Fresh off my Joker high from the last trade I read, I delved into this collection of Justice League stories eager for more. As I worked my way through this book though, I was a bit underwhelmed. I found a number of problems with this trade, all of which left me feeling less satisfied than many of the other trades I’ve read.
This particular collection doesn’t unite stories about a specific single character or storyline, but rather focuses on the issues that showed the induction of various members to the Justice League. Therein lies one of this trade’s biggest problems. Because the book jumps around within continuity, the stories collected here are forced to act as standalones, but that’s not how they were initially intended. Each successive issue makes references to prior events, and while the comics do what they can to fill in the blanks, there is a disjointed feeling to the stories as a whole. I’ve come to expect holes within a story here and there, since it’s impossible to read every comic ever written. This trade had missing pieces at every turn though, and it got to be tedious trying to pick through the backstory to understand what was going on.
I did my best to ignore these missing plot points and focus on the individual stories instead. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t all that impressed with those presented here. Of the stories this trade collects, I was most excited to read Black Canary’s. I’ve grown rather fond of her character, and was excited to read her first story as a JLA member. One of the aspects of her character that I always enjoyed was that she didn’t have any super powers. She was just a highly skilled fighter and had a fiercely compassionate side to go with it. I found this combination endearing and engaging.
This trade flipped that on its head though, when she mysteriously develops her own superpower, some sort of ultrasonic emission.
The comic explains this away as a result of her involvement in the battle against Aquarius (a previous JLA story that I had fortunately already read). While I can understand the writer’s reasoning for bringing about this change to the character, it didn’t sit well with me. I liked that Black Canary was powerful without having to be super. Although she is unable to control this new ability when it first appears, I’m perceptive enough to guess that it will only be a matter of time before she’s using this newfound power to her advantage.
What’s more, this new power presents itself just as Black Canary is being considered for membership in the JLA, and it is pointed out(by Hawkman, no less) that although she knows Judo, she may not be able to hold her own against more formidable adversaries, as she doesn’t possess any “super” abilities.
Um…excuse me, but NO.
Batman doesn’t have any “super powers” either, but I don’t see anybody questioning his inclusion in the JLA.
This scene left me feeling a bit salty, and although I’m sure I’ll be fine with Black Canary’s new-found power, I just wasn’t happy with how this whole situation developed. In a trade meant to celebrate heroes’ induction into the JLA, Black Canary’s storyline felt too forced, and just a tad convenient. It didn’t really do justice to such a great character.
Another aspect of these comics I found frustrating was just how much arguing ensued. I realize disagreements are going to occur within the JLA. When a group of strong-willed individuals get together, there’s bound to be some friction. Besides, this is one of the driving forces behind the comic, and I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is Earth’s heroes arguing like a bunch of high schoolers:
They are legitimately arguing about who should be allowed into their club, and this happens in every. single. issue. I could understand its inclusion with one character if a debate felt warranted, but having to read the same argument over and over felt tedious and unnecessary. I came to expect it in each issue, and found myself slogging my way through those pages, waiting for the inevitable conclusion.
Despite the drama, I was at least glad to see that the female characters were given a bit more backbone and freedom. They comment on the fact that the JLA needs more female members, and indeed, Black Canary, Hawkgirl, and Zatanna are all inducted into the JLA within this compilation. They also voice their own opinions and make their own choices:
Sure, this isn’t exactly groundbreaking feminism, especially by 21st century standards, but for the 1970’s it’s impressive enough to catch my attention. Plus I may have just been happy to see that the women didn’t react petulantly and start to complain if they don’t support an idea. Oddly enough, the male characters carry that torch throughout the trade.
Ultimately I wasn’t overly impressed with this collection. The stories were incredibly wordy and the artwork wasn’t up to the standards I’d come to expect. These stories seemed to hearken back to the Golden Age, which felt like a clear regression. Although I recognize their importance within the continuity, as each member of the JLA is important in their own way, the stories presented in this trade just didn’t grab my attention the way others have. I’m glad I read it, but I’m also glad this collection was mercifully short. With another JLA trade immediately following this one on “the shelf”, I’m remaining optimistic and hoping for slightly more engaging stories.