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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Graphic Novels - Justice League of America: The Tornado's Path

This installment… of Graphic Novels… is brought to you by… some guy named Ryell Williams.

(If you’ve read any of Brad Meltzer’s run on JLofA, you’ll see what I’m making fun of.)

Welcome back the Justice League Month. This time, I’m stepping out of the 20th century and am entering the 2000’s with the re-launched series, Justice League of America. This  series came out around 2006/2007. My comic buying was pretty sporadic at this time. The walk from campus to The Outer Limits was a long one and I had other things to spend my money on. When I heard they were re-launching the book, I decided I would try this series out. I bought the zero issue and issue 1. I didn’t stick with it much though mostly because of funds, but I did get some later issues from this series. Today’s post will cover #1-7.  I’ll also browse over #0 (which isn't in the trade for some dumb reason) and a couple things you might need to know about this era of the League.

On the outset, this might be my favorite version of the League. You have the popular heroes like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and GL. You also have lesser known heroes like Black Lightning, Vixen, and Arsenal aka Red Arrow. Yes, Black Lightning is on the JLA and it’s about time. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long because some idiot decided to ship him back to the Outsiders for some dumb reason. Anyway, this version of the League really reminds me of the League from the 1970’s.

The writer for the first 13 issues of the series is author Brad Meltzer. Meltzer has written on books like Green Arrow and has even written his own novels. He’s also well known for a 2004 miniseries called Identity Crisis. I have no opinion on that series, but I’ve heard that it has a mixed reception with fans. The penciller for the issues is Ed Benes. He’s been drawn on books like Superman, Birds of Prey, Supergirl, and Captain Marvel. I also know that he is mostly known for drawing fine women… I think I might like this. The inker is Sandra Hope and she’s been an inker for a lot of DC’s comics. Well, with that out of the way, let’s see how this new league was formed…

Justice League: The Tornado's Path
Writer: Brad Meltzer
Pencils: Ed Benes
Inker: Sandra Hope

Previously,
Because of things that happened around the time of Infinite Crisis, the JLA disbanded. Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman were pretty upset at one another for reasons I basically covered a few years ago. They were able to work through their problems and decided to meet up in one year. One Year Later (pun intended), the three heroes meet up at the Batcave to re-band the Justice League.

Part 1
The story begins as the Trinity (S, B, and WW) sit in the Batcave and go through photos of potential JLA candidates. They pretty much spend the next three issues doing this… fun. We then move around and see the other potential Leaguers are doing.  Jefferson Price (Black Lightning) is using his political influence to get information on the disappearance of villains. For a while, he was an advisor on Ex-President Lex Luthor’s council. At a gym, Roy Harper (Arsenal) and Green Lantern Hal Jordon are catching up on old times. In Hub City, Mari McCabe (Vixen) is apparently trying get the hook-up with the Question (weird...) when she is lured into a trap by Plastique and the Electricutioner.

The main focus of the story, Red Tornado (John Smith or "Reddy"), is struggling with the decision on inhabiting a human shell instead of his android one. He wants to do this for his girlfriend, Kathy, and their adopted daughter, Traya. With the help of the hero Deadman, John is able to permanently bond with a souless human body. He’s even able to use his powers in this new body. After he leaves the morgue, “Deadman” is revealed to be a disguised Felix Faust. He tells his employer that Red Tornado’s android body is now theirs for the taking. As John heads home to greet his family in his new body, Will Magnus’s lab is attacked and the android body is taken by some villain named Mr. Impossible.

Part 2
At the Rockies, Professor Ivo is trying to take apart the android body and modify it. Word gets out on the abducted android body, so Black Canary, GL, and Arsenal follow the villains’ traces to the Rocky Mountains. Before they can question Ivo, they are attacked by multicolored versions of Red Tornado. Meanwhile, Black Lightning is following leads he’s gotten from former villains. He heads to a hideout in his civilian attire. Unfortunately, he didn’t expect the Parasite to be there. The villain recognizes his energy signature as Dr. Impossible and another villain called Trident teleport into the room. In Hub City, Vixen is attacked by the two villains. Her totem, the device that she uses in order to use the abilities of animals, is taken. The two villains teleport out of the bar they’re at and the place explodes.

Yep, they do this for about three to four issues. At least the banter is funny.

Part 3
When John learned his android body was taken, he suited up and left home. He heads to the gravesite of Boston Brand (Deadman) and tries to get some answers from the dead hero. Instead, The Phantom Stranger shows up and tells Red Tornado to find himself… yeah, the Phantom Stranger’s weird like that. Red Tornado uses a beacon from Magnus’s lab to find his android body. At the Rockies, BC, GL, and Arsenal tangle with the duplicate androids. They’re able to win the battle by finding the duplicates’ fail-safe button. In Hub City, Vixen was able to get herself out of the rubble. Unfortunately, her powers start to go out of control without her Totem.

In St. Roch, Dr. Impossible and Trident attack and freeze Parasite. Black Lightning tries to intervene, but he gets into a fight with Trident and Dr. Impossible. He’s able to knock out Trident, but Dr. Impossible teleports to the Rockies with the frozen Parasite. Black Lightning then gets some help from Hawkgirl who happens to be in her neighborhood. While searching the villain, the two heroes find a small Starro device and decide that it’s time to get Batman involved. They head over to the Batcave. In Ivo’s lab, Ivo uses the totem, a piece of Parasite, and the android body in order to rebuild the power-stealing android, AMAZO.

Part 4
At the Cave, they try to remove the Starro star from Trident’s neck. They end up finding out that it’s actually a piece of machinery instead of being organic. Batman realizes that they’ll need to reactivate the device in order to find the headquarters. Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Black Lightning and Hawkgirl get ready to head out. We then see Vixen flying with birds and it looks like she’s pretty much screwed without the totem. We then catch up with Red Tornado traveling to the Rockies while talking to Kathy. She’s worried that she’ll lose Reddy forever since he’s now a man. Elsewhere, Brion Markov's (Geo-Force) is apparently attacked by some one. Luckily, he survives.

Man, even Black Lightning is looking awesome in his suit.

At the Rockies, GL, BC, and Arsenal attack are able to attack Electricutioner, Plastique, Dr. I, and Professor Ivo. The heroes find out that most of the villains are being controlled by Starro devices, so they’re able to take them out easily. Ivo reveals that he wanted Reddy’s body so he could upgrade AMAZO. The heroes try to stop AMAZO from activating, but they’re too late. AMAZO (with the help of Vixen’s totem and Parasite’s… arm) uses the powers of the Justice League toe race out of there. Red Tornado makes it to the base as AMAZO leaves. Reddy starts to ask for questions when he is punched hard by the mastermind of this plot: a smart Solomon Grundy.

Part 5
It’s revealed to Hal, Dinah, and Roy, and a hurting Reddy that Solomon Grundy’s back and talking normally. He tells them that he planned all of this in order to transfer his mind into AMAZO’s body. Every time he returns from the dead, his personality is different, so he wants to stay immortal and keep his intelligence.  The heroes are reluctant to help him but they realize that AMAZO is a greater threat. Elsewhere, AMAZO’s memories get mixed with Reddy’s memories and it starts to think that it is Reddy. It starts to fly to Kathy’s home. In Markovia, we catch up with Brion getting tested on.
Young boy: Wow, some hot chick just fell out of the sky and is talking to me! This is awesome!

Elsewhere, Vixen is has given into being a bird. Luckily, she’s able to remember what happened to her. She’s able to get control of herself by latching onto the human animal instead of other animals. When she’s back to her senses, she sets out to find the totem. At the Rockies, everybody (minus Vixen) meets up and plans to deal with AMAZO. Roy takes a look at Hawkgirl and is smitten. When it is revealed that AMAZO may have Reddy’s memories, they know that he is probably heading to Kathy’s house.

Part 6
Ivo points them towards a transporter and the League teleports to Kathy’s house as AMAZO makes it to the house. Luckily, Kathy isn’t stupid and deals with AMAZO in a cool way: Big Barda’s Mega Rod. Reddy is about to head through the portal when Grundy stops him from going through it. Grundy wants to make sure that Reddy doesn’t get his body back by killing him.

As Grundy and Reddy start to fight at the Rockies, the heroes take on AMAZO in Kathy’s yard. Knowing that AMAZO can take them out, the Soon-to-be-League try to efficiently take out AMAZO. Reddy’s not too lucky because while he has powers, he is still frail. He tries to use his powers, but they are beginning to fail on him. Elsewhere, Vixen finally has a scent on her totem and heads to it. In Markovia, Brion decides to head to Gotham City because he’s beginning to lose it mentally.

Yep, Amazo still looks ridiculous even with this good artwork.

AMAZO starts to recover from its injuries and starts to take on the whole League. Since he can absorb their powers, he’s definitely a match for them. Luckily, Roy is able to damage the android by hitting the totem. Vixen feels the hit and is able to find her totem and take out AMAZO in awesome fashion. At the Rockies, Reddy gets pretty messed up by Grundy. Grundy rips off one of Reddy’s arms… I’ll save my opinion on that for later. While the portal from Kathy’s house is open, the League can’t go through and Kathy watches as Grundy almost kills Reddy. Luckily, Reddy powers come back and he’s able to kill Grundy. The League are able to crack open the portal and get to a near-death Reddy. Reddy tells them to put him back into his android body.

Part 7: Epilogue
This is pretty much the wrap-up to the overall arc. Every hero who participated in the fight with Grundy and AMAZO is invited to join the Justice League of America. All of them accept the offer. Roy is given a suit by Hal (it actually came from Ollie) and he decides to go by the name Red Arrow. We also get a tour of the new Hall of Justice (just called the Hall) and the new Watchtower. In Gotham City, Brion talks to Jefferson about the attack. Brion also reveals to Jeff that he may caused the attack and he is beginning to develop his dead sister’s (Terra) abilities.
Now that is a room I really, really want!

In the end, they all meet on the Watchtower. Roy and Hawkgirl start to flirt with each other. They all gather for a quick photo. Afterwards, we see Batman and Black Lightning in the Batcave. They are trying to find out the identity of Trident. In a pretty big WTC moment, it’s revealed to be… The Karate Kid!!! And no, I’m not talking about the Ralph Macchio or the Jaden Smith varieties either.


……………………………………………………………………..

This is a pretty good arc. Is it perfect? No, but the flaws are few and far between. The story is pretty good. It’s basically another restoration of the League. Luckily, it does have more than that. The main heroes like Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern take a back seat. It’s the subplots that involve Black Lightning, Vixen, and Red Tornado that are in the front especially Red Tornado’s. Reddy's story is basically Pinocchio with a pretty dark and sad end. It sucks because when he is finally able to be a man for Kathy and their adopted daughter, it gets taken away from him pretty quickly. All of the Leaguers were in character and I liked the banter between all of them.

The villains were pretty good. What really stole the show was Solomon Grundy. His reasons for this whole plan actually make sense. It’s a twist you really don’t see until he shows up and it's a new take on the villain. For those who don’t know, when ever he comes back from the dead, his personality changes. We even get a reference of his pretty child-like self from Starman. The other villains were okay, but I thought AMAZO was handled well. You kind of get worried there when he starts to access Red Tornado’s memories and personality.  His fight with the League was pretty awesome.

The artwork was really well done. The action scenes were epic and everyone looked right. One thing Benes is good at is action. The inks and colors are also well done. I especially love the layouts to the issues. If I had one issue with the art, it would be  some of the violence. Most of it's not too bad, but the scene that grates me is the “disarming” of Red Tornado. I just thought it was too gruesome. I mean, you see the bone and everything. I’m like “Eugh” with that panel.

Then, there are his women. You knew this was coming. Just look at the art! The women looked… HOT! There are also the occasion cheesecake shots you see every once in a while. It’s almost like a Michael Bay movie. The immature man in me says “Oh Yeah!” while the more mature, civilized man says “Hmm... that’s a bit much.” There’s also the fact that his women tend to come in the same body shape and face shape. It’s like they were manufactured by Mattel (TM) or something. Now, as I said, I do like the art work here. These things here are just nitpicks.

In the end, it’s a nice arc from  Meltzer's pretty short run. Since his run was so short, I’m definitely going to look at the rest of his 12/13-issue run on the book now that I have all of those issues. After his run ended, the late Dwayne McDuffie came on for a considerable amount of time. I have some of those issues. After he “left” (he was actually kicked off, I believe), Len Wein did a few issues. James Robinson then stepped in and stayed on until the book’s end. I may take a look at the rest of these post-Meltzer stories one day.

Well, it looks like I now have to either step into the TARDIS or wait for my Alternate Reality TV Remote to charge up because we are going into a completely new continuity. Next time, it’s the origin of the Justice League from DC’s New 52 phase… God, help us all.

NEXT TIME:  REBOOT... NO, I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT THAT AWESOME SHOW FROM THE 1990's!!!!!

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