Justice League America #42 (September, 1990)
Writers – Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis
Penciller – Mike McKone
Inker – Jose Marzan, Jr.
Letterer – Bob Lappan
Colorist – Gene D’Angelo
Assistant Editor – Kevin Dooley
Editor – Andy Helfer
Cover Price: $1.00
Well, after so many days in a row with excellent covers, I thought I’d shake things up and take a look at a book with a… well, not so excellent cover. I mean, really now… how hideous is Starman on this cover? Quite unpleasant to look at all around… not sure at all why they would decide to go with this… it would have sent me for the holy water had I seen it on the shelf. Yikes… and from Adam Hughes no less! This dude is normally friggin’ incredible… not sure how this found its way off of his pencil.
Let’s read on and see if this is indicative of what’s on the inside… it couldn’t possibly be… could it?
We open with Martian Manhunter and Gypsy as they discuss the events of the last several issues. Before them, in stasis, floats the bite-sized Despero who wrecked havoc on Earth until J’onn was able to nullify the threat. Gypsy lost her parents in the attack and is adamant that J’onn just kill the tiny destroyer. J’onn replies that it isn’t his place to do such a thing, and decides to leave him be. J’onn asks Gypsy if she would consider joining the Justice League… an offer he imagined she would jump at… and she declines. He promises he’ll always be there for her and she leaves.
J’onn meets up with Max Lord and now they discuss current events. Mister Miracle is dead, and the team is in desperate need of some “new blood”… so desperate in fact that Max has sent some of their members out on a little recruitment drive…
We join Fire and Blue Beetle as they hover over Dos Rios, Texas in The Bug. They land and enter a local dive-y bar in search of their prospective member. None of the patrons or barmen are too keen on chatting with the heroes, but luckily, their man enters the scene… it’s El Diablo… ya know, the boring one.
Meanwhile over the Arizona desert, Starman… and his glorious mullet soar the skies. He runs into the top JLI PR fella himself… Guy Gardner. Guy offers him the gig, and when Will turns it down, Guy just decides that he wasn’t willing to give him any rights of refusal. He nabs him in a green energy construct, and flies away.
Back in Dos Rios, Fire takes point… she and El Diablo begin chatting in Spanish, while Beetle begrudgingly takes in the local flavor.
Our next team of recruiters is Huntress and Ice… and their targets are the crime-fighting duo, Hawk and Dove… wait, really? Okay.
Now for something completely different, we shift skyward… and spaceward, up to the spacecraft of the great Manga Khan. Mister Miracle was contracted to him via some nuttiness drafted by
Stan Lee Funky Flashman over in his own title. Khan informs Scott that he’s met his obligation, and will “in the name of friendship” be escorted back to Earth so that he may resume his life… little does he know that the robot that took his place just “died”.
Back on Earth… Bea and El continue their chat while Beetle fights to stay awake… and Guy and Will continue their scuffle over the desert. If I were Will I’d be angry too, but mostly due to the way I was drawn on the cover!
Back at the Embassy, Max Lord is escorted to his office to find… Mister Miracle, alive and well… along with Manga, Oberon, L-Ron, and the Flashman. After being caught up on the “status” of his robotic dupe, Scott faces the harsh realization that Barda believes him to be dead!
We get a neat little scene between J’onn and Batman where they discuss both the future of the League and their places in it. J’onn is looking to get away for awhile, though Batman feels that it really wouldn’t change things if he did. I’m really not doing the scene the justice it deserves… it’s really well done. J’onn ultimately decides to tell Max he wants to bug out for awhile… which is news that Mr. Lord is not too keen on hearing.
The next several pages reveal the unsuccessful results of the JLI Recruitment Drive, as all three parties have been shot down by their prospects. Suddenly a whole lot of hair with men underneath it enter the Embassy… it’s Lightray and Orion of New Genesis… they want on the League and they want it now!
Thankfully that old axiom about not judging a book by its cover comes into play here. This was a helluva fun issue… from a very strange (but wonderful) time in League history.
We’re coming off perhaps the defining battle for this version of the League… Despero just goes ape and kills/destroys everything in his path… such an amazing tonal shift from the normal “sitcommy” nature of this title… but it worked so well. Perhaps I’ll dig some of those issues out somewhere down the line.
For this issue… we get to watch as the League does something I’m not sure it had ever done before… or since… go out on a recruitment tour! Such a great idea, especially for this group of characters. We see the problem with trying to run a superhero team as though it were a company… I mean, these folks aren’t really known for their PR skills… Seriously now, would you send Guy Gardner out to recruit new talent for your company?
For whatever reason whenever I think back to this issue I remember that Wild Dog also turns down membership… and every time I revisit it, I’m surprised that this scene does not exist. I must be confusing it with something… I’ll have to do some brain-digging I suppose.
J’onn J’onzz continues to be a true highlight of this title… really makes me hate what they’ve done with him since 2011. It may be cliche to call the Martian Manhunter the “heart and soul” of the Justice League… but that doesn’t make the statement any less true. J’onn requesting time to decompress makes perfect sense after what he was forced to do with Despero… and after what happened to Gypsy and her family. Gypsy was something of a daughter figure to J’onn… having to deal with her suffering and persistence to process everything that occurred on her own has really shaken the man.
The Mister Miracle bit… ehh, I didn’t dig this the first time I read it, and I still don’t. Asamattafact, Scott leaving Earth was kind of what sank his solo ongoing for me too. Up until then, it was kind of “sitcommy” as well… just some fun comics. Having him leave Earth made it feel a whole lot less special. I mean, I get it… not everyone is going to enjoy reading about Scott and Barda’s domestic bliss… but, I definitely thought the book was better during those stories.
Overall… I would recommend ignoring the gruesome cover and enjoying the wonderful contents of this issue… hell, this era. It is often around this point in the Giffen/DeMatteis run that my interest begins to wane, but there’s still some great stuff in here. If you’re down for an offbeat issue from an offbeat era, definitely consider giving this one the ol’ flip through.