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Justice League of America reaches a breaking point this month. With the secrets of the Firestorm Matrix being revealed, there is now a huge amount of tension placed onto JLA as Forever Evil moves forward - but how did it turn out?
The biggest draw that last month's JLA had going for it was the very persuasive cheese of spotlighting what exactly the various Justice Leagues are undergoing. It was a tantalizing smorgasbord of inner psyches, personal fears, and genuine character moments. Of course such a conceit could not possibly be contained with a single issue and so JLA #9 continues thus trend with great skill. One of the better parts of the entire Forever Evil saga has been the windows into the downright cruel and scary depths the Crime Syndicate will sink to, which works doubly so when out heroes are made to suffer through them as well.
As the last issue gave page time to Superman, The Flash, Simon Baz, Shazam, and Wonder Woman, this issue does not skimp out on it's ability to conjure up star power as well. Much like the previously mentioned heroes we have a new slew that undergo mental anguish: Madame Xanadu, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter himself. Obviously that roster is smaller than October's, but for it's amount of page time each is done well. There are some really unnerving and even disturbing mind games being played around in this issue, and it only compounds the seriousness of the whole affair. Although there are many who think that other characters such as the fan favorite Hawkman should have been shown - but that's worrying on the what could have been. It's a shame, but it comes at a good reason.
For it seems that not only was this issue just another survey of Martian Manhunter going through personal hells again, but that it was pulling double duty as a "New 52" Stargirl origin. Since the beginning of the series Johns has hinted and tease as this new incarnation's backstory and right here is where Kindt pulls out the first fruit of those teases. While not as imbued with a sense of legacy and tradition as her previous incarnation - it is an origin that works. The limited page time that it was allotted forces Kindt to create a familiar set of circumstances, but one that is rather quickly paced. Regardless it is also one that gets to the heart of her character without any muss or fuss, which is a hallmark of all good origins. Aside from that it also seeds her very own supporting cast - especially her stepfather and erstwhile sidekick "STRIPE", as this foreshadows his eventual appearance. It doesn't answer all questions about her current version, but it's a magnificent leap.
What really carries the weight of the issue, it's foundation as it were, would be the dynamic between Martian Manhunter and Stargirl. It's the burgeoning signs of an intensely sympathetic and heartwarming mentor/student relationship. Fans have long argued that the "New 52" MM has come off as too cold, but Kindt has done great work in regards to counteracting that and begins to thaw out the alien here. There are definite tones of trust and reliance within the issue and it's just optimistic. Not fully though, as there are still months to go before this event is over, but hopeful nonetheless. Other character interactions/moments or note include Manhunter's mind prison, which is surprisingly pathos filled, and a cute but brief dialogue between Stargirl and Shazam, who had been romantically linked in previous DC continuity. Saving the best for last, the issue also includes a very spectacular cameo by a classic DC character who had not been seen until now: Yankee Poodle. Kindt really plays to satisfy readers.
In what is becoming a rather worrying trend with regards to Forever Evil, however, is the inconsistency of the art. Mahnke provided some pencils here and there for the series - but the rest is provided by Tom Derenick. Now Derenick is not doing bad work here - maybe there's trouble with faces, but it's serviceable stuff for the most part. The problem lies in the jarring nature of the changes. It's a large part of the issue, which is otherwise exceptional. The current arc still has me hooked and it should given it's exciting cliffhanger. Forever Evil remains one of the best DC Comics events around, let them keep it that way.