By Koppy McFad
Mar 19, 2008 - 4:34
This collection reprints the first issues of the "new" Justice League of the 1980s-- a comic that won fans for its humour and character interactions but also left the League looking "ineffectual" in the face of serious threats.
This series gave new life to the Justice League franchise, showing that superhero comics did not have to consist entirely of action and the grim grittiness that was the fashion at the time. Yet after awhile, this light-hearted style also fell out of favour and many of the key characters of this incarnation of the League were killed off, pushed to the wayside or totally revamped.
The team had promise: it lost big names like Superman and Wonder Woman to editorial edict but it gained Captain Marvel, Dr. Fate, Blue Beetle, Mr. Miracle and the feisty, abrasive Guy Gardner. And the art by Maguire certainly was a standout with its clear, highly-nuanced style.
These first issues may actually have been the best. The team dynamic quickly fell into place and many of the scenes play like a well-written sit-com. But the creative team had not yet forgotten that this was basically a superhero book and they let the team face some genuine threats, putting them in truly exciting situations.
The best moments came when the comedy and action were combined such as the scene of Guy defying Batman to attack the Rocket Reds even while nuclear armaggedon was waiting in the wings.
Small touches that were once brushed off, now stand out in this collection: Mr. Miracle reflecting on the fact that Batman is in his own way, as bad as Guy Gardner, Captain Marvel slowly standing up to Batman and Max Lord's slow evolution... all of these details held a lot of potential for future storylines and deeper characterization. Meanwhile the famous scene of Batman decking Guy with one punch seems like just a minor joke now.
Perhaps if this book had stuck to the same recipe of blending fun and action, it would not have eventually stagnated. In the early years, the creative team had not yet fixated on the "Bwah-hah-hah" aspect of this title so they actually balanced the comedy with serious moments and showed that depths behind even the comedy characters.
But perhaps the writers did not yet have the experience to do serious action and adventure stories. The "Gray Man" storyline, for example, opens well but ends in a Deus Ex Machina solution that disappoints the reader. The fact that the creative team was so eager to jettison many of the members in favour of their own choices, also detracted from the book.
Lots of people still have a lot of affection for this incarnation of the League, hence the offering of this collection. But now, Ted Kord, Max Lord and Kent Nelson are dead, Captain Marvel, Captain Atom and Scott Free are unrecognizable and Guy Gardner and Booster Gold are struggling to be taken seriously again. That is hardly a legacy to be proud of.
This collection still gets four and a half stars out of five. Succeeding issues of the series did not fare as well.