Justice League Europe #2: Somebody Up There Hates Us

THE PACKAGING: Justice League International trade Vol Five

THE CREATIVE TEAM: Keith Giffen (Plot & Breakdowns), J.M. DeMatteis (Script), Bart Sears (Pencils), Pablo Marcos (Inks), Gene D’Angelo (Colors), Andy Helfer (Editor)

JUSTICE LEAGUE ROLL CALL: Captain Atom, Power Girl, Metamorpho, the Flash (Wally West), Elongated Man (Ralph Dibny), Animal Man (Buddy Baker), Rocket Red (Dmitri Pushkin), with Catherine Cobert and Sue Dibny in civilian support. Wonder Woman is mysteriously missing already! She was gonna be “part-time”, remember?

GUEST STARS: Wild Huntsman, Rising Sun, Tuatara, Owl Woman, Jack O’Lantern

THE STORY: Captain Atom sums up the plot so far (dead Nazi, mob uprising), and the team splits into groups to cover more ground.

Each of the groups is attacked by a geographically themed “super-villain” who calls them Nazis and battles valiantly before falling into a coma. But if you’ve been paying attention since the beginning of the JLI you’ll know they’re not villains at all — or, they didn’t used to be. The attackers in question are Wild Hunstman, Rising Sun and Tuatara, former members of the Global Guardians.

Yes, that same multicultural superhero team that was shut down when the Justice League went International.

Cut to: Jack O’Lantern and Owl Woman, apparently still working for a “Queen” (ie Queen Bee of Bialya), smug at the Dome (headquarters of the Global Guardians), back in business.

I guess someone found them some more funding.

THE CHARACTERS: These little vignette mission/fight scenes not only set up the new plot, but also give us a moment with each of the characters of the new team, establishing a few key traits, and/or the dynamics between them.

Captain Atom is doing his best to sound like a leader, in the hope that confidence in his job will follow. He reacts badly to anything happening outside his control, like when Sue slides into the job of resident hacker/monitor duty person without permission.

Wally West is a hound constantly making leering comments about women, including his female co-workers. Ralph calls him out on this, but loses all credibility because he’s constantly comparing Wally to Barry, the original Flash, which I’m sick of already.

Metamorpho is grumpy and anti-social. He also, apparently, lost 5 years of memory in the recent meta-human gene bomb, the character reboot event that keeps on giving. He’s my favourite.

Power Girl doesn’t like Nazis, which is fair enough, but she is weirdly aggressive and patronising about the history of Nazi Germany with Dmitri, who firmly points out that his country, Russia, has been suffering far more from the ramifications of World War II than America ever did, so.

(Also, isn’t Power Girl Kryptonian? So, why is she pretending to be an expert on historical events that happened long before she arrived on Earth?)

I’m really loving how Dmitri is becoming rounded out as an intelligent character, instead of the funny accent machine he was back on JLI.

THE COMEDY: There are a few beats that definitely work, humour-wise — the long-sufferingness of Captain Atom, at the mercy of everyone else. Ralph and Sue have a great patter down where he is proud of how great their relationship is, and how adorable she finds him… and Sue undercuts him with a healthy amount of sarcasm.

The nose twitching is also gonna get old fast, but it’s worth it to see Ralph annoying Captain Atom with it.

Sue Dibny is a goddamn treasure.

THE ART: Ugh. The action shots are fine, but the proportions are bizarre and everyone looks like they’re played by an elderly Arnold Schwarzenegger. I know a lot of 90’s comic art is like this, but do they need to have so many pouches in their facial expressions?

I’m glad to see the Global Guardians being picked up again as a story thread, and it’s interesting to see Queen Bee hinted at considering that there’s a major Bialya plot going on in the Other Show at the same time.

Wonder Woman is not in this comic.

Am I the only one who thinks he looks sexier like this than when he was Generic Leading Man TM?

BONUS CHARACTER HISTORY: Metamorpho the Element Man

Rex Mason, archaeologist and adventurer, went on a quest to retrieve a rare Egyptian artifact, the Orb of Ra, in the 1960’s. His employer, corporate giant Simon Stagg, was so incensed when he learned Rex was dating his daughter Sapphire, that he ended up plotting to kill him. Java, Stagg’s bodyguard (often drawn as a literal Neanderthal) knocked Rex out, leaving him trapped and exposed to a radioactive flare-up from the Orb of Ra (which as it turned out, had been made from a meteorite).

Rex was tranformed into Metamorpho the Element Man: able to shapeshift and change into any element or combination of elements found in the human body, but never again able to look like his ordinary human self.

Fantastic, magical shape-shifting superheroes were all the rage in the 1960’s, with titles such as Metal Men and Doom Patrol (which launched Beast Boy/Changeling). Metamorpho was originally conceived as a parody of these character types. Writer Bob Haney had worked on those titles before being charged with the creation of Metamorpho; Aquaman artist Ramona Fradon was coaxed out of maternity leave to design the character and draw the first 4 issues of the Brave and the Bold, where Metamorpho would appear.

His popularity led to a 17 issue series in the late 60’s:

“He wasn’t your average super hero so capes and masks didn’t suit him. I tried a lot of those and finally decided that since he was always changing his shape, clothes would get in his way. So I drew him in tights, with a body made up of four different colors and textures that were supposed to indicate the four elements. From the beginning, we had fun working on Metamorpho. The characters Bob invented were such deliciously overdrawn stereotypes that they were wonderful to design and animate. What I liked most about doing that feature was the freedom it gave me to exaggerate and be myself.”

Ramona Fradon Reflects on Metamorpho.

In 1983, Metamorpho became a founder member of the Outsiders, a team of non-traditional superheroes led originally by Batman. Characters such as Geo-Force, Halo and Katana were created for this team; Metamorpho, Black Lightning and Batman himself were the only pre-existing characters used. Metamorpho was still one of the Outsiders when he “died” during the Millennium event.

Given his general indestructibility, the deaths of Metamorpho tend not to stick. After his Outsiders death, he was mysteriously resurrected during a random page of the Invasion! storyline with no explanation other than ‘gene-bomb does weird things to meta-humans’. As for those years he can’t remember, and what’s going on with his wife and other left-behind supporting characters, well… I’m sure that will be addressed in future issues of the JLE!

2 replies on “Justice League Europe #2: Somebody Up There Hates Us”

  1. David Goldfarb says:

    Actually, at this stage of continuity I’m pretty sure that Power Girl was not officially Kryptonian. Superman was supposed to be the only Kryptonian around. She was originally the Supergirl of Earth-2, of course; but when the Crisis merged the multiverse into one Earth, she could no longer be that. And she couldn’t have Supergirl’s original origin, because (as previously mentioned) Superman was the Last Son of Krypton. (Thanks, John Byrne.) So they rather awkwardly retconned her as having connections to Arion, the last mage of prehistoric Atlantis, and having been magically deluded into thinking of herself as Kryptonian. If you see a symbol on her costume like four isoceles triangles forming a twelve-pointed star, that’s Arion’s symbol.

    Even as the Supergirl of Earth-2, she had a backstory where her trip from Krypton took many years, but she lived in a VR suspended animation that taught her a lot about Earth, so she had an excuse for knowing about WWII.

    • tansyrr says:

      Hmm, yes. I thought we were still in the sweet spot where that retcon had not yet gone active, and everyone still thought she was Kryptonian. I know we’re only a few issues away from the issue where Superman visits to give her emergency surgery, and I thought that was before the Secret Origins & mini-series that established her as Atlantean, but indeed those have already happened in 1987-88).

      No wonder things are supes awkward when Supes visits.

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