Saturday, June 8, 2013

Justice League International: The Signal Masters (comics)

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Aaron Lopresti
Collects: Justice League International #1-6

Some books benefited from the relaunch more than others. Save Firestorm, no other book may have been hurt by it as much as Justice League International. Prior to the New 52, the JLI found a new lease on life as the other half of a years worth of two biweekly series, opposite Brightest Day. It was pretty popular and it looked like an ongoing would follow by the same creative team.

Then the relaunch happened. The JLI continuity was one of the casualties. Any momentum the JLI had died with it.

The situation could probably have been salvaged of a star creative team had been tapped for the relaunch, or if the team on JLI Generation Lost had been retained. Instead, they went with Dan Jurgens. No disrespect meant - anything of his I've come across has been pretty readable, if unremarkable - but amidst a slate of fifty two titles, his name is going to stick out the least. All that together and you could make the case that this book was doomed from the start.

But it did make it to about twelve issues - plus an annual - six of which are included here. Make no mistake, the concept could have worked. The team is basically formed as an easier to control, United Nations sanctioned counterpart to the Justice League, whom operate independent of any government. It's a pretty believable response to a group of super powered individuals popping up - you can bet your ass the governments of the world would want SOMETHING in place just in case somebody on that team went rogue, for one thing - and it could have led to some pretty interesting drama, had the book survived enough to settle into a status quo.

As it stands, the book doesn't have nearly enough time to differentiate itself from the main title and carve out its own niche. It does not, however, have to deal with the level of scrutiny the other Justice League title does. Given the hype, superstar creative team and expectations, the reality that Justice League didn't live up hurts more. JLI, however, has an easier time getting away with just being "pretty decent". Another advantage is that this book doesn't screw around; Justice League took four issues to get the band together and went almost nowhere in between, while JLI has the team together and the threat in play by the end of the first issue. It's the exact opposite of the sort of decompression Justice League employed.

Something I really enjoyed was Jurgens portrayal of Batman. One of the unfortunate losses in the New 52 is the comraderie and rapport that had developed between he and Booster Gold over the course of Boosters own title. But while the history is gone, Jurgens nonetheless retains the dynamic. Batman actually acts as something akin to a friend to Booster in this volume; he's often there with advice, seems to look out for the younger hero, actively helps him get some cred prior to an important UN meeting and is initially the only one who believes in him.

Too often, writers stick close to the Grimdark template of Batman - which is fine sometimes, but horribly tedious when overdone - and make him the most anti-social guy around. Thus, it's always nice to see a writer remember that despite how screwed up he is Batman still cares. If he didn't care about people at his core, he wouldn't dress up as a bat every night in an attempt to keep others from the trauma and pain he's lived through. I, personally, have had about enough Batdickery to last me a good long while, so more of this would be appreciated.

Something I didn't particularly enjoy was Godiva. I think she's a new character? I don't recognize her. Regardless, she proves herself to be a female clone of early, glory seeking Booster Gold. She at least has a character arc and I don't hate the character, but she's a puzzling addition.

If I had to describe the writing, I'd say it's something of a throwback. It reminds me a fair bit of some of the more typical mid-range books of the 80's and 90's. All told, this probably could have passed for a pretty solid superhero team title if it existed back then. Today, it feels a little bit out of place, but if you can get past that you're good.

Before I wrap up, I should probably touch on the art. There's really not a whole lot for me to say about it, but I figure it's worth at least giving a shout to it. It won't blow you away, but it's pretty respectable work. Much like the rest of the book. It's a shame that's not necessarily good enough for a book launched in this sort of initiative.

My Opinion: Try It

Justice League International had the deck stacked against it, but manages to come out a readable work. Damning with faint praise, I suppose, but given the circumstances I expected worse. If you want some meat and potatoes superhero team action, this isn't a terrible way to kill an hour and a half. But it isn't anything you just have to read, either.

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