The United Nations sanctions its own multinational team of superheroes made up of only committee-approved metahumans and led by Booster Gold, a time-traveler in desperate need of fame who’s only really in it for the notoriety it’s sure to bring. Against the UN’s will, Batman forces himself on the team to make sure it behaves appropriately. Cultural, political and interpersonal conflicts create a spastic minefield which the League must navigate if it ever hopes to perform its twin functions: save the world and produce good PR.
Sounds like the set-up to a killer book, right? And if you didn’t know any better, I could tell you that’s the pitch for Justice League International, DC’s newly-rebooted team of culturally diverse superfriends. The problem is, any idea of a book you would’ve conjured up by hearing that opening paragraph is instantly dispelled as soon as you actually look inside JLI. It doesn’t read anything like it could, and the results are ultimately and incredibly disappointing.
Tom Tomorrow reviewed the first issue of JLI last month as part of our New 52 coverage, and he ended up being a little kinder to it than I would have been. He noted several major problems with the issue — plot that moves too quickly, characters that are too paint-by-numbers — but he defends the choice of creative team, at least the writer, noting that he’s glad there’s a place for “old-school superheroics” in DC’s rebooted world. And, you know, nine times out of ten, I’m going to agree with that. But given what I said above, JLI is simply not the right book for that kind of stuff.
Whether or not the world is in any more political turmoil now than it was when Dan Jurgens cut his teeth on Justice League comics decades ago (I’d guess that it is, but I think we’re always inclined to believe that), comics — especially mainstream superhero comics — are much more free as a medium to explore the dark side of the political landscape now than they were during the time of Death of Superman and X-Men #1. Can you imagine what a writer like Joe Kelly or Mark Millar could have done with the concept of a UN-sanctioned Justice League? I mean, my god, just look at Justice League Elite or The Authority and you’ve got some idea of the levels of grittiness a book like this could submerge itself in. When you combine that with a chance to play with some actual recognizable superheroes — Booster Gold, Guy Gardener, Batman — I mean, that sounds like a book I’d definitely want to read. It would, in fact, fit in nicely alongside DC’s other “Dark” titles like Stormwatch, another fantastic read that takes its inspiration from the early, cutting-edge Wildstorm work of authors like Millar and Warren Ellis.
Instead, Justice League International is a big old celebration of classic superhero blandness. Its characters are broad, its threats out-of-this-world, its artistic style reminiscent of a coloring book. Frankly, this series is just dorky. And again, in some cases that’s fine… if this was a straight Booster Gold title it would work, although I still wouldn’t read it. But this book is supposed to deal with the serious political ramifications of an honest-to-God Justice League team sanctioned by the UN. DC needs creators behind this book who are thinking about 2012, not 1992.
And, you know, JLI isn’t bad, per se. If you really do want your old-school mainstream superhero stories at any cost, this is probably your best bet from the New 52. It’s quick-moving, action packed and a little jokey, and of course all the characters air their interpersonal tensions in the heat of battle only to come together at the end of the issue and work it out. That’s how these things go, and whatever. It’s not a book for me. It’s just that when I think about all the wasted potential of JLI, I get a little upset. DC really could have had something fresh, new and exciting here. Instead they’ve just got some of the same-old, same-old. And while that may appeal to some readers, I’ll be keeping with my Stormwatch while this book remains on the shelf. Even though we’re not really doing “pull list verdicts” anymore, for me this is pretty clearly a case of DROP IT.
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more