Tuesday, January 10, 2006

100 Days of Justice League Day 3: JL #3

Justice League #3
Story: “Meltdown”
Plot & Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Script: J.M. DeMatteis
Pencils: Kevin Maguire
Inks: Al Gordon
Letters: Bob Lappan
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Editor: Andy Helfer
Special Thanks to: Terry Austin

Remember when the Russians were our enemies instead of our trading partners? It’s interesting to read a comic like this from the 80s because it really takes you back to those pleasant days when we all thought we were going to vaporized in fireball of radioactive death unleashed upon us by godless communists. Good times.

Of course, I mention this because Colonel Rumaan Harjavti, leader of the Middle Eastern nation of Bialya, thinking he’s pretty slick, “suggests” that the three heroes from another world, Wandjina, the Silver Sorceress, and Blue Jay, intent on eliminating nuclear weapons from our world, continue their work in the Soviet Union. They’re totally on to him, though, and go there because it more than meets the criteria for their presence on our happy planet, not because he wants them to.

The Justice League have been buzzing around just outside of Bialyan airspace when they spot the three nukebusters heading for Russia. Afraid that the Soviets will interpret the three heroes’ attack as American aggression, they set out in pursuit. Unfortunately, so do the Rocket Red Brigade.

The Soviet Union, not really having many (any?) superheroes have created the Rocket Red Brigade, a group of soldiers who wear powerful armored suits capable of rocket-powered flight. Luckily for the League, Maxwell Lord pulls some strings. He convinces General Secretary Gorbachev to order the Brigade to stand down, but not before a lively little skirmish.

The Brigade have also confronted the three nukebusters at the nuclear facility they’re about to destroy. Somehow, the plant begins to meltdown just as the League arrive. Before anyone can act, Wandjina summons some monster winds, which blows everybody around and he busts into the plant. Everyone thinks he is lost, that he has sacrificed himself to save them, but he emerges shortly to announce that disaster has been averted. Then he collapses.

Of course, the Soviets take him into custody. The Silver Sorceress and Blue Jay have no choice but to let them if his life is to be saved. The League is reluctant to allow this, thinking the Soviets could use the information they acquire by studying Wandjina to create their own superhero. However, they clearly have no grounds to object and return home to Justice League HQ to be greeted by Maxwell Lord and their newest member…

Booster Gold!

This issue, as one might expect, is the most solid yet. The plot flows logically based on the character development thus far. The writers have established some characters’ motives and others’ personalities and, in remaining consistent with this character development, what follows makes perfect sense. Col. Harjavti, for instance, is oily and manipulative, so it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that he would try to sweet talk Wandjina, the Silver Sorceress, and Blue Jay into doing his bidding. These three, in turn, have been established as experienced and worldly-wise, so it’s reasonable to expect that they would see through his guile and do what they want. It’s been established that what they want is to destroy Earth’s nukes so, again, it makes perfect sense that they’d head for a country absolutely bristling with nuclear warheads.

The Justice League is no different in this consistency. The character’s personalities, as written by Giffen and DeMatteis, are gelling. For instance, by now, we pretty much know that Batman is gruff and bossy. Blue Beetle is a wiseacre. Captain Marvel is a boy in a man’s body (much to t.’s chagrin – see the comments for issue two). When things happen, it’s because of the writers’ faithfulness to these basic characterizations. When the Rocket Red Brigade attack, who’s the first one out the door? Guy Gardner, of course. He’s been characterized as impulsive and a little bloodthirsty. For him not to be the first to engage in battle would be inconsistent with his established personality. The battle is Giffen and DeMatteis putting the characters through their moves.

There are some characters that could use more development perhaps, but it’s early in the run. As time goes by, characters will either be developed or dropped.

Something I admire is when a writer can give us insight into the personality of an incidental character. Space is limited in a standard comic, so it requires economy. The writers do this twice in this issue. One is with Gorbachev himself. Faced with his nation being invaded by superheroes, he and a military advisor debate how to handle the situation. When the advisor leaves, Gorbachev simply says, “Hell of a job.” Of course, he’s right, but the muttered understatement says something about one of the most powerful men in the world.

Another occasion of this is with Dmitri of the Rocket Red Brigade. In just a few panels, Dmitri is established as a patriot, but one who, perhaps, has not entirely embraced the communist ideology. As he waxes patriotic, he says, “God help whoever gets in our way.”

“Dmitri?” says Alexei. “We’re not supposed to believe in God.”

“Oh, that’s right.”

Maguire’s art seems cleaner this issue. I’m not really familiar with his work prior to JL, so I don’t know if he was very experienced with these characters but, after having gotten a couple of issues under his belt, he seems to be in the groove, at least with this issue. Most of us know that he excels particularly with faces and facial expressions and he has some nice ones. Highlights are Batman scowling, Blue Beetle biting his bottom lip, the Black Canary getting riled up and the results of this on the face of the Rocket Red Brigadesman whose faceplate she shatters. Another nice touch – being able to see their breath. It’s the dead of Russian winter after all.

Next issue: Justice League #4 – “Gold in the Hills!”

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Anonymous J'onn J'onzz said...

No comments you must have held off posting so long noone looked anymore. I finally did and poof! 2 updates. Russians! Our enemies!!! Never!

1/12/2006 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger Christopher Burton said...

Yeah, a cold combined with some minor surgery (not for the cold) kept me off the computer for several days. I'm trying to be a little more regular going forward.

1/13/2006 04:45:00 PM  

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