Not a Path I'd Choose to Walk Again: Justice League of America Volume 1: The Tornado's Path

http://www.comicbookdb.com/graphics/comic_graphics/1/199/98978_20070712101513_large.jpg Identity Crisis (2004) was author Brad Meltzer's first big comics work for DC Comics. I believe I read it with some fervor at the time each issue came out because I was working in at Collectors Kingdom at the time and if I didn't read each issue on the day of release some customer or another would give away any surprises by casual conversation with other customers, or maliciously as the occasional regular seems to like to do. Those of us who have worked at comic book stores know of these customers. Anyhow, Identity Crisis was interesting at the time and I probably liked it. It provided readers with some new ways to think about the relationships between favorite superheroes, their villains, between the heroes and the villains, and really defined the term villain (Re: Dr. Light) and showed that even heroes make huge mistakes.

The first issue was such an interesting shocker, finding out the wife of a superhero was pregnant when she was murdered, and what in retrospect I see as a downer and maybe part of the start of the fall of fun in comics, something Meltzer seems to be good at with the permission of DC editorial.

I can't say for certain with informs my reading of comics these days. Is it my age, life experience, comics reading experience, or something else? I've written about this a few times recently, though I think it most often pops up in comments on other peoples' blog posts. My issue is: comics are too often no longer fun to experience and though I've not read Identity Crisis since its initial release, the story set up a lot of storylines in the following years, including the reemergence of the Justice League of America. Too many of these storylines are fascinating, but not satisfying. They leave often leave a dirty taste in my mouth. There's been rape, murder, and genocide in comics before, but it's almost as if Meltzer's 2004 story was the shatterpoint, possibly because of its publicity, or because it actually is when mainstream superhero comics went sour.

The Tornado's Path is a story I'd looked forward to since it's publication in 2006. Infinite Crisis had somewhat reset the DC Universe and word from my old workplace was that Meltzer was bringing his A-game. Three years later I've finally collected the storyline and a few pages in I am hooked. I blast through issue after issue, starting off intrigued, but that quickly dissipates into an autopiloted reading.

Meltzer has some fascinating ideas, or at least incorporates some. I don't know where the concept of the 13 Immortals came from, but it makes me wonder who they are. There's Professor Ivo, of course, and Red Tornado (right?), but who are the others? Hawkman and Hawkwoman? Vandal Savage? Superman? It's a great concept that Solomon Grundy (a smart version) is tired of dying and has come up with an elaborate scheme to trade immortality while Prof. Ivo gets his chance to become mortal again.

What was really cool was Parasite selling his abilities to other villains so they could penetrate their targets temporarily as humans. What's also cool is the new "Amazo" gaining even more abilities (or at least new ways to gain them) through the powers of others, such as Vixen and Parasite. A+ there.

What I thought was completely unnecessary was Meltzer's driving home the point of Red Tornado's first human body being so vulnerable. It didn't seem necessary to have Grundy tear off Tornado's arm and eat it on panel. I'm not against gratuitous violence in comics by any means, but this seemed pointless. Even new readers should probably be able to tell that Grundy is a villain and whatever his motivations he's especially evil in this incarnation because he's willing to take a life. F- there.

Overall, this didn't feel like a Justice League story. As the subtitle says, it's a Red Tornado story, which I don't think is a great focus for the beginning of a new Justice League of America story. If DC thought new readers might try this title for the first time I don't believe this was the way to do it. Yeah, all the leaguers had parts, but no one really seemed to shine and I didn't learn much about many of the characters. (I'm on a kick lately, in which each story needs to really add something to the mythos.)

Basically, if you're looking for a fun read, don't read this book. If you want some cool ideas with a bit much in the gore department, this is your book, or just read something good like Ellis' Authority or an Ennis book. At least those might satisfy more than those base cravings.

*Image courtesy of the Comic Book Database.

**I don't know which to support more, the Comic Book Database or the Grand Comics Database Project...