It’s not often that you see a standalone issue these days, especially in a high profile book such as JLA. With the success of the trade paperback, stories are usually set to fit nicely by storyline within an easily-collectible volume. While it’s not as bad as it had been over the past three years, it’s still a rarity to get the issue that bridges between two story arcs.
And of course, when you do get one, it’s usually featuring at least one guest talent to let the regular team rest up for the upcoming story. The result is often a forgettable mesh looking to kill time.
But that’s not at all what’s found in this book.
With Gene Ha providing artwork, Brad Meltzer takes two of his lesser known cast members, Red Arrow and Vixen, and gives them an issue of dialog with one another. Really, that’s it. You have some random crowd noise in the beginning and end, but overall, it’s just dialog between the two, along with the inner monologue that has become commonplace in the title. The result is pure gold.
The basic story is that during a battle with Dr. Polaris, a building toppled over into the Potomac River with Red Arrow and Vixen buried inside. With tight panels with lots of space in between, Ha gives the reader the claustrophobic feel of the characters as they calm each other and make their escape out. It gives a feeling of tension usually saved for a movie thriller or particularly involved novel, as you really worry about both characters.
Meltzer takes the opportunity to make the reveal of Vixen’s abilities hinted throughout the last few issues, but in a way that suggests that more will come of this. The whole issue humanizes both characters and allows the readers to truly bond with them. They feel the fight for life and cheer when the ending comes. The twist (literally) at the end was quite unexpected as well.
This was a fantastic issue that really pushed both characters forward. A lesser team probably would have produced a lackluster thriller-wannabe, but Meltzer and Ha came through and made this book an exciting read. Definitely the best issue I’ve seen in months.