Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Discount Bin Finds

Damn, J'onn.  Just... damn.  JUSTICE LEAGUE TASK FORCE #1
Justice League Task Force #1-3 -- One of the venerable classics of the DC universe, rarely has there been a time when there wasn't a Justice League title of some sort on the stands. From the original series, to the Giffen/DeMatteis reworking, to the franchise branding of the 90s, to Morrison's return of the Big 7 to the current series, there's always something out there with DC superheroes sitting around a table. But none of the eras are truly as odd as the mid-90s.

Right around the time of Superman's death at the hands (fists) of Doomsday, there was a lot of shake-ups going down involving the League. There were 3 titles: Justice League America, Justice League International (formerly Europe), and Justice League Quarterly (which were a popular idea at the time). Into this mix was thrown this series, Justice League Task Force, which promised a rotating cast of characters picked for each mission. It got worse in 94, when International and Quarterly were cancelled in favor of Extreme Justice, which was one of those tremendously bad ideas with which one is left to simply shrug and say "It was the 90s."

In any event, the first three issues of Task Force deal with everyone's favorite Martian, J'onn J'onzz, being recruited by skeevy UN rep Hannibal Martin to put together a strike force made up of Leaguers but without official League presence. The Manhunter from Mars pulls in an eclectic group: old Detroit-League pal Gypsy, fellow founder Aquaman, the Flash, and, taking Batman's place, Nightwing. Their mission: infiltrate a South American republic and stop the rebel freedom fighters from toppling the government of the US-allied dictator. Too bad they don't know that a certain benefactor has provided the rebels with a "death wave generator" device, which they intend to use on the capital!

Poor Gypsy, stuck behind Nightwing's crazy legs.  JUSTICE LEAGUE TASK FORCE #3Sounds heavy, right? Well, being as these were published in 1993, not so much. There's a strong play at being relevant and weighty, but in the end it's little more than an excuse to get the team together to bicker and argue their way through a mission. It's also not just a little cliched -- it's South America so of course there's a drug lord with a lush private estate -- and characterization consistantly takes a backseat to guys getting chin-checked. Don't get me wrong: Michelinie has a good handle on the characters and writes solid action. But those looking for philosphical debate should seek elsewhere. The point here is the spandex and the fighting, which, considering the fact that the title says Justice League, sounds right to me.

Sal Velluto's art is typical of DCs from the period, trying to be a little more ostentatious but generally more low key than their Marvel or Image contemporaries. And honestly, for a few bucks you could do worse than the story here within. It's a fun concept, and there's not a lot of tacked on baggage before things get chugging. I enjoyed these a lot more than I expected I would, and maybe that's partially because of when I got into comics. But DC fans who are old enough to this period with any fondness at all will not be disappointed by these comics, and you can probably find them pretty cheap.

3 comments:

Adama said...

You know what I want to know? Why the hell do they keep sending Aquaman on missions that take place primarily on land? The poor man has 75 percent of the Earth's surface to deal with as it is; leave him alone until something in his area of expertise comes along!

Luke said...

I agree! In this instance at least, there was some need for him as one of the places they had to infiltrate was on the coast, and he was able to bust in that way. There's one scene where Arthur actually busts a fire hydrant to get himself back to full strength before a fight!

Frank Lee Delano said...

I really wasn't into Sal Velluto's work when this came out, but he not only grew on me with time, but just plain became a better artist.

As for JLTF, not much good before Christopher Priest too it over, for my money. I bought these issues on release for Nightwing's appearances, and couldn't understand why everyone, especially Aquaman, kept treating him like a jerk. "Showboat?" Wha-huh?