While it's the beginning of his run on JLA the series, it's not the beginning of his run of JLA the group, which was the juggernaut that was JLA Wedding Special #1. So, I'm going to 'cheat" and count that as backstory to JLA No. 13, and therefore within the purview of this week.
McDuffie's first order of business? Repudiating the problems of the previous run. Here are just a few examples.
Fanfic is Replaced by Fiction for Fans
It begins with a deliciously wicked parody of the much-maligned Trinity at the Table scenes from Meltzer's run, in which the "Anti-Trinity" do in five pages what their enemies weren't able to do in five months: put together a team.
Already we know that McDuffie knows the difference between what's ridiculous (the previous JLA run) and what's funny (the new one). Already we know that McDuffie knows that readers want to see heroes fighting villains, not other heroes. Or playing chess. Or capture the flag.
Mensacentric Inactivity Minimized
In the previous run, there was lots of sitting around talking, and precious little doing. The JLA do have a meeting in JLA No. 13, but it is short, and consists entirely of necessary recap and battle plans. Now let's go kick some villain tail!
The Name Game
One of the most jarring features of the previous run was JLAers using their personal names constantly, even in battle. In JLA No. 13, members are still not using their codenames all the time. But neither are they using their real names all the time. They seem to be choosing which to use based on the situation, or as a signal to the readers of other things. For example, when Black Canary reassures Green Arrow, she calls him Ollie, which is understandable since the subject is the well-being of Red Arrow (who is always called "Roy", I note, by everyone). Superman calls Vixen "Mari", when he's having a heart to heart with her, and "Vixen" when they get to work. Green Lantern almost always calls people by their codenames, but the exceptions are noticeable. He calls Roy "Roy", because he doesn't want to say "Red Arrow" anymore than we do. He calls Hawkgirl "Kendra" most of the time; I'll let you figure that one out for yourself. And he always calls "Black Lightning" Jeff, probably because he relates more familiarly with him as a fellow black crimefighter with whom he seems to have a previous friendship (according to McDuffie, at least) and because he can't say "Black Lightning" without sniggering.
What the Heck Was THAT All About?
The plot (such as it was) in the previous run (which was really just one really really long story) wasn't very clear and relied enormously on outside and previous knowledge of the DCU. Frankly, I still am not sure what happened or why. McDuffie fixes this by explaining everything he can: Vixen's power problem, Dr. Light's history, the events of the Wedding Special, even how some of the characters are using their powers. Meltzer seemed to be trying to get away with explaining as little as possible, and McDuffie takes the opposite approach.
This is a big improvement over the previous run, where characters only finished their sentences about two thirds of th-- , and we were left to fill in the blanks. And even though Brad Meltzer had the guts to bring back the Hall of Justice (for which I applaud him loudly), he never had the guts to actually CALL it that, always calling it simply "the Hall", as it he were writing the Elk Lodge of America. McDuffie has no squeamishness (or "cuteness", whichever it was).
- Having someone question (like every fan did) why Black Lightning would shave his head?
- Coming up with a reasonable explanation?
- Making fun of it for being dated?
- Having John Stewart be the mechanism for exposing all this?
- Topping it all with an in-joke for JLU fans?