JLA: The Tornado’s Path

By Brad Meltzer (W) and Ed Benes (A)
DC Comics, 2007, originally as issues 0-6. $24.99

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe Plot: After the Crisis, the year apart, etc., Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman decide to reunite the Justice League of America. As they flip through their handy DCU playing cards, selecting who to invite, a mysterious villain manipulates Red Tornado into giving up his robot body and becoming human. When heroes such as Hal Jordan, Black Canary, Arsenal, Black Lightning, Vixen and others become entangled in the plot, everything heads to a massive smackdown.

The Positives: As you may have read, not everyone here at Doomkopf thinks very highly of this latest iteration of the JLA. As I read the issues as they came out, I offered up plenty of criticism myself. I didn’t have a whole lot of desire to go back and re-read the issues all at once, but when DC sent the trade over I couldn’t really resist. Surprise, surprise, I actually enjoyed the book a lot. The decompressed writing (yeah, it took seven issues for the team to come together) is much less of a problem when reading this as a single unit.

Without that distraction, the book’s successes become much more apparent. Red Tornado’s search for humanity is touching. The villain’s plot is well crafted and a perfect parallel to Red Tornado’s storyline. The interplay between the big three as they plan the team is clever and fun. The fight scenes (of which there are many) all have a slick but spontaneous feel. Meltzer keeps a ton of storylines running all at once, like one of those carnival entertainers with all the spinning plates. Sure, there are a few wobbles here and there, but overall the many narratives move along cleanly.

Benes’ art is really good throughout. It’s just perfect superhero art, believable but over-the-top all at once. A funny note from the very worthwhile “commentary” bonus feature in the back: The opening page shows the chests (with symbols) of the big three. Meltzer notes that he had to tell Benes to make Wonder Woman’s breasts smaller twice, and they’re still pretty wondrous.

The Negatives: There’s no question that Meltzer has an amazing knowledge of the Justice League and their history. For my taste, he infuses just a bit too much of the group’s more trivial background. Most plot points involve some old JLA moment, so that it felt more like a book stuck in the past than really building toward something new.

I know Meltzer also loves to fracture the book into several parallel narratives, but the problem here is that it’s a team book. With so many disparate things going on at once, it doesn’t so much feel like a team as a collection of vignettes that only loosely tie together. That works in a way, because Meltzer is trying to show that despite the intentions of the big three, the JLA always comes together in a fairly anarchic fashion. But it’s just a bit too distracting. Particularly, in the later issues Geo-Force’s story starts popping up in the middle of tense moments and it does nothing but take me out of the story I was enjoying.

The Grade: B+ If I’d rated this arc based on the single issues, I probably would’ve given it a much lower score. As a trade, though, it’s a well written and well drawn take on the JLA (minus those damned Michael Turner covers). The re-reading also churned up some of the teases of things to come. I’m surprised Meltzer sprinkled out so many mysteries, seeing as he was only writing 12 issues, but it does make me curious about where the team’s headed (especially re: the 13 immortals). Also, I’ll go ahead and say that I really like the team. You’ve got a good range of powers and personalities, new heroes and old, race and gender. I’ll take that any day.