Books Of Justice: New 52 Volume 1 & 2

justice league origins Justice League Vol. 1: Origin (The New 52) (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Jim Lee with Carlos D’Anda
Collects Justice League #1-6

After years of the Justice League not exactly taking center stage in the grand scheme of things in the DC Universe, the company put them right in the forefront when they launched the reality-altering New 52. Justice League by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee not only boasted one of the biggest creative teams around, but also marked the new continuity’s birth as the very first New 52 comic.

Set five years in the past, Origin puts the team together as they all face the incoming threat of Darkseid and his Parademons. It’s basically a “putting the band” together story that doesn’t feel contrived or boring, like some of the ones in the old continuity. In other words, there are no meeting scenes where the big three look at photos or ones where a bunch of scrub characters talk about how they’re going to carry on the team’s legacy. We start with Batman meeting Green Lantern. They then meet and fight Superman which leads to GL calling his pal Flash in. Later Wonder Woman and Aquaman show up. Oh and Cyborg goes from football star to, well, Cyborg as the story progresses.

After all the introductions and set-ups, our heroes finally face off against Darkseid in a battle that is clearly another set-up, but also feels satisfying because they earn their victory. Clearly, the dark New God will return, but that’s a story for another time.

What I liked most about this book is the tone and interactions between the members. It sets up their characters pretty well — even if those personalities might not reflect across the line — and gives an interesting dynamic between them that could be fun to read about. I will say that I’m not a fan of the overall dark and mean tone of this new DCU, but I guess that’s just part of the deal these days.  I haven’t heard great things about the huge crossovers that spun out of Justice League, but enjoying this book definitely piqued my interest in the second volume which I quickly requested from the library. I also got a big kick of of Flash’s line at the end where he calls their group The Super Seven.

Plus, can we just talk about how fun it is to look at a Jim Lee Justice League book? Even if it includes these weird, overly piped and paneled costumes, he’s just so good at drawing those big, iconic characters doing all kinds of crazy things. I’m down for at least looking at anything he does.

I actually picked this book up on a Comixology sale not long ago, but after my Kindle broke, I figured I’d check the library and see if I could get a hard copy. I will say that, while I like the convenience of digital comics, I still prefer actually holding the book.

justice league vol 2 the villain's journeyJustice League Vol 2: The Villain’s Journey (The New 52) (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Jim Lee, Carlos D’Anda, Gene Ha, Ivan Reis, Ethan Van Sciver & David Finch
Collects Justice League #7-12

It took me longer than expected to get my hands on this second volume called The Villain’s Journey. I guess someone else in the library system was equally excited about giving it a read. This second book is set in the current time frame of the DCU where the Justice Leagues have become a pretty big sensation that seems to defeat anything the universe can throw at it. But, there’s still some mistrust from the government and a mysterious villain first seen in the previous book who proves to be a bigger threat than anyone could have imagined.

And yet, there was something that just felt off about these issues. A LOT of time is spent on Steve Trevor and how sad he is because he loves Wonder Woman and she doesn’t love him back. That’s exactly what you want from your Big Seven Superhero comic, right? I only complain about that because it felt like the team itself doesn’t get nearly as much time as they should. As much as I love seeing the League fight against impossible odds, I also like to see a little bit more of them hanging out together and interacting.

I still like the interactions between Batman and Green Lantern and how GL and Flash are pals, but those relationships get leaned on a bit too heavily. Sure we find out that Superman hasn’t revealed his identity to his teammate in those five years, but what the heck does Cyborg do all day? As the one character in this comic without his own solo book, it seemed natural to focus more on him, but that doesn’t happen.

Speaking of characters who get a lot of page-time, but aren’t on the team, Green Arrow gets a lot of time too as the US government tries to get him on the team. Arrow trying to get on the team is something of a Justice League tradition, but in an odd turn, he doesn’t make the squad. Instead, this is all a set-up for Justice League Of America, a book I haven’t read yet.

Back to the villain for a paragraph, I just didn’t care and I’m not sure why. SPOILERS follow. This guy Graves and his family were saved by the League in their first mission back in the first trade. Something about the incident wound up killing his wife and kids, but also turned him into a weird monster that looked an awful lot like a White Martian. None of this is very well explained and all felt like a really long way to get around to Graves being locked up in Belle Reve where Amanda Waller asks him to write down how to destroy the League. I don’t think I would mind all of this if it was a one or two parter instead of spread out over all these issues.

This book also features Green Lantern’s exit from the group, a big fight between the members, a big kiss between Superman and Wonder Woman and a lot of teases about what’s coming up after this volume. All in all, I would say that this book didn’t do much for me. I really enjoyed how the first one just got right into it, but this one felt more plodding. I felt like I could see the plot points more clearly, like there was a checklist being checked off in a slightly disjointed manner. Part of the disjointed feeling came from the various artist drawing these issues. I’me a big fan of all these artists, but their styles are so vastly different that you’re constantly made aware that you’re on to the next part instead of being absorbed by the story.

It also felt like something of a misstep to focus on a brand new villain while also mentioning all of these established League villains who don’t do much of anything this time around. I’m sure this all leads to the next big thing in the DCU, but as a one-off volume meant to be read in and of itself, it’s not very satisfying.

Books Of Oa: Green Lantern – Emerald Dawn II

green lantern emerald dawn 2 Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn II (DC)
Written by Keith Giffen & Gerard Jones, drawn by M.D. Bright
Collects Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn II #1-6

When I was a kid, DC went through a lot of changes when it came to their big time superheroes. Superman died, Batman got broken and Hal Jordan went nuts. So, I became very used to the idea of change when it comes to my superheroes. I also developed allegiances to the newer, younger, cooler characters like Kyle Rayner, especially when I heard about the old guard complaining so hard about that old guy Hal getting kicked to the curb.

Aside from a few random comics I acquired over the years, Emerald Dawn II, a 1991 miniseries became my first real introduction to Hal Jordan. This series is the sequel to 1989’s Emerald Dawn and takes place directly after that. See, the series that launched in 1990 was all about current, grey-templed Hal, so these series’ about the rookie space cop were a bit more appealing to me. I scored these particular comics while visiting Carol & John’s in Cleveland while visiting my grandma who was always a big supporter of my geekery. However, looking around in my library’s system for other GL comics reminded me of this story’s existence. A few clicks later and I had requested the trade.

So here’s the deal, not long after getting the GL ring and joining the Corps, Hal Jordan needed training so the Guardians sent one of their most accomplished officers, Sinestro, to do just that. Making matters more difficult is the fact that Hal just got sentenced to jail for drunk driving and is spending his days in prison. While hanging out with Sinestro, it soon becomes very apparent that the large-headed, pink-hued GL is actually a pretty big despot on his home planet of Korugar. This is the first time Sinestro’s expulsion from the Corps is expanded upon. There are also references to Invasion and appearances from Guy Gardner as a social worker, which is a wrinkle of his character I wasn’t familiar with.

I had a pretty good time reading this story from a time when DC was excited about explaining these Silver Age characters in ways that make more sense while expanding on their histories. This is just a few years after Crisis On Infinite Earths still. A lot of people, including my pal Ben Morse, feel that Hal is just too much of a hot shot jerk to like, but I thought he came off as much more human and likable in this series. Things might get a little After School Special at the very end, but overall, I dug this Year One-ish story. Not only did Emerald Dawn II make me want to get my hands on the original series, but also dig out my recently completed collection of Guy Gardner comics written by Gerard Jones as well as the Guy Gardner Reborn miniseries which I also haven’t read yet.

Books Of Oa: Green Lantern Volume 2 The Revenge Of The Black Hand

Green Lantern Volume 2 The Revenge Of The Black Hand Green Lantern Vol. 2: Revenge of the Black Hand (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Doug Mahnke with Ethan Van Sciver, Pete Woods, Renato Guedes & Jim Calafiore
Collects Green Lantern #7-12 & Green Lantern Annual #1

I know I’m getting ahead of myself here, but it’s crazy to think that Geoff Johns isn’t writing Green Lantern anymore. I’m pretty far from caught up on his Lantern comics, but few people have done so much with a fairly simple concept and expanded on it so much as he did with these books. When he did Rebirth, there was only one Lantern and no Corps. Now there’s thousands of GLs and a whole variety of colors to choose from. Heck, he even got his book to move from the old continuity to the new one relatively unscathed, which is no small feat.

It’s that last bit that takes center stage with today’s Books Of Oa trade post as I review the second volume of Johns’ New 52 Green Lantern drawn mostly by the amazing Doug Mahnke. In the first volume, Hal got ousted from the Green Lantern Corps, but Sinestro came along and gave him a ring of his own. This book starts off with Sinestro visiting his deputy and a fight breaking out that only stops because the Indigo Tribe appears and takes them away. This part of the story explains the Abin Sur helped complete this group as a way of punishing the evil. Basically, the Indigo rings make very bad people feel compassion as a form of punishment. But, they discover that, over time, it actually works.

While Hal and Sinestro fix the Indigo’s problems, Black Hand — a fairly recent inductee into the Tribe — escapes which leads into the second story collected in this volume. While disconnected, he scores a shiny new Black Lantern ring and then heads back to Earth where our heroes eventually find and attack him. Meanwhile, the Guardians, who have clearly lost their minds, are making moves to create a Third Army (the Manhunters were first, the GLs second). To do this they break into a secret jail and leave with a being called The First Lantern all of which leads into the next big Lantern event.

One of the great things about this volume is that, unlike some of the other ones I’ve read in this ongoing space-fantasy epic, it feels like its own story. Sure, it leads into the larger story and will surely be referred to in those pages, but the immediate tales are not only fun and interesting on their own, but also offer new information about what the heck is going on in the larger Lantern tapestry.

And let’s just say that the world is a better place when Mahnke is drawing aliens and zombies. I think that’s a pretty universal truth at this point. It was fun seeing the other artists jump in for the annual, but at the end of the day I think Mahnke will go down as one of the best Green Lantern artists of all time and with good reason.

Lex Luthor Trade Post: The Black Ring Volumes 1 & 2

superman the black ring vol 1 Superman: The Black Ring Volume One
Written by Paul Cornell, drawn by Pete Woods
Collects Action Comics #890-895

When the New 52 was announced a few years back, there was a part of me that was glad because it offered such a clear and obvious place for me to cut off my relationship with monthly comics. For years I’d worked at Wizard where it was part of my job to stay on top of what was going on which was easy because we used to get a couple copies of every book each week. I got laid off a few years before the big switch over and kept up as well as I could, but fell way behind. Once the continuities shifted, I didn’t feel like there was a limitless number of future comics that I’d have to check out just to stay up to date. Sure there would be New 52 books I’d check out and probably love, but that could all be absorbed in trade form.

In that time between Wizard and the New 52, though, there still were some really great stories that I missed, including Paul Cornell’s run on Action Comics that showcased Lex Luthor as he tried to discover the truth behind the Black Lantern rings he discovered during Blackest Night.

In this first volume Luthor finds himself dealing with a new brand of obsession thanks to his exposure to the Orange Lantern and Ring in the aforementioned crossover. That urging makes him want to find out what’s up with the Black Lantern rings even more than he would have otherwise. This quest puts him on a path that leads to opposition and interference from Mr. Mind (or a clone/copy of the one from 52), Deathstroke, Gorilla Grodd, Vandal Savage and even Death from Sandman, marking her first appearance in the DCU (or at least the first time in a long time). To help balance himself out, Lex has created a robot version of his one true love, Lois Lane, who also happens to break out the big guns whenever necessary.

I had more fun reading these six issues than I expected to and I thought I’d enjoy it. I’ve been reading Superman comics since 1992, so I’ve seen plenty of takes on Lex Luthor, some more successful than others. I thought Cornell did a fantastic job of setting this version up and carrying that out through a series of adventures that not only make sense in the general concept of the character (who always craves power in every version) while also having fun and presenting a somewhat roguish character that you kind of hate to love. Luthor’s as smarmy and conceited as you might expect, but he also earns it by being the smartest, most prepared guy in the room, even when said room includes interdimensional telepathic worms and ancient immortal barbarians. He’s basically jerky Batman with no costume and a mad-on for the world’s most beloved superhero. With Superman not actually appearing in this book — he was walking around the country in the yawn-inducing “Grounded” story over in Superman at the time — I personally found it easier to get on Luthor’s side.

And boy does Pete Woods draw the heck out of these issues. Every time I look at his pages I wonder how he can achieve such a smooth, shiny, detailed look. He’s Terry Dodson or Frank Cho-esque while keeping female proportions in a more realistic zone. And his facial expressions are up there with Kevin Maguire’s which is super important when working with a smarmy character like Luthor. This first volume really impressed me to the point where I was really glad I already had the second one on hand so I could jump right in and keep reading.

superman the black ring vol 2Superman: The Black Ring Volume Two
Written by Paul Cornell with Gail Simone, drawn by Pete Woods with Jesus Merino, Marco Rudy, Ed Benes, Marcos Marz, Luciana Delnegro, Dan Jurgens, Rags Morales, Ardian Syaf, Jamal Igle & Gary Frank
Collects Action Comics #896-900, Secret Six #29

I’m not usually a fan of one trade ending on a cliffhanger and leading into the next one, but since I had both volumes on hand, it didn’t bother me too much. Being the incredibly well prepared evil genius that he is, Luthor already had a plan at the ready in case Vandal Savage came at him, one that included the Secret Six, which is lead by his daughter Scandal. Secret Six is one of those books that people seem to either love or hate. I’m somewhere in the middle, loving much of it, but hating Ragdoll, so the inclusion of that issue, while appropriate for the story, did get on my nerves a little.

From there, we get a pair of flashback issues that find young Lex hanging out with Darkseid and Ra’s al Ghul before returning to the present where he gets back to his main mission which brings him into contact with Joker and Larfleze before reaching its epic conclusion which includes Luthor gaining the power of a god, but losing it because SPOILER he doesn’t like being told what to do or having rules.

One of the really interesting things about this book is that, by bringing Luthor into contact with some of the DCU’s most prominent villains, you not only get a better idea of what makes him tick, but why some of these people strive for their goals even after getting their butts handed to them time after time by the superhero community. Each of them has something that pushes them forward. And while those motivations aren’t the main focus of the book, they are there for the reader to mull over to their degree of interest.

Another great aspect of Cornell’s story as a whole is that, by defining Lex Luthor so damn well, it also helps to define Superman. We see how complex Lex Luthor is and why he hates Superman, but at the very end we see why Lex is the bad guy and Superman is the good guy which makes for an incredibly appropriate 900th issue celebration. For all his claims of wanting humanity to thrive without aliens lording power over humanity, this is just a guy who doesn’t like being told what to do sacrificing the potential to do great good for his own ego. He doesn’t care if the aliens are above humanity, he hates having an alien over HIM.

It all harkens back to a great scene in the post-One Year Later Superman story collected in Up, Up And Away. Superman lost his powers for a year which left Lex free to supposedly pursue all those altruistic motives he supposedly had for killing Superman, but instead he wasted it to which Superman responds with a line like “You could have been curing cancer while I was gone!” That all sums this character up perfectly. If you believe he wants to help humanity, you’re buying into one of his many lies, but then again, I can’t really fault you for that because he’s pretty damn good at it.

It’s probably pretty obvious by this point, but I love this run. I read these volumes thanks to copies acquired from my local library system, but I think I’ll keep an eye out to add them to my collection. It’s rare to find such a well plotted out story that moves along surprisingly well for so many issues and also does such a great job of defining a character.

Batman Beyond Trade Post: Hush Beyond & Industrial Revolution

batman beyond hush beyond Batman Beyond: Hush Beyond (DC)
Written by Adam Beechen, drawn by Ryan Benjamin
Collects Batman Beyond #1-6

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Toy Commercial Tuesday, I liked the idea and execution of Batman Beyond, but wound up not watching too much of it at the time. Still, when I heard that Adam Beechen was going to write a comic set in that universe — which also happens to be the same universe as seen in Justice League, JLU, Static Shock, Batman: The Animated Series AND Superman: The Animated Series — I was stoked. Not only did Beechen write a bunch of the comic book tie-ins for the DC Animated U back in the day, but he also penned one of the strongest Robin runs in my opinion.

The story kicks off with Terry McGinnis still rocking the futuristic Batman suit with in-ear help from his mentor Bruce Wayne. As the story progresses, a mysterious character escapes from one of Amanda Waller’s secret labs and wants to take out Batman’s Rogues Gallery past and present because he thinks that there will be no need for the hero if all the villains are gone. Everyone assumes it’s Tommy Elliot, also known as Hush, committing these crimes, but finding out if that’s true or not is all part of the fun. I won’t get into the whos and whys, but I thought this was a pretty clever way of showing off the BBU and also expanding on existing themes at the same time.

Another big part of the fun of Batman Beyond is seeing how so many familiar characters ended up and this story, by its very nature, has plenty of them. When you’re dealing with the regular DCU or any shared universe, there’s a lot of different avenues the characters might go down, but with something like this, you actually get to follow them and see what happens in a more definitive reality. Sure, it’s just one potential future and I might not agree with how everyone wound up, but it’s nice to see what Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon and the others are up to and how being involved with Batman changed them.

batman beyond industrial revolution Batman Beyond: Industrial Revolution (DC)
Written by Adam Beechen, drawn by Ryan Benjamin with Eduardo Pansica & Chris Batista
Collects Batman Beyond #1-8

While Hush Beyond was a very focused whodunit, Industrial Revolution collects stories that feel a lot more like old school comics where there’s a main ongoing story while also working with a few potboilers and even a pair of one-off character spotlight issues. These are the kinds of comics I love and Beechen does a great job moving from piece to piece.

This one book features a new villain accidentally endangering Terry’s family to the point where he agrees to let the Justice League help him, someone trying to out Dick Grayson as an associate of Batman’s, Max getting courted by a super hacker group known as Undercloud, a strike at Wayne Powers, troubles between Dana and Terry, the return of Dana’s never-mentioned brother Doug and the return of one of Terry’s most dangerous villains. It’s a lot, but it all felt very balanced.

Above I mentioned how I like finding out what happened to certain characters, but I also like seeing what bits and pieces of the existing Batman mythos Beechen and company decided to cherrypick from. Dick Grayson explains that he worked for Batman Inc., which obviously didn’t exist when the cartoon first debuted, but has been worked in since. There’s also an appearance by Batman’s crazy motorcycle from The Dark Knight which was fun.

For the most part, these issues do a great job of walking that tightrope of servicing longtime fans and being accessible to newer ones (or ones with not-so-great memories like myself). Personally, I was a bit confused when the Justice League showed up, but that’s just because I didn’t know a few continuity things like whether that’s the Barda I know or someone else. The only other time that happened was in the last issue of the second collection which is an Inque solo story. Now, that’s a solid, sad story about what drives a person to become a villain, but the problem is that the character hadn’t shown up in the series before that. After that issue the book switched production and became a digital-first book, so it also comes off as a bit of an odd way of stopping a collection, but I guess that’s just the way things work out sometime.

At the end of the day, I had a really great time with both of these books. When you’re dealing with a tie-in comic like this, I think the creators are doing a great job when you’re psyched to read the next issue or trade, but also equally excited about getting back to the source material. That’s how it was with me and Batman Beyond. I’ve got the other two Beechen books requested from the library as well as Superman Beyond (they don’t happen to have the Justice League book in the system) and also started re-watching the series on Netflix, which has been a ton of fun.

Grant Morrison Trade Post: Aztek The Ultimate Man

aztek JLA Presents: Aztek The Ultimate Man (DC)
Written by Grant Morrison & Mark Millar, drawn by N. Steven Harris
Collects Aztek #1-10

After reading Grant Morrison’s full run on Animal Man and the first Doom Patrol volume, I should have moved on to Arkham Asylum and then Batman: Gothic, but I don’t have the former or the latter (anymore). But, looking at his DC work, Aztek: The Ultimate Man, his 1996-1997 comic with Mark Millar, marks the next books he did. Since I had it on hand, it was easy to pull off and read through. I will say that, while I read this book fairly quickly, it was a while ago and quite a bit has happened in the meantime, but I did want to get this review up to keep the flowing going a bit.

Aztek was a completely new hero with no connections to the rest of the DCU and even a new city to protect, Vanity. Powered by a mix of sci-fi tech and fantasy elements, Aztek has been training forever to become a protector and journeyed to Vanity because that’s where something big and bad is supposed to happen. While there, he foils a crime and eventually gets the name Aztek from the local newsfolks. He also takes the identity of a doctor named Curt Falconer and is somehow able to do his job at the hospital, Pretender-style.

In addition to going through some traditional secret identity stuff (juggling the job and being a hero, romance, etc.) Aztek runs into some familiar and brand new villains as well as a few heroes like Green Lantern, Batman and Superman. We also eventually find out a bit more about the organization that trained him and the shadowy folks behind it all.

But, the whole thing felt a bit rushed and maybe even a little sloppy to me. I never felt like it was properly explained how this guy could just become a doctor with no medical training. Crazier yet, he turns out to be the best doctor in the hospital! This also wound up feeling like a 24 issues series crammed into 10 issues and then shifted over into Morrison’s run on JLA which doesn’t do it too many favors. I also don’t dig Harris’ artwork that much. It’s very angular and everything felt too extended, like the whole book was a David Lynch dream sequence. That matches the off-kilter tone of the book, but it’s not my bag.

I just realized that one of the big problems with the book is that the lead is just so bland and boring when not fighting bad guys or finding out about his past. What is there to this guy aside from what he’s done? Not much. He’s your basic good guy hero, one who happens to fall into a pretty great job and a seemingly even better situation towards the end of the run when his mysterious benefactor comes along. He lacks the swagger or charisma of a Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne and seems to out-Clark Kent Clark Kent when it comes to just being a good person trying to stop bad guys.

I also think it’s crazy that, for a few years there, Morrison and Mark Millar were writing comics together. To me it’s like finding out that Neill Blomkamp and Michael Bay had a series of films together. One creator is pretty cerebral, but still does great things in the big-time superhero space while the other goes for popcorn spectacle or “shock” tactics. Anyway, it’s always hard to figure out who wrote what in team-ups like this, but there were definitely moments in this book where I found myself guessing at who added which bit of the tale.

Anyway, I think Aztek is probably the least Morrison-y book of his I’ve ever read. There are some of his signature wild ideas, but overall, it’s a fairly standard superhero story with the problems I already mentioned above. In fact, aside from a few appearances, the book even feels like an independent comic. And, aside from the eventual JLA inclusion that was actually pretty great, Aztek might have been better suited as an Image book if it was, in fact, planned as a much larger story than presented in this trade.

Even with the complaints levied against Aztek, I will be keeping this book in my collection. I’ve still got a bit of that completist vibe, so it feels pretty necessary for my JLA collection. Plus, like most of Morrison’s comics, I think that fairly regular re-readings help fully absorb the material. I’ve since interrupted my chronological Morrison read-through, but I should be getting to the Morrison/Millar Flash run fairly soon. In the meantime, you can check out my older reviews of JLA Volume 1, JLA Volume 2 and Flash: The Human Race.

Books Of Justice: Justice League International Volume One

justice league international vol 1 Justice League International Volume One (DC)
Written by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis, drawn by Kevin Maguire
Collects Justice League #1-6, Justice League International #7

I’m sure I’ve talked about this plenty on the blog here before, but I have an extensive collection of post-Crisis, pre-JLA Justice League comics. I still don’t quite remember why I started digging through longboxes for back issues of everything from Justice League International to Quarterly and even Task Force, but I’m pretty close to a full set. For the most part, I would grab whatever books I could find, read them and then put them in a box. I was planning on going back and re-reading everything from the beginning once I completed my obsession, but that plan fell away a few years back when my collecting side waned to almost nothing. And yet, I still wanted to get back into those books, so I was happy when I saw DC start collecting the Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis/Kevin Maguire era of the League in the Justice League International collections. I’ve got five or six of these books sitting in my to-read box and recently found myself in a place where I wanted to pay them a visit.

I realized not long after cracking this book open that, even though I consider myself a big fan of this era of Justice League comics, I’d never actually read these first seven issues in order. It was fun going back and reading them in their proper order with a much deeper understanding of the DCU of the day.

This particular League consists of Green Lantern Guy Gardner, Batman, Black Canary, Doctor Fate, Captain Marvel, Blue Beetle, Martian Manhunter and Mister Miracle. The book starts off with this group trying to stop a terrorist group from blowing up the United Nations. They also face off against a trio of Avengers analogs known as Bluejay (Ant-Man), Silver Sorceress (Scarlet Witch) and Wandjina (Thor) who want to rid our world of nukes as well as a mystical threat known as The Gray Man.

From there, a mysterious businessman named Maxwell Lord steps in and tells the League he’s proposing to the United Nations that the team become a sanctioned peacekeeping organization with embassies all over the globe. The group’s like, “Who is this guy?” but thanks to some recent international incidents, they go along with it. The team gets Captain Atom and a member of Russia’s armored Rocket Red squad foisted upon them and look forward to new adventures on a global scale. Dr. Light was in there too for a few issues too, but didn’t stick around. Dr. Fate took off as well.

What blew me away the most about this first book of Justice League comics is that it really jumps right in and spends zero time telling you how the group came together. In fact, there’s so little mentioned that I wound up getting the Legends event miniseries that spawned this team off of ebay because I was curious. I’ll talk more about that in a separate post because it’s pretty bonkers. There is a page devoted to Martian Manhunter mourning his fallen teammates who were part of the Detroit-based League that preceded this one. This style of having a team set before the book launched and dealing with personnel changes as they came is basically the antithesis of the Brad Meltzer League that launched several years back and even the New 52 version more recently. Those eras spent SO much time bringing everyone together and explaining how this character met that one or what he thinks of her that they failed to launch with much gusto. I’m a firm believer that team politics and dynamics should flow organically from the events of the book and not be frontloaded in the early issues. It was refreshing seeing such a different take on what seems like a standard kind of superhero story these days.

The other major departure for this era of the League, the one that it’s most known for, is the humor. Between Giffen’s plots, DeMatteis’ dialogue and Maguire’s art (specifically those wonderful facial expressions) the laughs come from all over the place. What surprised me about these early issues, though, is that they’re not as yuck-filled as the later ones. Sure, they’re in there, but they’re peppered throughout the action which is still taken seriously. That balance of levity and drama is what really makes this run so well-remembered, not just the fact that it’s a funny funny book with superheroes.

Finally, I love that they didn’t immediately throw this new League up against a well known foe. It would have been easy to bring in Kanjar Ro or Starro again, but instead the creative team created new threats, made the book more political and presented complex characters like Max Lord and Bluejay, Silver Sorceress and Wandjina who are actually trying to save this world from the weapons that destroyed their home world. These aren’t simple bad guys to just beat up, they’re more complicated and therefore more interesting to my mind. Instead of making their comic grim and gritty like a lot of the other books of the time, which in and of itself is a way of making comics more realistic, this one brings in larger questions and villains that can’t simply be knocked out, which infuses a book filled with Lords of Chaos and Order, aliens and New Gods, with a different angle of reality. I’m psyched to keep reading and see how International plays out and the eventual inclusion of Justice League Europe in the trades. Plus, here’s something to look forward to when/if the books ever get to the Breakdowns crossover. I did an interview with Keith Giffen about that run that I’ll dig up and post for some fun content.