinks he is, and then she starts yelling and calls him Clark. Whoops. I mean, yes, I know that Peeg knows the big secret, same with Booster and Skeets (due to their time with Rip Hunter, as neither knew who Clark Kent was in 52), but nobody else on the JLI should know. Mark Waid’s JLA run keeps getting older and older, but I remember it being a huge deal that Batman and Superman revealed their identities to teammates Wally West, Kyle Rayner, and Plastic Man. I was fine operating under the impression that more heroes, usually JLA members that served with him later on, knew his identity. But for Superman to go from someone that has a secret identity known only by a select few of the worlds greatest heroes, as well as his family and Lana, to it now being common knowledge among the super hero community? That bugs me. What’s next, is Rocket Red going to know that Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are Batman?
And yes, I realize Countdown happened, and he was Monarch and all that bullshit, but DC has done an amazing job of making it seem like that one aspect of that crappy event didn’t happen, and for that, I thank them. Captain Atom as a bad guy leading armies to fight alternate earths? Pass. Captain Atom as Monarch making Supermen fight to be his Superman, Green Lantern’s to fight to be his Green Lantern, etc etc? Pass. Captain Atom forgetting that any of this happened? LOVE IT!
Now that I’ve done my ranting, let me get to what I did like in this issue, because there was some good stuff. Like, let’s refocus on the fight. If you can get past the premise of Peeg only fighting because she think they’re superheroes gone rogue and mass murderery, the fight the JLI puts up is actually pretty well written. The reason for the fight be damned, this fight is Power Girl against Captain Atom, Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, and Red Rocket. This is NOT a balanced fight. Especially since Captain Atom is operating under extreme concern, especially after Chicago, and given the fact that when he pushes himself he gets radioactive, he can’t fight back. That makes this fight into Booster, Fire, Ice, and my favorite Russian against a raging mad Kryptonian. Again, this is NOT a balanced fight. So what does Winick do? He makes the characters have to be smarter, not just to win, but to survive. This isn’t a brain trust of super heroes, there is nobody here who excels at Batman levels of planning, and the most powerful member of the team can explode in a manner of nuclear proportions when he exerts himself. The team is on defense and they have to figure out a way to stop it, because they could keep defending for a while, but eventually the fight would move to a populated area.
They do come up with a plan, and unfortunately the dialog comes across a bit forced, but it’s creative and a decent means to an end. An obvious end, but an end no less.
The best part of this issue is also the shortest part, three pages of Max and Blue Beetle. It’s a lot of exposition by Max, everything from hints of why he needs Jaime, to how he maintains his psychic delete on the planet, the generic captured hero to villain lines, how good always beats evil, but most importantly, Max reminds us of one thing. Max believes himself to be justified, he’s the hero of his own story, and that’s what makes him so intriguing. Why is this the highlight of the issue? A few pages of Max talking a bit like a Bond villain, but it’s just because that for all the faults of this issue, Winick maintains the characterizations that make this book so much fun usually. Max is awesome, and even with the brief time he gets in the issue we get a nice little display of why.
Oh yeah, and then he tortures Beetle. Almost forgot.
Alright, I lied. The art is the best part of this issue. Aaron Lopresti is a great talent, and despite my own dislike of the whole “Power Girl thinks she’s fighting Superman and friends” fight, at least it gives Lopresti a chance to draw Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Supergirl, and Starfire. The fight looks awesome, and everyone involved gets a nice little showcase. The issue looks awesome and the biggest shame is that there wasn’t more worth mentioning in the issue to credit the art going along with. Everything looks great, it’s just not very fluid to read.
Wow. Please tell me that this was just a filler issue, and a sign of things to come. Winick just completely took me out of the game with the random and repeatedly aforementioned method of mind control, and choppy dialog kept me there. The issue is pretty much cookie cutter, and leaves us exactly where we’d expect. It’s a shame that after all the build up to Winick’s two books crossing over, with the great work he’s been doing both in this book and in Power Girl’s solo book, that this issue of all issues is where things fall completely flat. The best things in this issue are the art, the fight, and the three pages of Max. Which are, admittedly, pretty good. The issue isn’t horrible by any means, I just have a bad taste in my mouth for the…yeah. Max could have made Power Girl fight the JLI for no reason other than what happened in Chicago, he didn’t need her thinking Superman wanted to kill all humans.
Tags: Aaron Lopresti, Brightest Day, Judd Winick, Justice League: Generation Lost, Max Lord, Power Girl, Reviews