Justice League of America #2 (written by Brad Meltzer, pencilled by Ed Benes, inked by Sandra Hope) was frustratingly good. I enjoyed it overall, but some parts creeped me out (Red Tornado sex?!?) or didn't make sense. The latter includes an exchange about how former Leaguer Dr. Light, who shares a name and costume with a rapist the League mindwiped, would "scare" criminals. There's an innocuous explanation, apparently, but it involves knowing these characters' shared history, which I didn't, and which I especially wouldn't expect the new readers sucked in by Meltzer's novelist cred to know. The other bit of "huh?" is the continuing fantasy-football draft the Big Three are holding in the Batcave while, apparently, the rest of the putative League is assembling itself.
Superman is, of course, intimately involved in the assemblage of a rag-tag bunch of combat-happy Joes over in Action Comics #843 (written by Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza, drawn by Pete Woods). Once I got past the unfortunate use of slang on the cover, which is charming in the manner of a well-meaning mistranslation, I enjoyed the inside. Busiek's hero-worship stories are mostly effective, albeit unsubtle, but with Superman it seems appropriate. Besides, it's not just making people feel better about Superman -- as we're often reminded, Superman is supposed to uplift everyone else as well. Accordingly, hugs all around, or at least a laurel and hearty handshake from POTUS. Now, on to Geoff Johns and Richard Donner.
Hugs are in short supply in Batman #657 (written by Grant Morrison, pencilled by Andy Kubert, inked by Jesse Delperdang), which recovers nicely from a somewhat disorienting opening -- didn't we end last issue with Batman captured by Talia? -- to tell a very fun story about Damien's competition with Robin. The cynic in me doesn't expect Damien to stick around past next issue, and that's a shame, because the kid carries a lot of insight into his dad's childhood. This includes the notion, advanced countless times in the past twenty years, that Bruce became Batman the moment his parents were murdered. Granted, Damien is more a teenage Azrael than a teenage Batman at this point, but Morrison has crafted a very pulpy adventure infused with darkly funny sitcommish moments. By showing that Batman can turn his "scary face" off and on at will, Morrison gets to what I think is one of the great unexplored elements of the character's personality -- the concept of "Batman" itself as posturing, even theater. The phrase "created a monster" seems especially apt....
And that's a good segue into 52 #21 (written by GGGM, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Joe Bennett, inked by Jack Jadson), showcasing Lex Luthor's new team of homegrown heroes. I'm not sure I got a lot out of this issue beyond also wanting Trajectory to be the new Kid Flash, and enjoying Ralph and the Fate-Helmet's trip into Lovecraft-Ditko land. It was well-executed, but it just kind of left me cold.
Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #21 (written by Mark Waid and Tony Bedard, pencilled by Barry Kitson and Adam DeKraker, inked by Rob Stull) was fun, showing Karate Kid's strategery at romance. A subplot with Sun Boy's new team against a Super-Skru-- er, Super-Dominator looks promising too.
And speaking of fun, Batman and the Mad Monk #2 (written and drawn by Matt Wagner) was just as good as I'd hoped. Mix lurid cult activity with schoolgirl outfits and it's not just a recipe for increased Google traffic, it's a roadmap to a p.o.'ed Batman when Dala and her boss get their claws into Julie Madison in a couple of issues. Batman spends most of this issue detecting and having foreshadowing conversations with Harvey Dent, but the last page promises a beatdown. I'll definitely be there when it arrives.
Looking at the human-sacrifice pages of Mad Monk made me wonder how Howard Chaykin would have handled that story, and I'm not just saying that to transition into Hawkgirl #56 (written by Walter Simonson, drawn by Chaykin). It's Chaykin's last issue, so it wraps up the oddly-sexualized-villain plot that's been meandering through the book since this team took over. Basically Hawkgirl flies around fighting said villains and trying to save the Steve Trevor-figure from being eaten by them. I think I finally get Simonson and Chaykin's over-the-top take on this book, so I'm giving next month a chance, mainly because both of them together produced a dissonance that they wouldn't have separately. In other words, with a less flashy artist, I think Simonson's pulpish tendencies would be complementary.
Finally, Captain America #22 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Mike Perkins) does a lot of good with its Civil War setup. Basically Sharon Carter has to choose between her loyalty to SHIELD and her lurve for Cap, and while that might sound rather tired, it's handled well. It's the focus of this issue, but one senses it's not the point of this little CW-related arc, especially with the Red Skull still lurking. Also, Cap and Sharon have a "serious talk" that begins with them on a rooftop and ends with clothes being put back on, which as it turns out completed this week's trifecta of superhero sex (creepy fleshy Tornado sex in JLA and Bat-Sex implied in this month's Mad Monk). Unfortunately, Cap doesn't get to then fight SHIELD troopers in faux-Iron Man armor. Maybe next issue.