by James Robinson (writer), Mark Bagley (pencils), Rob Hunter (inks), Pete Pantazis (colors), and Rob Leigh (letters)

The Story: Someone dies, the remnants of the JLA discuss their future, and Despero attacks.

What’s Good: Even though it’s the death of an absolute z-lister, I really did like the opening scene this month. In providing a massive, faceless new enemy, it delivered that sense of foreboding danger that should be in the opening issue of any writer’s run. It felt meaningful and intense and promised good stuff to come.

Robinson also writes a powerful and likable Zatanna and her presence is probably the high point of the issue.  She’s just a lot of fun, light-hearted but also the undeniable heavy of the team at the moment. Robinson also does a good job on approaching Plas’ current predicament, including referencing his agelessness, limitations, and Plas’ own frustrations when he’s unable to act upon his creativity.

On art, Mark Bagley’s work is superb. This is basically the standard for the “modern DC superhero” look, and what better place for that than the JLA comic? It’s a bright, colorful, and pleasing comic full of youth, energy, and vitality. Bagley was definitely the right man for the job.

What’s Not So Good: Despite all this, this comic is something of a disaster zone. It’s not the fault of Bagley or Robinson, who outside of one atrocious punch-line by Despero, acquit themselves admirably.  Rather, this is a case of “wrong place, wrong time.”

The problem is that Robinson and Bagley are being thrown into a company-wide event before even managing to get through one issue. As a result, Robinson has far too much on his plate: the aftermath of Cry for Justice, McDuffie’s baggage, and leading in to a Blackest Night tie-in.

That said, his hands are also tied. Given that the Blackest Night tie-in will run for two months, his run won’t really start until January. As a result, he can’t fully introduce a new enemy. He can’t start his first arc. He can’t even introduce his JLA roster. He’s forced to give us 22 pages of chaos and water treading.

We get an utterly pointless and horribly familiar conversation about whether the JLA has a future or not. It’s one we’ve heard a million times and it’s without any real emotional impact or distinct flavor. It’s just the same tired material without nuance. It’s also more or less without consequence. Nothing changes and nothing is revealed thanks to the conversation. It’s just there to fill pages. Then we get a random, and I mean random attack by freaking Despero of all people. Huh? Where in the heck did that come from? Despero’s reasons are never explained and even if they were, it’d still be random. You can’t have a guy like Despero launch a surprise attack out of the blue with zero build-up.

Then BAM!  Blackest Night image of a zombie floating in the air!

Conclusion: This is a bad comic that still has hope for its run, given that none of it is Bagley or Robinson’s fault.

Grade: C –

-Alex Evans