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Subj: Justice League #43 - Avoidance of the Supermen....
Posted: Wed Mar 25, 2020 at 03:56:15 am CDT (Viewed 128 times)
In these exceptionally trying times for the North-American comicbook industry the goings on in the pages of Justice League scarcely merit measure, Robert Venditti's four part story of racial terrorists descending on the Earth reaches its conclusion here and yet, disappointingly, never quite delivers any satisfying final confrontation or moral victory for the League, as after four issues the conclusion never stops being reliant on one-dimensional opponents and a succession of some of the worst kind of plot contrivances to get the Justice League to their ultimate victory.
So with its squad of augmented fanatical Daxamite fodder and a monotone inflexible Eradicator as their sole guide Venditti's thin tale of racial supremacy comes to hinge largely on the actions of that greatest of alien immigrants - Superman himself. As the League batter the ailing and rapidly depowering Daxamites to submission the Eradicator's response to the failures of his gambit is not to accept it's own position is flawed but to act on its failing by eliminating his Daxamite followers. With the League having recruited Madame Xanadu to move the battle to a remote planet with no Sun for at least twenty light years this is enough to deprive these genetically superior Daxamites of their vast powers and lends to the computer-minded Eradicator's power having no difficulty whatsoever in annihilating the near helpless fodder it brought into this situation... As a development it works to show the inhumanity of the machine-man's Kryptonian position certainly, an alien and inhuman take on Krypton's legacy that is counterpointed by a depowered Superman eventually stepping forward to selflessly offer his own blood to the Eradicator as it threatens the League's lives. But the execution of the scenes here, while nominally atypical of what we know Superman and his earthborn points of view to be, don't quite come off on the pages as particularly virtuous of him, as the immediate next scenes are of Wonder Woman taking full advantage of Superman's surrender to brutally eviscerate the distracted Eradicator from the rear - a moment of supposed virtuous selfless sacrifice from the Man of Steel is therefore nullified in its narrative and moral impact by the non chivalrous moment of a Sword wielding barbarian effectively 'murdering' the machine-man from the rear, and doing it in a way that even the famed Cimmeran Conan might find objectionable and unsatisfying... is this really what we expect, or want, from Wonder Woman? Is this level of sheer savagery something that her friends in the League are compliant with, the question here goes back to the 2011 revision of DCs superhero line with its far darker and more violent tones infecting even Superman himself at the time. But here in 2020 Diana's development has apparently never moved beyond that stage, unlike her friends in the League she has grown and learned not a jot by being immersed and exposed to their more considered and civilised example in the years since.
These ethics aside, the whole thing is too easy. While I enjoyed the simplicity of Robert Venditti's plot these last four issues this conclusion reads as disjointed and muddled in its execution, when the opposition is so completely one-dimensional and without a personality or complexity to it the story has to be reliant on plot, and the plot as I say is heavily dependent on convenience of the worst kind as the invaders are tricked through a magic portal to a more favourable battleground, we watch Batman conjure a magic "Power Glove" in order to battle these Superman-level juggernauts, and we have the laziest plot macguffin I have seen in quite some time with Venditti's assertion that Superman will lose his powers within mere minutes of being deprived of a nearby Yellow Star.
I shouldn't need to explain why that idea is absurd. Back in the Pre-1986 days there were writers who made use of the same idea, that if he was removed from the vicinity of a Yellow Sun Superman's powers would fade within minutes, but even back then the logic was absurd to any reader as it implicitly leads to the logical thought that all you have to do is lock Superman in a dark room! How does he manage when travelling between Galaxies to other worlds for example? Or adventuring beneath the earth? Robert Venditti takes no efforts to mediate on this point as what his Plot at hand here needs is for Superman to be depowered, and so he is depowered, never mind the fact that it conflicts not just common sense but also many years of established continuity.
It is all too easy. As Wonder Woman dismisses the Eradicator in a page by being utterly ruthless and non-negotiating I am left feeling no admiration for her, Superman at least offered some moral fibre in his willingness to unhesitatingly step forward and offer to self-sacrifice to save his friends, it is a display of morality that counterpoints the Eradicator's unwillingness to question its own logic, but Wonder Woman's approach is direct violence and effectively murdering an opponent. Not disable, but Murder.
And we can only wonder if Wonder Woman hadn't taken such an action, in the end, might the Eradicator have paused in its attack on Kal-el? As one of the last of Krypton's precious handful of survivors could the Eradicator have been forced to reconsider and re-evaluate its contradictory nature and programming? That at least would have been an interesting development, and far far more satisfying than what we in the end got - the actions of one selfless Kryptonian to save his friends demonstrating to this inflexible Eradicator the folly of its own thinking. And forcing it to reconsider its simple-minded outlook on the world and peoples around it. But none of this is ever considered by writer Robert Venditti, instead there is only the simplest of routes taken and a villain who is never anything more than one-note and thoroughly disposable.
And so as we are told the Green Lantern Corps were called in to mop up the dregs of the Daxamite front Robert Venditti's tale reaches its unsatisfying and muddled conclusion.
In a sense it reads as a first draft script. A first effort where the plot is laid out roughly but will need the rewrite and scripting to add actual depth to the characters and situation on the one level, and on another iron it all out into a more even and free-flowing affair. All of the elements are more of less there for Justice League #43 to be satisfying, but even with Superman's point of view as an Earth-raised Kryptonian and his (unwarranted) feelings of responsibility for the Eradicator's actions, the story ends without any due satisfaction for the reader. An all too easy dismissal of the moral and physical challenges the League were faced with means what we are left with is the brief character elements to appreciate - such as John Stewart's very welcome arrival back into the series, his self-confident take charge nature leading to unintentional clashes with the Batman's authority and standing in the League, the Flash's courage in ignoring his own troubles in order to be there for his friends, and even the potentially intriguing presence of Madam Xanadu as she is forced to re-evaluate her position in involving herself with the metahuman community.
But special mention has to go out to guest artist Doug Mankhe, a veteran Justice League contributor and Superman artist who delivers some of his strongest work here. The script isn't really deserving of the effort he gives this issues illustrations, but that effort does raise the issue above its actual story contents and as all good artists actually do for DC (and Marvel) he raises the value of the issue by his efforts. Justice League #43 looks terrific, thanks to Doug mankhe.
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