Friday, August 27, 2010

"The Dark Things" - JLA/JSA Crossover

Review by Paul Steven Brown

Justice League of America #45 - 48
Justice Society of America #41 - 42

Writer: James Robinson
Art: Mark Bagley
Published by DC Comics

The Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America are the premiere superhero teams in the DC Universe. While the JSA is the legacy team that has its roots in the Golden Age of Comics, consisting of members from the '30s and '40s publication era and those younger heroes that have taken on the names of those who served during that time. The JLA is a more modern equivalent of the DC superteam and is usually made up of the more recognizable heroes such as Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman. Occasionally, when these two squads combine forces, it's to take on a threat bigger than either could handle alone.

One of the ironies of "The Dark Things" is that the JLA begins the crossover with one of it's shortest rosters: Batman (still Dick Grayson), Donna Troy (Wonder Woman's sister), the Mikal Tomas Starman, and Congorilla (yes, a giant man-ape). Meanwhile, the JSA has always had a swollen cast and recently it has spilt over into a second team book called JSA All-Stars. It's a good thing, too, since the JLA is so understaffed and need all the help they can get for this story. At least by the end of the crossover, the JLA pick up Supergirl and Jesse Quick, and possibly Jade (which would add a Kyptonian, a speedster, and a green light projector to go with the Amazon, Dark Knight, and alien already on the team - how very JLA).

"The Dark Things" is also a "Brightest Day" tie-in, the sort of umbrella theme that is running through a good chunk of the DC Comics superhero books for the past four months. We're only about a third of the way through this year-long concept, so a lot of whatever it's all about has yet to be revealed. Unfortunately, the timely White Lantern flash that ran through several of the books this month seemed too much of a deus ex machina during the denouement of "The Dark Things". It didn't seem like the lucky break for the heroes came from within this particular story, but from an outside plot device.

There are still a bunch of great moments. We get to see Alan Scott done the green light armor in the present era that first debuted in Kingdom Come. Supergirl and Power Girl, who are two variations on the exact same theme, got to duke it out. Dick got to prove to just about everyone that counts in the superhero community that he's almost as good a tactician as Bruce. The Shilo Norman Mister Miracle got to make and appearance and was put to good use, though he seemed to disappear by the last chapter. Also, it was a Who's Who of superhero goodness on every page.

And those pages looked great. Mark Bagley has a reputation for being quick and her knocked out all six issues over the course of four months. The work got a little rough towards the last half of the final issue, but overall his pencils remain strong given the rate they issues came out. What makes this even more impressive is that he's so good at drawing a very classic looking superhero comic book. His characters look iconic and he doesn't forget about actually setting them in environments.

"The Dark Things" was an entertaining superhero story, but I never got the impression that the stakes were so high that it warranted a big JLA/JSA crossover, especially given the current state of the the JLA. The art was great, so fans of Mark Bagley's work will appreciate it. I don't know if I can really recommend this story to anyone with only a passing interest in or familiarity of DC superhero comics. The real key is if either Justice League of America or Justice Society of America takes the developments of this tale and use them in interesting ways in future issues.

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