Here we go again. It's the end of the Justice League. Happens every five years or so, everyone frowns, has a minor fall-out and swears never to gather again. And they don't, until the next crossover comes along. This time, though, the JLA isn't ending, it's merely getting a few different members added to replace the fickle souls who depart this issue.
Superman? Busy on New Krypton. Wonder Woman? 'Obligations to Themyscira'. Red Arrow? Too busy moping over feckless girlfriend Hawkgirl. Hawkgirl? Flown off with Hawkman. Flash? Not fast enough to fit the JLA in alongside family and Titans. Black Lightning? Rejoined the Outsiders. Green Lantern? Formed his own JLA. Batman? Presumed dead - at least that's a decent excuse.
It's all terribly unconvincing. Since when does having their own book make a hero too busy for the JLA? This isn't the wartime JSA, when a character left the team on being promoted to their own title, giving their place up for someone who needed the exposure. I'll allow that Superman has a year-long story away from Earth, but Red Arrow gives no reason, he just refuses to accede to the pleas of leader Black Canary. That's Black Canary who nursed Roy through the toughest period of his life, when he was battling a drug habit. But Wonder Woman too busy with Amazon business? Since when? She's no longer an ambassador, and the Amazons are handling their own subplot nicely, far from her. And as acknowledged here, Flash spent a whole issue, less than a year ago, assuring Wonder Woman he could commit to the JLA.
Basically, it's new launches and big storylines scuppering the team - Green Lantern is leading the new James Robinson JLA, though it's demotion to mini-series status means he'll be available again soon. Black Lightning is indeed in Peter Tomasi's fine new Outsiders book. Superman has the New Krypton business. Batman is RIP. Wally will be busy with Flash: Reborn. Etc.
It's all very well, and I'm enjoying the other DCU books, but do we have to have a story in which so many people act out of character to motivate a changing of the JLA guard? There's no way in the world Hal Jordan would tell Dinah Lance she's a rubbish leader. Roy would not abandon her team without good reason. Diana has no reason to leave. And so on. It makes the characters look like fairweather friend losers. I'd far rather have an Avengers style 'old order changeth' type of story in which the members have a big meeting, some say they're busy and new folk are brought in for a while. That way we'd be spared the over-the-top melodramatics and personality gymnastics of this issue.
And I don't blame Dwayne McDuffie, who does a pretty good job of making super-lemonade. He juggles the scenes of Dinah being shat on by her supposed friends well enough. The opening confrontation between Dinah, Hal and Ollie is terrifically sparky - and allows artists Shane Davis and Sandra Hope to give us the splash page of the year - but are we really to believe Green Arrow would choose Hal over his wife? And does Dinah truly suppose Firestorm isn't ready for the League after all the times he's worked with them?
Is McDuffie not sick of writing a title that's never more a straw in the wind of DC sales stunts? Sure, he's getting to add at least one of his Milestone characters to the team, but is it really worth it? Maybe he has had enough, as next issue is written by Silver Age great Len Wein.
On the art side, I liked Davis's pencils, for the most part. I hate that he drew Superman in the nasty Superman Returns film suit, but I like that he's toned down his tendency to draw very blocky people. There are some lovely shots of individual characters. But he loses points for repeating the odd panel, with one changed element. And there seems to have been some miscommnication: Dinah and Roy have a scene in the holodeck-style Kitchen of the JLA satellite and he says it's recreating a park he and Kendra enjoyed. Yet Davis has drawn a graveyard, complete with Roy in mourning suit - I know he's missing Kendra, but really.
Page one has Zatanna talking to Dinah, but Davis has drawn Diana. I'm assuming this is a plot element I'm failing to understand as the previous panels show the JLA satellite, an explosion with the satellite absent, and are followed by Dinah/Diana acknowledging Zee's suggestion that she zoned out. Some Final Crisis moment I'm forgetting? Trinity fall-out? As Penelope Pitstop would say, HYALPPPP!