Justice League of America #54
Written by James Robinson
Art by Brett Booth
I had high hopes for this issue, despite having long accepted that James Robinson isn’t quite the same writer he was during his Starman days. You can take that as you will, but I don’t mean it in an insulting manner. After the near perfection that was Starman, Robinson set a bar up high for himself to try and reach again, and it’s hard for fans to expect anything less. His JLA run thus far has been hit or miss, but he’s brought a lot of potential to a book that felt like it was just going through the motions with whatever characters the creative team could get their hands on each month. What can I say, I’m a big fan of his B-list JLA. Though that isn’t why I liked this issue.
Robinson goes ahead and sets up The Rise of Eclipso in an issue almost entirely devoid of the Justice League, choosing instead of focus on Dr. Bruce Jones, and more specifically, his newly regained alter ego…Eclipso. That’s the first thing Robinson does right in this issue, he sends the Wrath of God back iconic form, even if he does throw in a few twists. Like allowing Eclipso to take over Bruce Jones in broad daylight. And making it, despite Eclipso being the dominant personality, he and Jones are able to converse through narration boxes, while in the past they existed as two seperate entities in one body, or two different beings. Watching Eclipso do what he does, and seeing the internal dialogue between the Angel of Vengenance, and the simple solar scientist nemesis he has made, it adds a whole other level to the goings on of the issue, and makes for some really good reading.
Eclipso’s goal in this prologue revolves around gathering characters with shadow based abilities, and because this is James Robinson we’re talking about, the first stop is to Opal City to gather The Shade, and leave him an Eclipsed minion. Other characters follow; Nightshade and Shadow Thief amongst the name value ones, with Arcata coming from a Planet DC annual from 2000, and Bette Noir and Black Crow could very easily be original creations as the only Bette Noir I know of isn’t a giant black ape like monster, and I can’t find any Black Crow’s at DC Comics. Each a character with shadow based powers, and each with a different manifestation of those abilities. His goal also revolves around the Emerald City established at the end of the Dark Things crossover with JSA, and given Jade’s involvement the JLA’s upcoming presence makes sense.
As much as I love the B-List League, probably the best thing about this issue is that they don’t really show up save for maybe two or three panels at the end. The issue is all Eclipso all the time, and Robinson’s take on the character is refreshing. As he runs through the backstory and hits on all the big events from the origin to the ongoing series, and even with Eclipso and Bruce discussing the various hosts Eclipso has had since he last possessed his classic host. I will say, it amused me that Eclipso’s description of Jean Loring was that she was “Too Jean”. Robinson gave one of my favorite underrated villains some much needed character, and part of me thinks that Robinson could be the guy to wash the bad taste of the Jean Loring Eclipso out of my mouth for good.
Brett Booth’s art does a great job carrying the script, it’s moody and violent, and most importantly, effective. I’m not overly familiar with Booth’s work, but a little research actually shows me that I own a few issues by him, when he was the artist on Jim Lee’s Fantastic Four during Heroes Reborn for a few issues. Good memories. Anyway, the redesign of Eclipso works for me, it’s streamlined, and while the costume is iconic in its own way, I think he looks a bit more intimidating like this. The hood and the moon face are more than enough to get across the point, without the gaudy look.
This is actually one of the better issues of Robinson’s JLA, and it’s in large part due to the knowledge of both continuity and obscure characters he brings to the table. His Eclipso is menacing without seeming comical, and even when he cracks a joke you still feel like he’s moments away from ripping someone’s head off. He’s a great villain, and so far so good with this prologue, now I’m just hoping that the rest of the arc lives up to the precedent he’s set in this issue. It’s entirely setup, but I’m very happy to have seen it happen on panel. Now I’m just hoping for some bloodshed!
Tags: brett booth, Eclipso, James Robinson, JLA, Justice League of America, Reviews