Justice League International #18: Where No League Has Gone Before! (October 1988)

Justice_League_International_v.1_18THE CREATIVE TEAM: Keith Giffen (Plot & Breakdowns), J.M. DeMatteis (Script), Kevin Maguire (Pencils), Al Gordon (Inks), Gene D’Angelo (Colors), Andy Helfer (Editor)

THE PITCH: If you believe the cover, it’s Guy Gardner (soppy brain-damaged GG vs Lobo, with Lobo definitely winning. Cough, this issue is actually all about Barda, and a Lobo vs Barda cover would have looked awesome, just saying.

JUSTICE LEAGUE ROLL CALL: In space — J’onn Jonzz the Martian Manhunter, Big Barda, Rocket Red (Dmitri) & Green Lantern (G’nort). On Earth — Green Lantern (Guy Gardner), Oberon, Green Flame (Beatriz DaCosta), Ice Maiden (Tora Olafsdotter), Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) and Booster Gold. Still on ice: a snoozing Mister Miracle (Scott Free). Not appearing in this comic: Maxwell Lord, Captain Atom, and does Batman even go to this school anymore?

GUEST STARS: Lord Manga/Manga Khan, L-Ron, Lobo

JLI18 boom tube

THE STORY: Big Barda has MacGuyvered her way across the universe with some of her super friends, using her Mega-Rod in the shuttle’s engines to bypass that pesky hyperspace business. They get to a completely empty patch of space, but Barda refuses to accept that they overshot their mark — she’s proved right when Lord Manga’s Cluster arrives a few minutes later.

Manga is outraged that the JLI got there ahead of him, and is determined not to lose his prize commodity of Mister Miracle, as he hopes this is the leverage he needs to finally open trade with Apokolips. He sends intergalactic assassin Lobo to take out the JLI.

Barda puts her Mega-Rod back together ASAP, battles Lobo and finally takes him out via random teleportation.

She doesn’t care where he ends up — but the rest of the JLI do! They’re relaxing back at headquarters after their Bialya shenanigans, only for a projectile Lobo to crash through the building, inflicting yet another traumatic head injury on Nice Guy Gardner which resets his personality all over again. He’s baaaack…

18 guy is backTHE CHARACTERS: Some great material for Big Barda here, showing her ingenuity, tenacity and fighting prowess. She is totally the protagonist of this issue. Lobo meanwhile comes across as a fun bad guy to throw at our heroes, largely because he is so nasty but is stuck in their universe where the worst that can happen to you is a bump on the head and some punnish retribution.

Manga Khan’s outrage at being lapped by the superheroes makes his character the most likeable he has been so far; ditto for the long-suffering L-Ron and his upgradeable chassis.

The re-nastying of Guy Gardner has been a long time coming — the creators have clearly been stumped at what to do with his nice guy version, as he’s been left out of nearly every major storyline since it happened (he appears on covers more often than inside the comics), and Captain Marvel has been gone long enough that all possible humour has been wrung out of the joke about Guy behaving like him.

Beetle, Booster and Green Flame get a bit of mileage out of a plan for a membership drive, but once again the writers have forgotten to give Tora anything to say and do, except for occasionally chiming in to whatever Bea is talking about. In particular, it’s Bea who stands up for the current Guy Gardner’s virtues (she and Tora joined the team after his nicening) which is a missed opportunity, since we will later find out that Tora’s first impressions of Nice Guy will have the most long-lasting consequences. I guess they hadn’t thought of that plot twist yet?

jli18 yuppieTHE COMEDY: This is one of those issues I hunted in my great newsagent quest of the mid 90’s, when many Australian newsagents had double bagged late 80’s comics for cheap sale. I picked up stray JLIs in towns all around Tasmania, in random order. This particular issue and its sequel (with a corresponding cover, Guy Gardner getting the better of a snivelling Lobo instead of vice versa) really summed up this era for me, with its balance of action and comedy.

Lobo is great here — I would happily read more of this particular take on the character, rather than the aggro 90’s version that would come along very shortly. He, G’nort and Barda make a great trio. Everyone gets their comedy moments. It’s a good issue!

THE ART: Maguire draws Lobo’s space biking (and fishies!) on an epic scale. Ditto the Cluster. I love his Barda, and could look at her all day. I’m liking his drawing of Fire a lot better this issue, what with the focus on her face. Maybe some day, Ice will get a close up too!

THE KITCHEN SINK: It’s all starting to come together. This is a really great period of the JLI, and I’m looking forward to more space hijinks, plus relationship woes. Tora. Don’t date him. Please. It is such a terrible idea. Don’t do it.

early_LoboBONUS CHARACTER HISTORY: Lobo

This wise-cracking, space-biker assassin had been introduced to the DC Universe in 1983, created by Roger Slifer and Keith Giffen for the Omega Men, a super team that debuted in the pages of Green Lantern, Action Comics and Teen Titans, and then received their own 38-issue run title. Omega Men storylines were mostly space opera — the characters were based around the Vega system, including planets such as Tamaran (where Starfire of the Teen Titans comes from).

Lobo was originally established as villainous mercenary whose entire race (the Velorpians) had been exterminated. After his appearance here in the JLI, rebooted as a snarky bounty hunter/assassin with a biker aesthetic, he went on to become one of the fanboy favourite characters of the 90’s — originally intended as a pastiche of Wolverine, Punisher and similar characters, he was instead unironically embraced by fans of super-violent anti-heroes during the era that turned Deadpool and Cable into superstars.

In his own title in 1990, Lobo’s entire backstory would be retconned, making him the perpetrator of his race’s genocide (he was now the last of the Czarnians, not the Velorpians).

There’s a joke in this issue, that the word “Lobo” which humans assume translates as “the wolf” actually translates from an obscure Khundish dialect as “he who devours your entrails and thoroughly enjoys it.” This pretty much tells you everything you need to know about Lobo.

It may not be obvious yet, but this first meeting with Guy Gardner is a start of a beautiful friendship.

PREVIOUSLY ON THE ONE TRUE JUSTICE LEAGUE:
Justice League The Story So Far
Justice League #1 (May 1987)
Justice League #2 (June 1987)
Justice League #3 (July 1987)
Justice League #4 (August 1987)
Justice League Annual #1 (1987)
Justice League #5 (September 1987)
Justice League #6 (October 1987)
Justice League International #7 (November 1987)
Justice League International #8 (December 1987)
Justice League International #9 (January 1988)
Justice League International #10 (February 1988)
Justice League International 11 (March 1988)
Justice League International 12 (April 1988)
Justice League International 13 & Suicide Squad 13 (May 1988)
Justice League International 14 (June 1988)
Justice League International 15 (July 1988)
Justice League International 16 (August 1988)
Justice League International 17 (September 1988)

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