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

08 May 2009

Justice League of America, v. 3: The Injustice League

Collects: Justice League of America (v. 2) #13-6, Justice League of America Wedding Special #1 (2007-8)

Released: June 2008 (DC)

Format: 144 pages / color / $19.99 / ISBN: 9781401218027

What is this?: The Justice League comic crossed with the Superfriends and Justice League Unlimited cartoons — no Wonder Twins, though

The culprits: Writer Dwayne McDuffie and pencils by Ed Benes, Joe Benitez, and Mike McKone

I stay away from the mainstream DC universe because experience and other reviews have told me that they are so mired in continuity that they border on incomprehensible. But I have a soft spot for writer Dwayne McDuffie, and Justice League of America, v. 3: The Injustice League looked isolated enough, so I decided to take a chance.

The good news is that Injustice League requires almost no knowledge of DC history to enjoy, except perhaps that Green Arrow and Black Canary are getting married, but you can figure that out for yourself. The bad news is that Injustice League breaks no new ground, re-treading plots seen before while making the heroes seem not too terribly bright.

I will admit there are some fun parts. McDuffie is a good writer, and his script (if not plot) often shows it. The Wedding Special, with its infuriatingly superior Batman, is a nice touch, and the banter between Black Lightning (who McDuffie does well) and Jon Stewart is fun as well. McDuffie, who was also a writer for the animated Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, does a good job with a large cast, something that can be very difficult.

Justice League of America: Injustice League coverBut Injustice League seems a little backwards looking to me. (And not just because of Benes’s art; zing!) It’s a simple, old-school plot: villains team up to take on heroes, capture the heroes, then screw up by not killing them. There are the rivalries between villains and between heroes and villains. Worst of all, Injustice League seems to take great pride in copying their animated television library. The Hall of Doom, looking exactly like it did in the Superfriends cartoon, gets a double-page spread at one point: Nothing else on the page, just a drawing of building that looks vaguely like Darth Vader’s helmet sitting in a swamp, for no other reasons than to help fanboys who don’t have access to Viagra. The composition of the League is more like the Secret Society of Justice League Unlimited, a large consortium of supervillains joining up to have a chance against the heroes. And then there’s Amanda Waller, also prominently from JLU, showing up to unnerve the heroes and take the captured villains off for some nefarious purpose.

I like the scene at the beginning, with Joker, Lex Luthor, and Cheetah (Cheetah? Really? Needed a Wonder Woman villain, I suppose) selecting the new Injustice League, but even that’s relying on the past, as it mimics the Justice League’s big three selecting the new Justice League at the beginning of v. 2. The difference is, of course, that judging from the size of the new Injustice League, they really weren’t that picky. I also don’t care for the little epigrams at the beginning of each issue; I don’t need my morals spoonfed to me in little yellow text boxes. (Like metal spoons and caviar, it affects the taste.)

Four issues in the main story, three different artists, three different flavors of cheesecake. Normally, I like variety, but not in this case. Look, these are competent artists, but they do have differing styles, and I’d at least like to get used to how females are exploited without having it shifted so quickly. Ed Benes likes him some female buttock — there’s a double page spread where he gets to draw nearly full-page versions of Vixen and Black Canary with their posteriors toward the reader, with a bonus of Wonder Woman spread eagled facing the reader. When he needs to, he contorts the bodies painfully to get a backside view. Joe Benitez seems to like his females standing on their tiptoes, plus he gets to draw a lot of Black Canary in her fishnets. Mike McKone didn’t really have that option. He has to settle for plot-mandated shots of Cheetah’s chest, plot-mandated strippers, and … all right, I’m unfairly lumping McKone in with the other two. Still, he only gets the Special, while Benitez gets #13 and Benes #14-5.

The two backups from JLA #16 strike me as inconsequential. One abandons a cop to an alternate universe and introduces an alternate universe Flash, leaving her lying on the page, without any resolution, characterization, or reason to care; Benitez doesn’t get any women on their tiptoes (plenty of Black Canary, though), but he does get to draw an extremely vacuous, naïve-looking female Flash. In the other, Red Arrow makes a former felon’s Christmas by remembering the old man used to try to kill him. It takes all sorts, I suppose.

This is not bad by any means. If you’re reading Justice League, this is just another volume, and it’s not one that is awful or disappointing. The problem lies with the potential; a huge group of villains against a smaller group of heroes could be pyrotechnic or at least exciting. But McDuffie doesn’t do anything spectacular with the concept, and he doesn’t do much new. I realize he might be setting up future stories, but honestly, even setup should be entertaining in its own way.

Rating: Justice League symbol Justice League symbol (2 of 5)

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Blogger Marc said...

Speaking of McDuffie, what did you think of his brief stint on Fantastic Four?

8:35 PM  
Blogger Raoul said...

Haven't read any of it yet, although my local library just got some of the volumes, so I'll check them out over the next month or two.

12:32 AM  

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