Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Justice League International

It's interesting looking back on eras of comics and seeing how certain writers and artists guided the entire line. Growing up in the '90s I had almost no interest in DC comics at all, it was only as an adult (or "adult" at least) that I actually became interested in DC comics. Of course the ones I became interested in weren't the ones coming out then, or even the ones from my childhood (or at least not my childhood in North America), but the ones from the late '80s and early '90s that clearly existed in an interconnected universe I knew nothing about.

The Lords of Order and Chaos exist in comics that aren't The Sandman?! They have stuff to do with Dr. Fate? and Hawk and Dove? Hawk and Dove is actually good?! It was a constant string of revelations that I never get anymore because I know what's going on in most comics coming out from Marvel and DC even if I don't read them.

I can't remember what the first of these comics I snagged from a quarter bin was. Either an issue of Justice League Europe (along with an issue of '90s Justice League Taskforce, which was terrible), because I was really enjoying the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, or an issue of Suicide Squad, because I'd heard it was good and really enjoyed that episode of Jusice League Unlimited they showed up in. Either way it soon led me to other titles written by the same creators (Giffen, Ostranger) or published in about the same time period and I soon amassed a collection of comics that in some instances (issues of Suicide Squad) I may have paid up to cover price (75 cents or $1).

Of course I've since gotten rid of all of them, several moves (cross countries) have made me pare down my comics pretty severly. Plus there was the promise of a Showcase Presents Suicide Squad volume. If that was coming out then surely things like Hawk and Dove weren't far behind? Everytime I see an issue of Suicide Squad I haven't read for sale I can't bring myself to buy it, because the Showcase is still coming right? Right?! I weep.

Anyway, Justice League: A New Begining spun out of the Legends miniseries, that once again rebuilt the DC universe, blah blah. In his introduction* to this volume Editor Andy Helfer presents the conundrum he was given: relaunch the JLA comic, but make it better and great! Because the Justice League at the time was...not so great. Helfer set out to do it, a return to the greats that had made the Justice League what it was! Except other writers had dibs on certain characters, so no Superman, no Wonder Woman, no Flash.

So Helfer (and Giffen, now roped into trying to figure out what to do) had to go in a different direction, and so the "Bwha ha League." Not exactly what you'd expect to come out of crossover nowadays.

Considering how closely Kevin Maguire's name is connected to this era of the League, the way he got the job is fairly ridiculous. A brand new, virtually unknown artist, he'd done a book for Helfer, but the next script was late. He told him unless he got some steady work, he was going to Marvel. Helfer gave him Justice League. Of course! To some extent I feel as though a stressed and busy Helfer's mind was presented with "artist needs book" and "book needs artist" and just did it without thinking, thankfully it turned out well. Well, apart from Black Canary's costume, but I don't think that was his fault.

Okay, so how are the actual comics? Considering how much I remember enjoying JLE and the (ooh, I reviewed it here) flashback miniserieses from a few years ago, less than I expected. I think Giffen and DeMatteis are clearly finding their feet with these characters in these first issues, figuring out what, and who, does and doesn't work in the book. Or maybe I just want more Elongated Man.

There are moments of genius (Guy Gardner suddenly being nice), but also just plain bizarre things (having the first supervillains your team fight be equivalents of Marvel's the Avengers). Still, at least the Justice League were being international, and interacting with other countries, dealing with politics, and fighting truly global threats. Hurray! (Perhaps, not being an American, and spending quite a lot of my life in countries not even in North America makes me more interested in what's going on "over there" than in New York.)

While in these opening issues it's still pretty much all Americans (and aliens) on the team, they diversified at least somewhat later on. Hopefully it also brought up why there was a "superhero" gap for the Soviet Union to try and catch up (or maybe I'll have to read Green Lantern comics for that), or why so many superheroes were Americans to begin with (other than the "written for American readers" bit). Well, I'd like to read more, but not in expensive hardcovers. I figure at the rate they're currently coming out, DC's Showcases will hit this point in about 10 years. I can't wait!

*As much as I enjoy reading comics, I also have a much geekier enjoyment, reading about how comics were made. I think I may have enjoyed this introduction going through all the trials and tribulations of how this League came to be than the comics contained within. Another example of this are the afterwards in Dark Horses's Conan reprints. I've read through several of those in the library, but I don't think I made it through the actual comics in volume one.


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