Back in the late 80s I really enjoyed Keith Giffen’s run on Justice League. It had all sorts of different minor characters, and the focus was as much on the interpersonal relationships between the heroes as it was about the bad guys they’d fight. This was pretty common over at Marvel at the time, but outside of the Teen Titans (which were awesome at the time, too) DC didn’t get much of it. The Justice League never got it, or at least it came in snippets and never allowed itself to get too self-indulgent.
Giffen’s Justice Leage was all about self-indulgence. For starters, it featured about a dozen heroes, and the roster switched around pretty much at the whim of the creative team. There was a classic bit where Batman punched Guy Gardner in the face and knocked him out under a table, and Guy stayed knocked out for several issues. Every once in a while, they’d check back on him laying on the floor at HQ as a cut-away from the team’s latest battle. It was funny.
There’s always been a following for this sort of “not so serious,” character-driven version of the Justice League, and it’s become one of the difinitive “takes” on the team, probably second in popularity only to the original and Grant Morrison-improved “Big 7” formula that informs the New 52 version as well.
The Giffen-style League gets a shot as well with the New 52’s Justice League International, this time written by Dan Jurgens (who penciled this week’s Green Arrow) and drawn by Aaron Lopresti.
Jurgens is probably most famous as the architect of Zero Hour and the guy who wrote and drew the Death of Superman arc that was a late boom in the speculative era of comics, and which appears to still be canonical in the New 52 universe.
I’ve never heard of Aaron Lopresti. He does a better-than-adequate job here with a lot of different characters. He’s good with facial expressions and body language, which is going to be more important to this book in the long run, but his action looks good too. I think Lopresti is the perfect choice for a book like this.
Jurgens? I’m not so sure. I think it’s fair to say that I enjoyed Jurgens’s script in this issue more than I enjoyed his pencils in Green Arrow #1, but I can’t quite give this book a ringing endorsement thanks to a few minor details that add up to a near-derailment of my enjoyment.
I shall list them for you.
Nitpick 1: The Missed Opportunity
As the comic begins, a black bureaucrat with a goatee explains to the United Nations Security Council that they ought to get into the superteam business. “The Justice League, while effective, is independent,” goes the presentation. “They’re helpful, but answer to no one.”
This guy is named Andre Briggs, and he’s the Head of U.N. Intelligence. So we know that this “U.N.” Justice League is independent of the real Justice League, but for some reason they decide to use the Justice League name anyway? Like Superman doesn’t have a lawyer? WTF?
I get that there’s a history of a Justice League International in the DC Universe, and that “Justice League” in a book’s title is likely to help in the sales department, but DC already has a UN-based superteam in its portfolio. And that team is called STORMWATCH.
I get it, I get it. “Justice League International” is more likely to sell on the newsstand than “Stormwatch,” which after all is a Wildstorm title associated with non-DCU characters. Ok, but you know what the title is of one of DC’s other books that came out this week?
Did you know who invented Stormwatch and wrote it for the first few years and who published it pretty much ever since? Jim Lee, the current co-publisher of DC Comics.
This book should have been called Stormwatch. The new Stormwatch isn’t really Stormwatch so much as a retread on The Authority (another Wildstorm title), so it would have been a lot less confusing just to use that title for this book, which has an identical premise.
All that said, sales needs to dictate certain elements of the New 52 relaunch, so I will begrudgingly admit that they are probably in the right not to call this comic Stormwatch, and to instead stick with Justice League International.
But even that said, they missed a HUGE opportunity, in my opinion, to bridge the DCU and the Wildstorm universe when they decided to make the UN bureaucrat a brand new character named Andre Briggs.
Because Stormwatch had a perfect character who basically served the exact same role in the form of Jackson King, one of the most important and longest-running characters in the entire Wildstorm universe. His job, essentially, was running a UN-based superhero team. If it couldn’t be Stormwatch, why couldn’t it have been Justice League International?
Oh, and did you know what Jackson King looks like?
HE’S A BLACK GUY WITH A GOATEE.
HE LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE ANDRE BRIGGS, GOD DAMN IT.
Ahem. I promised I wouldn’t let my attachment to prior continuity get in the way of my enjoyment of these new series. I promised myself I wouldn’t get emot—
Nitpick 2: The Hall of Justice
SWEET! There’s an awesome drawing of the Hall of Justice on page 7! This Justice League incarnation is going to be based in the Hall of Justice, just like on TV! Awesome! That will actually be fun to read, because the Hall of Justice was never really in the comic universe before (at least up to last time I paid attention).
It will be fun and interesting to have the Hall of Justice as a “character” in this book. Couldn’t ask for a more iconic HQ!
Then on page 15 some grumpy protesters plant a big bomb next to it and blow it up. The next panel shows the building crumbling down, completely engulfed in flames.
Three cheers for squandered potential!
Nitpick 3: Chris Claremont Calling
Every ethnic character in this comic says some ethnic cliche or in some way makes it obvious what country they are from every time they speak.
In fairness, I think Batman should have to say “Howdy, partner!” every time he speaks, just to remind us that he is American.
Ok, that’s it for the nitpicks. This comic has great art, one of my favorite final splash pages of the week, and most of you will like it a lot more than I did.
And because I know you’re all wondering, here’s the team roster:
Booster Gold (leader)
Batman (secret member)
Guy Gardner (fun)
August General in Iron (?)
Rocket Red (seems pretty cliche)
Godiva (who is apparently a mostly new British character with uncertain powers)
I’m sure many bwa-ha-has are in store for us all.
Status: We’ll See.