Saturday, June 7, 2014

Justice League of America: Worlds Most Dangerous (comics)

Writers: Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt
Artists: David Finch, Brett Booth, Doug Mahnke
Collects: Justice League of America #1-7

Spinning out of the end of Justice League: Throne of Atlantis comes  the Justice League of America, an interesting book that suffers from outside circumstances.

Going by the first five issues, this would be a pretty decent start to a longer run. Our team is formed pretty quickly, they're out on a mission by the second issue and they come up against a threat befitting of a super team. Most of it is made up of characters you wouldn't normally associate with the JLA and some curious choices from the Leagues past, but it's anchored by the Martian Manhunter - a beloved stalwart who hasn't been involved in League related matters since the start of the New 52 - and does a decent job of selling us on the rest. Also along for the ride is Steve Trevor, who you may remember as the most interesting character in the first two volumes of Justice League, and Amanda Waller, who is looking much slimmer these days.

The only problem is that this comic isn't around long enough to make enough of an impact. It's clear right from the start that it's a piece of Johns overall puzzle, setting up for the inevitable three way conflict in Trinity War. That's fine. We ought to have at least a couple storylines with this team to invest in them before the fireworks, though. Instead, we only manage to do the introductory arc, which one leaguer - the Green Lantern on the cover, Simon Baz - isn't even around for. It feels like we jumped to the big story too soon.

If this was the route they were going to go, they should have just announced this as a miniseries, packaged it with a few issues of Justice League and called it volume four when it came time for the collection. Also odd is the inclusion of issues six and seven; both are a part of Trinity War, presented here divorced of their context. I guess they were worried about throwing out a five issue hardcover, but it isn't like it hasn't happened before. That's just the way it works out sometimes. Throwing in issues that are obviously going to show up in another collection wasn't the way to go.

All that aside, the book is still worth reading. I wasn't kind to the early volumes of Geoffs run, but Throne of Atlantis and Worlds Most Dangerous have done a good job of bringing me back into the fold. I think the big difference is that the over-arching plot has emerged and is actually a lot more interesting than I would have figured. It's become fairly obvious that we're building toward big things down the line and some of it is the kind of thing that might not have flown within the prior continuity. The New 52 hasn't done nearly enough of that and it helps to smooth out some of the glaring problems.

Also included are some back-ups that ran in the single issues, scripted by Jeff Lemire. Martian Manhunter is the lead and they mostly serve to re-introduce the character. A fair amount of the backstory is the same, but a few interesting liberties are taken that could lead to something. Nothing absolutely essential, but I'm never going to scoff at extra stories. At the least, it's good to see J'onn associated with a League again; I totally get why they shuffled him off*, but Stormwatch wasn't doing anything for him.

The art is handled by David Finch. I'm not sure what to say about it. It's David Finch art, all right. If you're into that kind of thing, well, here you go. I will admit Finch probably fits this story better than he would had he done a stint on the main title.

Problems aside, I'd say Worlds Most Dangerous turned out to be a worthwhile venture.

My Opinion: Try It

* J'onns inclusion made a lot of sense during the two decades or so that DC shied away from including its most recognizable characters - Martian Manhunter became the muscle of the team - but whenever the League embraces the "Big Guns" concept, he presents a problem. There's simply way too much overlap in power set when Superman is on the team. Martian Manhunter has a lot of the same powers Superman does as well as several he doesn't. He just isn't as marketable. Putting him on a separate Justice League is far from the worst idea I've ever heard.