January 18, 2012

Review: Justice League International Volume 1

When the late 1980s incarnation of the original Justice League disbanded, there wasn't anything left of the team.  Led by the Martian Manhunter, members such as Steel and Vibe were killed off.  The post-Crisis on Infinite Earths world of the DC Universe needed another group of superheroes to once join together against evil.  It wasn't until the Legends miniseries when the call was finally heard and a new Justice League was born. However, the new series would debut in a different tone and manner, adding a more fun and looser vibe to the team's adventures, despite Batman being a part of the roster.

Writers J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen retooled the lineup of the Justice League, with new heroes of the day and mixing them with past members as well.  Characters from the DC Comics, purchase of Charlton Comics such as Captain Atom and Blue Beetle were now part of the squad.  Old-timers such as Batman, Martian Manhunter, Captain Marvel, Black Canary, Mister Miracle, Guy Gardner, Dr. Fate and even obscure heroes such as a female version of Dr. Light and a Rocket Red would also join and leave the team as well.  Booster Gold, a new character altogether, rounded out the lineup.  Starting out as the Justice League, their global (and later galactic) adventures would lead the team to a more appealing name with Justice League International.  

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With Justice League International Volume 1, fans will enjoy the rebirth of the team during the late 1980s. It collects the first seven issues and provided a balance with the grim and gritty trend at the time, by offering a fun and light atmosphere with the stories and characters.  The team changes it's name to Justice League International in issue 7. The series was far removed from the grim and gritty books at the time, such as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns.  Old villains reemerge (Royal Flush Gang, Silver Sorceress, etc.), exciting locales are visited (Bialya) and a short-lived fight between Guy Gardner and Batman, heralded the start of a new beginning for the Justice League. 

With Superman, Flash and Wonder Woman going through their revisions at the same time the Justice League was restarting, you can understand why these high profile characters never made it to the team roster.  Furthermore, fans can immediately notice the difference between the current New 52 Justice League and this roster. Not that the team lacked any members that could equal their powers and stature, especially with Captain Atom, Martian Manhunter, Booster Gold and Dr. Fate on board.  Given the character reboots at the time, the team still managed to feature a powerful and somewhat prominent cast, unlike the previous incarnation. DeMatteis and Giffen gave the team more personality and slowly built up the pace of the early issues and developed early subplots for Maxwell Lord and the Global Guardians that would have ramifications later on.

 Selected cover artwork from the original series

It's unfortunate that DeMatteis and Giffen could not, in my opinion, really capitalize on the individual characters (Captain Marvel, Dr. Fate) and their super powers and overall value to the team.  What stands out most for me is the mentor-role Batman provides for team mates like Blue Beetle and Mister Miracle. After the team crumbled from the Crisis and Legends events, Giffen, DeMatteis and artist Kevin Maguire resurrected the Justice League into one of the most powerful teams in the late 1980s. The swagger on the cover says it all.  If you'd like a lighter side to superheroes then this book, showcasing the League's beginnings is definitely for you. 

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