Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fair Trade -- Justice League Of America: When Worlds Collide

DC's relaunched Justice League of America from a few years back is an odd book.  For a book which was supposed to be the "centerpiece" of the DCU, it sure ran off in a lot of weird tangents under Brad Metzler and then under Dwayne McDuffie.  How much of this was due to editorial changes beyond the writers' control I am not privy to.  But it made for unusual reading.  It also brought us stories which we would not have gotten had it been a more typical sort of slugfest title.  The story contained in this volume, collecting JLoA v.2:no.27-28, 30-34, is one such story.

Our tale begins shortly after the Final Crisis, with the mysterious Shadow Cabinet slipping into the Satellite in order to steal the waxy remains of the evil Doctor Light.  When they are discovered, a huge brawl breaks out between the two teams, with the alien powerhouse Icon being more than a match for Superman.  But why are they stealing Light's remains?  What does this have to do with the Dr. Kimiyo Hoshi, the heroic Dr. Light?  And how will this encounter, coupled with the splinter faction lead by Hal Jordan and Ollie Queen, impact the League?

One of the elements which McDuffie brought to the title under his watch was that while there were longer storyarcs, they were not completely devoid of connective tissue both fore and aft.  Case in point, this volume not only brings back a character from a previous arc, it also heavily reference both Final Crisis and Cry For Justice. It makes for an strange reading experience if you are reading the volume independently, as I was.  It's not bad, as it reminds me of the kinds of comics I cut my teeth on, but it's a change of pace which not everyone will appreciate.  For me, it made me want to find out more about what I didn't understand.  Other readers will just be turned off.  

Now, the reason I was reading this volume on its own is the guest stars: The Shadow Cabinet, from the dearly-departed Milestone Comics.  Icon, Hardware, Donner, Blitzen, Iron Butterfly, Iota, and the rest are just great characters, and seeing them fully integrated into the DCU as a whole makes me happy.  And the fact that Milestone head honcho McDuffie gets to handle them makes their personalities come through spot-on.  When Icon calmly tells Superman that his word should be enough to gain Big Blue's trust, or when Hardware refers to Vixen as "the future Mrs. Hardware," they sound perfect because no one knows these characters better at this point.

Fist pumping moments abound.  Icon informs Green Lantern Jon Stewart that as a member of the Collective, he is not bound by the laws of the Guardians; Stewart shoots right back saying that he's still on Guardian turf.  Dr. Light and Firestorm have two brutal encounters with the Shadow-Thief (yes, really), and Hawkman makes a smashing appearance as well.

The art is unfortunately inconsistent, with no fewer than 6 pencilers credited.  There's some solid artists in there -- Ed Benes, Jose Luis, Rags Morales -- but their styles clash with each other as we move from chapter to chapter.  Still, the work as a whole is dynamic and professional, and there was not any one artist who work was glaring bad, so I let that pass.  

This story did what it set out to accomplish: introduce the Milestone characters for a new set of readers, incorporate them into the DCU at large, and set the stage for the next storyline, all the while delivering the action and goods for monthly readers.  I would have liked this better in monthly installments, but you can always read your trades in issue-sized chunks.  In the end, this made me move my Icon collection up a few slots on the "To Read" pile, and made me want seek out more classic Hardware and Shadow Cabinet comics.  So, to that end, Mr. McDuffie -- good job.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

You know, I think you nailed why I like the current JLA title despite some bad word of mouth, it does go off on tangents one wouldn't expect of an alleged flagship title. I like the way the current line-up is similar to the classic line-up only way more girly.