By James Robinson (writer), Mark Bagley (pencils), Rob Hunter, Scott Hanna, & Marlo Alquiza (inks), Pete Pantazis (colors), and John J. Hill (letters)

The Story: Dr. Light, Vixen, and Gypsy battle the Black Lantern versions of the former Dr. Light, Vibe, and Steel.

What’s Good: Mark Bagley continues to satisfy me with his output on Justice League.  All told, his characters have a cartoony, accessible, Saturday morning feel that’s very comfortable with the series, and unlike last month, there aren’t any botched facial expressions.

I also did rather enjoy Vibe and Steel’s continual calling out of Vixen and Gypsy, essentially calling them underpowered C-listers that no one cares about.  It only hurts, because, well, it’s kind of true.  It’s also in many ways an apt criticism of the JLA comic and a great segue into next month’s major roster shuffle.

What’s Not-so-Good: This may very well be the most offensive single comic I’ve read all year.

Having a group of three monstrous males terrorize and spend most of an issue overpowering three women is a naturally problematic scenario.  Indeed, when Gypsy spends most of the issue literally cowering and tearing up before a hulking, muscle-bound male character, that scenario becomes all the more glaring.

But, apparently, that sort of sexist terrorization and exploitation is exactly what Robinson is after.  The battle between Kimiyo and the former Dr. Light, which takes the most number of pages this month, is atrocious and grossly offensive.  Apparently, Dr. Light is a very unique Black Lantern.  You see, he doesn’t seem to actually want Kimiyo’s heart (and never once mention sit).  No, he just wants to rape her.  While he never mentions ripping hearts, he does mention his desire to rip her clothes off.  The fight is just one big rape fantasy.  Light continually uses rapist lingo, talking about Kimiyo’s own desire to be violated.  There’s even a VERY creepy page where he lecherously advances on an unconscious Kimiyo.

Oh, and to make it even better, Kimiyo has “degrading clothing” syndrome, as her outfit slowly burns away all issue until she’s completely nude by issue’s end.  Great.

Unfortunately, Robinson can’t stop at rape fantasies.  He also brings outright racism into the picture.  Dr. Light assails Kimiyo’s Japanese heritage, continually referring to her as a good “Geisha,” before making sweeping, hateful generalizations about the Japanese people that includes calling them all “drones.”

So we’ve got rape and racism in a JLA issue.  What the hell was Robinson thinking?  More aptly, how could any editor sign off on this?  It’s shameful, tasteless, inappropriate, unnecessary, and disgusting.

Meanwhile, Vibe is a painful, inconsistent read.  At times, he’s a standard bad guy, and at others, he’s a cringe-inducing, out-dated, cheesy, ethnic caricature that just isn’t funny.

The pacing of the issue also has severe problems.  The transitions are not only poor, they’re also non-existent.  We flow from scene to scene, and fight to fight, with neither links nor segues.  More or less every transition is jarring and sudden.  We’re just tossed around for 22 pages.

Even both good qualities about the comic have their downsides.  While the art is enjoyable, Bagley’s backgrounds are bland and often flat-out non-existent.  Most of the time it’s just flares of light or inky darkness, with very little else.

Meanwhile, the characters’ being C-listers unfortunately brings attention to the inherent flaws of the Blackest Night formula, that being that it really is a “formula.”  Old characters show up as a “surprise,” say a bunch of nasty things, detect emotions, then try to rip out hearts.  The fact that these are relatively minor heroes means that Robinson doesn’t really have the strong character histories needed to mask how derivative it all is.

Conclusion: Utterly appalling.  Don’t even give this a chance.

Grade: F

-Alex Evans