With the high-water mark of “Justice Society of America” #41 in the rearview mirror, the James Robinson/Mark Bagley team continues the tale of the Starheart through a cacophony of narrational boxes in the voices of no fewer than four different characters. I found this to be a bit of a distraction, working against my enjoyment of the page as a whole, and the drawing in particular. The overall effect is akin to a magician’s sleight of hand, drawing your attention to one thing -- the narrationals -- while the action (Bagley’s art) moves along without much ado.
Sadly, the first third of this book is just that, a story without much ado. Through the magic of Mister Miracle (Shiloh Norman) and Jade, Batman’s strike force is able to penetrate the stalwart defenses of the Starheart. Once the story shifts gears back to a possessed Alan Scott along with Doctor Fate and Obsidian, the adventure gets back on track. Robinson and Bagley are still trying to stuff in appearances from across the DC Universe, but this issue has fewer of those, as the focus is on the team attacking the Starheart.
Bagley’s work on “Justice Society of America” struck me as a high point for his work with the League, but this issue seems to be a bit of a letdown. Conclusions can be drawn and dispersions cast upon inkers or colorists, as those are the different elements between last issue and this one, or it could simply be that Bagley’s work is inconsistent. He is, after all, drawing five issues that are set to be released over the span of three (or less) months.
The backup tale featuring the budding bromance between Cyborg and Red Tornado ends in a mechanical standoff, effectively taking the action no further than the first page of the first installment of this tale in the last issue of “JLA.” How they got to that opening point is revealed though, and I find myself hopeful that both mechanical men will find their way back to the front half of this title soon.
I did drop this book in front of the box fan for a summer read awesomeness test, and it came up a little low on awesomeness. It is still a very enjoyable story, but Robinson chooses to advance the story and in doing so narrows the scope of this issue. He drops another surprise character at the end of this issue that is sure to bring awkwardness next issue.
This middle installment seems to have slowed down the overall story a bit, in an almost decompressionary move. There’s action waiting to happen here. There are decisions to be made and fights to be fought. What happens from here can either find more awesomeness or less. It’s all up to Robinson and Bagley.