Justice League International #19: No More Mr Nice Guy

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

CROSSOVER ALERT: Not much of one, but there’s a vague mention of Captain Atom’s nemesis Major Force which makes no sense if you don’t have that background. (I did not understand this reference until I researched Captain Atom for his Bonus Character History feature in this blog series)

JUSTICE LEAGUE ROLL CALL: In space (barely more than a cameo) — J’onn Jonzz the Martian Manhunter, Big Barda, Rocket Red (Dmitri) & Green Lantern (G’nort). Still damsell’d: Mister Miracle (Scott Free). On Earth, Batman is pretending he never quit, playing leader to a newly rebranded team including Green Lantern (Guy Gardner), Fire (Beatriz DaCosta, formerly Green Flame), Ice (Tora Olafsdotter, formerly Ice Maiden), Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) and Booster Gold. Oberon & Maxwell Lord in civilian support. New members: Hawkman and Hawkwoman.

GUEST STARS: Superman being kind of a dick. Someone who may or may not know Wally West.

THE STORY: In the immortal words of Willow from Buffy, “I think this line’s mostly filler.” We are promised a grand smackdown between Lobo and a newly refurious Guy Gardner from the cover, and we definitely get that. The rest of the issue, not counting a 2 page peek at our spacefaring branch of the JLI as they approach the dread planet of Apokolips, consists of a half-hearted membership drive. Clearly the Earth half of the team has written the others off as gone forever.

Superman turns them down with the polite air of a man who gets a lot of invitations to parties he’s never going to attend. An offpage Black Canary makes it official that she’s not coming back to the team. Booster and Beetle can’t even find Wally West, the current Flash. Captain Atom is seriously worried that Max Lord is going to offer a spot to Major Force, which isn’t outside the realms of possibility as Lobo has also received a golden ticket.

Finally Batman scores a ‘yes’ – Hawkman is very angry at the idea of a superhero team that knows how to laugh, but Hawkwoman is all for it, and drags him along with her. Meanwhile, Green Flame and Ice Maiden go in for a little brand renovation of their own, renaming themselves Fire and Ice.

THE CHARACTERS: The big character change here is that Guy Gardner, having had Lobo land on his head, is back to his charming old asshole self and not a moment too soon. He doesn’t make sense if he’s not being offensive and violent. He and Lobo pound on each other in an epic city-smashing battle, only for Booster to bring it to an end with his forcefields, worried that the League will have to pay for the damages.

some fascinating body language here

Fire and Ice get a scene each, though weirdly we don’t see either of them discussing or announcing their name change — Oberon tells us about it later. Ice is concerned that the sweet man she got to know over the last several issues (mostly while neither of them were not appearing in the comic) now appears angry and troubled. Guy makes it clear to her that this version of himself is going to harass and disrespect her in a truly consisten manner going forward.

Then there’s Fire’s odd character scene with Lobo, which is her usual blend of sassy flirtation and surprising intellectual. Yes, she wears a fire-themed swimsuit as her work outfit, but she can also discuss Jack Kerouac! She has depth!

Lobo is absolutely the most sympathetic character in this comic, which is ironic considering he’s here to kill them all. Bemused by the slapstick shenanigans around him, he pretends to be a friend of Big Barda so he can wait for the space crew to return and wipe them all out at once.

Speaking of character development, Batman is totally pretending he still goes to this school, visiting his old friends and shaming them into not having time for the team he QUIT.

The heart of the issue is Oberon, keeping everyone running and reassembling the new version of the team. His sadness at Black Canary’s rejection is melancholy and sweet.

THE COMEDY: The battle between Guy and Lobo is both great and funny – Guy is at his best when he has someone equally morally reprehensible to fight, so Lobo is a perfect partner. I also really enjoyed the Beetle and Booster teamwork in this issue, with extra brownie points for Booster teasing Guy while suspending him in a forcefield bubble.

Shayera (Hawkwoman) is also a breath of fresh air, though her husband is terrible as always. Batman shows some serious twinkle in this scene — the point where he urges Hawkman to lighten up because he’s “positively grim” is pure Batman comedy gold.

Literally the only point of Hawkman is Hawkwoman and Batman making fun of him.

THE ART: The battle again is the highlight here, though I really loved how Fire was drawn in her scene with Lobo. Kevin Maguire’s take on Shayera (out of uniform) is great too.

THE KITCHEN SINK: Dmitri’s Rocket Red armour has been trashed, though weirdly we’re still not allowed to see his face. Poor pumpkin. Oh and after a LOT of build up, we’re finally getting the New Gods crossover that has been hinted at all year — our Space JLI are at Apokolips now, time to get their man back.

BONUS CHARACTER HISTORY: Hawkman & Hawkwoman

Okay, you thought you’d heard convoluted backstories before? That was nothing!

Our story begins in 1940, with Carter Hall as a reincarnated Egyptian prince with the power to fly thanks to a magical metal. He appeared in Flash Comics (yes, the Flash with the wartime metal hat) and soon joined the Justice Society.

Not only did Carter fight crime as the winged Hawkman, he also had a romance going with Shiera Sanders AKA Hawkgirl, herself a reincarnation of his Ancient Egyptian girlfriend.

Like many superheroes of the era, Hawkman went out of fashion in the 50’s and returned in 1961 when editor Julius Schwartz of DC Comics started a project to revive the genre, commissioning new versions of old classics.

Created by Gardner Fox and Joe Kubert, this new version of Hawkman and Hawkgirl (Hawkwoman, from 1981 onwards) were Katar and Shayera Hol, space cops from the planet Thanagar who fought crime on Earth with their winged costumes, and soon joined the Justice League of America. The conflict between the two versions of the character was easily explained because of the DC Multiverse, which filed all the “past” Golden Age characters in Earth 2 and kept the newer versions in Earth 1.

Hawkgirl was actually the first superhero to break the ‘twelve members only’ JLA which had previously limited the number of women who could be admitted to the ranks of the JLA. Zatanna soon followed her, leading to a period in the 70’s where the JLA had 4-5 female superheroes active in its ranks. Hawkman was often paired with Green Arrow in Justice League because they had this “hilarious” dynamic where Hawkman was conservative and Green Arrow liberal, which I think means that Hawkman complained about Green Arrow’s hair being too long, and also he would have voted for Trump.

This Silver Age version of Hawkman and Hawkwoman continued through to Crisis of Infinite Earths when they, like everyone else, had their backstories rewritten to fit the new reality with the multiverse squooshed into a single universe. The Hawkspouses suffered badly from this rewrite, with writers trying too hard to make sense of all their alternative versions. Katar Hol and his partner (cop partner, not wife partner) Shayera were now new immigrants to Earth, as distinct from Carter and Shiera Hall of the Golden Age Justice Society from long ago. A completely different Hawkman, Fel Andar, was established as the one who was around in the 80’s.

Everything was moderately confusing until Zero Hour, a mini-series in the mid-90’s which inflicted some extra complicated backstory rewrites on some characters, and in particular, attempted to combine all the past Hawkmen into the same character, who was also possibly a god. (During this process, Shiera/Shayera was killed and/or absorbed, let’s not forget this was the era that inspired the phrase women in refrigerators) In the late 90’s series, Hawkworld, the Hawkmen were established as all separate dudes again. There was also a lot of stuff about multiple reincarnations, let’s just not.

A new Hawkgirl, Kendra Saunders, was established in the late 90’s. When she committed suicide, the Golden Age Hawkgirl Shiera took over her body, though in the process she lost most of her memories, so she’s basically Kendra with hawk powers. This didn’t stop Hawkman from creepily stalking her and insisting she was destined to be his bride. Eventually Shiera moved on, leaving Kendra in charge of the Hawkgirl destiny.

The New 52 universe reboot included Kendra Saunders as Hawkgirl in Earth2, with Katar and Shayera in Earth 1 in Savage Hawkman. They kill Shayera off too. I don’t want to talk about it.

A version of Hawkgirl more closely connected to Shayera Hol Space Cop, was established in the Justice League and JLU animated universe — without Katar around to weigh her down, she’s a bright, cranky, complex and occasionally traitorous superheroine with a fantastic mace. She has an on again, off again romance with John Stewart’s Green Lantern, who also has a thing with Vixen. Shayera and John have a kid in a future timeline in the Batman Beyond animated series, and also in a Batman Beyond/JLU crossover episode, where John meets said kid (Warhawk).

In the fantastic wartime girls-only series Bombshells, Hawkgirl and Vixen are girlfriends which is just so, so great. Hawkgirl has a jetpack.

In the Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, shows belonging to the CW’s “Arrowverse,” Hawkgirl is Kendra Saunders, and is forced to spend a lot of time with a creepy stalker version of Kater/Hawkman who keeps insisting they are destined to love each other across all the incarnations, why do people think that’s a romantic scenario? She probably likes Ray Palmer better, and who could blame her? He’s played by Brandon Routh.

No one likes you, Hawkman.

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)
Justice League International 18 (October 1988)

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