Month: March 2010

Revisiting the JLI: Part 3

Issues Covered
Justice League #4

What Happened
Booster Gold and Dr. Light wait with Maxwell Lord while the League decides what to do about Lord’s interference in their activities.  Embarrassed by Lord’s deception, Dr. Light storms out, effectively quitting the team.  Before Batman can render his decision, a likewise embarrassed Booster leaves, deciding he’s better off on his own.  Leaving the cave, he decides to approach the press gathered outside, but the security field holding them out short circuits and blows.  Booster follows several people who sneak in during the confusion and find them to be the Royal Flush Gang.  The League also learns of this, but Batman holds them back to see what Booster can do.

Single-handedly, Booster takes the entire Gang down but is surprised when a giant robot Ace attacks from behind.  The League joins in the battle, but Ace is programmed with counter attacks for each of their abilities.  Distracted by Batman, Ace lets down his guard and is grabbed from behind by Booster.  He flies Ace up, then drops him as Blue Beetle activates the cave’s perimeter force field, slicing the android in half.  With the victory in hand, Batman welcomes Booster into the League.  Before they can do anything, Captain Marvel draws their attention to the monitor to see that Lord, identifying himself as the League’s press liason, is announcing Booster’s acceptance.

Jacob Says
You may have noticed that one of the representatives of the JLI had yet to be introduced into the book.  Booster is the second recruit of Max Lord, but the first one with real staying power.  Dr. Light only made it three full issues before departing in a huff.  She never even donned her costume with the team.  As I mentioned before, this league has a sort of revolving door policy, at least in the early days.  As this run moves on, eventually the roster settles down.  Booster is one of the one that sticks (though not for the entire run).  The Royal Flush Gang are rather obscure villains even by JLI standards.  They have little agenda here, other than serving as a trial by fire for Booster.

This issue marks the first meeting of Blue Beetle and Booster Gold.  The two work together to defeat the Ace android and eventually become the best of friends.  After the 2nd string team of JLA was disbanded, the few appearances these two characters made usually occurred with them together.  Blue Beetle’s death in 2005 was a large reason for Booster’s rise back into superhero prominence.  But that’s years away.  We’re barely four issues into this run.

Revisiting the JLI: Part 2

Issues Covered
Justice League #2-3

What Happened
Refugee heroes Wandjina, Silver Sorceress and Blue Jay travel from their own nuclear war ravaged world to prevent the DCU from ravaging itself with nuclear arms.  The first nation they target is Bialya, whose leader Col. Rumaan Harjavti welcomes them with false modesty and pledges his help in ridding the world of nuclear arms.  He steers them towards Israel, which catches the attention of the Justice League, who move to intercept.

Guy Gardner jumps into battle ahead of his teammates, but is initially outmatched by the three.  As the rest of the League moves in, they are led into Bialyan airspace and forced to give up their chase.  Praising his new “allies'” victory, Col. Harjavti then directs them to attack the Soviet Union.  Completely unconvinced by his sense of humility, the three decide that the nuclear capabilities of Russia cannot be ignored and move to attack.

The League follows the three into Soviet airspace, but are stopped by a squadron of Rocket Reds.  After a brief spat caused mainly by an overly patriotic Guy Gardner jumping the gun again, the Reds are ordered to stand down as the three invaders have caused a nuclear meltdown at a power plant.  The League and Rocket Reds respond, finding the three realize that their actions have only caused devastation.  Wandjina decides to enter the facility himself and stop the meltdown, but collapses from radiation exposure as he leaves the facility.  Blue Jay and Silver Sorceress are taken into Russian custody, and the League are asked not-so-kindly to leave.

The League returns to their headquarters to find Maxwell Lord waiting for them with his latest recruit, Booster Gold.

Jacob Says
Now here is a story that hasn’t aged particularly well in the 20 years since it came out.  Nuclear war does not have the same terror that it did back during the Cold War, what with so many other means of ending the world out today.  It doesn’t help that both the leaders of the US and USSR (Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev are not only named, but shown.  Guy Gardner represents the overly patriotic viewpoint of the “chest-thumping” American, with terms like ‘Commie’ and ‘Russkie’ thrown about haphazardly, believing that Russia should be left to blow itself up.  The rest of the team, naturally, think of him as an idiot.

The antagonists here – Wandjina, Silver Sorceress and Blue Jay – are making their first post-Crisis debuts.  They were originally created as spoofs of the Marvel heroes of the time.  Their ‘alternate universe’ represents the Marvel U.  Wandjina served as Thor, Silver Sorceress as Scarlet Witch and Blue Jay as Yellowjacket.  As of today, Blue Jay is the only one still around, which figures since he was my least favorite of the group.  His only power is to shrink to the size of a bird and fly.  Big deal.  This won’t be the last time we see these three.

This also is the first appearance of Bialya, which would end up being one of Keith Giffen’s favorite antagonist settings.  Here, given the political climate, it was likely a substitute for Afghanistan, though it’s hardly important to the story.  Rumaan Harjavti comes off as almost buffoonish in his attempts to persuade the three for his own goals, and is completely convinced that he has persuaded them to serving him, when really they are simply using him for their own goals.  Harjavti won’t be in power for long.

This is not the first appearance of the Rocket Reds (basically a bunch of Soviets in Iron Man suits), but it is the first named appearance of Dmitri Pushkin, who would become synonymous with the name during his time with the League.  Black Canary punches him the face, causing him to lose a tooth which becomes the trademark of the character.  We’re a bit from him coming in, though.

Two upcoming plots are hinted at here.  Dr. Fate reappears after bailing early in issue #1 to visit somebody called the Gray Man.  We also get the book’s first appearance of Booster Gold, but we’ll get back to that in the next edition.

RtJLI Part 1 Addendum: On the origin

I had to look this one up – the reintroduction of the Justice League did not come out of Crisis on Infinite Earths like I had assumed, but rather of the crossover Legends, which was the first crossover since Crisis that had come a year before it.

Legends was a story in which Darkseid managed to get the people of Earth to turn against its heroes by way of Glorious Godfrey (and his hypnotic voice).  With all hell breaking loose, the President of the United States declares martial law, rendering all super-heroics illegal.  With the Suicide Squad working to break down some of Darkseid’s forces, Dr. Fate organizes Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, Guy Gardner, Black Canary, Changeling (Beast Boy), the Flash, and Blue Beetle to combat Godfrey, with Martian Manhunter, Mister Miracle and Wonder Woman coming along for the ride.

Godfrey ends up losing his control over the masses by way of Robin and an army of children (seriously), and Godfrey himself is defeated when he tries to put on Dr. Fate’s helmet.  As it would turn out, there are trials you actually have to undertake to do that, and his mind gets wiped real good.  In the aftermath, Superman and Wonder Woman go their own ways, Changeling and Flash return to the Titans and the others decide to reform the Justice League which was decimated during the event.

So there.  That’s the story.

Revisiting the JLI: Part 1

Issues Covered
Justice League #1

What Happened
After the fate that befell the Detroit-based Justice League of America, numerous heroes decide to gather to rebuild the Justice League.  Meeting in the team’s original cave base outside of Metropolis, the gathering becomes a media spectacle, with most of the new members trying to avoid the spotlight.  Guy Gardner is the first to arrive, thinking himself to be the obvious choice for leading.  Black Canary and Mr. Miracle disagree, with Miracle’s manager Oberon causing a scuffle that the arrival of Blue Beetle, Captain Marvel and the Martian Manhunter cannot abate.  Finally, Batman and Dr. Fate arrive and the matter is ended with Batman demanding that Gardner step down.

At the United Nations, Dr. Light (not the villain) stumbles into a hostage situation and uses a League communicator given to her to contact the team.  Not having given her the device themselves, the League responds to the call and disrupts the situation.  The terrorist leader, having a bomb embedded in his chest, shoots himself in the head to try to set it off, but it fails to detonate.  In an office, a businessman named Maxwell Lord smiles at the situation he has created which has forced the League unwittingly into the media spotlight.

Jacob Says
For one single issue, a lot of stuff happens in this issue, so unlike many of these, I’ll have a lot to say here.  Crisis on Infinite Earths basically reset the DC Universe, bringing together all the properties the publisher had acquired into one big universe.  That brought in characters like Blue Beetle (Charlton Comics) and Captain Marvel (Fawcett Comics) that had not been a part of the picture before, as well as guys from the old JSA, like Dr. Fate.  While a lot of DC’s big names like Superman and Wonder Woman were getting rebooted, many of the characters who wouldn’t need one ended up here.

Unfortunately, like most runs of the Justice League, DC would decide that many of the characters would be needed elsewhere, which created something of a revolving door policy for the team.  The bigger the name, the less likely the character would be sticking around for very long.  Dr. Fate would actually depart this issue, though would be in and out of the book for its early issues.  Dr. Light wouldn’t make it to #5 and Black Canary, Captain Marvel and Batman wouldn’t make it to #15.  Characters like Blue Beetle, Martian Manhunter, Guy Gardner and Mister Miracle would become staples of the title and stick around for the entire run (or at least most of it).

Also introduced here is Maxwell Lord, who is quite possibly the most entire figure of the entire run of the League.  In fact, one could make an argument that the whole story is basically the redemption of Maxwell Lord.  This was later undercut when Dan Jurgens took the book at issue #61 (Superman quickly took the League from him) and totally run through the shredder when Lord became a huge villain in the countdown to Infinite Crisis.  For this story, though, he’s simply a shady businessman whose looking to get the League the publicity it can easily earn and ride the coattails to the top.  But more on him as we go.

Running gags and storylines begin to be established early on.  The in-team squabbling would not go away during the entire run of the book.  Blue Beetle is put in a backup role flying his ship rather than getting into the action.  This eventually leads to him gaining weight from inactivity, which becomes a core part of his character.  Batman takes the leadership role early on, but will eventually be forced to give it up when the League begins to embrace its global celebrity.  And nobody likes Guy Gardner.  One character will eventually become somewhat enamored with him, but other than her, everyone else dismisses him (deservedly so) as a jerk.

Revisiting the JLI

Rather than putting out another full year of weekly comics, DC has opted to run two separate books, each going bi-weekly.  While my roommate will be picking up Brightest Day, I have opted to give my attention to Justice League: Generation Lost.  Written by Keith Giffen and Judd Winick, the book will be starring the memorable cast of the old Justice League International run from the late 80’s.  Many people tend to fondly remember the ragtag League with the likes of Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Captian Atom and the Martian Manhunter, but not many seem to have actually read the books that starred them.

Launched just after the close of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the revamped Justice League picked up any characters not claimed by bigger titles (which weren’t too many at that point).  Written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, the book was a more lighthearted character-driven title that showed how even the most disfunctional of teams could still come together to get the job done.  Sort of.

The two creators went 60 issues before leaving, and the league became a Superman-led team and got a whole lot more early 90’s-ish.

To prepare for the May launch of Generation Lost, I’m going to go back through all 60 issues of the JLI run, commentating on it here as I go.  So prepare to learn all the JLI stuff you never even thought to not want to know about.  You may just learn why Blue Beetle is my favorite hero ever.

(Oh, and if that shadowed figure in the middle there isn’t the Ted Kord Blue Beetle, I’ll give everyone reading this a dollar.  For real.)