Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Justice League of America #1 (April, 2013)

Five years ago in London, Professor Ivo met with a mysterious figure to discuss all the "super-heroes;" the Justice League, Green Arrow, Zatanna, Hawkman; that were turning up with increasing routine. "Well, then. I guess they'll call us super-villains..."

Cut to the present, as "The Dark Hunter" ran through the Kielder Forest in Northumberland, England. He had been skewered by a tree branch, and was pursued by what appeared to be a Justice League intent on his death. The Dark Hunter was convinced that he was going to die, but not yet. "I never believed I'd amount to anything worthwhile. I played right into what the world said about me. But I can prove everyone wrong. I can do better. I've been trying to." The fugitive entered hypovolemic shock, and asked a greater power for help that didn't come. "So I do what I did the last time. I tell god to go screw himself. I'll find my own way home."

Years ago, U.S. Homeland Security tasked Colonel Steve Trevor with establishing the Advanced Research Group Uniting Super Humans to police metahuman activity. Trevor had acted as A.R.G.U.S. liaison to the Justice League until his ex-girlfriend Wonder Woman requested his removal, and been replaced by Amanda Waller. The (slender, non-supporting) "Wall" felt Trevor had gotten too close to the League, and far out of his depth.

"Possessed by Starro, physically shattered by Despero and most recently almost beaten to death by Mr. Graves." Waller thought Steve was lovesick, and Trevor thought Amanda treated people as disposable since their last days together on Team 7. No one could replace the heroes of the Justice League, but Waller insisted that a branch loyal to American interests was needed. Booster Gold had uncovered a romance between Superman and Wonder Woman, only to disappear without a trace. What if they had kids, a bad break-up, or Princess Diana convinced the Man of Steel to become as destabilizing a world changing force as herself? Steve Trevor was hesitant to assume a Rick Flagg type role as point man for a team designed to take down the current Justice League if necessary, but being in that position was the only way he could continue to protect the Princess he loved. "I was the one who brought her to this screw-up world."

Waller subscribed to a low-tech records keeping approach, since anything placed on a computer could potentially be found by Cyborg. The first recruit in her file folder was Hawkman, who was getting deeper in dutch with authorities for his vigilante activities. Waller would grant him diplomatic immunity as "Katar Hol," a "police officer from the planet Thanagar," and classify the human criminals he brutalized as "alien fugitives" so that Hawkman could continue to be as savage in his dispensation of justice as he pleased.

Tatsu Toro vied with Deathstroke for the title of world's deadliest assassin as determined by the U.S. government. Her husband, Maseo Yamashiro, was the previous title holder before his murder. Waller knew who his killers were, and this information would attract Katana to JLA membership.

Five years ago, during the Apokolipsian incursion on Earth, Cisco Ramon was caught in the event horizon of a Boom Tube. One of Cisco's brothers died freeing him from its wake, and Ramon was left "out of sync with the rest of the world." He had been using his vibratory powers to deal with local petty crime, but Waller saw bigger things for him.

Stargirl had the highest Q Score for any active super-hero, relentlessly positive and massively helpful. "In less than a year, she's saved over four hundred people..." Seemingly perfect, while receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, she spied a supernatural pentagram appear in a nearby fire. Courtney Whitmore appeared to suffer night terrors over the fate of the previous bearer of the Cosmic Staff, "Pemberton." Waller planned to blackmail her into participation with the identity of her biological father.

Little was offered on their Green Lantern prospect, except that he "was arrested, not convicted." Trevor protested Green Arrow's inclusion, feeling that he was the wrong candidate for "the most important spot on the JLA." Trevor suggested Catwoman, who he confronted during her break-in at a hotel room registered in the name of "Selina Kyle." Catwoman attacked "Wonder Woman's boy-toy," who rolled over, but persuaded Catwoman with information on the woman who had stolen her identity. "Her enemies came after you. You almost lost your life because of her. I know her real name." Waller thought she was more like Suicide Squad material, and her criminal history meant she couldn't publicly join the team, but Trevor felt she was the best option to take down Batman in the event of a clash between Leagues. After all, the secret, primary role of the American League was to have a strike team in place should the original unit go rogue. Katanna was Wonder Woman deterrent, Vibe Flash's, Stargirl Cyborg's, Hawkman Aquaman's, and Simon Baz was meant to check Hal Jordan.

The Superman killer was the final piece, to Trevor's dismay. He'd worked with the Martian Manhunter during the Alien Atlas' disastrous stint with the main Justice League team, and felt that he couldn't be trusted, but Waller needed his raw power to complete her team. Trevor knew that it was enough for someone in his circles to mention J'Onn's name, and the suspicious alien would hear. J'Onzz agreed to join, but with the stern warning that he would mindwipe all of A.R.G.U.S. if they betrayed him.

"The Dark Hunter" was lost in the forest for days until his beacon finally started working. Etta Candy thought something might have been interfering with it. Near death, the disguised Green Arrow had been discovered as a plant even faster than he and Steve had feared. The villains called themselves "The Secret Society," but Ollie passed out before he could identify their leader...

"World's Most Dangerous, Chapter One" was by Geoff Johns & David Finch. As usual in the modern age of decompressed storytelling, there was a lot more sizzle than steak. Most of the book is two people having a meeting in an office while looking at photographs. It doesn't help that one of those people is the anorexic New 52 Amanda Waller, nor that the once robust Etta Candy could now be easily mistaken for the former "Wall" turned pole. The individual team member vignettes are nice teaser trailers for whoever they're meant to be for the purposes of the book. I can't say that I'm exactly excited about this title, but I'm not put off by the debut issue either, which is something of a victory with a New 52 offering.

I also have to say that one thing set right by the reboot was the restoration of Steve Trevor. It's okay for Batman to have a James Bond type of impermanence with regard to his love interests, and even Superman shouldn't necessarily be tied down to Lois Lane, so long as she remains generally prominent in comics. Steve Trevor though is arguably as central a figure in Wonder Woman's origin as Diana herself, since he was the impetus and ongoing motivation for the Princess' abandoning Paradise Island to combat the evils of Man's World, and remained so until the 1970s. For nearly a quarter century, Wonder Woman didn't quite make sense as a character because Steve Trevor had been cast aside for past sins with nothing more than vague altruism and wanderlust left in his place (DC strongly squelching any emphasis on that "lust" part.) Returning him to prominence fixes a broken element of the DC Universe, and his being the rejected party in a past affair humbles and humanizes the once abusive figure. Further, that element of romance, even lost, enlivens Wonder Woman and ensures that Trevor won't join the long list of Nick Fury proxies.

New 52's Day

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