Wednesday, January 15, 2014
I Reads You Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE Annual 2
DC COMICS – @DCComics
WRITER: Gerry Conway
PENCILS: Chuck Patton
INKS: Dave Hunt
COLORS: Carl Gafford
LETTERS: Ben Oda
COVER: Chuck Patton and Dick Giordano
48pp, Color, $1.25 U.S. (October 1984)
One of my favorite single comic book issues is Justice League Annual #2, originally published in 1984 (cover date October 1984). It was the first Justice League comic book that I ever read, and the only one for a long time afterwards (if I remember correctly).
Entitled “--The End of the Justice League!,” this annual is written by Gerry Conway and drawn (pencil art) by Chuck Patton. The story focuses on Aquaman’s efforts to build a “new” Justice League, after summarily disbanding the “old” League. The League had apparently struggled during the “Earth/Mars War,” in part due to the League’s most powerful members not being present during the conflict. This was summarized in the first eight pages of this annual. I had not read the issues of the ongoing Justice League of America series that contained the “Earth/Mars War” story.
Aquaman demands that members of the “new” League be committed, full-time, and fully-active members. This leads to the exit of Firestorm, Green Lantern, Black Canary, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and Red Tornado from the League. Elongated Man and Zatanna are able to remain with Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter offers his services. From that starting point, the rest of the story is about the League accepting new members and searching for new headquarters (as the JLA satellite had been destroyed during the war with Mars). The team eventually finds a new home in Detroit, Michigan.
Vixen, an African-American female character who had previously worked with Superman, makes a strong move to move into the League, after hearing about the call for new League members. Another volunteer is the second generation hero, Steel, the grandson of the original Steel. Steel’s admission into the League gives the Justice League access to their new headquarters in Detroit. Moving to the Motor City / Motown introduces the League to two new members, the shockwave-casting and break-dancing Vibe and the camouflage and quick-to-disappear, young mystery woman, Gypsy.
Reading Justice League Annual #2 again, I cringe a little, but not because I think that it is a bad comic book. Sure, artist Chuck Patton’s awkward anatomy, ham-fisted compositions, and meat-and-potatoes design can be kindly described as old school. On the other hand, I am impressed with Gerry Conway’s juggling of multiple characters and find that endearing. His script is somewhere between pure newspaper comic strip soap opera and typical superhero ensemble character drama. I think I cringe because this comic book seems so analog to me simply because of the kinds of comic books I have read in the years since I first read it.
Now, Conway’s character drama and the story in general might seem quaint. Indeed, some of it is old-fashioned. I am not bothered by the Latino character, Vibe, although he says “chu” when he wants to say “you” way too many times. The character is only a stereotype on the surface, as he does reveal another persona or guise when he is around his family that is different from his “street” persona.
I do remember first hearing about this annual from other comic book fans. Naturally, they hated the break-dancing superhero and also the idea of even having a break-dancing superhero, which they claimed was a stereotype. These fans seemed to miss the point that the history of comic books, especially superhero comic books, is heavily populated with racial, ethnic, national, regional, religious, etc. stereotypes. What made Vibe worthy of extra fan venom? I liked Vibe as a kid, and I still do as an adult.
If Conway did any stereotyping, it was with the female characters, who were a bit man-hungry, even a slutty. In general, though, I liked this cast. This new Justice League was the featured team beginning in Justice League of America #233 (I think) and lasted until Justice League of America #261, which saw the end of the original Justice League comic book series, before its re-launch as Justice League in 1986.
Right now, I think I want to go back and experience the original Justice League of America comic books series in its final three years. Call this a nostalgia thing.
Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux
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