One of my favorite Justice League stories is one I read as a kid in reprint form. The JLA was put on trial for some bizarre crime or other, and were forced to battle their opponents in a court of law instead of on a super-hero battlefield. I remember the league pleaded nolo contendre, which I found out meant there was no way they could fight the charges, so they had to resort to some sort of trickery to get themselves acquitted of the crimes that they were accused of. It was a clever little story and strikes me now as typical of the work of editor Julius Schwartz: present a nice story, get readers to learn a little, and have a minimum of fisticuffs and a maximum of intelligent action.
This issue of Exiles kind of parallels that story, with the Exiles serving as stand-ins for the JLA, and the Squadron Supreme serving as the accusers. It’s a clever little story, full of wonderful comic book twists and turns. The trial is decided, for instance, not from testimony, but from a little midget dude called the Timebroker beaming down to the trial and blasting mental images of the truth into characters’ heads. He’s literally a deus ex machina, which fits this story but wouldn’t make less sense in another context. It makes sense here because the source material it references would allow such a scene.
This issue is full of cute scenes like that. The Supremers’ headquarters looks just like the Hall of Justice from the Super Friends cartoons. When Hyperion appears on the witness stand, he doesn’t need to be sworn in because he’s Hyperion, and he doesn’t lie. The Wonder Woman analogue called Zarda is arrogant but intelligent and focused. And so on.
The art by Calafiore and McKenna is nice and clear. It’s solidly professional work that adds to the story without a tremendous amount of flash or grittiness. Their characters have an energy and charm about them, which carries the story along nicely.
Exiles #78 is one that kind of snuck up on me. When I first read it, I enjoyed the book. On re-reading, and even more when writing this review, I was struck by how professional and fun this comic was. Its charms were subtle: what felt at first like a traditional super-hero comic turned into something with some real resonance.