JLA #15 review

Reading the latest issue of Justice League of American (#15), I was struck by how dissonant it seemed.

On one hand, we’ve got Dwayne McDuffie’s script, which is another step in moving the comic from the completely forgettable Meltzer run to something that’s palatable. The story isn’t great. This is a light issue, without much in the way of plot details (in fact, it very specifically dovetails into two other titles at the end, without resolution), but it’s got some kinda fun rock-em, sock-em action going on.

It’s also got moments of The Sexy going on. The girls are doing the cool shits, and whooping baddies all around. Not so much for the damsels in distress, here. We’ve got proactive heroines doing the right thing.

Sexy.

On the other hand, we’ve got Ed Benes’ art, which has taken another step in moving the book towards an ass-shot in every panel (and, depending on how limber he makes the portrayed character, tits as well). In this issue, the art is almost overwhelmingly, objectifyingly sexist, to the point that about halfway through (and this is just a 22-page story, mind), I began to feel a bit numb from the whole thing.

So, page by page:

Page 1 is remarkably sans-ass! Of course it’s sans female. Luthor has Superman at his whim until Firestorm turns a bunch of kryptonite into a butterknife. I sat for a moment and wondered about this reverse-alchemy. How much money did Luthor lose in that moment? Kryptonite’s got to be one of the rarest minerals in the universe, and he just transposed it to common steel, probably not even stainless or a good alloy. We’re looking at a loss of a few million, easy, probably a few billion.

Of course, I’m also wondering, why the hell Luthor, with nearly uncountable sums of wealth, would use it to create a kryptonite knife to stab Superman with? Surely his evil genius could come up with something with more, dare I say it, panache?

From the expressions on Luthor’s face, he might just be realizing how much money he’s lost here.

Page 2. Splash of all the villains in this short-lived Injustice League. Is it just me, or are these a bunch of serene-looking baddies? Seriously, they’re about to (try) to whoop some ass. And most of them, even the guys, just look kinda mildly amused.

Hell, Cheshire, Poison Ivy, Fatality, and Giganta all have the exact same expression. This expression says to me “I’m listening to music and this song brought a thought of an amusing little anecdote about what happened on the way to work.” not “Hoo, yeah, We’re about to TOTALLY wail on Superman and Firestorm!”

And Ivy’s stance is just completely wrong, too. She’s getting ready to fight! Not waiting at the bus stop while listing to her iPod! Also, what’s up with her crotch? It’s brighter than the rest of that region and perhaps kinda puffy. I’d be a bit worried about that. She should see a doctor.

Cheshire’s a bit better. Confident, fists on hips. See, right there her eyes should be narrow, focused. Mouth pressed into a thin, determined line. Expression just blaring “Hey, superheroes! I’m the deadliest assassin on the face of the planet. I have figuratively (and in one case literally) fucked you over for YEARS. Another serving coming up!”

Cheetah’s at least got the readiness down. Somewhat ruined by her stance. Okay, let’s try this. You’re about to charge into a fight. Stand up and get ready. Pretend you have claws and are kinda fast and strong, too. Me? I’m going to have my weight centered, feet slightly wider than shoulder-width with one slightly in front of the other. Hunched over slightly with a slight lean forwards. Arms tucked, hands slightly in and in front of my chest. Perhaps right be low neck level.

I am fucking NOT going to have my hand down and elbows out. There’s no power in that, no way to get some force into my strikes. Plus, I’m leaving my central area WIDE open for a quick attack.

What’s more, my legs are not going to be leaning towards one side with my weight awkwardly thrust backwards and then leaning my torso forward. Again, no strength, nothing to get any power out of. And I’d be off-balance in case of quick counter.

All this seems to say is “I’m angry! Look at my ass!”

Icicle doesn’t seem so bad, mostly because she’s already in motion. She’s going forward with her attack, but I’m a bit mystified by why her right arm is down and away.

So for the good side of the womens, we’ve got Cheetah’s expression, Cheshire’s stance, and Icicle’s movement. The rest is a bunch of bad.

On the men side, they’re not that much better, except nobody’s really thrusting attributes out for no good reason.

I do rather like the effeminate-Joker, though.

Page 3. Look at this first panel. We’ve got Firestorm, facing off against the baddies. Look at the sides. Deathstroke and Dr Light are cool, confident, working in some entrapment of power.

In the center, nearly even against Firestorm is Luthor, looking really pissed. That’s quite a change from his slightly bemused expression on page 2. How much time has passed here?

And there’s Ivy, coquettishly bored at the antics of all these mammals. Icicle is still continuing her mad charge. Her pose isn’t too bad. Now you can see her right arm is, since now she’s using that instead of her left to move her ice stream. Her left is a bit far away, but could be ready to fling an attack from that angle, discus style.

Cheetah has squared up her stance, but her arms are way out and low. Plus, now her upper-arms look like sticks. Dr Light, of all people, has forearms the size of her waist, and she’s got toothpicks.

There’s something else that bugs me, here. Look at the position of the bad guys here and on page 2.

On 2, we’ve got, L-R: Luthor, Ivy, some fuzzy guy I want to call Mammoth, but probably isn’t, Dr Light, Deathstroke, Mr Freeze, Giganta, some dark guy, Fatality, Cheshire, Cheetah, Icicle, Grodd, and Joker. (in a few layers. since apparently they’re standing on risers for a better picture)

And here we’ve got Dr Light on the far left with icicle behind him, who’s apparently whipped around to the complete other side of the group. Then there’s Ivy and the dark guy, who’s much forward and to the left of his current position. Luthor and not-Mammoth are now in the center. Grodd and Cheetah have about the same positions, but Deathstroke has magically teleported to the far right. Joker, Cheshire, Freeze, Fatality, and Giganta are nowhere to be seen.

So what happened? Again, how much time has passed so the villains can array themselves out in the proper line? And if that’s the case, why aren’t they attacking? Luthor said that Superman would only survive for another 30 seconds.

Firestorm talks for a bit while Icicle takes the first stab at cooling him down. Nice attack, but the way she’s got her knee bent is really weird. Dr Light adds to the fire and then we’ve got all the bad-guys hit by a mysterious green pallor.

Page 4-5. The superheroes arrive! And thankfully, they are all ready to kick ass. Except for Red Tornado, who is doing his rendition of C-3P0 in Cloud City.

Let’s look at expressions. Guys first: Batman is pissed. Red Arrow is even angrier (I can only assume he’s finally realizing how dumb his new code name really is.) John Stewart is getting into full-on USMC-mode. Which is amazing, since that’s an entirely different continuity. Geo-Force is rubbing off a bit of manly blood from his face. His expression says “Okay, you got me one. Now it’s my turn.”

For the gals, it’s not quite the same. Clenched teeth, perhaps, but only slightly. Those cheeks aren’t tightened up at all. In some fashion, Hawkgirl, Vixen, and Wonder Woman all look somewhat angry. Black Canary, though, just looks kinda there. Her lips are a bit pouty, face kinda slack, and eyes looking a bit vacantly off into the distance.

She’s the leader, remember.

Poses talk!

Batman: I am just getting out of these bindings. Then I will start to hit you a lot.

Red Arrow: God, where the fuck is Brad Meltzer so I can shoot him for saddling me with this name?

Green Lantern: You took your best shot! Now its our turn.

Geo-Force: Not bad. But not good enough, bad-guys. I can hit harder than you.

Vixen: Let me start to punch from WAY in the back! Honest, I’m not telegraphing anything!

Hawkgirl: Hey, Cheetah! I can do that same exact stance! Except I don’t have claws.

Woder Woman: Look at my lasso! And tits! Hey, I might be able to do a sorta-jab from here!

Black Canary: I have a fist! And also a butt! And tits! Do you like my 90s-era X-Men Jacket? Wait, why am I facing in the general direction of Red Tornado! I’ll look over at that wall! Or perhaps the ceiling!

From this point forth, the art in the issue becomes asstastic. In fact, it’s like Butt Cleavage: The Movie, starring Dinah Lance.

Page 6. Dinah attempts to be the leader by issuing the very specific order of “Take them down hard.” Generic, sure, and what they were already going to do, but some have said that a good leader only needs to see what the followers were going to do anyway and to get out in front.

She screams. Good use of her powers for a pre-emptive strike. Bad use of her costume for showing us her butt. Canary rebukes Firestorm for trying to be too cute. Icicle, Cheshire, and Cheetah try to fight. Mr. Freeze and Deathstroke cut and run.

Wonder Woman shows off the butt-cleavage of her own, before…

Page 7. Wondy takes out Icicle.

Hawkgirl and Red Arrow flirt.

Cheshire gets away, but not before looking back and thrusting her ass back for one last provocation.

Page 8. However, Roy is an idiot and didn’t see it. Geez, man! After all the work that went into that and you had to miss it? What do you think these women are here for anyway?

Cheetah has Black Lightning at her mercy, but seems to be unsure of how to hold him. Her hands move around with every panel, which leads me to believe she really doesn’t know about submission techniques.

Then again, she’s barely got him held at all. In panel 3, it’s like she’s gently caressing his head. Must not want to wake him up I suppose. However, she says she’s going to rip his throat out. If that’s the case, I’d expect her to, I dunno, actually hold onto his throat?

Oh, well, he wakes up anyway and shocks her! Crisis averted.

Amazingly, as she’s flung back from the attack, her butt does not lead the way. However, it can’t be that bad, because while she’s squinting in pain, her mouth is in the exact same, slightly angry, smooth-cheeked expression as panel 3.

Page 9. Dr Light is attacking Green Lantern with an apparently nonexistant attack that still causes his cape to billow out. Even so, GL’s feeling the brunt of this from behind his shield.

Fatality glows menacingly from behind while Red Arrow looks like he’s going to shoot off into the distance.

Wonder Woman flies away, ass-beckoning all the while.

Oh, wait, Roy was just fooling! He shoots Fatality in the hand. After a little interchange to show each-other how bad-ass they are, Firestorm comes in and clocks her with a giant tennis racquet. Fatality flies off into the distance, spread eagled.

See, it’s a minor bit, but she’s going away, why does her body say “Come to me, my love!”

Page 10. Wonder Woman kicks Grodd’s butt. KRAK! THOK! WHUDD!

Damn, but isn’t her butt good looking?

Feel that dissonance? Textually, we’ve got a superheroine beating the crap out of a brilliant, talking gorilla. Artistically, we’ve got a butt-shot, mid-page.

Page 11. Black Canary faces off against Giganta and comes out on tap in two attacks. Giganta attacks, Canary dodges, breaks her thumb, and then uses her scream to wonderful effect. BOOM, down.

A bit marred by the opening butt-shot, which -might be forgivable if only based on the disparate sizes of the pair. You know what would be cooler, though? An over-the shoulder shot from Giganta’s point of view, making Canary look so small and overshadowed.

From there, the way Canary so totally dominates the exchange is that much more delicious.

Textually, Canary makes a few cracks about Giganta’s weight and wardrobe.

Page 12. Vixen takes out some lava guy I can’t remember. I honestly have no idea what’s going on here, because panels 1 and 2 are so muddled together. Which is which? I honestly don’t know because every character is showing up in both.

Then she kisses Superman to give him his powers back. Superman is very confused by this.

I’m somewhat tickled because I remember back in my X-Men reading days, Rogue would take everyone’s powers with a kiss. It was ridiculous then, and it’s ridiculous now. From the “Kiss him” directive bubble, I imagine there’ll be more story to this, though.

On the other hand, I’m a bit confused. I thought she, like Animal Man, just kinda copied other abilities. Now she steals them? Weirdly undefined powers and abilities FTW, perhaps?

Page 13. I’ve noticed in this issue that many scenes seem to bleed over into the pages around them, either one panel sneaking into the previous page (see page 10), or, like here, one sneaking into the next. I’m not sure why it’s happening, because it doesn’t help the flow of the issue.

In any case, next we have a single panel of Hawkgirl and Ivy about to go at it. That’s it, just one panel, no dialogue, nothing. It’s like our eyes were taken across it while we looked from Superman and Vixen’s confused smooch to…

Fatality blasts Red Arrow! She hates his new name, too! And the arrows sticking out of her arm. Which GL helpfully explains is prosthetic. Thus it’s able operate at full functionality until destroyed.

It’s always confused me. You take a high tech piece of machinery, like an arm, do incredible amounts of damage to it, and it continues to function. Remember all the times Cable’s arm took so much damage it had an aura of permanent sparks shooting out of it? But the arm was fine, sure.

Not like those weak, fleshy things that would stop after only one little puncture wound. Unless you’re manly, in which case it’ll just annoy you.

What follows is a long conversation between Firestorm, Black Lightning, and Red Tornado about getting Reddy up and running again. Despite being the most advanced android on the planet, Red Tornado has no ability to emote, as he has the exact same expression in five different panels. Or perhaps they removed that crucial ability when they pulled him apart. I don’t know.

Firestorm, despite being one of the most powerful beings around, cannot put Reddy back together again. We’ll ignore the fact that Reddy, as established in the first storyline of this run of JLA, has an amazing self-repair program. I’m pretty sure that, much like Legos, if you just put Arm A into slot B, he’d be up and running in as little as one reboot.

This conversation runs through Page 14, which ends when everyone gets bored of the talking and asks for more whacky again.

Page 15. Grodd attacks. Firestorm creates a brick wall out of nothing. Grodd smashes wall.

And the big one hits. San Francisco is GONE! The Teen Titans are working overtime to save the City by the Bay which leaves the JLA to take care of this problem on their own.

Okay, maybe not, but something starts rumbling.

As Grodd attacks, though, Reddy goes flying in many different directions. Hilarious.

Page 16. Geo-Force, ignoring decades of geology research, opens a fissure in the earth, which swallows Grodd and closes.

I really can’t say much more than that. The pit was apparently bottomless, which makes me wonder if, in addition to earth-shaping powers, he has the ability to make the earth hollow.

Nest Dr Light has apparently been beaten. His non-existant attack must have backlashed and caused some undetermined hurty.

Cheetah wakes him up, saying they’ve got to get going, as the cause is lost. The shot of her waking him up is odd, though. Why did she toss her hair over to one side? Why is she looking away? Does she not care for him? Not want to see if he’s been wounded.

Also, I’m struck by the inconvenience of having a tail. If it means you’ve got to cut the back of your pants to sit just at the top of the butt-crack, I’m not sure I’d want one, no matter the advantages.

Or you could just cut a whole, I suppose.

In any case, Cheetah helps him up and away until…

Page 17. The coolest fucking moment in the entire book. Cheetah backstabs (back…scratches?) Light and lays into him like the rapist he is. Light is apparently surprised that she’d feel angered by his tendency to get all pelvic-thrusty at the poor and underpowered because she kills people.

So does he. In any case, Cheetah delivers the killing blow. I’m a bit confused by this killing blow, since it seems to be a fairly weak swipe. If you have pointy claws, wouldnt it make more sense to do a thrusting, stabby-type motion? Get the force generated by the shoulder and body rather than the forearm and elbow? That would really cause the attack to hit and then puncture, which is going to make someone’s day a lot more difficult to finish than a series of scraping cuts. They may be deep, but they won’t do nearly so much damage.

Or would, until Wonder Woman stops her and shows off some ass-cleavage. Apparently killing isn’t okay, but butt-shots are.

Let’s look at this page and take stock. We’ve got Dr. Light, who would happily rape and murder every female in the DCU. We’ve got Cheetah, who would happily kill anyone who gets in her way. (Although, to be fair, she’s apparently not very good at it, since this is twice she’s gone and done things poorly.)

And we’ve got Wonder Woman, who killed Max Lord on world-wide television (The Brother Eye Network! Fresh from the supers to you 24-7! Eye Am Standing By!)

Dr Light seems miles worse than Max Lord, but what do I know.

Page 18. Wonder Woman apparently is not going to take down Cheetah. Firestorm will do that.

Luthor finally starts to fight, trading blasts with GL. Superman shows up and distracts Luthor enough for GL and… GL to hold Luthor down. (Where did Hal come from? Left field, apparently.) Why it takes two GLs to generate two hands to hold down Luthor, I don’t know.

Page 19. Oh, Hal came from another solar system. While Flash couldn’t make it.

Luthor is going to kill Superman. Because, despite his brilliant financial and scientific mind, he thinks his best plan is going toe-to-toe with one of the five most powerful beings on the planet in a physical showdown.

Supes understands that Luthor is being really, really dumb and breaks the armor.

Ah, but Luthor has another plan! What is it? Stay tuned because all will be revealed… sometime. Probably in some other book.

Page 20. VICTOLY! Beatdowns completed, Black Canary takes this moment to show off her AMAZING butt for all and sundry. She even uses here-to-fore unknown telekinetic powers to hold Joker in mid-air so she can thrust her ass.

See, Batman! You can’t lead the JLA, for you do not have an awesome posterior.

Batman apparently doesn’t think much of this, as he disobeyed Canary.

Then Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad show up to take all the villains and chuck them into Salvation Run.

Now, I’m behind a bit on Checkmate, but it seems to me that if you’ve been given a dictate NOT to run any operations, but you want to do so, showing up face-to-face with some of the most public superheroes on the planet with your covert operations team might not be the best plan.

Bad, Amanda. No cookie for you.

Page 21. Canary shrugs and hands off the bad guys.

Page 22. Hal reminds Canary of an impending wedding. She leaves to get written completely out of character by Judd Winick and then to stab Ollie in the neck.

Also, any villains who weren’t contained here are apparently going to attack again, just to interrupt the festivities. I wonder if any who were captured are going to magically teleport out to break up the party and then get back before anyone notices so they can still show up in time for Salvation Run.

Then Batman ignores the fact that she’s in charge even more and insists Firestorm is on the team. Black Lightning acknowledges Batman’s powers of the divine, then Superman and Wonder Woman continue this undermining of Canary’s position.

And the issue abruptly ends.

So, here we are. On one hand, I liked some things here. A lot of fun, whammy action and fighting, where a number of heroines (and even one villianess) got to lay out some serious smackdown.

On the other hand, the writing remained a bit weak. Nothing really got resolved, which is disappointing, since this seemed like it was going to be a big storyline. Since everything is apparently going elsewhere for resolution, I begin to wonder what the hell the point of JLA is.

See, back when Grant Morrison did JLA, it was very clear. These were going to be stories showcasing the most awesome of awesome heroes saving the world from bigger and bigger threats. The Hyperclan. Darkseid. Vandel Savage. The Injustice Gang. Early JLA was a book full of fun awesome. It proudly declared that it was the paragon book for the DCU. If you wanted the biggest and best adventures, you had to read them there.

They were stories that were so big, no one hero could contain them.

What is Justice League of America, though? Look at the team, even now, over a year since the book started, I’m not entirely sure who’s on the roster, who’s in charge, or even what their purpose is. They have a worse logo, a less cool HQ, and worst of all the book seems to be little more than a fill in the gaps title.

Seriously, why the fuck is this story dovetailing into Salvation Run and the BC/GA wedding special? This is the Justice League. They come, they kick ass, they go home and deal with their own problems in their own books. End of story.

As written, it’s like just another in the innumerable books DC is putting out that hint at bigger things going on.

I don’t think this is McDuffie’s fault. He’s just the writer on the one book, after all. DC is in the midst of a four+ year epic crossover event. that’s likely going to last until NEXT December.

Things are getting so messy that what should arguably be the biggest book, the centerpiece of the entire DCU line feels like a fill-in afterthought. Like “Oh, yeah, what the hell do they do when they aren’t in their own books?”

Still, McDuffie does do some things well. See the fun whacky action and girls kicking butt.

It’s totally undermined by Benes’ art, though. The number of cleavage-prone butt-shots from the girls in this issue is nearly disturbing fetish-levels. I can appreciate a nice derriere, but I don’t need to see them trying to suck their costumes into their rectums. It’s just too much, and not really appealing.

PLUS, and I don’t know if I’m the only one who has observed this, but I don’t think it’s really comfortable. Think about it. Go to a swimming pool and watch the ladies, On occasion, they’ll reach back with their fingers, grab the hems of the legs and pull a little bit.

Skintight clothes have a tendency to ride up a little bit, and there’s a reaction to reverse the process.

Apparently, among their numerous fighting abilities, the ladies of the DCU have no nerve endings down there, because they aren’t so bothered.

Or, alternatively, Benes is a crap artist.

All that butt-kicking? That’s sexy. Black Canary being strong and taking out Giganta in two seconds flat? Sexy. Wonder Woman laying the smack-down on Grodd? Sexy. Cheetah realizing how bad Light really is, and providing some visceral “HOO YEAH!” from the reader? Sexy. And Awesome.

The art? Ugly, sexist tripe which doesn’t do the text any favors. And as muddled as the DCU is, the text is needing a lot of help.

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