Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

11 May 2006

Juggernaut Jr., v. 1: Secrets and Lies

Collects: J2 #1-6 (1998-9)

Released: March 2006 (Marvel)

J2 was part of the short-lived M2 line, which showed the next generation of heroes in the Marvel Universe. As in most future timelines, the legacies of previous (read: current, for readers) heroes dominate the surroundings. In the M2 line, it was the very real legacy of the heroes, usually their offspring. The M2 line was headlined by Spider-Girl, the lone survivor of the line, now limping toward its 100th and final issue.

In fact, the full title of this book is Spider-Girl Presents Juggernaut Jr: Secrets & Lies. Unwieldy at best. In any event, Juggernaut Jr. (or J2) is Zane Yama, the son of Juggernaut and a district attorney. Juggernaut cleaned up his act, became a hero, and started a family, but he disappeared suddenly when Zane was a young boy. In high school now, Zane finds he has the ability to become a juggernaut himself, although his invulnerability isn’t on par with pappy’s.

Tom DeFalco writes a book that hearkens back to Silver Age Marvel, a simpler time when the landscape wasn’t so cluttered, when every idea and character was new. Unfortunately, Defalco, who is a good writer when in his element, is no Stan Lee, and artist Ron Lim is neither Steve Ditko or Jack Kirby. (Too ‘90s, for one thing.) The gold standard for this title, the one it’s really aiming to emulate / exceed, is Amazing Spider-Man. But with J2’s struggles with school bullies in his geeky alter ego, romance, and keeping his identity secret from loved ones, the parallel is a bit too on the nose, and J2 suffers in comparison. (J2 is better liked than Spider-Man; one story has everyone looking at the positive side of the destruction J2 has wrought and applauding the new hero). His personal life barely moves, and the only personal subplots that get any play are Zane’s search for his father and his mother’s attempts to discover J2’s connection to the original Juggernaut. Only the second plot really moves.

Instead, J2 seems to function as an “explore the M2 universe” book. We see the original Defenders fighting the new Avengers; Jubilee and the Uncanny X-People; Wild Thing, daughter of Wolverine and Elektra (hunh?); Magneta, Mistress of Magnetism; and Doc Magus, who possesses the Eye of Agamotto. Each issue contains two or three stories, and with J2 also appearing in A-Next, DeFalco was freed to push aside of how other heroes looked at J2.

But the stories also lack substance, with J2 usually fighting the villain du jour and having to use his brain to overcome him / her. Nice twist, but it’s hardly inventive enough to hold the readers’ attention forever. DeFalco and Lim just don’t pluck enough thematic chords to make the book resonate: What is J2’s place in the M2 world, literally and metaphorically? He can’t be the Spider-Man unsure hero; that’s Spider-Girl, the daughter of Spider-Man. An early issue makes it obvious he’s not like the Hulk other than his brawn. He doesn’t have to clear his name. The only tragedy in his life is the disappearance of his father, and Zane does pursue that, but with all the short stories in Secrets & Lies, those stories seem watered down by all the other stories, and they don’t have the length or strength to withstand the dilution.

Secrets and Lies turns out to be faux-Silver Age fluff. Amusing fluff, at times, but fluff nonetheless.

Grade: B-

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