Monday, October 16, 2017

Justice Leagues: JL? #1 (2001)

Justice Leagues: JL? #1 (March, 2001)
"Justice Leagues, Part I: Twilight's Last Gleaming"
Writer - Tom Peyer
Penciller - Ethan Van Sciver
Inkers - Matt Martin & Ray Kryssing
Letterer - John Workman
Colorist - John Kalisz
Separator - Digital Chameleon
Editor - Tony Bedard
Cover Price: $2.50

Was re-editing an old installment of Weird Comics History to be reuploaded next month, and was surprised by the fact that we briefly touched upon this book/event.  I'd almost completely forgotten that it existed, let alone that we'd chatted it up on the show.

This was one from relatively early on in my wider DC fandom.  Wasn't the kind of book I'd have picked up a year or two prior, that's for sure.  I recall not really "feeling" the event as a younger, leaner Chris... let's see how the years have treated it!


We open on board an airplane headed for the World Conference of Epidemiologists in Star City.  A blonde man obnoxiously talks on his cell phone as the plane begins its descent.  He's talking to someone called "Plura", and is really making himself a nuisance to the other passengers.  When one pipes up asking him to pipe down, he threatens to push a button on his magical mobile which would cause all nearby radar communication towers to go on the fritz... and then he does just that!  We turn the page to see he wasn't just whistling Dixie as the airport is a mess with crashed airliners (in an excellent two-page spread)!

Our chatty Cathy, still on his cell phone, is annoyed to see that the Justice League is already on the scene to attempt to manage the crisis.  One of whom, the Flash (Wally West) sees our new pal floating... still on his phone... for a brief moment before vanishing.

While the JLA keeps the peace and quells the crowds, we hop to the Justice League Watchtower on the Moon where Aquaman is monitoring the situation.  He learns that Star City's radar doo-dads have been overwritten, and sends Batman in to get a closer look.

Now, remember our phone-y friend?  Of course ya do, that was only like a paragraph ago.  We rejoin him... in prison!  Perhaps Belle Reve, it isn't entirely clear.  Anyhoo, we see that he is meeting with inmate Hammond... as in Hector Hammond.  Getting some real George Perez vibes from Van Sciver's art here... really sharp work here!  Our man has a business proposition for the bobble-headed prisoner.

Back at the airport, Superman chats up the fella who was sitting next to... okay, we'll just call him The Advance Man, because that's who he is... on board the plane.  He shares his story of a rude cellphone user who threatened him before blinking out of sight.  Wally rushes up to corroborate the story, seeing as though he just observed something similar.  Aquaman is keyed in on the conversation, and reveals that this cellphone hacker left a "trail"... and so, he teleports the Leaguers to his last known location.  Or, does he?

All the League members arrive in... different locations!  Seems the Advance Man's plan included a way to elude capture.  Back in the prison, our new pal chats a bit more to an unresponsive Hector before excusing himself to make another phone call to Plura.  Hammond finally has enough, and breaks his silence... er, telepathic silence.  He slams the Advance Man into the wall and asks him to get on with it already.  It's really quite simple... they want Hammond on their team, and all he's got to do is... destroy the Justice League!  Hey, no big thing, right?

We pop back over to Aquaman, who attempts to trace the Advance Man's steps... only to wind up in the middle of the ocean.  J'onn telepathically breaks in and we learn that nobody's minding the store.  Whoops.  Superman and the Martian Manhunter beeline it to the Watchtower.  Back at the prison, the Advance Man suggests that Hammond get started before the good guys get home.  His plan?  Holy Max Lord, he wants Hector to make the entire world forget that the Justice League ever existed!

Hammond is a bit incredulous... after all, even he has his limits.  The Advance Man assures him that, with the aid of his signal booster (the cellphone), he is more than capable.  And so, he begins his attempt... and it appears to be going along swimmingly.  That is, until he discovers the true purpose of The Advance Man's plan!  Hammond quickly reverses course... actually attempting to make people remember the JLA, before getting socked in his over-sized mush!

The Advance Man then hoists Hammond up Bane-style, and smashes him to the ground.  It isn't often that Hammond gets manhandled, right?  This is a terribly brutal scene!  The Advance Man then proceeds to put the boots to the bobblehead, before being 'ported out.

We shift over to a conference room at the Daily Planet where Lois, Clark, and the gang are discussing a recent string of disasters (including the Star City Airport debacle).  Clark mentions that even Superman has had it "up to here" with everything.  The discussion is interrupted by a frantic Jimmy Olsen, who reveals he can't make sense of the front-page headline.  After Perry makes some illiteracy jokes, he takes a look himself... and, whattayaknow, he can't make heads or tails of it either!

At that same time, Lois peeks over Clark's shoulder to find him doodling.  Wow, it looks like my binder from 7th grade math class (okay, it looks like everybody's binder from my 7th grade math class... minus a New Kids on the Block logo or two)!  Clark has jotted down "Justice League of A" over and over again.  So, I guess Hammond was almost successful in making the world remember, eh?

We shift unduh da sea to join Aquaman.  He is telepathically communicating with a large school of fish... when the take a formation spelling out J-L-A.  Hmm...

Next stop, the desert... where J'onn has just burrowed the letters J-L-A into the sand.  Not understanding the significance of such an act, he fears he's lost his mind.

We wrap up the chapter with Wonder Woman speaking about the current slew of menaces... menacing the Earth, and suggests a group come together to face them head on.  And so, we're introduced to the JLA... the Justice League of... Amazons?!


Ya know, I was prepared to really dislike this one.  As mentioned in the preamble, the read this as it was released... and wasn't a fan.  Perhaps I've softened with age... or maybe I just didn't have enough DC context to truly appreciate it at the time.  I'm not saying this is going to rock everyone's socks or anything... just that, I can't get mad at it.

We meet the Advance Man, who has one'a those hyper-punchable Henry Peter Gyrich faces.  Can't go wrong with that!  I really dig his star-field suit as well, it's always cool when they do stuff like that.  It's also gotta be mentioned... couldja imagine living in a time where someone is identifiable simply for carrying a cellphone?  It's amazing how quickly times change, isn't it?

Speaking of times changing... this is almost certainly a story that would have had to have been rewritten had it come out just a year later.  In early-2001 we really didn't have the same feelings of urgency regarding plane-safety as we later would.

As far as the story goes... it's an opening chapter.  We're introduced to our "threat" and it's hinted that he's working for a sort of higher power.  Fair enough... like I said above, not likely to rock your socks... but not something I'd advise against reading.  It's basically a well-written and wonderfully drawn "old schooly" comic book!

Speaking of the art... this is relatively early in Van Sciver's career,  I can definitely see that he's something special and will become a big deal down the line.  I also can't help but see some Perez influence here (though, that could be me conflating the interiors with the cover a tad)... not that having a "Perez influence" could/should ever be seen as a bad thing!

I was actually surprised to see his name in the credits here, as I thought he'd gone Marvel-exclusive at this point.  Worth noting, Ethan has recently launched a prolific YouTube channel where he shares behind the scenes stories and personal reminiscences about projects he's worked on/been involved in.  Also, art tutorials!  Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!

Overall, is Justice Leagues worth checking out?  I'd say if you come across it on the cheap, you could do far worse.  If you're a League completionist, well... it goes without question that this belongs in your library.  While I enjoyed this issue far more than I expected, I can't say that I'm all that interested in checking out the next installment.  If you're interested, the whole magilla is (somewhat surprisingly) available digitally.


"Lenticular" silliness:


(Not the) Letters Page:


Interesting "Duck Season" Ads:


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