"Hell...Hell...the Gang's All Here"
Writers: Keith Giffin, J.M. DeMatteis
Artists: Kevin Maguire(p), Joseph Rubenstein(i), David Baron(c)
Even for Justice League, this latest issue of Classified is completely ass-backwards. The heroes are in hell. Power Girl is actually powerless, and the only one who has an inkling on how to retrieve the rest of the Super-Buddies and is more than happy to do so for his own reasons is--gulp--Guy Gardner!
Amusing moments abound, but this issue isn't really bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha! funny. It's more surreal than anything, and part of that feeling comes from the realization of why DC wanted to stop this series from being published. If there is only one continuity, Classified's existence negates DC's latest Big Stupid Event.
Each Big Stupid Event burns off more sections of fandom. DC will make money in the short term on The Big Stupid Event, but in the long term they will lose more money from fans unwilling to fall for the same trick that cost them oh, their tax return on say, Our Worlds at War.
This year's Big Stupid Event is going to crossover into every book in DC's so-called continuity, and these current mini-series and bleeds into the DC pillar titles, so to speak, are just the precursors to the Big Stupid Event. With each crossover, those who are trying to retain their interest in super-hero literature will have nowhere else to turn to except toward the books that advertise that they just may not be part of continuity and in fact deny that uglier continuity. The problem is that some fans who stubbornly insist that everything can and will fit buy both, yet even the hardiest of continuity apologists will have trouble reconciling The Big Stupid Event with JLA Classified.
The major villain of The Big Stupid Event is Maxwell Lord. He's the one who shoots the Blue Beetle in the head and has his body incinerated--so no folks, the Blue Beetle's not coming back. Lord reigns over Checkmate, and this Maxwell Lord doesn't gibe at all with the Giffin/DeMatteis/Maguire Maxwell Lord.
It's not because Maxwell Lord though a pawn at one time of the Construct redeemed himself to become the guiding force behind the Justice League. It's not because the Martian Manhunter has read his mind, deemed him not to be a threat and indeed considered him an ally. It's not because according to Classified he now heads a dial-a-hero type operation ridiculously called "The Super Buddies." No, it's because with this issue, you realize that Maxwell Lord didn't need to shoot the Blue Beetle to get rid of him because having extended Beetle's tenure as partner to Booster Gold, the bug in the ointment is effectively squashed and far more cleverly than lodging a bullet in his brain. Beetle's simply too distracted by Booster's juvenile behavior to see anything except the big pie speeding toward his face.
The opposite questions also nullify The Big Stupid Event. If Maxwell Lord was a serious villain all along, if Maxwell Lord was intent on keeping his plans secret, why on earth would he help re-establish the Justice League and not just once but assuming "The Super-Buddies" count as a League roster, thrice? Blue Beetle was essentially retired. Booster Gold was sponging off an ancient wife. Fire had a nice semi-pornographic web-site going. What kind of Bond Villain actually calls Bond up at four in the morning and says, "Hey, I heard you retired. Well, I'm a mole, and I want you to rejoin M.I.-6. This way you can discover my plans, and I can shoot you in the head. Sound like a date?"
From two fronts, JLA Classified makes the premise to The Big Stupid Event absolutely insubstantial. So the next question is why cave? Why publish the book that makes The Big Stupid Event so transparently bankrupt of a single plausible plot element? It's called hedging your bets.
I'm sure some people in DC are not totally brainless. I'm sure that a few realize what the long-term effect of The Big Stupid Event will be. Hence the push to publish projects like this one. Consider Classified, the Byrne books and The Seven Soldiers of Victory life preservers for the hardcore DC fans such as myself who have not become disgusted enough to totally abandon this blind, deaf and dumb company. It's coming though because like it or not DC subsists on super-heroes, and that pendulum that Grant Morrison is always talking about in interviews isn't going swing back. It's staying stuck in the shadows. Frankly, without a total reboot, I don't see any way out for DC, and the three stooges behind The Big Stupid Event simply aren't smart enough writers to accept the necessity of a total reboot. They'll simply drive the DCU into the ground, and by the time they're done, DC will suddenly realize they have nothing left. No fans. No heroes. The once proud keeper of American mythology. If that's Dan Didio's answer to September Eleventh, I've got news for you. The terrorists win. Pitiful.
But back to JLA Classified... as said this isn't exactly bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! funny. That's not to say that it's without merit. Really the heroes themselves aren't funny in this issue. They act like normal people caught in an unusual situation. Power Girl acts like an experienced hero who wants to mount a rescue and only becomes a little off the even keel when Guy Gardner catalyzes her anger, disgust and plain old loathing. Nobody really likes Guy, and you really can't blame them. He's a jerk, and he acts like a jerk. This makes his ultimate role that more surprising and that more satisfying.
As stated, Guy does not attempt to rescue the Super-Buddies out of altruism. His motives are completely and characteristically out of self-interest. He's still the King of the Jerks. Any doubts are removed through a very intelligently staged melee between Gardner and Power Girl. Some idiot you see gave Gardner an ace up the sleeve.
Although Guy Gardner is extremely unpleasant and drawn that way, everybody this issue is more peeved with Booster Gold. He's the dope who wandered into Dr. Fate's room at JSA headquarters last issue, picked up a cosmic doo-hickey and made a very poignant wish that consigned The Super-Buddies to hell. His presence provides the most humorous moments, which also allude to The Simpsons.
JLA Classified is about conflicting personalities, emotion and behavior rather than shock and stupidity generated from The Big Stupid Event. Kevin Maguire's mirror will never grow bored. The many facial expressions--some depicting the same emotion--provide a varied workout for the reflector. Despite dealing with the theme of perpetually pissed off heroes stuck in hell, Maguire also manages to produce some beautiful moments that raise the spirit in a different way. He exhibits Mary Marvel's confidence as she shouts "Shazam!" and Fire's soft look of approval, inspiration and indeed optimism toward the end of the story. He shows a tastefully secluded nude woman that actually looks like a tastefully secluded nude woman. Here's a guy that deserves to be nominated for an Eisner.
One of the things that's very impressive about JLA Classified is that the entire creative team makes these scenes plausible. These scenes could happen in the lives of these heroes. That's something that you could always count on with this team's Justice League. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the book was funny, and ninety-five percent of the book was a possible slice of each character's history. It was perfectly reasonable that the Blue Beetle who bounced around the rooftops and fought crime also was the same Blue Beetle stuck in Bialya awaiting rescue from Batman disguised as Maxwell Lord. This newest run is no different. Ironically, it's the so-called heroes from The Big Stupid Event that you cannot take seriously.
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