Friday, June 17

Justice League of America #57 (7/11)

“Eclipso Rising, Part Four: Wrath & Vengeance”

This has not been the best of times for the Justice League, either as a title or as a team. As far as the title goes, I've enjoyed it overall, but without the “Big Guns” (Superman, Bruce Wayne Batman, Wonder Woman) it just doesn't seem like the “Justice League” (this Batman is Dick Grayson, whom I've come to love in the role, but still...). It has been an interesting experiment by James Robinson, to fill the League with second-tier “analogues” of the “Big Seven” in Dick, Donna Troy (for Wonder Woman), and Supergirl for her cousin (but she's been written over into another story line and hence is absent in this issue and presumably for the ending stretch), along with second- (and lower-) tier heroes such as a Blue Lantern (do I need to explain?), Mikaal Tomas Starman (the alien, like Martian Manhunter), Jesse Quick (for the Flash), and Congorilla … Congorilla--?!  (I guess, sort of like Aquaman - animal related in some way.)  (Some may quibble at my ranking Dick, Donna, and Supergirl as "second-tier," but frankly ask anyone who Batman is and who are they going to say?)  And Robinson's not been shy about throwing them against first-class threats – the Crime Syndicate (evil alternate-universe analogues of the Big Seven), and here Eclipso … Eclipso--?! Sorry, I never really got that character, no matter how threatening he's been written, he just doesn't seem higher than C-list. Oh well. It was apparent that this incarnation of the League was not long for this world even before the Big Announcement, further back in mid May when the on-line solicitation descriptions for books to ship in August proclaimed that issue #60 would have this team “fac[ing] an uncertain future” and “decid[ing] whether they have anything left to offer the DC Universe.” I guess not. (Incidentally, I see from the solicited cover image that Supergirl will be around for that final issue of the pre-Flashpoint series.)

Anyway, in this issue, Eclipso keeps rising as he will until they figure out a way to take him down. (You know they will.) His endgame is finally revealed – basically, he is some kind of Fallen Angel, and he wants to kill God. I like how Robinson nods toward DC's oft-used euphemism for God, “The Presence” - while openly acknowledging the identity of The Presence as God, most notably as I remember it, but not exclusively, in Congorilla's shocked protest, “He's planning to murder God? That's insane!” How does Eclipso plan to do that? (Okay – this is not theology here – it's a comic book universe playing by its own made-up-as-they-go-along rules) Robinson plays on the recently emphasized centrality of the Earth in the DC universe. “God loves no one without a reason,” Eclipso proclaims – and it seems that reason is pretty selfish, that God subsists on the love returned to him by the universe and that love is channeled through the Earth. (Say again, this is not theology here....) So he plans to destroy the Earth. First he destroys (right – this is a comic book, he'll be back I'm sure) God's Agent of Vengeance, the Spectre, taking his power – then he uses that power to split the Moon in two. An interesting way he paces this on the last couple of pages is to have Eclipso hearken to the Qur'an just before the reader flips to the last full-page image - “the End of Days” - showing the Moon cracking in half with a big “To Be Continued” tag. And indeed, Surah 54:1 reads, “The Hour of Doom is drawing near, and the moon is cleft in two” (The Koran, trans. N. J. Dawood, Penguin Classics, p. 374).

All that takes place in an extended fight/debate between Eclipso, his human host-body Bruce Gordon, and the Spectre (until he's “cleft in two”) …. What do our heroes do? Tell you the truth, not much of anything. They talk. And not much more. They better get it in gear, for God's sake! (Actually, Robinson uses a similar bad joke in the story....)

All in all, an … interesting … issue. Brett Booth's art looked good. Nothing spectacular, but good enough. Depending on how it's pulled off, and depending on exactly what story/continuity changes are wrought in September, and depending on whether Geoff Johns and Jim Lee can really pull off a monthly title given their other duties at DC, the return of the Big Seven (except for Martian Manhunter, apparently) is something I'm tentatively looking forward to.

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