Saturday, June 2, 2012

Justice League Of America: The Tornado’s Path Ineffectively Puts The Spotlight On A Second-String Hero.

The Good: Decent character study, Good artwork, Overall decent plot
The Bad: Unfortunately typical comic book plot, Narrative technique jumbles the b-plot in unfortunate ways.
The Basics: With Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman figuring out the fate of the Justice League Of America, Red Tornado’s soul is able to take a human body, which complicates the lives of the heroes when an old nemesis returns.

The Justice League of America has undergone many iterations. Before the Final Crisis (reviewed here!), the JLA reassembled with an eclectic mix of new and old characters. The process by which the new Justice League was formed was chronicled in Justice League Of America: The Tornado’s Path. The story is split between the voting process by which Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman chose the new membership of the League and a story focused on one of the second-string heroes of the DC Universe, Red Tornado.

I have no problem with stories that focus on the second-stringers. In fact two of my favorite graphic novels - Justice (reviewed here!) and Identity Crisis (reviewed here!) – are preoccupied with what happens when the main heroes are taken out or the second string heroes make questionable choices. So, if anything, I was biased toward Justice League Of America: The Tornado’s Path and its pretty simple premise of focusing on red Tornado in a way that humanizes him and makes him a much more vital character. Unfortunately, though, Justice League Of America: The Tornado’s Path did not wow me.

While Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman go through photographs and discuss the superheroes who are alive and eligible for membership into the Justice League of America, Kathy – the wife of Red Tornado – sits at the laboratory of Will Magnus, holding the hand of Red Tornado’s insensate body. Alarmed that his soul has not re-entered his mechanical body, Kathy and her daughter Traya begin to lose hope that he will return. But Deadman and John have managed to find a body ready for John to occupy and when he does, a chain of events is started that shakes the entire roster of superheroes.

No sooner is John reunited with Kathy than it is reported that Red Tornado’s body has been stolen. The theft comes at pretty much the same time that Gold and Platinum are decapitated, Geo-Force undergoes a strange transformation, Vixen’s totem is stolen and Black Lightning discovers that Parasite is being used by supervillains to dampen their powers to give them access to places they otherwise could not go. But as the Justice League members hunt the source of the irregularities to Dr. Ivo, they discover the mad scientist’s quest is one that puts them all in danger. With an army of Red Tornado-style robots and Amazo attacking, Black Canary, Red Arrow, Green Lantern and Red Tornado must uncover the true culprit and undo their sinister agenda!

Justice League Of America: The Tornado’s Path works, when it does, by providing engaging characters in complicated situations. Unfortunately, it is diluted with distracting b-plots, like the Big Three picking out the newest members of the Justice League and Red Tornado choosing his path, which is not as compelling for those who have not followed the character’s long arc from heroine addict to successor to Green Arrow. While the Vixen subplot does have relevance, it is a long, circuitous journey for the character to come back into an important part of the story. In other words, a distressing amount of space in Justice League Of America: The Tornado’s Path reads like filler.

But then there is the Red Tornado plot. John Sutton is an interesting enough character in these pages, though I only actually become fully invested in his story when the true villain of the book was finally revealed. John’s story is the pretty typical Pinocchio-style story. Red Tornado is a machine with a human soul and he now has the opportunity to be fully human. Okay, it’s pretty familiar. But while it is interesting, Justice League Of America: The Tornado’s Path fails to have real roots because the characters are, paradoxically enough, too good. Kathy Sutton loves John in his mechanical body or his human one. It does not seem to matter to her, just so long as he is alive. The same is true of their daughter, Traya. So, it is hard to get fully invested in John’s struggle to get an organic body and keep it just for the sensations he is suddenly privy to. If he dies, Kathy will lose everything, sure. But given that he is surrounded by people who can put him back in an inorganic body and the army of alternate-Tornados is revealed pretty early on, it is hard for readers not to see a cop-out like Star Trek: Nemesis’s B-4 coming from a mile away.

That said, I enjoyed the building to the villains in Justice League Of America: The Tornado’s Path. Justice League Of America: The Tornado’s Path is my first experience with Starro and Amazo. I don’t recall reading any books with Dr. Ivo, either. But the interplay between Dr. Ivo and Solomon Grundy makes for an intense and intriguing latter half of the book. That the two have surprisingly reasonable agendas for supervillains makes the climax of the book enjoyable, at the very least.

The artwork in Justice League Of America: The Tornado’s Path is homogenously good. All of the characters are distinct and easily recognizable, making it fun to leaf through the pages of the book. The coloring is up to current standards, so the fact that Justice League Of America: The Tornado’s Path looks good helps the occasionally mediocre story flow better. While I usually applaud ambition, Justice League Of America: The Tornado’s Path sometimes has a little too much going on for its own good, making it a book that is just above true average and only worth reading, not adding to one’s permanent library.

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
The Lightning Saga
Justice League Of America: The Injustice League
Second Coming
Justice League Of America: Dark Things
JLA: Terror Incognita


For other book reviews, please visit my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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