Review: Justice League of America: The Injustice League collected hardcover (DC Comics)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Much as I was looking forward to Dwayne McDuffie's post Justice League Unlimited work on the main comic book series, I unfortunately found myself disappointed. There are certainly some bright spots to Justice League of America: The Injustice League, but for the most part I found it lacking in depth and even much characterization beyond the surface level. Some might argue that Brad Meltzer spent too much time exploring the emotions and history of the Justice League, but I found McDuffie's first arc in contrast to be too much story and not enough meaning.

McDuffie offers a plot here that's not terribly different from Justice League stories past, in which the DC Universe villains form a counterpart Injustice League to take revenge on the heroes. McDuffie does a nice riff on Meltzer's "trading cards" membership drive from Justice League of America #0--with Lex Luthor, the Joker, and Cheetah in the roles of the Big Three--and there's a cheap thrill in the villains calling themselves "Injustice League Unlimited" and meeting in the Hall of Doom--ultimately McDuffie's plot comes off as uninspired.

The similarities between the Justice and Injustice Leagues--which is always a fun element, as in Grant Morrison's JLA: Rock of Ages--end here with the Big Three. In addition, though many scenes and cover images promise a near veritable army of villains to take on the League, the climactic scene offers only a handful, and of these few real powerhouses or headliners--they fight Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze, for instance, while Circe, Bizarro, Zoom and others never show up.

Moreover, Injustice League lacked a real sense of DC Comics history. Black Lightning makes reference to having worked for Lex Luthor, but the two never actually have a meaningful confrontation; similarly, John Stewart makes a passing reference to Fatality having a Sinestro Corps ring, though McDuffie hardly differentiates her otherwise from any of the other generic villains present. Wonder Woman faces off against Giganta and Cheetah, but makes no mention of their long histories; neither does Hawkgirl show any recognition of Shadow Thief. In the end, it seems less like DC heroes versus DC villains than a cookie cutter superhero showdown, and I expect more from Justice League of America.

Probably the best chapter of Injustice League is the first, where McDuffie weaves the Injustice League's initial attack in and around the events of Green Arrow/Black Canary: The Wedding Album. Like The Wedding Album, the story offers an interesting take on the logistics of how hospitals handle injured superheroes; as well, I'm pleased to see McDuffie folding that injured hero, Firestorm, into the Justice League.

I did appreciate that McDuffie picks up on Meltzer's trailing plotlines, offering a nice scene between Vixen and Superman about her missing powers, and also acknowledging Red Tornado's troubles. At the same time, McDuffie's seems hardly to know what to do with Geo-Force, knocking the character out early on and giving him barely a line the rest of the time. As well, though I like having John Stewart in the League, it robs us of the Hal Jordan/Red Arrow relationship that was at the center of Meltzer's initial League. And I also felt new chairman Black Canary got short shrift in the story, with her decisions often superseded by Superman, Batman, and John Stewart among others.

McDuffie's still going strong on the League as of this review, so there's plenty of time for me to warm up to his writing. Here's hoping I like the next one better than this!

[Contains full covers.]

On back now to Countdown, I think, and we'll see where we go from there.
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