Monday, March 5, 2012

Justice League International vol. 1 (comics)

Writers: Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis
Artist: Kevin Maguire
Collects: Justice League International #1-7

Long a cult favorite, Justice League International is a book I'd heard plenty about but never got around to. Quite a few folks consider it "their" Justice League and much has been said about its comedic nature. Having now read this volume, I'm not exactly ready to say it's the best thing since the pyramids, but it's a very charming, solid team book that's occasionally pretty funny.

Just looking at the cover, you can tell this Justice League is a motley crew. Outside of Batman and the Martian Manhunter, the roster isn't exactly made of League stalwarts. It's certainly not as rag-tag as the Detroit lineup - a roster mostly made up of Z listers - but none of them would be your first pick. Apparently they weren't Giffens either. But part of the strength of the book is that it's a fun group to watch; they don't all get along, but they do achieve results and prove themselves.

It helps that they're likable in their own ways, from Captain Marvels "gee whiz" personality to Blue Beetles joke cracking to Guys... well, Guy is just a prick in this book, but he's the lovable sort of prick you like in fiction but would hate in real life.

If nothing else, the stories in this volume are nothing if not good, solid team fare. The plots are a bit standard, but the dialogue and scripting keep things interesting. The book isn't in the realm of full on humor I'd expected - seems that comes later - but you can see seeds of it in scenes like the infamous "one punch" and Boosters explanation of why he can hit a female villain. It's a great balance, one that I'm a bit worried about losing, since I know the book eventually descends into being more of a superhero sitcom, of sorts.

If I have any problem with the stories in this volume, it's that there are a few too many that resolve without much participation from the League. The plot of the group running around disposing of nukes sort of resolves itself, the rest of the League doesn't do much more than stand around while Dr. Fate disposes of the Gray Man and Mr. Miracle does a lot of the heavy lifting with the problem in space. I'm willing to chalk it up to the creative team getting into their groove - there's a plot or two where the League effectively handles a situation, so they know how to do it - but I hope to see less of this in future volumes.

Kevin Maguire does his usual great work. He's famous for his facial expressions; while we don't get as much of that here as we would later, there's still a fair bit of great storytelling through the characters reactions. I quite like his work, so I'm happy that his earlier work is showing signs of what made him famous.

The Score: 7.5 out of 10

Good, solid Justice League stories. I can see why this was an instant hit when it came out; while the humor the run would become famous for hadn't kicked into high gear yet, it must have been a relief to have a consistently good Justice League book after the book had been stuck in Detroit for so long with D-to-Z list nobodies. There's plenty of room for the book to get better, but for a first volume still working out the kinks this is still very solid. Give it a look; just don't expect full on "Bwa-Ha-Ha" yet.

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