Sunday, January 1, 2017

Justice League #1 (1987)


Justice League #1 (May, 1987)
"Born Again"
Plot & Breakdowns - Keith Giffen
Script - J.M. DeMatteis
Penciller - Kevin Maguire
Inker - Terry Austin
Letterer - Bob Lappan
Colorist - Gene D'Angelo
Editor - Andrew Helfer
Cover Price: $0.75

For the past several years... the morning of my New Year's Day is usually spent seated in front of my computer... with Resolutions dancing in my head.  I've had the "blog" itch since... hmm, since I stopped blogging back in the mid-late 2000's.  I've always wanted to come back, and each New Year's Day I would resolve to give it a go.  What results is usually half an introductory post... and an annual addition to my "Drafts" pile.  One year it would be an X-Men blog... the next, a Teen Titans one.

Well, before I decided to start up this very blog (about a month late in 2016)... on January 1, 2015 I was going to start a Justice League International read-thru blog, the (what I felt was) cleverly named, Bwa-ha-Blog! (http://bwahahablog.blogspot.com/).  It lasted until... probably lunch, maybe mid-afternoon that same day.  What follows is the original preamble to what was my first post on that blog... which is to say, what follows is the entirety of that doomed-to-wither blog!


The Justice League (International/America/Giffen-DeMatteis-League) has been something of a comfort food for me over the past 15-20 years.  It is one of those legendary comic runs that keep me coming back.  I probably run through the hundred or so (if we include JLQuarterly and JLEurope) issues twice a year, contributing much to the growth of my pile of unread comics, new and old.  Reading as many comics as I have over the past 30 years, I often read an issue once, and file it away likely never to be seen (or read) again. 

The Giffen-DeMatteis era Justice League, however, is different.  It’s special.  It’s a near perfect mix of super heroics, soap opera, and sit-com with unforgettable characters.

I was introduced to this version of the Justice League almost by accident.  It was during 1992’s Death of Superman storyline.  The Giffen-DeMatteis era had already come to an end, however, much of their cast remained.  Justice League America #69 “Down for the Count” was where I “met” this League.  Growing up a Marvel kid, I expected a more “Super Friends” Justice League than I got.  Where was Aquaman?  Wonder Woman?  The Flash?  Who is this bowl-haircut having Green Lantern?  Fire?  Ice?  I was lost.  These characters all looked, for a lack of a better term… cheap.  I remember reading it, and just waiting for Superman to show up.  I was only reading this book to follow him, anyway.

Being a completionist, I picked up the next couple of issues of Justice League America that were part of the Funeral for a Friend storyline and the post-Doomsday restructuring.  It was during these issues (#70 especially) that the character dynamics hit me.  Booster Gold and Blue Beetles friendship was on display as Ted lay critically injured.  Booster’s own crisis, with the destruction of his costume which resulted in the loss of his “powers” was riveting.  Guy Gardner finally showing his respects for the fallen Superman by wearing the black armband was the final straw.  These characters were rapidly winning me over. 

Imagine my disappointment reading Justice League America #71, where many of the characters I’d just fallen for were replaced.  My only hope in following the Justice League exploits of Booster, Beetle, Guy and the rest lay in the back issue bin.  This was 1992-1993.  The speculator market was still a thing.  Month-old issues of many comics were priced up to double cover price and placed in the bins.  My hopes for collecting the previous 68 issues of Justice League America with my meager lunch-money budget were slim at best.  Or so I thought.

I stumbled across Justice League #1 for $2.50 at my local comic shop.  This was over 3x the original cover price… but it was a NUMBER ONE.  In 1993, “Number Ones” may as well have been a brick of solid gold.  I guess this would be a decent place to begin the review/discussion of the issue, thank you for reading this block of self-indulgent text.  I hope these first few entries won’t be too much of a chore to read through as I shake the blogwebs loose.

So, with all that stated and out of the way... Happy New Year to all... and let's get right into it.  Today I resolve to complete a blog post started exactly two-years ago!

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We open with the pretty iconic image of Guy Gardner sitting alone at the meeting table for the Justice League of America.  He is waxing poetic in his mind about how he will run the new League as "Commander-in-Chief"... his mental monologue is interrupted by the arrival of one of his new teammates... Black Canary.



They share a few choice words before being joined by the next arrivals, Mister Miracle and Oberon.  Oberon is acting... well, kind of uncharacteristically optimistic about the current arrangement, and offers a hand to Guy Gardner... who dismisses him as one of Snow White's dwarves.  As Oberon starts to storm out, Captain Marvel arrives.



Next up are Blue Beetle and the Martian Manhunter.  J'onn is in an especially dour mood... and when Beetle points this out, J'onn turns to the monitors and purges the fallen members of the prior incarnation of the team... the folks we know as the Justice League Detroit... Commander Steel, Gypsy, Vixen, and Vibe.



We shift scenes to the Innovative Concepts building in Washington, DC.  A man named Maxwell Lord IV arrives to the office and sits himself in front of a bank of monitors... he appears to be having quite the pleasant day.



On the screens are various news reporters discussing the new JLA... questioning the wisdom of a team of superheroes surfacing in the wake of the goings on in Legends.  Lord flips the station over to Wheel of Fortune and scratches the "America" off the JLA's title in his notebook.



Back at HQ, Guy Gardner is getting into everybody's face... because, well... he's Guy Gardner, and that's what he does.  It quickly becomes physical... because, again... Guy Gardner.  At this point Batman and Dr. Fate arrive... and order is quickly restored... because, well... Batman.



Next we shift scenes to the United Nations in New York City where we find the new Dr. Light, Kimiyo Hoshi pacing in the ladies room.  Today was the day she was set to address the General Assembly... and wouldn'tcha know it, her new Justice League communication doo-dad is alerting her of a meeting.  She flashes back to a meeting she had with a facially-obscured (to the reader) gentleman, where she was offered her spot in the League.  The beeper finally stops beeping, and she exits... walking directly into... terrorists!



She is ushered into the main hall and is forced to sit down along with the rest of the hostages.  She is able to sneak an alert to the Justice League via her communication device... which triggers the monitors at League HQ to get all... well, alerty.  Guy Gardner couldn't be happier... until Batman tells him to slow his roll just a hair... they're gonna do things his way... not the Guy Gardner way... which would probably cause (at the very least) World War III.



The news reports indicate that the leader of this terrorist organization has a bomb grafted to his chest... and by all appearances, he's not afraid to use it... though, he is yet to make a single demand.  We also learn that the bomb is triggerable by a change in his "alive" status... that is to say, it will go boom if his ticker stop tickin'.



With Captain Marvel and Dr. Fate flying off ahead, the rest of the League heads off in Blue Beetle's bug.  Upon arrival, Cap informs the Bat that Fate has left the building... well, that was short-lived.  Anyhoo, Gardner is given the gig of securing the building using a ring construct... which, lemme tell ya, Guy just loves... no, no, he really doesn't... he'd much rather be bustin' heads.



Inside, the unidentified terrorist leader is pontificating about people who are suffering... very nebulous faux-freedom-fighter sorta stuff.  In the hallways, Black Canary, Captain Marvel and Martian Manhunter are positively wrecking fools... while Blue Beetle commandeers a communication device to "keep up appearances" to the terrorist boss.



Momentarily, J'onn uses his invisibility power to tip off Dr. Light.  Gardner is alerted that it is his cue to enter the fray... Batman leaps onto the terrorist leader... and Light does her... ya know... light thing, causing one helluva distraction.  During the distraction Gardner bonks the baddies with some construct-bricks.



Now, with Batman face-to-face with the big bad... he demands everybody leave.  The terrorist threatens to trigger the bomb... but Batman is steadfast in his decision to "leave him be".  Despite some... concern from his teammates... the League exits the main hall.  We advance to the news reports indicating that the man, now identified as one John Charles Collins shot himself in the head... killed himself... and, well... there was no "boom".



We now see that the news reports are playing on Maxwell Lord's monitor bank.  He corrects a reporters assertion that the "Justice League of America" is back, by just referring to the team as "The Justice League".  He then thinks to himself how the terrorist would shoot himself to trigger the bomb... when it had no firing pin.  Ya see, Max Lord set the whole damn thing up to legitimize "his" League.  I think we're in for a bumpy ride...



--

Well, we're certainly off to the races here, no?

It's always interesting to revisit the start of the "bwa-ha-ha" League... if only because it really wasn't all that "bwa-ha-ha-y".  I mean, yeah... there's definitely a lilt of levity in the dialogue, but we're dealing with some pretty heavy stuff here.

We can start with J'onn having to actually press a button to purge the bios of his former teammates.  That's just brutal!  It's really eye-opening seeing J'onn as less of the "straight man" and more of the sorta-kinda "tortured" one.  He is very (justifiably) trepidacious about assembling a new League... you definitely gotta feel for the guy.  It's amazing that the Martian is among the more "human" characters in the DC Universe, let alone in this title.

The terrorist threat... orchestrated by Max Lord.  Think of how many people might have been killed had the terrorist decided to open-fire... or just start breaking necks.  That's pretty wild, no?  The bomb not having a firing pin doesn't mean anything in the grand scheme of things... if a dude is willing to put a bullet in his own head, you gotta figure, he wouldn't hesitate to shoot a few civilians along the way.

The inter-office communication between the League members... ya know, the sitcommy stuff... really not as light-hearted as it would become.  I mean, there's real animosity here... this isn't us cocking our head to the side and smirking that "Guy's just being Guy..."  We get the feeling that these folks actively dislike or even hate one another.  It's all really well done, don't get me wrong... it would certainly take the most patient of souls awhile to acclimate to sharing some breathing space with our pal Guy, but I'd forgotten how not light-hearted the banter was at the beginning.

Technically... dialogue, great... art, frickin' amazing.  DeMatteis has an amazing way with words... which, ya know... ain't a suprise to anybody who has read his work.  His ability to take these characters that absolutely positively do not see eye-to-eye, and make them coexist in a natural and organic way is awesome.  Maguire's pencils... hey, ya know... this fella does some good expressions... betcha haven't heard that before!  But seriously... I couldn't imagine another artist on this title.  Maguire is definitely a piece to this amazing puzzle... and the book would be lesser without him on art.  We've got a wonderfully put together package here... and most definitely worth your time.  Available in collected edition as well as digitally.  And, ya know... there's always dem single issues you can track down as well!  Definitely worth a hunt!

Not-so-Ninja-EDIT:  I forgot I meant to add a link to a great podcast covering this era of the Justice League... it's the Fire and Water Network's Bwah-Ha-Ha Podcast!  Definitely one to keep an eye... er, ear on... and read along with!

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As if this wasn't a completely self-indulgent post up to this point... I wanted to wrap up the first post of 2017 with something kinda special (to me, I s'pose)... I ran the (highly specific, accurate and scientific, I'm sure) blogger numbers to deduce my Top Ten Posts of 2016!  Wanted to post them here, and definitely thank everyone who visited and shared... new friends, old friends, and spam-bots alike... you have my sincerest and humblest thanks!

Now, here we go...


#1 - DC/Marvel All-Access #3 (1997)
Original Post-Date: 11.02.2016
View Count: 742

This, my most-viewed post of 2016 (which is to say, all-time), definitely owes a great debt of gratitude to the force that is #SuperBlogTeamUp (Magic Edition).  Without the shares and support of my fellow Super-Bloggers, I doubt this post would've received even a quarter of the views it did!



#2 (tie) - Justice League of America #233 (1984)
Original Post-Date: 05.05.2016
View Count: 585

This was my sorta-kinda Cinco de Mayo post where I took a look at our old friend, Vibe.  A lot of fun here... and neat that the story title was Rebirth, in light of the events of the late-Spring/early-Summer.  Many thanks to Justin over at DC in the 80's for sharing this one, along with residual SBTU viewers... which takes us to...


#2 (tie) - Justice League America #52 (1991)
Original Post-Date: 05.04.2016
View Count: 585

This was my first Super-Blog Team-Up offering... and boy was I nervous.  The theme was "Versus" in light of the release of Captain America: Civil War in theaters.  SBTU has definitely been one of my highlights of the year... really dig the camaraderie and the friendships!



#3 - Justice League of America #179 (1980)
Original Post-Date: 04.29.2016
View Count: 521

Another Justice League appearance in the Top Ten!  This one "moved up the charts" thanks to shares from both DC in the 80's and Shag from Firestorm Fan.  Both great sites, well worth your time... though, if you're here, you're probably already aware of them.



#4 - Superman (vol.2) #70 (1992)
Original Post-Date: 10.18.2016
View Count: 492

Here's one that came out of nowhere... I really don't know how it received so many views.  It was part of my October-long #boohauntedblog special event, which was a brother-concept with one of my brother-bloggers, Mike Carlyle over at the Crapbox of Son of Cthulhu.



#5 - Batman #350 (1982)
Original Post-Date: 10.26.2016
View Count: 394

Another oddity for the list... not one I was expecting to break triple-digits.  Maybe folks were scouring the blogosphere for Vampire stories this October?  Anyhoo... great three-part horrory Batman story, well worth checking out!




#6 (tie) - The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans
Original Post-Date: 05.27.2016
View Count: 298

A special review timed to hit when X-Men Apocalypse hit theaters.  A great issue to revisit featuring my two favorite comic book teams.  Big thanks to the Danger Room podcast for sharing this on social media.



#6 (tie) - Christmas with the Super-Heroes #1 (1988)
Original Post-Date: 12.21.2016
View Count: 298

A very recent entry, helped in no short measure by it's inclusion in the Super-Blog Team-Up (Holiday).  My Christmas-themed reviews almost always see a dip in viewership, but this one soared.  This is also my longest post written in 2016, weighing in at over 5,000 words!


#7 - Man of Steel #1 (1986)
Original Post-Date: 04.25.2016
View Count: 296

This was a post I wrote to coincide with a Weird Comics History Segment for the Weird Science DC Comics Podcast.  Reggie and I discussed the time in which Marvel was trying to license the DC characters... leading to John Byrne writing a treatment for "Marvel's Superman".  This post not only reviews the issue, but compares and contrasts it with the original pitch!


#8 (tie) - Justice League of America #224 (1984)
Original Post-Date: 06.07.2016
View Count: 288

I remember writing this piece while suffering the effects of heat stroke!  After spending a few days at Phoenix Comicon... and forgetting to drink any water, I was in a bad way.  While at the Con, I interviewed the writer of this issue, Kurt Busiek!  He, along with DC in the 80's both graciously shared this post on social media.


#8 (tie) - I, Vampire #1 (2011)
Original Post-Date: 10.25.2016
View Count: 288

Another appearance from a #boohauntedblog vampire book!






#9 - Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man (1976)
Original Post-Date: 05.09.2016
View Count: 277

This was my 100th Daily Post on the blog, and I wanted to make it a special one.  This was a helluva book to synopsize, and was a lot of fun.  This one received a bunch of traffic from CBR's message boards... likely definitely due to my prolific picture taking more than anything.


#10 - Action Comics #582 (1986)
Original Post-Date: 06.22.2016
View Count: 240

Hmm... wonder how this one got there... a DC Comic posted in June with the word Rebirth on the cover.  Ahem... anyhoo.  Big thanks to Weird Science DC Comics for sharing this bugger (and many others) as well!

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