Current Reviews


Formerly Known As The Justice League #1

Posted: Monday, July 14, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

Writers: Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis
Artists: Kevin Maguire (p), Joe Rubinstein (i)

Publisher: DC

The book opens with intergalactic despot/shopper Manga Khan returning to Earth, and he's a bit dismayed to learn the Justice League he was familiar with is no more. We then look in on Maxwell Lord, as we see he's in the process of building a team of heroes who will be available to the public via an 1-800 hotline. To this end his first step is the recruitment of the robot lackey L-Ron, who had become a server at a fast food restaurant. Next up in Ted Kord (aka. Blue Beetle) who Max manages to convince to join the team is spite of Ted's debilitating heart condition. We then look in on L-Ron as he visits Ralph & Sue (aka. the Elongated Man & his wife), who eagerly accept the offer to join as the suburban life had been driving them batty. We then look in on Max, as he visits Fire, who is busy raking in money from a web site where she creates the illusion she is naked under her green flames, and Beatriz's interest is caught by Max's offer. We then look in on Captain Atom, who is busy fighting third rate baddies, and sporting a truly ugly costume while dishing out equally dreadful dialogue. As Captain Atom gets a visit from L-Ron we look in on Booster Gold who we find is sponging off a rich, decidedly older woman, but when Max arrives with his offer Booster decides it's time to get back in the hero game. We then see the final visit is to Captain Marvel who turns down the offer, but Mary Marvel is intrigued by the offer, and pays a visit to Max's office.

I don't think I've ever been as nervous going into an issue as I was with this book, as the Blue & Gold Justice League is the gold standard by which I rate all team books, and I was actively terrified that whatever magic earn that title a permanent placement as my favorite series of all time might have been lost over the years. I mean this was the book that effective kept me in comics, as it hit right about the time when most comic readers move on to other interests, and it becomes a bit embarrassing to be seen reading a comic book. However, right from the very first issue, heck even the very first page of the very first issue I was instantly hooked. Now Blue Beetle was always my favorite, followed by Ice, and then Guy, so I have to confess that when the Giffen/DeMatteis run ended I've been dealt a series of crushing blows, from Ice's death (I'm still mad about this one), to Guy's transformation from a Green Lantern into a bizarre alien warrior, to the most recent indignity where Ted was given a bum heart. However, all of these disappointments immediately vanished once I started in on this issue, as it was like returning home after a long, disheartening voyage. This book is everything I had hoped it would be, and now my only disappointment is that it's only a miniseries.

Now I will concede that this book is clearly aimed at fans of the original book, but then again if you haven't read the original issues I actively implore that you do so, as they are easily found in the back issue bins and you would be treating yourself to one of the best series to ever come out of DC. However, if you're already ahead of the game and you've read the original series than prepare for a wonderful trip down memory lane, as this book is sure to cast you back to that era, with it cute little references to some of the more amusing moments, from the final line that Ted utters after he's recruited into the fold in spite of his heart condition, to the highly amusing scene where Captain Marvel makes his case why he doesn't want to rejoin the happy family. There's also Ralph & Sue's delightful Nick & Nora act that is still as much fun as it was over in the pages of Justice League Europe, and one also has to love the little existence's that Fire & Booster Gold managed to craft for themselves. Heck, we even have Bob Lappan and his delightful tiny side comments that the characters make, and you know a book is good when even the credit box makes you laugh. I loved everything about this issue, and my only complaint is that they weren't able to get some more of the old cast into the fold, as I want to know what everyone is up to, from Rocket Red to G'Nort.

If they could've brought back any of the artists who worked on the original series Kevin Maguire stands up as my first choice, as he was the artist who made a funny Justice League work, and he established the look that all the others followed. In the entire comic industry I can't think of another artist who is better at detailing the facial expressions of a cast, and given the humor of this book is largely dependent on the reaction shots to elicited the big laugh Kevin Maguire is about as perfect a fit as one could hope for. The various personalities of the cast are perfectly captured by the art, with the cover alone being a fine example of what I mean, as we have Mary Marvel's sunshine expression neatly contrasted by Sue's annoyed expression when she spots what her husband is up to. I also like the way the art seems to have recognized the idea that these characters have changed over the years, as Max looks a little less polished, while Captain Atom managed to find one of the most ugly costume redesigns since Wonder Man's red & green eyesore. Still, what carries this issue is the various expressions of the characters, with the scene where Ralph & Sue listen to L-Ron's offer being a masterful display of how to tell a complete story simply using the faces of the characters. I mean you can actually see the gears grinding in their heads as they come to their decision.

Final Word:
Except for perhaps the JLA/Avengers crossover, this is the one project that left me giddy with joy when I heard about it, but I was also a bit nervous. I mean if this book hadn't lived up to the extremely high expectations I had gone into this issue with, I would have to cast a second look at the original run to see if perhaps it wasn't nearly as good as I remembered. However, this opening issue not only reaffirmed my belief that the originals were some of the best material to ever come out of DC, but also this book acts as a wonderful return several old friends. I mean I hadn't realized how poorly Blue Beetle had been handled by others, until this issue's exchange recaptured the magic that made the character into one of my all time favorites. This issue is full of humor that is sure to be approached by fans of the original, and the book also acts as a delightful return of these long neglected characters, who have spent the past decade, being ill used, or outright ignore. This book is back to show all the others how to do it right.

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