Justice League America 32: Breaking Point (Nov 1989)

THE PACKAGING: JLI Vol 6.

THE CREATIVE TEAM: Keith Giffen (Plot & Breakdowns), J.M. DeMatteis (Script), Adam Hughes (Pencils), Joe Rubenstein (Inks), Gene D’Angelo (Colors), Andy Helfer (Editor) Kevin Dooley (Assistant Editor)

CROSSOVER ALERT: The Teasdale Imperative 3/4

JUSTICE LEAGUE ROLL CALL: J’onn J’onzz the Martian Manhunter, sometimes Batman, Green Lantern (Guy Gardner,) Fire, Ice, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Mister Miracle (Scott Free), Huntress (Helena Bertinelli) & Dr Fate (Linda Strauss) with no sign of Maxwell Lord & Oberon in civilian support.

GUEST STARS: From the JLE: Power Girl, Captain Atom, Metamorpho, Elongated Man (Ralph Dibny), The Flash (Wally West), Animal Man, Rocket Red (Dmitri Pushkin). Also: Teasdale, Simon Stagg, the Gray Man, The Spectre.

THE STORY: So we get a lot of Teasdale explaining his motivations in this issue which — yawn. He’s a mad scientist pure and simple, and while there’s some meta commentary about the nature of mad scientists, that isn’t really enough to justify quite so many pages dedicated to this bozo.

The twist is that the experiments Teasdale did which led to him creating an army of zombies (yep they’re zombies now apparently not vampires, though still quite bite-y) were funded and encouraged heartily by Simon Stagg, AKA Metamorpho’s Dad-in-law. Teasdale is now rampaging his way through the Balkans, apparently out of revenge for Stagg… doing something.

It’s all very rampagey.

Simon Stagg lets the JLE & JLA know that by fighting Teasdale they’ll be helping him out a lot, but sadly they pretty much have to do it anyway.

It’s the calm before the storm, I guess? Not much happens.

THE CHARACTERS: The strength of this crossover is not the super boring plot (the Gray Man has to be the worst antagonist of all times, he just stands around and makes unerwhelming, slightly mystical threats to the universe), but the character moments in between. It’s nice to see the JLE & JLA mixing things up a bit.

There’s an ominous scene between Mister Miracle and Power Girl — he’s miserable that they’re dealing with a plot that reminds him of his childhood trauma, and wishing he was at home in his sleepy suburban town with Barda and their business. Yep, the writing is clearly on the wall for Scotty-boy. When Power Girl tries to get him to use his expertise against the zombies, he loses his temper.

And of course when Simon Stagg is around, Metamorpho has a lot of anger to work through.

Flash takes a break from sexually harassing Power Girl to hit on Ice, who shuts him down thoroughly. (She has to do the same with Guy, yet again, in the same issue). I’m really loving how Tora is being written now. She’s often remembered as being the soft squishy one, all hearts and puppies and dedicated nerdery in comparison to Fire’s wild, more impulsive antics. But one of the key features of Tora is — she’s sarcastic as hell!

She has to have a lot of patience to deal with Fire as her best friend, but that doesn’t mean you can walk all over her. I love the snarky comebacks she has for the men who won’t leave her alone, even though that trope is getting super boring.

THE COMEDY: Like the character stuff, the comedy in this issue comes from the quiet moments, as well as some classic battlefield banter. It’s all good stuff, and the dynamic between the two super teams is great.

Best by far is a single panel in which Beetle snores on Booster’s shoulder, annoying Fire so much she thinks he’s faking it… and of course, he is.

Blue Beetle and Fire pulling this kind of shit with each other is actually one of my favourite character dynamics of this era of comics. Booster & Beetle are iconic, as are Fire & Ice, but I really like other combinations of those four, too.

Unfortunately so much of this issue is either The Spectre and the Gray Man being all mournful, mystical and failing to move the story forward, or the crazed Teasdale capering about the place like a less entertaining blueprint for Dr Doofenshmirtz.

I do wonder if part of my boredom comes from the fact that all the meta jokes about mad scientists & super-villains are well and truly played out in 2017, thanks to The Incredibles and Phineas & Ferb and everything in between. Were they original and clever in 1989? I don’t even know.

THE ART: Adam Hughes isn’t really being shown off at his best here, with so many long shots and not nearly enough facial close ups … except for Teasdale who is a great design but takes up far too much space.

It’s so, so lovely to see Power Girl drawn by someone who isn’t Bart Sears, though. And all the glimpses of the all-new Fire and Ice make me comforted and happy.

THE KITCHEN SINK: The Spectre is far too earnest to be part of this comic. He’s sucking all the air out of the scenery.