Comic Book Review – Justice League International Volume 6

Justice League International Volume 6
Reprints Justice League America #31-35 & Justice League Europe #7-11
Written by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis (with William Messner-Loebs)
Art by Adam Hughes, Bart Sears, and Art Nichols

So we reach the end of the JLI run that DC Comics has decided to collect. In these pages, we get the first official crossover between America and Europe with The Teasdale Imperative story arc. In a small European village what seemingly appears to be a vampiric horde has surfaced, spreading its condition slowly but continuously. Not only has this drawn the attention of both branches of the Justice League International, but The Spectre and The Grey Man (from waaaaay back in the first story arc). Through a series of increasingly complicated twists and turns Simon Stagg, an antagonist of Leaguer Metamorpho becomes involved. Everything culminates in a battle where the League isn’t even necessary. To quote Elongated Man in the aftermath, “It’s over? I still don’t understand what ‘it’ was.”

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Comic Book Review – Justice League International Volume 5

Justice League International Volume 5
Reprints Justice League International Annuals #2-3 and Justice League Europe #1-6.
Written by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis (with William Messner-Loebs)
Art by Bart Sears, Bill Willingham, Mike McKone, & Tim Gula

We open with an earlier tale of the Justice League taking on the classic Batman villain Joker. The Joker has been hired by the dictator of Bialya, Rumaan Harjavti to assassinate the JLI. The collection is capped with a team-up of the two Leagues as they visit their various embassies to get to know the staff and bond. This goes off the rails when they meet an ambassador from KooeyKooeyKooey, a rather industrious island nation that wants the League to make their land a protected embassy. In between these two over-sized annuals, we get the opening arc of the Justice League Europe as they experience an incredibly rough introduction to Paris. A Nazi war criminal dies on their steps and soon after they learn members of the now-defunct Global Guardians are out to get them.

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Comic Book Review – Justice League International Volume 3

Justice League International Volume 3
Reprints Justice League International #14 – 22
Written by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis
Art by Kevin Maguire, Steve Leialoha, and Ty Templeton

Things get off to a rocky start when the intergalactic dealmaker Manga Khan and his robotic horde, The Cluster arrive at Earth. Khan’s goal is to sell advanced technology to the highest bidder, and this immediately sends up alarm klaxons as the world is in the midst of the Cold War arms race. The Justice League has just brought two new members on board: The Green Flame and Ice Maiden while the disaster of a Green Lantern G’Nort returns to warn the League about Manga Khan. The conflict ends with Mister Miracle being abducted and a small group of Leaguers, led by Big Barda, heading off into space to track down their teammate. Meanwhile, the members left behind on Earth get caught up in some covert ops in Bialya, with Batman taking the lead and Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, and Green Flame (now calling herself Fire) going undercover only to uncover the menace of the Queen Bee. Life never slows down for the JLI.

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Comic Book Review – Justice League International Volume 2

Justice League International Volume 2
Reprints Justice League International #8 – 13, Annual 1, Suicide Squad #13
Written by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis (with John Ostrander)
Art by Kevin Maguire, Keith Giffen, and Bill Willingham (with Luke McDonnell)

The League has just gone International, giving them embassies across the globe in locales including New York City, Moscow, London, and Paris. Captain Atom and Rocket Red have been added to the ranks, giving the U.S. and Soviet governments a direct connection to the superhero team. This expansion has subsequently led to the dissolution of the Global Guardians, the former premier organization of multicultural heroes. Understandably, there are some bruised egos (Jack O’Lantern) as well as some eager to join up with the JLI (Green Flame and Ice Maiden). As would become traditional in the post-Crisis universe our story must be interrupted by a company-wide event, this time in the form of the dreaded Millennium. We get back on track quickly which leads to a significant revelation about Max Lord and his decision to form this new League, a crossover with the Suicide Squad, and a one-off annual story that shines a spotlight on the Martian Manhunter.

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Comics 101: Martian Manhunter

In 1955, in the back pages of the Batman focused Detective Comics, a new superhero was introduced in a story titled “The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel.” Dr. Erdel was a Chicago based astronomer who has constructed a device to communicate with the planet Mars, which Erdel believes is inhabited. The device malfunctions and accidentally teleports a Martian to Earth. Erdel is so shocked by this he has a heart attack and dies leaving the confused Martian alone on this strange new world. His Martian name is J’onn J’onnz and, due to his ability to shape shift, he takes the alias John Jones and fakes credentials to become a police detective in the Windy City. J’onn would keep his Martian identity secret for many years, using his telepathy, flight, and ability to phase through solid matter to foil criminals without them realizing it. But, he could only hide for so long.

J’onn’s big public debut came with the formation of the first Justice League of America. The mind controlling alien Starro attacked the Earth and the greatest of Earth’s heroes came together to stop it (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman). J’onn joined their side taking a more humanoid form, but keeping his alien nature through his green skin and the symbol of his home planet on his belt. J’onn was to become the most stable member of the League, being a member of every incarnation that followed, except for the current version. During this time J’onn yearned to return to his home world and be reunited with his wife and daughter. Eventually, this wish came true but what he found broke his heart.

It seems that Erdel’s device had not simply transported J’onn to Earth. It had pulled him through a thousand years of time to the present on our planet. J’onn learns that the civilization of Mars had been destroyed in his absence, a few red dust covered ruins remain. He returns to the Earth for good and helps form a new Justice League alongside Aquaman, becoming very attached to his team members which are his makeshift family. The villainous god Darkseid decides to test the mettle of Earth’s heroes around this time and in the aftermath many of the members of the League are killed. J’onn is lost in the world until businessman Maxwell Lord brings him in to help lead a Justice League International. The alien hero takes the position and becomes a sort of makeshift den mother to this group of goofy characters, particularly keeping Blue Beetle and Booster Gold out of trouble. Now relaxed in his new position, J’onn allows himself to shift into his natural Martian form during meditation and also reveals his proclivity for Oreo cookies.

A major turning point occurs for the character when the old Justice League villain Despero comes to Earth wanting to mindlessly kill his old adversaries. Despero attacks the former League-r Gypsy and kills her family. He goes on to kill a few other members, until J’onn steps up unleashing a psychic assault on the villain that fools him into thinking he has won and sends him into a hibernation state. J’onn felt himself growing distant from his team around this time, and goes on leave. As he heads for Chicago, he runs across an African-American man being attacked by a strange entity. Through bizarre arcane rituals, J’onn and the man merge into a being known as Bloodwynd. J’onn’s memories are scrambled and Bloodwynd ironically ends up joining the League. He participates in the battle against Doomsday, the monster who would eventually kill Superman, and is injured. These injuries lead to J’onn’s memories returning and he and the man split back into their individual forms.

The Martian Manhunter retained a steady place with the League in the following years, learning more about the mythology of his home world and even battling the Martian version of the Bogeyman, Fernus. On the eve a great crisis, J’onn was busy with monitor duty at the League’s moon-based Watchtower headquarters when a shadowy figure attack and caused the building to explode. J’onn was believed dead but is actually being used by the crisis’ key villain, Alexander Luthor (son of another universe’s Lex) as a living battery to collapse all parallel realities into one. With the help of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, J’onn escapes and the  young Luthor is defeated. Months later, J’onn is injured brutally by the villainous Black Adam and suffer severe psychic trauma. He gives himself a new form, more reminiscent of his natural alien form. Tragically, J’onn is killed by Libra, a cultist obsessed with bringing about an age of evil on Earth.

When the Blackest Night occurred on Earth, black rings falling from the sky and resurrecting the dead, J’onn was one of those who attacked his former friends. The rings had a corrupting influence on their hosts so it was not truly J’onn speaking through his body. Thankfully, Green Lantern and his allies managed to stop the influence of the black rings through the presence of a white energy. The white energy cause J’onn among others to come back from the dead. The alien has now returned to Mars, rebuilding its surface, but has recently experience phantom memories from his past that seem to tell him he is not the only Martian still alive.

Review: Justice League: Generation Lost #1-5



Justice League: Generation Lost #1-5
Script by Judd Winick, Breakdowns by Keith Giffen
Art by Aaron Lopresti (1,5), Joe Bennett (2,4), Fernando Dagnino (3)

When I was eight I met a Justice League that was a complete stranger to me. I grew up watching the Super Friends and from what I could tell they were the Justice League also. Imagine my surprise when I picked up Justice League America #42 and found characters like Blue Beetle, The Huntress, and Mister Miracle among others. Even though these were not the people I was expecting, I was intrigued. Later, in my first two years of college I was able to track down a complete run of this Justice League through dollar boxes, all sixty issues of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’ Justice League/International/America. The series went through some title changes but it was always the League to me. DC has recently gotten this ragtag group of heroes back together again for a bi-weekly 26 issues series that has their former benefactor leading them on a global wild goose chase. So how do the first five issues bode for the series so far?

Once upon a time, a wealthy businessman named Maxwell Lord assembled a group of heroes and formed the new Justice League. There was no Superman or Wonder Woman. Batman was there, albeit briefly. Instead the core of the group were the following characters:
Blue Beetle – computer whiz Ted Kord and the second man to go by the Blue Beetle identity
Booster Gold – visitor from the 25th Century attempting to get rich quick using future tech as a hero
Fire – A Brazilian who could turn herself into a pillar of green fire
Ice – A Scandinavian woman who could turn water molecules in the air to ice
Captain Atom – a jarhead turned living nuclear bomb due to a botched test bombing
Rocket Red – an armor clad Russian with a rather easy disposition

Maxwell went a little evil, ended up trying to kill earth’s heroes, and Wonder Woman was forced to kill him. But, as is the way in the world of comics, the dead don’t stay dead. Max was resurrected during one of those big cross company events and immediately set about causing trouble. Max had an ability to manipulate the minds of others and now he knew he would be the most hunted man alive. Using considerable effort and straining his body beyond its natural limits, Max erased his memory from the mind of almost every living being on earth, except for his old Justice League crew. Now they are hunting him down, with the world around them believing they are crazy, attempt to stop Max before accomplishes what ever it is he’s up to now.

So far the first five issues have had their ups and downs. While DC brought back the original plotter of this Justice League, Keith Giffen, they paired him with Judd Winick, a writer whose work is some of my least favorite ever put to paper. Winick has a very grating way of writing and is not very good when it comes to handling action. Shouldn’t be a problem with a Justice League that was always more about the humor than the action. Once again he fails, nothing is funny and the characters are way too serious. The thing that always drew me to the Giffen/DeMatteis League was that unlike the Silver Age goofy JLA or the cosmic trippy Morrison JLA, theirs felt like people having fun. Blue Beetle and Booster Gold are my all-time favorite comic book duo. It was like a great comedy team and super heroes rolled into one. They frequently used Max’s funds to invest in get rick quick schemes or antagonized the team’s token Green Lantern, Guy Gardner. Now Ted Kord is dead and replaced with Jaime Reyes, the new Blue Beetle. He’s an equally interesting character but there is something lost in the dynamic.

Because of the extended 26 issue story these first five feel like nothing has happened, and really it hasn’t. We’ve seen the characters assemble and some battles that seemed very pointless occur. The only part you could really call plot development would be that the heroes have realized Max has manipulated them into reuniting and that Max seems to have some unwanted side affects to his resurrection. The artwork is also back and forth, as to be expected in a series that comes out more than once a month. Three artists have been employed rotating, the best of which has been Aaron Lopresti on the first and most recent issues. He just a cleaner, more detailed style than the other two. What’s impressive is that DC’s last foray into publishing a title more than once a month was Trinity, a 52 issue weekly series with Mark Bagley handling art on every single issue without a miss. And it was better than this series, which has multiple hands to choose from.

Overall, my excitement for this series before it was released has really waned. You’d be better off checking out the collected volumes of Giffen and DeMatteis’ original Justice League run which is up to four volumes so far. Here’s hoping The Lost Generation can pick momentum in the next twenty-one issues.