Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Justice League of America #43

James Robinson continues his inaugural run with DC's biggest and brightest this month in Justice League, and if you haven't kept up with the first two issues I'll save the elaboration: skip it. Frankly, I can't imagine this issue entertaining anyone who does manage to make sense of it, but the vast majority of readers who haven't memorized the official DC Comics Encyclopedia (2010 edition) will find JLA #43 an impossible riddle to comprehend.

A disjointed, confusing fight scene right out of the gates doesn't exactly set a pleasant opening tone. Over the course of six splash pages, we're expected to keep up with four competing internal narrations, some of which don't even contain a single finished thought, terribly generic spoken dialog, a leap or two through time, a kaleidoscope of brightly colored special effects and a mashup of compositions and characters so busy they'd make George Perez throw away his toolbox and curse the industry. Robinson's idea is to show anarchy, a squad in the heat of the battle with no interest in fighting together as a single unit. It works too well, not just spoiling the team's chemistry but the narration too. Those six pages may as well have been blank.

From there, the story embarks on a streak of unprovoked, unexpected leaps through time and space without so much as a nod of the head or a complete sentence to prepare its readers. More than once, a central character is right in the middle of explaining a crucial plot point when the story, like a reckless drunken driver with a death wish, yanks the wheel in a different direction and we race off to another gaudy, overwritten dead end of a plot device. A telepath would have a tough time figuring out what Robinson was thinking here.

Mark Bagley's artwork doesn't do much to ease the pain. Perhaps feeling the pressure to deliver on such a large stage, Bagley overdoes it in every single panel. There's too much detail, too many moving pieces, too many panels to convey too large of an idea. Even in the aforementioned splash pages that launch the issue, there's just too much going on to get a clear idea of what's actually happening. Granted, a large part of that is due to Robinson's compulsion to include as many characters on a single page as possible, (and the wealth of narration boxes don't make things any easier) but it's not the writer's job to simplify and organize a layout. The best artists can abridge precisely this kind of a complicated scenario into easy-to-digest scenery, but Bagley somehow manages to make it even worse. He's just as much to blame for this issue being a mess as Robinson is… maybe more so.

Considering the experience and notoriety of the creators involved with this story, Bagley and Robinson's run with JLA can be considered nothing less than a monumental disaster. It's so concerned with playing by the rules, including every single character remotely involved and precisely defining its spot in present continuity that it completely forgets to tell a story that's moderately interesting. This is impossible to comprehend, frustrating to attempt and, overall, a terribly maddening experience from cover to cover. It's total crap. Skip it and set fire to anyone you see leaving the store with a copy under their arm. They'll thank you for it later.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 1

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