The Good: Most of the artwork, Fills in important plot gaps
The Bad: Fragmented stories, No character development at all.
The Basics: Justice League Of America: Sanctuary is a wandering collection of stories that captures the Justice League Of America in a transition time just prior to Infinite Crisis.
Despite my affinity for the DC comic book universe, there are actually very few books from the Justice League Of America series that I have enjoyed enough to recommend. Yet, I picked up Justice League Of America: Sanctuary, which happens in the DC Universe sometime between Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis, making it a timeframe I historically have enjoyed. But Justice League Of America: Sanctuary does not hold together at all well as an independent graphic novel. Instead, this trade paperback anthology is a loose collection of stories that hint to a prior story and tease the next one. The result is a book that is unsatisfying in virtually every way except the artwork.
The fundamental issue with Justice League Of America: Sanctuary comes from the fact that the five-comic anthology does not actually tell a single complete story. Instead, these are fragments that either are missing their beginning or their end. So, for example, one of the characters who has a potentially serious arc in Justice League Of America: Sanctuary is Vixen, who has lost her ability to absorb the powers of animals, but now has the ability to absorb the abilities of heroes and villains. She might seem conflicted, but more than anything, the volume on its own leaves the reader confused. Her part in Justice League Of America: Sanctuary stands far too dependent upon reading Justice League Of America: The Injustice League as does the introduction to Red Arrow in this volume. Moreover, having read Infinite Crisis, the only reason I cared about the final story in Justice League Of America: Sanctuary was because it was leading directly into that book.
Justice League Of America: Sanctuary starts with the “Sanctuary” story. When Red Arrow and Hawkgirl make a trip to donate some clothes to an old supervillain, they discover him missing. Shortly thereafter, Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman learn that the president of the United States has begun deporting supervillains off-world. With the Martian Manhunter undercover attempting to find the planet, the Justice League is surprised when the Key appears with several other wanted villains at the steps of the Hall Of Justice, requesting sanctuary. When the villains are taken into custody, the U.S. government turns to extraditing them as the Watchtower off Earth is not considered diplomatic territory. When Bruce Wayne intercepts the location of the prison planet, the Justice League makes the trip there to discover just what has happened to the world’s greatest criminals.
Unfortunately, the “Sanctuary” story ends without a satisfactory resolution. I’m not saying that it ends without a sense of message, but rather the ending of the story does not coincide with a coherent event. Instead, the villains are still at large, the heroes are returned in a very mundane, one-panel way. This story is noticeably lacking in real character development, though apologists might well point to the griping by Red Arrow as character as he desperately searches for Cheshire while Kendra (Hawkwoman) kvetches about his obsession.
Justice League Of America: Sanctuary takes a brief departure to have the Flash and Wonder Woman have a mission together. Seriously, I read this story fifteen minutes ago and I can’t even recall what it was about, it was that unmemorable. That said, I recall the artwork was pretty phenomenal. Vivid colors, nice, strong lines. But no story or real character development.
The book concludes with a story that leads directly into Infinite Crisis on one front, but not (arguably) the most significant one. Right before Infinite Crisis, the big three superheroes have a falling out, largely because of Wonder Woman. It’s a great story and it adds some real angst to Infinite Crisis. Justice League Of America: Sanctuary only leads into a very minor subplot of Infinite Crisis with its final story. Half of the story is the big three heroes sitting around talking, the other half is Red Arrow and Hawkwoman taking on a flamethrowing criminal. The whole purpose of this is to introduce Libra and set up the Crisis. Unfortunately, the fractured nature of the story makes it seem somewhat ridiculous. Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman are in a pocket universe gossiping while a supervillain puts a successful hit on one of the most powerful heroes in the universe!
Ultimately, Justice League Of America: Sanctuary looks good, but lacks substance. It is a good way to get into Infinite Crisis and help prep readers for that, but it does little else.
For other Justice League books, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Justice League: Secret Origins
Justice League: Generation Lost – Volume 1
Justice League: Generation Lost – Volume 2
Justice League Of America: The Injustice League
Justice League Of America: Dark Things
For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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