Justice League Of America: The Injustice League (DC)
Written by Dwayne McDuffie with Alan Burnett, drawn by Mike McKone, Joe Benitez, Ed Benes & Allan Jefferson
Collects Justice League Of America Wedding Special #1, Justice League Of America #13-16
After reading through the two Brad Meltzer Justice League Of America books, it just made sense to keep going and re-absorb Dwayne McDuffie’s run on the book which makes up four trades. While my negative memories of Meltzer’s run were somewhat vague, I had very specific memories of why McDuffie’s bummed me out. First and foremost, it went with the “a group of villains getting together” story which had been done plenty of times before and after. Then you had the fact that it seemed like there were editorial mandates that just kept coming down which truncated some arcs and interrupted others. One arc ends with a “Huh?” because it had to lead into Salvation Run while another reintroduces the Tangent characters for seemingly no reason.
At the time these books were coming out, I remember thinking that all of this just seemed wrong. The Justice League should have been the book steering the good ship DCU instead of feeling like something that was being back seat driven by someone other than the book’s writer. So, when getting back into these stories I tried to forget everything I knew — which turned out to be a bit easier than expected — and actually read this book as if it was in charge. How’d the work out? Pretty well, though these books don’t really tell whole, satisfying stories since they lead into so many other books. To really get the full story of what’s going on in The Injustice League and Sanctuary, you should probably also read all the Green Arrow/Black Canary wedding stuff and the first arc of their book, as well as Salvation Run and also Tangent: Reign Of The Superman. Oh and Final Crisis.
Injustice League, as you can probably imagine, features yet another group of villains coming together. This time, it’s lead by Lex Luthor, Joker and Cheetah along with plenty of other familiar faces. During the bachelor and bachelorette parties for the soon-to-be-married Black Canary and Green Arrow, they make their presence known, beating the hell out of Firestorm, kidnapping Batman and generally pissing off the JLA. That leads to the classic team book trope that finds them splitting off into small groups and facing off against these villains to limited degrees of success. After capturing nearly the entire League and taking down Superman and Black Lightning, Firestorm shows back up and helps free everyone which leads into a big, huge fight. Sounds pretty epic, right? Yes and no. Sure, the fight is cool, but the resolution is kind of lamesauce with Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad showing up to take them all away. Knowing where this was going made the ending a little easier to take, but it’s still not super satisfying.
The book ends with a lead-in to the Tangent miniseries written by Alan Burnett, which had pretty much no impact on anything. The completist side of my brain is glad it’s there, but the part that wants a full, complete story thinks it could have been skipped. All in all, aside from the ending, this is a pretty well told, old school style Justice League tale. I actually just read a few old school Justice League comics and this story follows a pretty similar structure, so in that way it’s kind of a cool throwback. And the art is a lot of fun, though incredibly disparate from issue to issue. The amazing Mike McKone did the Wedding Special and just destroyed it. Like Dale Eaglesham, he’s one of those guys I think was just born to draw superheroes. Then you’ve got Joe Benitez who has a way more cartoonish, stylized look to his art that I enjoyed followed by Benes who has a more 90s Image style. It’s just a lot to take in that throws you off a bit when you flip from issue to issue and yet I still dig each of those artists in and of themselves and like what they did in their issues.
Justice League Of America: Sanctuary (DC)
Written by Dwayne McDuffie & Alan Burnett, drawn by Ed Benes, Jon Boy Meyers, Ethan Van Sciver and Carlos Pacheco
Collects Justice League Of America #17-21
In an effort to make the Justice League more proactive in the events of the DCU, the team decides to head to the planet all the supervillains are being teleported to (a story covered in the Salvation Run mini). However, since that story was being handled in its own book, the JLA wind up on the wrong planet facing off against one of their oldest foes, Kanjar Ro. This comes after a group of villains ask for asylum in the headquarters as a way to avoid being tossed into this cosmic jail. Batman doesn’t like that no one but the government knows what’s up with all this, so he sent Martian Manhunter in disguised as Blockbuster to find out what’s going on. These elements are mentioned in this arc, but none of the actual mysteries you care about are addressed in this collection (or even mentioned later on down the line now that I think about it).
The collection finishes out with a pair of one-off issues, one drawn by Ethan Van Sciver with Wonder Woman trying to get Wally to come back to the JLA while also fighting the Queen Bee. That issue sure was pretty and helped bring Wally back into the fold while also taking him to task a bit for not being around, a message that could only be taken well from Wonder Woman. The last issue, drawn by Carlos Pacheco, is split between another Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman meeting and a lead-in to Final Crisis, another story that gets briefly mentioned, but not fully explored.
At the end of the day, I enjoyed these books for a few reasons. McDuffie excelled with the interpersonal elements, not only carrying on the ideas that Meltzer came up with in his arcs, but also putting his own spin on them. The Vixen elements were great and he did a lot of interesting stuff with Red Tornado. I also thought he handled the big iconic characters really well which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering he was so instrumental in the excellent Justice League and JLU animated series’. And yet, at the end of the day, I can’t really call these satisfying reading experiences as individual books. They’re well written and drawn, but, since the book was orchestrated as more of a lead-in to other stories and not the springboard for the whole universe, the books themselves don’t always tell a full story. Still, I’ll be holding on to these books for the time being because I’m a big fan of McDuffe’s, the Justice League and like what he did with them when he wan’t being otherwise interrupted. Plus, to give a bit of a tease for next week’s Trade Post, I do think this run is better than the sum of its individual parts.