Justice League of America: The Lightning Saga TPB Review

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In second major outing of the current Justice League, the team joins up with the Justice Society of America to find several time-lost members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, help them regain their memories, and find out what exactly their mission to our time was about.

This book contains issues of both “Justice League of America” and “Justice Society of America,” so it technically serves as the second trade paperback for both series.  Both series writers, Brad Meltzer and Geoff Johns, were on hand to pen the story, which was firmly entrenched in a lot of the pre-“Final Crisis” buildup.

And that is why this book was so tough to read.  This story had more continuity entanglements than anything I’ve read in a long time.  Not only did you need to have some idea of what was going on with the JLA and JSA already, you also got hit with the Legion of Super-Heroes, pre-“Crisis on Infinite Earths” continuity, and some of the fallout from “Infinite Crisis” and “Countdown.”

I have a pretty good knowledge of the DC Universe up until about a year or so ago.  I’ve read a lot of DC Comics over the last decade, not only new stuff but old, too.  And there were times while reading this book that I barely understood what was going on.  I can’t go into a lot of details without spoiling some key plot points, but suffice it to say if you haven’t been keeping up-to-date on all things DC, you could easily be lost trying to figure out what was happening.  You shouldn’t need a doctorate in DC history to read a trade paperback, especially since the theory behind trades is to give the reader a complete story in one sitting.  And I can see this book alienating a lot of new readers, or even turning off readers who don’t have the extensive knowledge of the DC Universe that many power players at DC have.  This book, unfortunately, is a prime example of a lot of things that are wrong with mainstream comics, and DC in particular, these days.

That said, the last few stories in this book were actually very good, mostly because they were standalone stories that didn’t tie into “The Lightning Saga,” but instead were more of what Brad Meltzer was building on during his year with the JLA.  The first story, “Walls,” featured no other characters but Red Arrow and Vixen as they tried to get out of a damaged building sinking in the Potomac River.  It was very claustrophobic, very tense, and a very good character piece that proves you don’t need a lot of action, characters, or sets to create a good suspense story.

The second story, “Monitor Duty,” showed different members of the team over the course of a day as they take turns on Monitor Duty.  It was another great character piece, as members of the team dealt with their insecurities, growing alienation to the world around them, or the unique ways they handle villains when they aren’t punching each other.

Finally, the last story in the book, issue 0, was actually the first in Meltzer’s run.  It showed the highs and lows Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have had over the course of their many years on the Justice League, interspersed with “flash forwards” to coming stories in the DC Universe, and culminating with the three of them preparing to reform the league after too long apart.  Again, the continuity weighed this one down slightly, but it wasn’t close to being the detriment it was in the main story.

I wanted to like this book, I really did.  I’ve been a fan of the JSA for a long time now, but the main story had too many missteps that took away not only from the excellent solo stories here, but from the good I’ve associated with the JSA for years now.

Stars out of five:  Two

Dry slaps out of five:  Two

Posted by Luke

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