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I wish I could say steps are being taken to advance the plot in Justice League International – even baby steps would be something. Instead, just like last issue, nothing happens to further the plot. The only benefit is some narration from Godiva, and even that is misplaced! For a series that only has three more issues to live, Justice League International #9 does nothing to make the series memorable or important.
After an attack against the JLI that left one member dead and three in the hospital with injuries, the JLI are about to go after the super criminals behind the bombing – until they run into a ferocious O.M.A.C. Even if they defeat finhead, the team now needs to acknowledge their “International” role and go to Paris to stop another attack.
O.M.A.C. makes a time-consuming appearance. He is this issue. All the characters do is fight him. At first, it seems like a misunderstanding, which would have been very frustrating considering how much time the fight against O.M.A.C. and the JLI (Batwing included) took. The actual fight was done well, and I especially enjoyed seeing Guy Gardner attacking O.M.A.C. in an Iron Man garb with a hammer reminiscent of Thor, but all I could keep thinking about throughout was how unnecessary and distracting it was from moving the main plot forward.
Luckily, writer Dan Jurgens is smart enough to link O.M.A.C.’s attack with the villains we have seen so little of, a nice plot twist that does keep the story arc in focus, despite not actually moving it any further along. But there is a major problem in that last sentence. The fact that I said “with the villains WE HAVE SEEN SO LITTLE OF.” These villains started their attack three issues ago and we still know nothing about them. It clearly is not an attempt to make them appear mysterious but just an error in pacing. Their characterization is flimsy but we’re familiar with all of their powers.
However, the only reason to like these characters is completely gone: Breakdown. After seeing his first appearance, a shockingly creepy intro that had the only epic feel this series should have had since the beginning of the story arc which everyone else failed to give it, Breakdown does next to nothing in this issue except for shout orders at Lightweaver, Intersek and newly introduced member Crosscut. But those three are what ultimately kill the creepy mood. As soon as Lightweaver and Intersek start to bicker, we lose the gravity of the situation that Breakdown managed to bring last issue.
So, after having Breakdown, an amazingly creepy character with great powers and design, then having the mood torn with Lightweaver and Intersek’s little lover’s spat, Crosscut is bland as anything and completes breaking the mood. The serious mood built up by Breakdown that started to chip away because of Intersek and Lightweaver is gone when Crosscut begins to complain about getting to level 35 in a video game and needing to show up, then utters a “chillax” to smash the final sliver of grim mood previously gotten from these villains (and what is up with chillax? I’ve heard two “chillax’s” this month. Is this a thing now? Though at least it was used well in The Almighties).
I’ve managed to yell about the villains who were barely in the issue for over 300 words now. But what about our heroes? Do they redeem this issue?
The members of the JLI are firmly established in their roles, but there are some added elements which make Booster Gold and Godiva in particular more developed. Booster is finally taking on a more heroic role having a powerful spiel about saving the world first and mourning later. This is the first time in this series that readers see how Booster is behind his egotistical outer-shell. Godiva’s characterization is furthered by some great narration for her. Her character is the only one that has really changed in this story. She has gone from beating up robbers in Britain to fighting monsters alongside the JLI, who she has just come to recognize as her friends. She still has some selfish qualities, but overall this issue portrays her as truly caring about her team. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters, but the problem is her narration should not be in this issue. The focus should not be on her, but on the team as a whole since this story arc is affecting all of them. Her narration should be saved for an issue focusing more on her. Unfortunately, this series will not get the chance to do that even if they weren’t cancelled at issue 12 – the way the pacing’s going I don’t think this story arc will ever finish!
The only character I can negatively call-out is Batwing. He felt almost as much like a distraction as O.M.A.C. did. He did not feel necessary, and I still feel like adding him is a ploy to get fans of Batwing’s series to try out JLI, which has a very different tone from the Batwing series (a much better series than this one, by the way).
The pencils from Aaron Lopresti and inks from Matt Ryan continue to be lackluster. Every member of the JLI almost seem to look shiny and have way too many lines in their midriffs. You would think all of them have super strength with all those muscles! Breakdown also continues to be disappointing in this department too. In one panel, he looks like a palette-swap of the Scarecrow – yet last issue I raved that he was “a very unique and grim garb perfect for a man with such creepy powers. He looks like a scarecrow patched together with human limbs.” I do point out the Scarecrow comparison there, but he still was unique enough that I was not going to compare him to the Scarecrow, a character who originally could not match the creep factor of Breakdown.
The colorist, the Hi-Fi company started by Brian Miller, hurts the mood this story arc should have but never does. This story arc involves death and destruction, but everything is very bright and that hurts the dreary mood that should’ve been established by the story but still wasn’t because of the misplaced lighthearted dialogue. Oddly, the only technique I applaud Hi-Fi for is one easily missed (despite his fin being all over this issue): O.M.A.C.’s Mohawk-looking hairpiece. There is an odd blue aura coming off it that makes the fin almost look like rippling waves in the ocean. That was a cool effect and I would have liked to see that creativity replicated some way into the rest of the artwork.
Really, this story arc should feel like an epic but this issue continues to have the same problems as the last: the story never progresses and the mood is far from what it should be. The only thing you need to know from this issue is that O.M.A.C. joins the JLI for their flight to Paris and the team have to fight Firestorm and friends. Unfortunately, and the biggest kick to JLI followers, the story will be continuing in Firestorm #9. I would laugh if the plot of JLI, which has moved hardly once since issue 7, actually progresses in another title. It certainly didn’t this issue.