Saturday, March 28, 2009

Justice League #31 - A Review

In which a preview gets more attention from outraged fans than the actual story.

A lot of people are talking about this issue. Not because it foreshadows the up-coming (and long-delayed) James Robinson Justice League book. Not because of the Justice League disassembling... again.

No, they're talking about the first seven pages (well, six now that they've pulled the page where Wonder Woman was apparently drawn in place of Black Canary) of the new Justice League and the apparent exposure of Green Arrow's suffering at the hands of his abusive wife, Black Canary.

There's a lot of discussion out there about how horrible it is that one spouse punching the other is being played for laughs. There are several blog posts regarding how there is no way this kind of thing would be tolerated if the shoe were on the other foot and it were Ollie punching Dinah for embarrassing him. And there's also a considerable number of message board threads about Dinah's "homophobic" slam of the Ollie/Hal relationship.

Most of this discussion is, to my mind, a lot funnier - in the ironic sense - than this scene.

Yes, spousal abuse in any form is wrong. Yes, Dinah is a trained martial artist who could easily kill Ollie with her bare hands if she wanted too. And read straight, this whole scene is a horrifying indictment of a relationship where a man is beaten repeatedly by an abusive wife and his best friend witnesses this and just laughs it off, going so far as to say “you deserve to be beaten.”

Nevertheless, there's no real malicious intent here - just three old friends who, because they are so close, will crack jokes that only they could get away with, even in the middle of an argument.

Dinah even says as much - “You don’t get to joke about this, Hal” - when Hal tells Ollie “She doesn’t even know about half the stuff you’ve done.” Later, she tells Ollie that he can't joke his way out of this when he remarks, after Dinah accuses him of not supporting her, "You've got my support. I'm just offering Hal my quiver.... you know, maybe there IS a little homoerotic tension in our relationship."

But seriously: does anyone out there really think Hal Jordan would stand by and make jokes if he thought anybody was actually in actual physical danger? Does anyone - with the exception of Andrew Kreisberg. - believe Dinah Lance lacks the control and ability to hit a grown man with just enough force to knock him down without bruising him? Does anyone - with the exception of Judd Winick - think someone as willful and quick-tempered as Oliver Queen is just going to lie there and take a real beating?

I doubt it. And yet, that doesn’t take away from the fact that - no matter what the intent - this whole scene isn't funny.

It isn't funny because we’re supposed to be amused by a man being beaten up by his wife. Ignoring the abuse angle and the fact that Dinah could seriously injury Ollie if she wanted too, it still doesn't work as comedy. This is still negative reinforcement of stereotyped gender roles. I.E. "Ha-ha! You got beaten up by a girl!"

And the fact that this is coming from Hal Jordan, who has gotten his butt handed to him on numerous occasions by Star Sapphire is kind of funny. But not in the way McDuffie intended.

It looks bad anyway you slice it though. The art says action even as the dialogue says comedy and I can think of a thousand ways that the intent could have been made a lot clearer. Have it made more clear that Dinah sucker-punched Ollie in the stomach to knock the wind out of him rather than having him depicted as being knocked off his feet. Put more of a playful gleam into Dinah's eye after Ollie's crack about hoping for some rough sex. Even having Ollie say “Yes, Mistress” sarcastically after Dinah says “Don’t make me smack you again.” would help even if it did inspire a new wave of fanfic I’d rather not read.

And yet, despite all this, I’d still rather have McDuffie writing Green Arrow/Black Canary instead of Judd Winick or Andrew Kreisberg.

So now that THAT is out of the way, how does the rest of the issue play out? Not so good.

Hal gives voice to a several thousand disgruntled Justice League fans and notes, in describing the last 2 1/2 years of story-lines that "We haven't saved the world. We haven't even protected it... We've done nothing."

Personally, I think this is a bit harsh given that they DID fight The Legion of Doom, who probably would have wound up endangering the world a bit had they not decided to kill The Justice League first... but still fairly accurate given that all of Meltzer's run involved personal non-world-treatening business and even McDuffie's plots were continually side-lined by The Crossover Of The Week.

Dinah goes to talk to Barbara Gordon, who says - long friendship between Dinah and Hal completely ignored - that Hal is a jerk who has no respect for Dinah and that he'd never pull the "form a new JLA" stunt on Bruce or Clark, leading me to wonder just when did bluefall start ghostwriting Oracle dialogue for Dwayne McDuffie?

(Actually, if bluefall were writing this, it would be better written, Ollie probably would have died on page 4 and the issue would have ended with Barbara and Dinah in a honeymoon suite in Massachusetts.)

We then get a montage of Dinah asking other League members on if they are going to stay in the wake of everything that happened during Final Crisis. The short answers are...

Hawkgirl - now shacking up with Hawkman. Still on the team, for now.

Red Arrow - depressed after being dumped by Hawkgirl for Hawkman, he quits and tells Hawkman (who apparently wants to rejoin) that he can have his slot, which leads to a dirty joke Roy immediately apologizes for voicing to Dinah.

The Flash - despite not actually having been on the team for more than a few seconds, Wally says he hasn't got the time what with raising two kids who are as fast as he is AND being on The Titans.

Wonder Woman - busy with events on Themyscria. No detail is given past this, but it is no shock to those of us who have been reading her book.

Superman - busy with things on New Krypton. Again, no surprise for those reading his books.

Black Lightning - Sir Not Appearing In This Issue, we are told that he - per Batman's wishes in the event of his death - has quit the JLA to take over running The Outsiders.

Red Tornado - not returning Dinah's calls.

This leaves Dinah with John Stewart, Vixen, Zatanna (who may or may not be on the team and was mostly there as a favor to Bruce) and Dr. Light (who has only been on the team since last issue). Faced with four bickering teammates who are torn between trying to reconcile with Hal and his new group and trying to beat some sense into Hal and his group, Dinah announces - to the shock of everyone - that she is dissolving the JLA.

Of course there's another issue solicited for next month so we know that this isn't really the end of the JLA, especially with James Robinson's book not due out until summer. So this cliff-hanger is ultimately as meaningless as most of this book.

Still, there are some things about this book that don't suck. While a lot of McDuffie's attempts at humor fall flat, the lines that do work, such as Dinah's comment on how The Fortress of Solitude isn't easy to get to and Clark's reply that "that's sort of the point", are pretty good. A lot of the character moments, especially the Dinah/Roy scene, are quite enjoyable. And the artwork by Shane Davis is a lot better than the Ed Benes pin-up work that has been par for the course on this title for too long.

The Final Word: A rather forgettable issue that has gotten a lot more attention than it deserves thanks to a rather inappropriate and nonsensical attempt at humor in its' opening pages. All the more unfortunate and nonsensical since the book is basically setting up a series that won't be coming out for at least another two months, if that. Decent artwork and a few good character moments but not much else. Hal Jordan says it best in describing The League's recent lack of action - "We haven't saved the world. We haven't even protected it... We've done nothing."


  1. Sending Ollie to a woman shelter (Is there a version of this for men?) aside, the part that I disliked the most was Hal's speech. It's one thing to know that the book is kinda crappy, but the book should have some pride and pretend otherwise. But when Hal Jordan tells you he thinks the book is crappy too... then what is going on?? Obviously McDuffie knows the book is crap, Hal knows the book is crap. Why not fix it? I know it's not all in his hands, but don't tell me it's crap if you can't do anything about it!

  2. I see that line:
    Hal: She doesn’t even know about half the stuff you’ve done.
    And then think about what he HAS done that she knows about... like making her think that SIN DIED FOR THREE DAYS and then secreting her away where she cannot find her, and then I twitch violently and want to smash something.
    Because women aren't sexy if they're mommies, and without the sexy, they can't sell. (grumbles mutters frakking curses)
    I honestly don't like how Dinah is treated as violent like this when, so far as *I* know mind you, she's not been portrayed like this. She always struck me as rather calm in this kind of situation, considering she could mop the floor with just about anyone in the DC universe if she wanted.

  3. Pretty much yeah.
    ... *blinks* Oh wait! I just took out the embarrasement thingie in that punch out scene and replaced it with kidnapping Sin and hiding her away! The scene is great now! It works! ;_; I've found my happy thought!
    Ugh, I've heard plenty bad about Judd Winnik and his penchant for writing, especially after seeing his new Teen Titans comic as reviewed by Linkara. At least we have TT Go, the animated series, and a few brief scenes of Dr. Light in the DCAU Justice League.
    Seriously? Left for dead on a hospital floor?! UGH!
    And seriously, the OLD Ollie would do that?! And he STILL has fans? What the blooming heck? o.O
    *sigh* I just want Dinah back with Oracle (and married), having fun (and married), and written by Gail Simone (and married). In the meantime, i'll just assume she's a skrull.