Sunday, January 01, 2006

100 Days of Justice League Day 1: JL #1

Happy New Year and welcome to 100 Days of Justice League! During the next few months, I will be reviewing all of the Justice League issues on which writing team Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis collaborated as plotter and scripter. The specific titles included in this project are Justice League (JL), Justice League International (JLI), Justice League America (JLA), and Justice League Europe (JLE), including the annuals. In addition, Giffen and DeMatteis also contributed to Justice League Quarterly (JLQ), but I’m giving it some time to see if I have it in me to include those in this project as well.

By my count, Giffen and DeMatteis produced 101 issues of the main JL titles, so technically, it will be more than 100 days, especially if I decide to include the JLQ issues. But I thought”100 Days of Justice League” sounded cooler. In addition, knowing myself, these 100 days will likely not all be consecutive days. I’m shooting for that, but it’s a sad fact that sometimes life gets in the way of comics. ;)

I plan to read and review the issues in more or less chronological order. When we get to the point during which JLA and JLE were published simultaneously, I will alternate between the two series since there were some storylines that crossed over from one title to the other. The annuals I will slot in as appropriately as possible during the year in which they were published while trying not to interrupt the overall story flow.

It has literally been years since I’ve read these issues and I remember very few specifics. In a few instances, there are issues that I haven’t read at all. Because of this, I intend to simulate a first-time reading of these series by going an issue at a time and commentating on it before reading the next issue.

While I am armed with my trusty run of Who’s Who in the DC Universe as a reference, I hope folks will read along and provide their own comments, especially on things I may miss or just don’t know anything about to begin with. I remember these stories very fondly and am looking forward to revisiting them.

So go pull ‘em out of your long boxes because here we go.

Justice League #1
Story: Born Again
Plot & Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Script: Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis
Penciller: Kevin Maguire
Inker: Terry Austin
Letterer: Bob Lappan
Colorist: Gene D’Angelo
Editor: Andrew Helfer



As the story title implies, this is a rebirth of the Justice League and, like a literal birth, it’s not without its traumas, “thanks” mainly to Guy Gardner. This issue would’ve been just another “superheroes fight terrorists” comic if not for Guy and his rampant, borderline psychotic ego. While the first few pages feature the various League members trickling into League headquarters, Guy is the first one there. He sits at the conference table fantasizing about how he will announce his “chairmanship” of the organization. Really it’s not an announcement so much as a coup. Fortunately for the League, his fantasy doesn’t come to fruition.

The first team member to arrive after Guy is the Black Canary. There is instantaneous friction (and not the kind that Guy would prefer) that results in her referring to him both as “Mussolini” and “Rambo with a ring.” If you’re reading along, did you notice her very 80s hairstyle? And costume, for that matter!

Mister Miracle and Oberon teleport in next. They’re a bit of a surprise where the team roster is concerned since they did not play a part in the Legends mini-series where the new Justice League first formed. There’s no word on who extended the invitation to join.

Captain Marvel shows up next with a patented Captain Marvel “Holy Moley” for which Guy promptly ridicules him. Apparently, the media have taken their posts outside League HQ. As the Martian Manhunter and Blue Beetle make their appearance, the discussion involves public perception of superheroes following the shellacking that Glorious Godfrey gave them during the Legends mini-series. There are differing viewpoints on whether this public attention is beneficial or not.

J’onn J’onz refers to the previous incarnation of the League as having been “what we lost” but there’s no recapping or explanation, which is just as well as it’s not really pertinent to this rebirth aside from the fact that the old League is gone and the new League has risen up to take its place. He then proceeds to purge the former members’ files from the JL computer system.

The members present at this point seem to have a basic familiarity with one another. Aside from Legends #6, they may have met as a team prior to this story or individually, but Blue Beetle states that they don’t really know each other. Seeing them eventually gel as teammates, even friends, is one of the more enjoyable aspects of these series, but it doesn’t come easily and that, too, contributes to the fun.

Just as Guy bangs the gavel to call the meeting to order, we’re swept away to Maxwell Lord IV’s Washington D.C. offices of Innovative Concepts! As Lord enters the office, his receptionist, Ms. Wootenhoffer, notes his “especially fine mood” and he heartily concurs. He takes up his post watching the Justice League news coverage on a bank of TVs resembling CNN’s Situation Room. He says nothing but scrawls “Justice League of America” on a notepad and then crosses out the “of America.” He smiles and you can see the wheels turning.

Back at League HQ things are heating up. Guy and the Black Canary are in each other’s faces and, when Oberon tries to get between them, Guy literally brushes him off, using his power ring to create a huge brush. This is when the fisticuffs begin. Not a good way to start things. Enter Dr. Fate and Batman.

Dr. Fate takes a step to intervene and Batman stops him dead in his tracks. Wading through the heroes, Batman walks straight up to Guy and says, “Sit. Down.” Guy scowls, but he does it. In a mere handful of panels, Giffen, DeMatteis, and company have established Batman as the authority figure. Sure, Dr. Fate or the Martian Manhunter could’ve gotten it done probably, but neither of them possesses the Batman’s reputation or presence. Batman assumes control of the meeting with a “Shall we begin?,” thereby voiding any of the proceedings prior to his arrival.

As Batman wraps up the reading of the team charter, the members are clearly bored for which Batman reprimands them. When Guy criticizes Batman’s leadership style, Mister Miracle states his discomfort with it, but qualifies himself by saying he much prefers it to Guy’s: “Next to you, he’s Mother Theresa.” I think it’s interesting that Batman, really, has done what Guy wanted to do. The difference may be that while Guy premeditated it, Batman probably did not. It was a natural extension of his personality and his own possible psychosis as well. Batman’s a loner. His predilection for calling the shots doesn’t arise so much out of delusions of grandeur like Guy’s but out of a supreme confidence that he is unquestionably right. The fact that he often is right provides the foundation for the team’s confidence in his leadership whether they like his style or not.

In New York City, Dr. Kimiyo Hoshi a.k.a. Dr. Light, is about to address the United Nations General Assembly on her new solar storage units, which she hopes will allow the oceans to be harvested to feed the hungry. Apparently, the assembly has put her on hold, however, so that they can discuss the storage units’ capacity for super-villain deterrence. She is doubly frustrated, however, by a beeping signal device, which we see given to her in a flashback. Presumably, it is Maxwell Lord who gives her the device and grants her Justice League membership although we don’t see his face. As she steps into the hallway, she’s immediately accosted by some terrorists who have infiltrated the building. When she activates the signal device, the alarm sounds at League HQ.

Guy impulsively heads for the door, but Batman, as master tactician, reins him in and details the plan of attack. Dr. Fate and Captain Marvel will reconnoiter the UN building while the rest of the team follow in the Blue Beetle’s "Bug." While the team is en route, some talking heads on TV explain that the terrorist leader has a bomb grafted to his chest that is set to explode should his heart stop beating. As they engage the terrorists, Batman smells something fishy. They seem to be both poorly trained and equipped. Having dispatched everyone but the leader, Batman orders everyone out of the assembly hall. The terrorist leader places a gun to his head and takes his own life and the bomb…does not detonate.

The talking heads proceed to explain that this man, John Charles Collins, was a drifter and former mental patient with no previous known underground political affiliations and the fact that the Batman was the last person seen with him prior to his death is a matter for concern, the talking heads say.

As all of this is unfolding, it seems contrived. The new League are holding their very first meeting when they suddenly receive an emergency call that terrorists are holding the United Nations General Assembly hostage? This sense of contrivance dissipates a little, however, as Batman begins to suspect foul play. Further, it is obliterated altogether in the final three panels as Maxwell Lord muses over Collins shooting himself and the bomb failing to detonate. “Maybe I should’ve given him the firing pin,” he says with an air of the sinister.

Insert dramatic music here!!!

It would appear that Lord is some sort of puppet master with the new League members his marionettes. How will this play out? How long until they figure out they’re being manipulated and confront Lord? See, that’s what makes this series so great!

Next issue: Justice League #2 – “Make War No More!”

Read More

8 Comments:

Blogger Christopher Burton said...

One thing I forgot to mention was that now-famous cover. I know, duh! Does anyone know how many times it's been swiped, either by Maguire himself or another artist? I'd like to see a gallery of those sometimes.

Also, could somebody fill me in on what led to the previous League disbanding? Just curious. I'd like to have a sense of what kind of baggage J'onn may be bringing to the new League.

1/02/2006 09:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Steve Mohundro said...

I wasn't a reader of the "Detroit JLA" era of the Justice League, but I did read the four-part "Legends" crossover that ended that series' run. By the beginning of it, the League consisted of Vixen, Vibe, Steel, J'Onn, and Gypsy. Steel and Vibe are killed by Ivo, Gypsy goes into hiding (?), and Vixen quits. J'Onn is the only surviving member at this point.

It would probably help to have read more than those four issues, though. The gist is that the League was pretty weak by the point of "Legends," and pretty much disbanded around that time.

1/02/2006 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Dean Hacker said...

I read the first few issues of the Detroit JLA and the last few. DeMatties and Luke McDonnell did an amazing job of making you care just enough about the C-listers Steel and Vibe that their deaths mattered.

The late 80s DC comics were positively haunted by the Crisis. It was as though the writers couldn't quite believe Barry Allen, Supergirl, et al were really dead. It added a dimension to the best books of that period, like Giffen's 'Justice League' and William Messner-Loebs 'Flash'. Many of the characters who had not been totally re-booted seemed sadder and more guilty. J'onn J'onzz being the most effected.

Look, JL was mostly a comedy title, but it was all character driven. Most of the cast seemed painfully aware that they were a poor substitute for the 'Big 7'. It made the reader really worry for them. They seemed totally over-matched by opponents like Despero. That was the charm of the title to me.

1/03/2006 01:31:00 AM  
Blogger Apodaca said...

Cool review. I'm definitely looking forward to many more of these to come.

1/03/2006 07:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was never into the old JLofA, except when they had their JSA crossovers--but I did check out the end of the JLof A stories, and Legends--so I gave JL a whirl, and quickly became a fan--it remains one of my all time favorite comic series.

1/03/2006 10:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I started reading at three part story with the Atom and kept going until the new Giffen series.

1/07/2006 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Arndt said...

Batman is a loner?

With how many sidekicks?

10/20/2006 06:14:00 AM  
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