Friday, April 13, 2012

Justice League International vol. 2 (comics)

Writer: Kieth Giffen, JM DeMatteis, John Ostrander
Artist: Kevin Maguire, Bill Willingham, Luke McDonnell
Collects: Justice League International #8-13, Suicide Squad #13, Justice League International Annual #1

So here we are with the second volume of the much loved Justice League International run. To sum it up quickly, it's a bit more of the same. Unfortunately, that goes for both the good aspects and the bad; the contents of this volume suffer from the main problem I had with the first one while simultaneously being hit with those oh so lovely things called tie-ins.

The good is, of course, still good. We're still treated to a fair amount of solid team fare with some of the trademark humor the run would come to be known for. The humor has started to become more of a factor as we move onward; the first issue of the collection is entirely centered around the new JLI embassies going up, which contains our first outright Bwa-Ha-Ha moment. Thankfully, it's still not our primary focus; there's plenty of super heroics to be found along with the endearing yucks and team dynamics.

They also write an effective Batman; he's a bit too far on the Batstard side of the scale for me, but there's no denying he's very effective. This is most apparent in the two issue crossover with Suicide Squad - the #13 issues of each - that advances plotlines from both series. The Suicide Squad issue contains a knock down-drag out fight between Rick Flag and Batman; it effectively lasts for about three total pages of multi-panel grids, yet it sells the fact that these two are beating the hell out of each other like few of todays overused splash pages can. The punch-for-punch flow of the action and full twelve panel grid moves the fight along at a fast pace while feeling as brutal as it is short. Some modern day writers and artists ought to take notes.

Unfortunately, the issue I had with the last volume rears its ugly head again. Once more, several storylines resolve themselves without much League participation; this time, the overarching plotline going since issue one plays out with Maxwell Lord while the League is dealing with a New God. The annual comes down to the Martian Manhunter with the helmet of Fate saving the day. It's fairly noticeable; yet again, I hope this is ironed out as we move forward.

Also problematic is the Millennium tie-in issues. While I appreciate their inclusion for the sake of completion-ism, they're parts of an event. Even with the text pieces explaining some of what happened in the other parts, they make little sense. It's essentially a compromise between including all of the event or none of those issues, but given the choice, I'd rather have had one or the other. This is why I hate ongoing series tie-ins; I've seldom been happier with comics than when DC switched to having most tie-in stories in their own dedicated miniseries.

Thinking about it on the whole, we're two volumes into this run - both volumes containing a generous number of issues - and I'm still not completely happy with it. The right stuff is there and I love the team dynamics, but the downsides just leap out at me. If I wasn't assured it got better, I think it might have dropped down my totem pole of comic priorities a bit after this volume. I still like it - and I'd still continue - but this book is not in "oh god I need the next volume NOW" territory.

The Score: 7.5 out of 10

Same as last time. This is good, solid, enjoyable work, but there are still some kinks to be worked out. We'll see what the future holds for this book. If you're a JLI fan I'm sure you already have this volume. If not I'd say it's still well worth it, but temper your expectations, because the book still hasn't hit its stride.


  1. JLI and Suicide Squad (along with a fair number of other late-'80s and early-'90s series) represent probably the biggest hole in my experience with DC. It's nice to see a fresh take on them with these reviews, and I look forward to seeing more of them! Any chance you'll be checking out Suicide Squad, now that they've finally decided to start reprinting it?

  2. Did the Suicide Squad reprints get far? I know one managed to get a release and I've been meaning to pick it up. That aside I haven't heard squat about a second volume, which gave me pause. I've always meant to read Suicide Squad but if it's not in trade I'm iffy on the prospect. Not the "collect each issue" bag and boarding type.

    It's been interesting reading JLI this long after it ended. It's definitely fun - and there's a lot of potential here I imagine will be picked up on - but it feels like the book is taking too long to work out the kinks. I feel like it's too early for me to say if nostalgia goggles may be playing a part in its reputation, but I feel safe in saying it has room for improvement.

  3. Hmm, it looks like the Suicide Squad collections did hit the skids after that first one. I guess I just assumed they'd solicited a second volume. What a shame. Maybe it'll be another "Alpha Flight Classic" scenario, where sales didn't justify a Vol. 2 but enough people complained for them to finally release one.

    I like reading books like these long after the fact too. Actually, I think I like reading MOST comics well after the fact. New comics can be okay (I've been trying to keep up to date with this AvX nonsense for the podcast I've been doing), but I find it more enjoyable to read things I know from the get-go will have a definite beginning, middle, and end.