Justice League International Annual #3 (1989)

THE PACKAGING: This is the last issue that appears in JLI Volume Five.

THE CREATIVE TEAM: Keith Giffen (Plot & Breakdowns), J.M. DeMatteis (Script), Mike McKone & Tim Gula (Pencils), Pablos Marcos (Inks), Gene D’Angelo (Colors), Andy Helfer (Editor)

THE PITCH: Two stories! No waiting

[Story 1: “Around the World with the JLI”]

JUSTICE LEAGUE ROLL CALL: Maxwell Lord, Oberon, J’onn J’onzz the Martian Manhunter, Blue Beetle, Fire, Ice, Booster Gold, Mister Miracle (Scott Free), Metamorpho, Elongated Man (Ralph Dibny), The Flash (Wally West), Power Girl, Animal Man.

GUEST STARS: Herb & the Chief, KooeyKooeyKooey.

THE STORY: On a distant South Pacific Island, young Herb tries to convince his uncle the Chief that instead of letting a foreign power set up a military installation on their vulnerable but strategically significant island, they should instead offer themselves to the Justice League International as a site for one of their embassies, which would mean far less threat to the preservation of their traditional way of life.

The Chief agrees finally, and sends Herb off to make the deal.

In New York, a delegation made up of members from both the JLA & JLE set off on a teleportational “road trip” to check in with the various international embassies.

In Tokyo: Herb arrives and states his case but is teleported directly to New York because of a sensitive project about to be undertaken by Dr Light.

In Brazil: the liason tries to convince the JLI to take up permanent residence in their luxurious embassy, his argument supported by Beetle’s admiration of the swimming pool, and Fire’s admiration of being admired by her fellow Brazilian citizens.

In New York: J’onn reluctantly agrees to take Herb on to connect with Max and his magical mystery tour, rather than wait for them to return.

In Tokyo: Max and Dr Light have a frosty reunion and she shares her sensitive/secret project with him: they are attempting to revive the comatose Rising Sun.

In Brazil: J’onn & Herb missed Max’s team by *this* much but are in time to hear the commotion as the Brazilian liason shouts at everyone for their unprofessional behaviour, and most of his staff quits around him.

In Moscow: Wally West experiences is sexually harassed by a large Russian woman, who shows the JLI the most impressive part of their embassy: the bathroom.

In Tokyo, J’onn & Herb have just missed them…

In London: the embassy here is being run by the officious Michael Morice and his wife Lisa who are QUITE CLEARLY Basil and Sybil Fawlty.

In Moscow, J’onn & Herb have… you get the idea. At least they decide to skip Australia to try and get ahead of the tour.

In Australia, the team note the damage still being repaired from the Invasion, and Blue Beetle fumes about Captain Atom’s “betrayal” at being a government spy among them.

Finally they all converge on the Paris Embassy – and Herb finally gets to make his pitch to Maxwell Lord. They all end up enjoying the sun and surf of the brand new KooeyKooeyKooey island embassy, then end. OR IS IT?

THE CHARACTERS: It’s hard to know exactly when this one is supposed to fit in — clearly after the first JLE plot, and also after the Invasion. But is it before the Blue Beetle Brainwashing saga?

In any case, there are still tensions between Captain Atom and the JLA that are yet to be relieved.

Herb and the Chief are… well yeah. I’m not an expert on Pacific Islander culture but I suspect this is pretty thinly drawn. I appreciate some of what this storyline is trying to achieve — like pointing out that both these characters have been educated abroad and aren’t just “stock footage natives” but… yeah. It’s all a bit uncomfortable from the vantage point of the 21st century.

The Chief is pretty funny in a Dumbledore kind of way which is to say he is a massive troll. Herb’s earnestness makes him reasonably compelling and sympathetic. But um. The whole thing still feels super racist.

THE COMEDY: For what feels like a comedy of errors, this one isn’t especially amusing, more exasperating — but it’s reasonably fun. And it was eye-opening to me when I first read this issue, long after a much later appearance of the Morice character, to realise the Basil Fawlty joke.

THE ART: Well it’s not Sears, so I’ll take it.

THE KITCHEN SINK: Despite the uncomfortable racial overtones, I do have a fondness for KooeyKooeyKooey as a hub of JLI plots, mostly because that represents peak Beetle & Booster shenanigans to me. I’m pretty sure this is the only time we actually get in depth characterisation of the Islanders themselves, though.

[Story 2: “The Man I Never Was” ]

JUSTICE LEAGUE ROLL CALL: Batman & J’onn J’onzz the Martian Manhunter with a little bit of Oberon, Max & Guy Gardner.

THE STORY: Batman finds J’onn in his neighbourhood, back to his old tricks of pretending to be a private detective from the 1950’s. J’onn is investigating the suspicious death of his old partner, and he & Batman finally connect via their shared interest in being miserable. Batman discovers that J’onn’s old partner died thanks to a random mugging, not a conspiracy.

Meanwhile, Guy Gardner is horrified to discover that no one told the comics people that his second traumatic brain injury restored his asshole personality, and literally nothing happens with this subplot.

THE CHARACTERS: The main purpose of this story seems to be acknowledgement of some of the changes to J’onn’s backstory as established in a recent (1988) Martian Manhunter mini-series, also written by J.M. DeMatteis.

In particular: that J’onn’s real Martian form is very different, much pointier and less humanoid — the standard form that he takes is a compromise based on his mentor Dr Erdel’s expectations of how a Martian should look. Also, the beam which brought J’onn to Earth displaced him in time as well as space; his race is long dead, including his wife and daughter.

Here we see a few important character notes that will define J’onn in the future: his need to periodically meditate in his native form, as well as a reiteration of his love of Oreos.

THE COMEDY: Not funny, but poignant!

THE ART: Scratchy and slightly alienating. (Ha, no pun intended)

This is a good character piece for J’onn but ultimately feels a bit rushed and not a great tonal fit with the other story in the annual.