Extreme Justice #1 (February, 1995)
“Mad Dogs and Superheroes”
Writer – Dan Vado
Pencils – Marc Campos
Inks – Ken Branch
Letters – Mark Cunningham
Colors – Lee Loughridge
Proudly Presented by – Brian Augustyn & Ruben Diaz
Cover Price: $1.50
It almost feels like I’m in the midst of a full-blown Justice League week. Between the past several entries here and my Justice League 1997 TV Pilot “miniseries” over at Weird Science DC Comics, I’m in a very Leaguey way.
When looking back through my archives (which, I’ll admit I probably do a bit too often), I’ve noticed I’m kinda slacking on the decade that made me a fan in the first place… the 1990’s. We’re going to take a small step toward remedying that today by getting… Extreme! Because, even the Justice League of America needs an X-Force.
We open with a team of special agents investigating an underground passage nearby an abandoned railroad spur. They are led by Lieutenant Crater, and under orders from a nebulous military “brass”. Little did they know when they agreed to the gig that they were going to come across one bemulleted and bodacious Captain Atom. Cap warns them against going any further while flashing the camera with his perky oblong backside.
They put up a little bit of resistance, and even attempt to “flank” our silver Adonis until Maxima hits the scene. Unfortunately for the soldiers, she comes equipped with speed lines and globs of flaming energy. Once the fracas dies down, Nate hints that he might just have more Metas lurking in the shadows, up to and including a certain Man of Steel himself… lucky for Atom, they don’t try and call his bluff.
|What was it with the energy-leaking eyes all these guys had???|
Later, Nate is resting back at his ramshackle digs. He’s got a tray table in front of him, and is about to treat himself to a bottle of aspirin the last residents left behind and a tall glass of blackish water that couldn’t possibly be of drinking quality.
His meal is interrupted by Blue Beetle. He’s (seemingly reluctantly) working for Atom in a bit of a techie role. He’s upset that Nate hasn’t given him or any of his fellow members anything of a “mission statement” for this team’s existence. Nate snaps up his aspirin and punches his tray table… for some (extreme!) reason. After threatening to walk, Captain Atom finally comes clean.
Atom discusses how past incarnations of the Justice League worked under more casual means. They were heroes because they wanted to be. They didn’t need any fancy membership cards or secret handshakes. He states that his vision for the League is a group of heroes that knows… the difference between right and wrong. Really, Cap? Okay… So, what I’m getting is that this is going to be the proactive Justice League… If the X-Force comparison fits…
|The Cable-Ready Captain Atom|
Meanwhile, at the ruined headquarters of the Justice League… Marvel’s Nomad… err, that new young-hip Dr. Fate… er, no… Wait… that’s Ronnie Raymond? Like, as in Firestorm… hrmm…
He walks among the ruins and meets up with Oberon and Skeets. Obe’ discusses a recent attack and the current state of disarray the League is in. Ronnie confides in the pair that he had come back in hopes that a Leaguer may be able to help him with the cancer he’d contracted. Skeets proposes that they look for the League together, and expresses optimism that they’d also find a cure.
Back in the Extreme mountains, Atom, Beetle, and a very shiny armored Booster Gold are discussing the bevy of possibilities their mountain-range complex affords them. It even comes equipped with a neighborhood… which Maxima and Amazing Man (no, not ‘Mazing Man… though, I wish) are currently scoping out.
Max and (a)Maze approach the odd little enclosed neighborhood, which Will compares to something out of Leave it to Beaver… much to Maxima’s befuddlement. Just as they land, they are attacked by a trio of robo-beasts!
Maxima lashes out with her flaming globs while Amazing Man (unsuccessfully) attempts to use his energy absorption powers. This shakes Will quite a bit. Lucky for him, reinforcements have arrived!
The Extreme Team takes the fight to the metallic menaces and appear to be regaining ground… that is, until the one called Pulse (or maybe it was Synapse… I dunno) blasts the living hell out of Captain Atom, rendering him a floating puddle of metallic-mulleted goop. We are naturally… [to be continued…]
Hrmm, where to even begin? I mean, did I enjoy it? No. No indeed. Can’t I really hold that against the creative team? Also, no… this is the kind of issue the market dictated, nay demanding the big publishing houses crap out. Just look at this cover… if you didn’t already know who these characters were, and failed to notice the DC bullet… this could have just as easily been one of the skatey-eight hundred Extreme-Team Image titles of this vintage. It’s hard to really separate this one from the era in which it was produced. You get the impression that DC (nor Marvel) would have put anything this… I dunno, horrible (?) out if there wasn’t already a powerful market demand for it.
The problem here, however lies with what I feel was/is(?) many people’s first-blush thoughts on DC Comics. Growing up in the nineties, DC Comics were the books that the old(er) people read. They were more old-fashioned, stuffy and boring. Failing to appreciate the stories and the characters led me right into Marvel’s (and Image’s) waiting arms.
Looking at this book is a lot like imagining your grandfather trying to rap… or, like that time Pat Boone dressed like a leather-daddy. It just doesn’t fit… it’s off putting, and in hindsight… it’s really quite embarrassing.
|So uh… whattaya say, kids… am I EXTREME yet?|
As for the story… well… it’s a story, I guess. This is an introductory piece to the team, something that started in Extreme Justice #0 (yeah, zeroes were all the rage…). Seeing Blue Beetle and Booster Gold as members of a sorta-kinda X-Force seems fairly ridiculous. Captain Atom had been played as something of a loose cannon, so I suppose it might just make sense that he’d wind up as a bemulleted silver-skinned naked version of Cable.
The art… well, it’s very clearly a book of its time. Penciller, Marc Campos is an amazingly talented artist, however, this book is not really a ringing endorsement of that fact. This is DC filtered through an Image flavored sieve. Can’t blame a fella for drawing what sells. It’s just too bad what sold was mostly disposable interchangeable overly-lined fluff.
This issue came out at a time where there were three Justice League books. We had our main (Uncanny) Justice League America book, flanked by this one and Justice League: Task Force… kind of the JLA’s answer to X-Factor led by Martian Manhunter. Outside of a few bright spots during Task Force, this was not a fun time for the League. Folks were written out of character… the violence and team-angst was ratcheted up to eleven (and not in that fun sitcom/soapy way we’d become accustomed to), and DC appeared to lose sight on just what this team meant. This would continue until the Grant Morrison penned JLA series, which was a true return to form for the World’s Greatest Heroes.
I’m usually an unabashed Chromium-Age apologist, but this one gets a pass. Not for the efforts of the creative team, mind… they were just trying to fill a niche. This was an industry-wide disease that just happened to find its way into a Justice League title.
|It really doesn’t get much more mid-90’s than this…
Remember the days of HOURLY Internet???
Still got some of those disks kickin’ around…
|I thought for a split-second that this was John Romita, Jr. art|