From A Library – Justice League of America: The Lightning Saga

Justice League of America #0, #8–12, Justice Society of America #5–6 by Brad Meltzer and Geoff Johns, and various artists

The JLA/JSA crossover – tradition or lack of ideas? I didn’t grow up reading DC comics, so I don’t have nostalgia for this cornerstone of comic book history to impel me, unlike Meltzer and Johns, who are positively swimming in it. These guys LOVE the old stuff, and this must have been a wet dream come true for the pair of them. Strangely, even though it’s JLA/JSA crossover, in fact it’s about the Legion of Super-Heroes (part of John’s restoration process of another well-loved but under-performing comic book perennial which rather ironically isn’t coping in the modern world), as time-stranded and amnesiac members of the team have been located in our time without any memory of why they are there but with some sort of purpose.

As I’ve said before, I like Meltzer’s writing as long as he’s working from a good plot, and this story is a well-structured narrative, allowing him to insert moments that highlight the qualities of the team members in a satisfactory manner. Johns’ JSA chapters are different, lacking the same sharpness (he’s not helped by the artists: Fernando Pasain and Dale Eaglesham provide rather stiff, DC house style work, which doesn’t have the same gloss as Ed Benes or Shane Davis), although I did like the idea of the Batman as the nightmare of the Arkham Asylum inmates.

I enjoyed this story – the twists, the planning, the use of the characters in relation to their abilities, the splitting up of the teams, the reason for what the members of the LSH are doing – and it left a smile on my face and wanting to know what the LSH will do next. The sense of actual heroics, of teams working together, of nobility and sacrifice all come shining through in a well-told comic book story.

The final two chapters in this collection are not part of The Lightning Saga, which I don’t understand – why are they included? Also, they seem to be in stark contrast to the rest of the trade. I found them quite self-indulgent – in one issue, drawn by Gene Ha, Red Arrow and Vixen are trapped for an entire issue (brave and experimental for mainstream superheroes, but perhaps not what the JLA is about), whereas the second issue, called ‘Monitoring’, is one of those ‘day in the life’ stories to permit some plot-point shuffling. Meltzer handles it with aplomb and includes some nice touches, but it feels rather light and insubstantial.

Also included in this collection is Justice League of America #0, which was great to see just for all the different artists contributing a page or two – Tony Harris, George Perez, JH Williams III, Ethan Van Sciver, Kevin Maguire, Jim Lee, Phil Jiminez – as Meltzer visits moments in JLA history through interplay between Bruce, Kal-El and Diana, even having a call-back to the notorious ‘One punch’ moment with Guy Gardner. It blatantly shows his undying and overwhelming love for the team and its history, creating a love letter and tribute issue to the object of his affection.

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