What's All This Brouhaha?
The JLA 80 Page Special was much-ballyhooed as the return of those classic 80 page specials. It's a strange thing to claim, since DC had a mighty fine series of 80 page specials going for most of the 90s! Justice League Quarterly had a fantastically enjoyable string of stories by Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and others, until the title suffered from the same malaise as the other JLI titles. Green Lantern Quarterly was entertaining and imaginative (okay, maybe not the G'nort series) until Emerald Twilight brought an end to all Green Lanterns except for Kyle Rayner.
I was really looking forward to this Special, particularly the first Giffen-Maguire JLA story in over 5 years. The Red Tornado getting some attention at last was also a tempting idea. I thought this was going to be great, which is why my disappointment in these stories is also great.
The first story, "The Green Bullet," rides roughshod over all established continuity. It supposedly takes place in the early days of the JLA, but Superman was (post-Crisis) never a member of that team. Also, it incorporates elements from "Dark Knight Over Gotham," a storyline which didn't take place until the Justice League of America was long gone. Had it simply been set in the era of the present JLA, it would have been a fine story. The characterization is just fine. (The writer is John Ostrander, who should by all accounts know better than this.) These types of continuity errors infuriate me not only because they are such tremendous mistakes but because they slipped by both a good writer and an editor! Shouldn't at least one of these guys spot them? Oh, in case you're wondering, the story deals with Superman being suspected of murder and Batman on the case.
Maybe I'm just in a lousy mood to read this book because the second story, "For Sale -- The Justice League?" by Tom Peyer, is just infuriating. A billionaire gives a billion dollars to the JLoA and Oliver Queen does nothing but slander the guy from the get-go.
This is supposed to be reminiscent of the "good old days" when liberal Ollie and conservative Katar would go at it. Frankly, I never saw Katar, or Hal Jordan for that matter, as being in any way conservative except in comparison to the very left-wing Ollie. They never really espoused any kind of deep-rooted beliefs or ideals that could be called right-wing. Basically, the deal was that Green Arrow was being used as a soap box for the political leanings of the writer, and the other character was a straw man who would be proven wrong at the end. And such is the case in this story, except that retroactive continuity has placed the Golden Age Hawkman in Katar's spot. Carter Hall, the leader of the old JSA, has now been reduced to an idealogue despite never acting that way before.
This story is very, very disturbing. Oliver Queen announces from the get-go that all men that rich are evil and the billionaire, Mr. Bryce, must be up to something. We have a word for preconceived notions about groups of people who are not judged by their individual merits: prejudice. Because of his prejudice, Ollie gets it into his own mind to torment the man until he finds out what he's up to. J'onn performs a brainscan of Bryce and clears him, but Ollie persists in hounding the man. The rest of the JLAers do the right thing by judging Bryce by his criminal record and believing that all men are innocent until proven guilty, yet Ollie cops a flamboyantly superior attitude to them all. And in the end, Ollie finds evidence that Bryce is telling others that the JLA is in his pocket.
Never mind that the JLA wouldn't have been obligated to do anything for Bryce if they weren't basically settling out of court for damages done by one of their members. Never mind that, during his mind-scan of Bryce's intentions, J'onn should have found a big mental neon sign shouting, "I'm going to use the JLA for my purposes." Never mind that, if this truly was set in the fourth year of the JLoA's existence, my favorite superhero Elongated Man could have been in this story (an unrelated peeve it just ticks me off -- the Atom never gets to do or say anything, either). The problem is that THE BIGOT GETS PROVEN RIGHT!
Can you see any other story where a JLA member could draw conclusions about a person based on race, religion, social status or gender and be allowed to be proven right at the end? The attitude of the story, that the JLA was wrong to not immediately suspect the man because he's rich, flies in the face of everything embodied by the word "justice." It really scares me that no thought was given to the message this story is sending or that, if so, the message was considered correct.
Okay, I'm going to calm down. Happily, the third story should provide a welcome relief to the bad politics of the second, for this is Giffen and DeMatteis' return to their glory days. What we have here is a mini-story set in-between Justice League issues 5 and 7, in which Guy Gardner is startled by a mouse. The Blue Beetle tries to catch the mouse, while J'onn J'onzz, Black Canary and Booster Gold harp on him about it.
This story is, in most regards, a disappointment. While it's certainly funny, it doesn't really break any new ground or show us anything new. More importantly, it highlights the complaints that most people have about this era of the Justice League. There is no sense of greatness about the team. The problems, rather than coming from a villainous source, are self-inflicted by the team clowns. The Leaguers are unable to handle even minor threats. And characters who are indeed capable of greatness are limited to buffoonery. While I, in fact, enjoyed most of those elements back in the heyday of the JLI, it really makes the team look pathetic in comparison to the characters in the surrounding stories. I can't say that this is a bad story, but it is out of place.
The Red Tornado story, "Tin Man's Lament," was a breath of fresh air. Er, no pun intended, seriously. It was great to see some attention paid to this character, who has had a very uneven decade since his unjustly-overlooked 1985 mini-series. Since then, the Red Tornado had become a raging air elemental out to destroy mankind. Then Captain Atom created a containment suit that would house his presence so that he could live amongst people again, after which he spent over a dozen issues of Primal Force mutely clunking around. The last issue of that title referred to RT's returning "to his wife and child." Here, at last, is that story. Red Tornado returns to Kathy Sutton's apartment, where he confesses that he no longer feels love. However, an encounter with an elderly woman that he rescues opens his eyes. Then he goes and sits down by himself. The narration implies that his heart is broken, but it isn't clear why. It, um it doesn't have any satisfying closure, but it is an interesting story by Todd Dezago.
Mark Millar's "The Secret Society of Super-Villains" is a lot of fun. It details a gathering of all the greatest villains left in the DCU in a pre-emptive strike against the formation of the new JLA. There are a few continuity gaffes, but the story is told in such a way that its invalidity is part of the fun.
Stories aside, the artwork was impressive all around. But I buy my comics for the stories, and this batch is not worth the five bucks.
The Team-Up We All Expected!
Since Emerald Twilight, the three-part story arc which drove former Green Lantern Hal Jordan insane in late 1993, there has been a lot of speculation as to when he would come back. Most thought that, like Superman and Batman before him, Hal would return to his roots after about six months. Instead, after six months, Hal was a villain responsible for the destruction of the entire universe. They stopped him and he was "killed," only to come back a while later looking for his ring. "This is it!" thought the fans. "He's come to his senses and now he wants to be Green Lantern again! This is the issue!" But when Hal proved himself still insane, and then not only nearly killed the current GL to attain the ring, but promptly gave it back in the same issue, we started thinking: If issue #25 had Guy Gardner leaving the Corps, and #50 had Hal going nuts, then #75 might be the redemption of Hal Jordan! Instead, issue #75 was the story of the Darkstars' downfall, and indeed led us even farther away from the GL mythos.
When Hal Jordan died to save the world in DC's The Final Night storyline, we all assumed that the fast-approaching centennial issue of Green Lantern would be the next time we saw Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps at work.