Friday, September 18, 2009

Op/Ed: Titans in the Justice League

In case you haven't heard, the League is undergoing a shift into a new era and a new roster.

This time, it's some of the next generation stepping up to the premier team in the DCU in the absence of the Trinity. In particular, several former Titans have joined the roster for this new era. Now, I'm an easy mark for the Titans - yeah, yeah, I know the franchise has hit hard times in recent years and I agree; I still like the team and several of the characters - so I'll admit right up that my interest in the League book has shot up.

It seems everyone has an opinion on this roster. Many seem to be positive about it, but there are some detractors; most of the latter take issue with some of the characters on the roster they deem "unsuitable" for the team. The former Titans in particular seem to be a focus of this type of discussion; most seem to be in complete agreement that Dick Grayson (currently Batman) and Cyborg should have been on the League a long time ago, but Starfire and especially Donna Troy seem to be targets. I think those folks are missing the point.

It was time; this sort of roster was truly a long time coming.

I'll run down the roster in particular and give my general thoughts on it. Before I do that, however, I'd just like to mention that I like the general conceit of the key three members here. The Trinity are off the board, so it seems like the center of this roster is a new "Trinity" comprised of characters heavily tied to the original Trinity; Mon-El for Superman, Dick Grayson for Batman and Donna Troy for Wonder Woman. It's an interesting twist on that League dynamic and helps keep the marketable star power of DC's three most recognizable characters suitably visible.

Anyways, my thoughts on the roster are as follows.


Congorilla: I have to admit right up that if there's a choice on this roster that baffles me, it's Congorilla. Aside from the admitted awesome of gorillas, what purpose does he serve? I didn't even know who the character was before James Robinson dredged him up. I'm willing to give James Robinson the benefit of the doubt here - he did wonders with Starman, so he certainly deserves it - but of all his choices this is the one I'm least certain about.

Mon-El: Some of my friends were wondering just who the hell this guy was. It's not an unfair question; unless you're familiar with the Legion of Superheroes or have been reading Superman recently this guy is going to baffle you. The long and short of it is that Daxamites are very similar to Kryptonians, only lead is lethal to them. As you probably guessed, Mon-El is a Daxamite. He's also currently associated rather heavily with Superman. Add on to this the fact that James Robinson has been writing him a while now and seems comfortable with the character, and you can see why he might end up being a perfect addition to this new League.

Donna Troy: Obviously the representative for Wonder Woman. She's the only one of the Titan additions I'm not sure about; in the past she's been one of those characters who was just there. I understand why she's on the roster, but I hope James Robinson knows what to do with her. I also hope he does not even remotely bother with the mess that is her origins. She needs a new direction and story not tied to that ungodly mess. The character has been so tied to the story of clearing up her origins that she has never gone anywhere else as a character.

Dick Grayson (Batman): This one probably should have happened a long time ago. Sure, Dick has been a Justice League reservist for a long time and he served in the replacement Justice League while the real deal was in the past once, but he hasn't ever been an official, active member. Many say that he should have been the first to move up; while I'm not quite so sure about that, he definitely should have before now. He belongs on the League and I hope Robinson has a good idea of what to do with him. There's no way he's going to be Batman forever - or even that long, arguably - but hopefully when Bruce Wayne returns he decides to focus on Gotham and leaves the Bat position on the League to Dick. Actually, the same goes for all the replacement Trinity; it would make appearances by the real Trinity special by reserving them for only the biggest threats.

Green Arrow: I've got to be honest here. Ollie's not a bad character. I have no problem with him. But I've very disappointed that he's basically replacing Roy Harper as the teams archer. Ollie is always going to have his own title. DC is always going to try with him. Roy, on the other hand, really needed the exposure and time in the limelight. Of course, who knows how Blackest Night may shake out if Roy is actually involved; my complaint may end up being entirely moot depending on how things shake out there and depending on his own role in things. But still, I'm not fond of this change, at all. Especially with much of this team lineup being a "next generation takes the reins" sort of thing, replacing Roy with Ollie just seems odd and kind of dumb.

Doctor Light: I'm not entirely familiar with the Japanese, heroic female Doctor Light. What I've seen hasn't exactly endeared me to her either; she comes off so hopelessly arrogant and grating that you just want somebody to backhand her. I'm willing to give the character the benefit of the doubt and give James Robinson the opportunity to sell me on the character. I'm not going to dismiss the character outright just because she seems to be a total douche in what little I've seen.

Starfire: Of the "New Teen Titans", she's certainly among the best picks to move on up. Over time, she's grown out of her role as a Titan. Slowly but surely, she became a central part of the Space Team and had adventures outside of the Titans. This is the next step away from perpetuity as a Titan. Dick is already there, which allows them to finally use the two together in a meaningful way again. She's een set up with issues stemming from Final Crisis. She's a great character in general. I'm glad she's there; this is a natural step in her progression away from the Titans.

The Atom (Ray Palmer): You know, I've never really paid much attention to the Atom. The most I've really connected with the character has been in Identity Crisis, where he's a part of the climax of the story and is forced to make what must have been a horribly difficult decision. Maybe I'll see what others do in him. As of right now though, I don't have much of an opinion on him as a Leaguer; I've read some of the old JLA where he was more or less just a reservist and he seemed good in that role. We'll see.

Cyborg: What the hell took so long? Seriously, Cyborg has deserved to be in the Justice League for years now. No, I don't mean just because he has an association that stems from the final seasons of Superfriends; though let's face it, that certainly does help. I mean the fact that he's always been the most grown up and mature of all the Titans and he has the capability to be a major player in things. He's deserved the honor of becoming a Justice Leaguer for a long time now. Of any of the characters on the League, I think he's definitely one of the most deserving of any of them. It's time; it was time for him to step up years ago.

The Guardian: Yeah, this one definitely seems to be a pick more because James Robinson is comfortable writing the character. I mean, he's been handling him along with Mon-El in Superman. For that reason, I suppose he's a good choice; I'm certainly not against Robinson using characters he's grown comfortable in the voices of. Not sure he's League material, but I'm willing to keep an open mind.

Hal Jordan: To be honest, it would be strange to have a Justice League without a Green Lantern. I've never been entirely sure which I'd rather have. I've got a fondness for Kyle Rayner, to be certain, but John Stewart doesn't exactly get the time to shine he deserves half the time so his status as the Leagues Green Lantern was always a good use of the role. Still, Hal has an association with the League that goes straight back to it's inception. It's kind of like coming home in regards to the characters association with the team. While I'd prefer Kyle Rayner, I like Hal Jordan as a character too; all in all, I can live with this as long as Robinson writes him better in the actual League title than he has in Cry for Justice.


The only true oddity of this roster is the lack of a speedster. It's honestly weird to have a League without one. James Robinson says that one is coming, though, so I guess the complaint is moot. I wonder which it might be though. It could honestly go either way; this team is kind of a mix of the old and the new, so Barry Allen would fit in some ways, but Wally West has been the speedster of the League for what seems like forever. Personally, I'm pulling for Wally; Barry looks like he'll be the key speedster under the Flash mantle in the future, so it'd be nice to not completely marginalize Wally by taking his place on the League.

Robinson has also said that this League is going to be a large one, like the old days with Len Wein. Characters will come and go, the focus might shift from time to time. I'm cool with that, honestly. As long as James Robinson stays on for a good long time and has a long run, this has great potential. It would suck royally if he didn't stay long enough to do loads of stories with these new Leaguers.

The start of the new lineup isn't going to crop up until #41 though, so there's still a bit of a gap until the new era truly kicks off. James Robinson starts with #38, but for that and the two succeeding issues he's working with the remnants of the League as it stands. All four of them. I'm not against that. It seems best to springboard the new era proper after the Blackest Night tie-in. Plus January is the first month of a new year, so a new start for the team seems appropriate. Still, it means a bit more waiting for this new era.

But thankfully, while excited, I'm also patient. This new era has a lot of potential. Hopefully James Robinson won't disappoint.

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