Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bullet Review: Justice League 3001

Justice League 3001 #1 came out last week and I picked up the book mostly because I knew that Supergirl would become a cast member next month. I thought I should jump on board at the beginning. I also knew that comic readers whose opinion I value had read the first series JL3K. Those bloggers said the book was irreverent but engaging.

I will be honest, while Howard Porter's art is a draw, I was a little concerned about the writing tandem of Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis. It has been a while since either has hit a home run for me. I often find the humor attempts a bit too forced for my taste.

So I am happy to say that I enjoyed this book and I am glad I am on board. I have complained in the past about how there is nothing but deconstruction of super-heroes, giving them feet of clay and gray morals. And this book is steeped in that. But somehow, thrusting it into a possible future, having the characters run the spectrum of heroic ideals, made this one a bit more palatable. I also went in with the idea that this was meant to be a serious look at super-heroics but more like a farce. And they make old-timers like me happy by name dropping people like Andy Helfer and Murray Boltinoff in the story.

I will also say, this is a great first issue in terms of grabbing the reader. I hadn't read any JL3K before so I was very happy that Giffen and DeMatteis get us caught up without falling back on something lazy like a recap page. I also think the backstory and key plot points are brought up organically in the issue rather than having someone act solely for exposition.

And Howard Porter's art is pretty electric here. His expressions are strong. The setting and character styles feel like something from a grim future. And the action is palpable.

The book opens with something of a parable, L-Ron talking about 'The Five' saving a Camelot planet and staying to guard over the people. There is no mention of the JL or the characters specifically but you get the sense that this League has done something wonderful for the people.

But then that rug is pulled out from under me as a new reader. We learn that Ariel Masters is the League's handler, sending them to fight evils around the galaxy. And then, another reveal, Masters is actually housing the genetic code of Lois Lane. And this Lois hates the League, befriending them, and sending them on missions she thinks will be fatal.

Lois Lane! Queen of the Universe! Love it!

But why does she want them dead? And is this the first time we learn that she is Lois?

The League is on Widon-3, a planet taken over by Starro. When the League arrives, the Starros have already killed another set of freedom fighters. Squint and you'll see it is the Legion. I suppose this mirrors Giffen's recent interviews saying he is sick of the Legion and didn't want to visit Bgztl.

The League hardly seem like best friends but want to save these folks from mental slavery. Except, the main Starro tells them that this takeover is legal! The papers have been filed. The League's hands are tied.

New League member Guy Gardner, genetically rewritten onto a woman host, decides to check things out.

I like that the League might be defeated by lawyers! Reminds me of The Incredibles, when the heroes are forced into retirement by lawsuits.

We get to meet these Leaguers and learn very quickly that these aren't your standard archetypes. Batman comes the closest to being 'classic'.

But it is clear that Superman is an egotistical moron. He brags. He talks in the third person. He has little knowledge of gender issues, and little empathy for it.

I know on this blog I tend to complain about the shabby treatment of the mainstream Superman. But in something like this, basically an Elseworlds, I don't mind. This sort of 'rock star' narcissistic persona is, for me, a warning of what consistently writing heroes grim and dark will result in.

I am glad that Batman calls him out on it.

But then a new wrinkle gets revealed.

Fire and Ice, from the early 'bwa-ha-ha' JLA, are also characters in this book. I will admit I am a bit confused about these two as their backstory isn't fully explained. They lived on Camelot (the planet from the opening fable). Fire was consort to Etrigan, who ruled the planet with demons until the League defeated them. Ice also lives on the planet, in a different area.

The two are friends and decide they should leave Camelot and head to Earth (renamed Takron-Galtos in this world). Maybe they can set up a foothold there.

Nice to see these two again and love the new looks.

Even though the paperwork is up to snuff, Guy forges some writs that state that Starro has illegally run over Widon. Ariel/Lois loves the idea of an all-out irresponsible war by the League would both weaken and discredit the team.

Lois decides not to do anything and let this play out. Even if the League is victorious, they will be softened up enough that an Injustice League she is working with could finish the job.

One thing I do like is that L-Ron actually has his original programming intact, to help the League. He tries to override Lois/Ariel's reprogramming without success.

This is all fascinating.

And this war isn't going to be easy. Every Starro drone is a potential soldier in Starro's army but is also an innocent. Where is Snapper Carr and lime when you need him?

Nice splash here showing the scope of the problem. And nice Ambush Bug cameo.

And then the majestic splash page. A rocket sense Kal-El's presence and so veers to intercept. It is time to revive Supergirl!

This has to be the Silver Age Kara. And I have to assume that Giffen/DeMatteis is going to make her the caricature she was then, sugary sweet, innocent and naive, quick to tears and eager. Such sensibilities will be a foil to the darker tones here while showing that either extreme is prone to being silly. Knowing this Superman, he is going to hit on her. I worry about this as a skewed version of the Trinity can happen without sullying the main hero. There are people out there who still think Supergirl is an saccharine fool and this might just cement that.

There is stuff I still don't get. The Fire/Ice stuff needs fleshing out. We hear about Firestorm but we didn't see him. But this was grabbing enough to make me ... gasp ... seek out the back issues of the old series.

I won't read this series with the same discerning eye I read others, in the same way I don't watch Evil Dead 2 with the same critical eye I watch The Exorcist.

Overall grade: B/B+


Anonymous said...

That last splash page... WHEEEE!! Shades of PAD's Many Happy Returns? Will have to see where this title goes, but I have to admit,
just on the last splash page alone, I WANT THIS ISSUE!


Martin Gray said...

Fab review. I was going to answer points about Lois, Fire and Ice, but as you're investigating the back issues...

Anonymous said...

Well if "Formerly Known as the Justice League" is any guide then likely Supergirl will be playing the same part as Mary Marvel, the team's somewhat naive' musclegirl. I'm guessing this will get old quickly but I'll give it a shot just out of loyalty to "Brand Silver Age Supergirl".