Carrying over directly from “Brightest Day” #7, this issue checks in with Max Lord, as the White Lantern warns him, “Stop the war before it starts.” Max may have very little to say about the warning, however, as the former Justice Leaguers decide to bring the battle to Max and invade the headquarters of Checkmate.
This issue marks the first issue Winick is writing without any credited contribution from Giffen. The end result is amazingly indistinguishable from what preceded this issue with Giffen’s contribution. Winick still plays Rocket Red as a lame reinterpretation of Yakov Smirnoff. Additionally, Blue Beetle is portrayed as quite timid, contrary to what has been established for the character to this point. The attack on the Checkmate headquarters is treated as an unknown quantity, which is unsettling, as Checkmate certainly has record of Captain Atom’s powers and abilities. This issue makes it seem as though the work Greg Rucka poured into the “Checkmate” series was unwelcome and easily dispensed with. The end result, for me, is a “foe” that is less of the powerhouse adversary it should be and more of a threat on par with Rumaan Harjavti (from the original Bwah-ha-ha days). This confrontation seems like a sidebar to what should be an interesting tale.
The story is moving forward, sure, but it’s doing so in a sloppy and unengaging manner.
Bennett’s art is slightly better than average, but has room for improvement. The variances in the Rocket Red armor for the Leaguers is sometimes a challenge to translate (if Fire’s ponytail wasn’t outside of her helmet, she’d be indiscernible from Ice) and the story itself gets murky and clunky at points throughout this issue.
I originally had high hopes for this series, as I quite enjoyed “Justice League” and “Formerly Known as Justice League.” Without Giffen, DeMatteis, or Maguire, however, this series is not as enticing as it could be. Seven issues have drawn out the “We have to stop Max Lord” story quite significantly and dulled my interest and hope for this book. This series is swiftly becoming a how-to for decompressed storylines. It’s time for this series to step up and deliver a bit more. Put this team against Max. Let the fireworks fly, let these characters fight. Until that happens, this series is going to seem like it is just marking time until the next event or announcement.