You can't always judge a book by its double-page spread...
(Some spoilers below!)On an earlier post, I posted a picture of the double-page spread from Justice League of America#14.
When I first saw it, I felt it was overly gratuitous, pandered to the lowest common denominator, and took me out of the story. Plus, Diana's breasts were, shall we say, oversized. Apparently, a lot of other bloggers agreed with me.
Some even went so far as to say that double-page spread prompted them to boycott Justice League, all Ed-Benes-illustrated stories, and, in some extreme cases, all DC comics in general.
I couldn't bring myself to go that far, in part because I wanted to see where writer Dwayne McDuffie's story would take us. So I picked up JLA#14.
And it was actually...good. Not "Sinestro Corps" good or "new Brave and the Bold" good, but good nonetheless.
One of the pluses was McDuffie's portrayal of the relationship between Superman and Luthor. I could practically hear Clancy Brown's and George Newbern's voices in the first-half confrontation. Luthor clearly knows which of Supes' buttons to push, and here he does so in a display of pure douchebaggery worthy of Reggie Mantle. Which brings us to that offending spread. Much of my initial reaction stands; I still feel there was needless titillation. But part of that scene made sense: Wonder Woman's placement front and center. Other than Lois, Ma Kent, or Kara, I can't think of anyone else Supes could witness in that position that would piss him off more. Perhaps a master of the widescreen like Bryan Hitch could have pulled off that spread with less pandering and more panache.
While I admit that I miss some of Meltzer's mood-setting narrations, McDuffie's dialogue makes up for it. The "too much information" scene in particular cracked me up.
Still, the book wasn't perfect. While Supes' reactions to Luthor seemed in character with the Newbern JLU Superman (who could be a bit of a hothead without the calming influence of the Kevin Conroy Batman), it didn't completely gel with the comics Supes, especially the idea of attacking the villains with only him and Black Lightning. I mean, Superboy Prime or Black Adam so much as farts the wrong way and they have to deal with not only the JLA, but the JLA reserves, the JSA, the Teen Titans, the Doom Patrol, and the works. "No time"? Bullshit! He has Oracle and Nightwing on speed-dial. Couldn't he just take 10 seconds to contact one of them and say "Here are the coordinates. I need you to make a few calls." People tend to write Supes' intelligence on a sliding scale: sometimes he's an unthinking hothead, and other times he's practically Vril Dox. At least he had the sense to take out the Parasite first (and fast).
Which brings us to the other problem: The final fight, while well-drawn, lacked the epic scale hinted at by the JLA Wedding Special and Ian Churchill's cover to JLA#13. It was a little too...low-key. I expected to see a whole frigging armada of supervillains; instead, other than Luthor, I saw only 10 or 11 present in this chapter. And, Benes being Benes, half of them were hot chicks. However, other than the aforementioned double-page spread, the cheesecake level wasn't that bad. In fact, it hardly exceeded what you would find in a 70's Mike Grell Legion of Super Heroes comic. Still, the fight seemed a tad anticlimatic. As witnessed in Birds of Prey, Ed can do fight scenes better than this. Maybe the final chapter will deliver more.
Still, it was an entertaining issue. Too bad that spread makes it one that I can't let my niece or nephew read yet.