Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Justice League International Annual #1 review

JLI members Batwing, Godiva and Guy Gardner save hostages in Africa, but back in Washington DC, team leader Booster Gold isn't entirely happy with how the mission went. He's hoping rookie members Blue Beetle and the Olympian will usher in a new era of glory. We learn why each has signed up before all heck breaks loose - evil computer Brother Eye has control of OMAC and plans to take down the JLI as practice for attacking the 'real' Justice League.

OMAC displays the stupid attitude that's permeated the just-cancelled JLI series - the idea that the global heroes are second stringers compared to the Justice League. Again and again we've seen Booster Gold's gang step up, with heroism and heart. Heck, I've found them a deal more admirable and effective than the Justice League of Frat Boys. The news that this annual, the JLI's final fling, was to be written by JL writer Geoff Johns, and DC co-publisher Dan DiDio, had me worried. The man who runs the 'real' Justice League and the chap who's overseen DC's descent into a darker universe. What's more, Johns isn't shy of maiming and killing B-listers for the sake of a shock splash panel in a big story.

Would anyone this side of fan favourite Guy Gardner survive?

But I forgot one thing: Johns adores Booster Gold. He took him from B-lister to star via the weekly 52 series and Booster's own spin-off. So Booster gets a great moment. And that love for Booster seems to have sparked goodwill towards his team - I won't reveal the fates of the various members, but it's safe to say that August General in Iron, Godiva, Olympian, Guy, Batwing, Blue Beetle and even that nasty OMAC live to fight another day. The OMAC plotline is being transferred to the Justice League title, while a surprise guest outlines the future of a few members, and it's one of which I heartily approve.

One thing I really like is that this issue loops two threads of pre-DC New 52 history into the new continuity: one involving Booster, the other Batman. Also heartening is that the JLI members aren't treated like losers, they're heroes through and through, with Godiva emerging as my favourite - compare the wimpy woman from JLI #1 to the brave Brit of this issue and you'll see she's come a long way. No, it's the regular Justice League members who come across as asses, and apart from Batman, none of them actually appear.

As Johns seeds future storylines left, right and centre, I cheered at the assertion by Surprise Guest that the Wonder Woman/Superman hook-up in this week's Justice League #12 is A Very Bad Thing. I could have told him that.

We don't have any reference to absent members Ice, Vixen and Fire, so I'm going to assume they're pretty much recovered from injuries sustained in the regular series, and about to leave hospital.
I don't know how the workload breaks down, but Johns and DiDio deserve credit for a fast-moving, satisfying, always entertaining script that caps the JLI's time together with style. And extra credit to whoever assigned Jason Fabok to this book - presumably editors Mike Marts and Brian Smith - because he makes the script sing. There's a power and grace to his characters that adds a sense of the epic to the tale. His storytelling is spot-on, his action scenes explode with energy and his quieter moments convince. I've a couple of favourite visuals: the tense confrontation between Godiva and the Olympian (click on image to enlarge), and the creepy aftermath of OMAC's encounter with August General in Iron. If memory serves, Fabok is off to one of the Batman titles; on this showing, I'll be following him. Colourist Jeromy Cox adds an extra dimension, his well-chosen tones upping the dramatic mood, while Travis Lanham's letters are well-placed.

So it's farewell to the Justice League International, gone, but in a blaze of glory the likes of which would warm Booster's heart. 

19 comments:

  1. Well, with this story done, it's time to get ready for Justice League of America coming in Feburary. Looks like a solid line up (hooray for Stargirl!), with one exception. What's with Catwoman? Regardless, I look forward to that.

    Johns was a busy boy this week, with not only big things happening in Justice League but also in Green Lantern Annual. I assume you don't read Green Lantern so let's just sum up. Hal & Sinestro are dead, the Guardians continue to be evil idiots and create the nightmare inducing third army soliders, Black Hand is also dead but a Black Lantern and being held captive for whatever reason, and the First Lantern is being used as an energy source. That should sum everything up in case you are interested in trying Green Lantern #0 to see who this new Lantern is.

    Also, did you get the feeling reading this issue that we may see a Global Guardians series somewhere down the line? That be pretty fun!

    Last thing, if you liked Jason Fabok, you should try out Detective Comics in October! New writer and new artist! Hooray!

    So a year has past as of now. What a ride it has been. Here's to whatever is coming next!

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    1. Thanks for the GL update, certainly I won't be rushing to that anytime soon. I just want a Hal series set on Earth, in which he's special cos he's the only Lantern on the block, and others show up online special occasions.

      Ah, so it's Detective Comics Jason Fabok is going to, I admit I was lazy not to look it up before begging the question in the review.

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  2. Any thoughts on the identity of Brother Eye's new programmer? From his comment "I *am* the future," my first guess is a literal-minded one -- a reimagining of T.O. Morrow. But it's early days, and I'm sure we'll see more evidence before he's revealed.

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    1. My guess is Maxwell Lord. Batman being the creator and Lord being the programmer just makes too much sense. I want to say that it's too predictable, but I actually would love to see Lord come back into the spotlight. Plus he appeared in OMAC. And then there's the way he calls Booster "Michael", which, knowing Johns, could be an allusion to the way that Lord would call Booster "Michael" in Generation Lost.

      Of course, Johns and Didio could have something completely unexpected planned. Regardless, I am very very very excited to see what happens next year. Especially with Booster.

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    2. When I said "he" calls Booster Michael, I was referring to OMAC.

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    3. TO Morrow would've nice Rob, I do like the old JLA villains ...

      ...but you're probably right, Jackson - I can easily see DC going back to that well again, and the DiDio/OMAC connection makes it seem even more likely. Good thinking!

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  3. I saw this on the shelf, noticed the "#1" and assumed it was another reprint. Doh.

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  4. Fabok is a terrific draftsman, but I did detect a *slight* problem in the art... or at least, in how it syncs up with the script.

    http://robstaeger.blogspot.com/2012/08/im-no-explosives-expert-but.html

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  5. lets hope jla has the same amount of quality

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    1. no justice league of america

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    2. But I've already told you how much quality it has, in the review of this week's issue!

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    3. I'm sorry i meant justice league of america coming in 2013, it's a new series by johns and finch and i hope it has the same quality as this annual, sorry for the confusion mart

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  6. I didn't enjoy this as much as you, Martin - I thought the JLI got short shrift to say the least, tossed aside as losers so that Johns can usher in his new JLoA. The Global Guardians are going to be "the team that the Justice League International should have been."

    A pretty poor showing for the team that, in the Dan Jurgens issues, were, as you say, heroes through and through.

    As to Brother Eye's new programmer, Max Lord's an obvious bet, but wouldn't it be kinda weird and maybe new if it were someone like Rip Hunter, manipulating the satellite in the hopes of doing some good/preventing some terrible catastrophe? In the future Booster's brief appearance, it didn't seem like he and Rip were friends...

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  7. I guess that knowing the JLI are being ushered out, I'm just glad that no one was killed. And 'the team the JLI were always meant to be' in Johns-speak likely means 'dead and maimed'.

    And the JLI members were straight in there, doing the right thing.

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  8. Good review Martin, I agree with your words: "a fast-moving, satisfying, always entertaining script." I will echo the concerns some had though with the JLI being tossed around here to make way for Johns storyline (in fact, one of my beefs with the series is they were usually being tossed around), but I also share with you the good feeling that at least nobody was killed!

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