THE CREATIVE TEAM: Keith Giffen (Plot & Breakdowns), J.M. DeMatteis (Script), Ty Templeton & Kevin Maguire (Pencils), Joe Rubenstein (Inks), Gene D’Angelo (Colors), Andy Helfer (Editor)
THE PITCH: it’s the second anniversary of the comic! And there’s a lot of old and new faces on the cover which… suggests something exciting might be coming, and soon.
CROSSOVER ALERT: Invasion is finished, but its effects are still being felt throughout the DC universe. A meta gene bomb/virus was set off, disrupting the powers of many of Earth’s superheroes and other meta-humans, including those who have the gene but have never had it triggered. Several of our characters are still feeling the effects even now the drama has calmed down.
JUSTICE LEAGUE ROLL CALL: Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz), Blue Beetle (Ted Kord), Booster Gold, Fire (Beatriz DaCosta), Ice (Tora Olafsdotter), Green Lantern (Guy Gardner), Mister Miracle (Scott Free), Rocket Red (Dmitri Pushkin) Captain Atom, Hawkman & Hawkwoman, Maxwell Lord & Oberon.
GUEST STARS: Flash (Wally West). Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), The Creeper, Firestorm, Major Force, Big Barda, G’Nort, Wonder Woman, Power Girl, Elongated Man (Ralph Dibny), Animal Man, Metamorpho, etc.
THE STORY: We get two stories in this issue, each leading towards an exciting new development for the JLI.
In “The Road Less Travelled,” Maxwell Lord is still coming to terms with how the Invasion storyline revealed he has the meta-gene. While he has no particular interest in becoming a superhero (Captain Capitalist!) the idea of having the potential inside his DNA is very much on his mind.
Max becomes obsessed with the idea that Metron’s alien machine, the one that puppet-mastered him into creating the Justice League in the first place (in the hopes it would lead him to take over the world) may have known about this meta-human gene inside him.
Cursing himself for his recklessness, he returns to the literal scene of the crime, abseiling back down into the rocky caves where he murdered his boss and met his machine-possession destiny. Creepily, it appears he has been expected. Once he gets the computer working, it mostly spouts gibberish at him, but also makes it plain that a) yeah, it knew and b) Max hurt it.
Trapped by a rockfall and terrified to the point of panic, Max makes an accidental telepathic connection to Blue Beetle, who promptly sets out on a rescue mission with Ice. They reclaim Max (who is now bleeding from the nose, that’s gonna be important) and head for home.
It’s the least disastrous mission that the JLI have ever accomplished. Meanwhile, Oberon has a surprise planned for Max…
Superheroes mingle, flirt, and argue. Green Lantern and Hawkman vie for the crown of Biggest Asshole At The Party. The theme of the evening is “this new team is crap compared to the good old days” and it extends to legacy characters like the Flash (Wally West) who is frustrated at his mentor’s old buddies treating him like the work experience kid.
Blue Beetle tries to chat up Wonder Woman, and is cheerfully rebuffed, but Hawkman uses this as an excuse for the fight he’s been itching for since he first set foot in this team. He then storms up to J’onn and loudly quits. About time, Hawkbrat!
The miniaturised Khunds from Oberon’s recent Die Hard make an appearance, having returned to proper size, but their attempts to wreak revenge are flawed by… well, the room full of superheroes. Even their retreat becomes a mess, because there is no space for anyone to fight properly.
The moral of the story is that too many superheroes can be as big a problem as too few! After some in person research and unofficial job interviews, Max and Oberon quietly put together a new team, to operate out of the Paris embassy, consisting of: Flash, Wonder Woman (part-time), Power Girl, Elongated Man, Animal Man, Metamorpho, a transferring Rocket Red (to be nearer home and his family) and as their leader… Captain Atom.
Roll on, Justice League Europe!
THE CHARACTERS: It feels appropriate for an anniversary issue to be separated into two halves: one about the past of the JLI’s founder and one about its future. It’s interesting to have a second bite at the Maxwell Lord origin story, and a testament to how good the writing can be in this comic that so much of the story is devoted to his agonised thought process. The meta-human gene is a game changer for Max, and it’s going to be fun to watch that play out in actual chronological order, in comparison to how I first experienced this story.
It’s also the Ice appreciation issue, weirdly enough. Lond overdue! Ice is probably the character who has had the least amount of story and page time in the current roster so far, and it’s nice to see the comic addressing this and giving her more prominence as well as working towards defining her character more thoroughly. We learn that she’s nice, sweet and helpful but not a complete pushover. While we don’t get to see them on the page, it is established that she uses her powers to free Max from being buried alive.
Blue Beetle expresses pleasure in having Ice along as a mission partner (Booster Who?) and Ice also has a great scene with Oberon in which they discuss how much she has proved herself since she and Fire both talked him into letting them join. There’s a cute little scene with Fire too, who is recovering from post-meta-gene-virus flu. Fire and Ice’s dynamic was set up really nicely in their first few issues, as a double act with Fire as the kooky wild ideas one (Lucy) and Ice as the sensible, scolding one (Ethel) but this has been largely abandoned for most of the last year. Time to bring them front and centre, as soon as we get Fire out of bed!
Oberon taking the lead with this membership drive has cemented him very much as Max’s Number 2, with J’onn running the team itself. No mention at all of Oberon’s friendship with Scott — he has transcended his Mister Miracle tie-in status.
Thank goodness Hawkman is gone. He was a terrible fit for this comic, contributing nothing but complaints since the moment he arrived. No mention of whether Shayera goes with him but I’m pretty sure she does? You can do better, Shayera.
I notice no one invited Hal to join anything. I place that information here without comment.
We don’t get much of a sense of the new crowd, and apart from Ralph teasing Wally, the characterisation that we see in these “new” characters doesn’t really reflect what we’re going to see in JLE. But all of that is still to come…
THE COMEDY: It’s not the funniest issue, and the least funny jokes are repeated far too often. Still, the humour mostly comes out of the character interactions in any case. The panel in which the Khunds and Justice League face each other in mutual surprise is priceless.
THE ART: Good faces. Good caves. Ice is starting to look a lot more like a person and less like a swimsuit with hair. It’s so weird seeing characters like Power Girl and Metamorpho being drawn by Maguire when that is not the art we’re gonna get next month… Both pencillers are on this issue, with Templeton doing the first story and Maguire the second. Some epic crowd scenes in the latter. Superhero parties are a great visual trope! The best ever example of these has to be Black Canary’s hen party by Amanda Conner.
THE KITCHEN SINK: It feels like a fresh start, and I’m excited.
BONUS CHARACTER HISTORY: Nope, I think I’ll save those for the launch of Justice League Europe…
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 Annual #2 (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)
Justice League International 19 (November 1988)
Justice League International 20 (December 1988)
Justice League International 21 (December 1988)
Justice League International 22 (January 1989)
Justice League International 23