Wonder Woman and Justice League America Volume 2 (2017)
Reprints Justice League America #86-91, Justice League International #65-66, and Justice League Task Force #13-14
Written by Dan Vado, Mark Waid, and Gerard Jones
Art by Marc Campos, Chuck Wojtkiewicz, and Sal Velluto
The Justice League of the 1980s/90s was winding down at this time. When Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis introduced their take on the classic DC superhero team, it emphasized humor and character relationships rather than non-stop action. However, the influence of the “extreme” and “edgy” Image Comics and other alternative publishers reshaped how DC presented its characters. The title most struck by this fad, in my opinion, is Justice League America which devolved into chaos. Dan Vado can’t solely be blamed for what this collection presents as multiple entries are authored by Mark Waid and Gerard Joes. The core story is meant to be an epic gathering of all the Leagues at the time, but it feels so incoherent and sloppy.
The overarching story is titled “Judgment Day” and focuses on an obscure old League villain, The Overmaster. He’s presented here as a dollar store Galactus who has assembled a group of forgettable & bland metahumans to act as his heralds. Despite Wonder Woman’s name being in the collection’s title, she shares the leadership role with Captain Atom, who certainly seems to be a character Vado likes more. It makes sense as Vado would leave JLA to pen Extreme Justice, an even more 1990s take on the team. That means many characters longtime readers would be used to having minor conflicts and a jokey atmosphere are now just yelling at each other for no apparent reason, communicated through some of the ugliest artwork.
All of this is coming out of the trend of wanting characters to be “proactive,” meaning they kill people or exude a constant rage. While that may work with Guy Gardner, as those traits are usually presented as something to be mocked, they bleed into heroes like Booster Gold or Blue Beetle, where an abundance of angst just doesn’t work. The writers really want the audience to think Overmaster is a big deal, so they throw us scenes of Darkseid fretting over this nobody and immortal caveman Vandal Savage warning the League. The big final act does feature the death of a beloved character, but I feel that the hero had already been so tarnished over the last year’s worth of stories it didn’t really matter at this point.
The story is also trying to create conflict over the Justice League’s management at the hands of the United Nations. Captain Atom, a very American-styled hero, has ideological disagreements with how the Overmaster and his team The Cadre should be dealt with. Weirdly, Wonder Woman has so much trouble reasoning with him when we’ve seen her handle the much less level-headed Guy Gardner. Atom is a soldier; therefore, he’d have some common ground with Wonder Woman, herself also very tactical. Yet, because this needs to feel like the garish extreme books of the day, we get them yelling at each other a lot.
There are some ideas here that I like; they just don’t get developed well. Booster Gold being from the future was something that never played into the stories very much. Yet here, Vado uses his vague understanding of this century to hint at impending doom. I like that Booster is very similar to one of us going back five hundred years. We’d know some general facts but wouldn’t be much help giving exact dates of when a disaster might occur or how to stop it. There’s also the LeagueBusters, a team of metahumans picked to take out the League if they ever went rogue. That idea is very intriguing, how large governmental bodies create contingencies to destroy their own people. Unfortunately, the way it plays out is just a fight where people pair off and punch for a while before the story ends.
It cannot be said that Vado isn’t a DC fan as he does revive an incredibly obscure hero who I wish had a more prominent role now: Amazing Man. The original Amazing Man was a retconned Golden Age character, one of the first Black heroes in DC’s continuity. Here we meet his grandson, who has inherited his grandfather’s powers. He plays an interesting role in the larger story, but that will happen more in the pages of Extreme Justice. If you are not a DC completionist, this is an easily skippable book; you will literally miss nothing by ignoring these issues. If you’re intrigued about how this iteration of the League plays out or into cheesy 90s nostalgia, it might be worth a read, but I can’t imagine you’re going to cherish the time spent.