Friday, January 28, 2011

Justice League of America: Breakdowns

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Justice League of America: Breakdowns (DC, 1991-92).

I'm not sure whether it's the book or the story that hasn't aged very well, but wow, this was an incredibly rotten read. DC has been repackaging and finally collecting Keith Giffen's five-year tenure as head writer of their Justice League franchise. These were mostly books that I didn't care to read at the time, having long abandoned DC for Marvel and, finally, 2000 AD, but I went back and bought all the run in the mid-nineties, mostly from quarter bins or three-for-a-dollar boxes. The final storyline of Geffen's run was "Breakdowns," which ran for fifteen twice-monthly issues, and I temporarily rescued it from the soon-to-be-donated-to-Egleston pile to give it a reread.

By this point in its history, JLA was plotted by Giffen and scripted by J.M. DeMatteis and Gerard Jones. There were actually two separate titles at this point, Justice League America and Justice League Europe, with art chores ranging from Darick Robertson to Bart Sears. The book was still printed on ink-absorbent newsprint.

I have no idea what could have been the reasoning behind this storyline. It looks like the creators wanted to give return matches to every one of their major recurring foes, one right after another, to give the League a series of big bangs with which to go out. There's the sudden revocation of the heroes' United Nations charter, a plot by the villainous Queen Bee, a two-part interlude where they make fun, very clumsily, of Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol, then their old enemy Despero, who was once a skinny mad scientist with a shellfish head but who now is the Incredible, red, Hulk, shows up, followed by a villain called Dreamslayer.

At no point is it in any way engaging. Perhaps the most interesting character is Captain Atom, who gets steamed over the UN ordering the JLA out of the Queen Bee's nation and goes off anyway. Amazingly, he is killed off between episodes, thanks to some idiotic crossover event that happens when the readers are blinking. At another stage, it is mentioned that Guy Gardner and Ice are dating. This is never shown, just mentioned.

I dunno... parts of it were not bad, and some of the artwork - principally Sears' - was pretty good, but reading this from the present perspective, it's amazing to think that once upon a time, it was ever considered important. Times Square is demolished during the fight with Despero, and several heroes are killed off, but it's all done very dispassionately on the page, and time would later prove that what wanted to be an epic was deeply unimportant in the eyes of the creators that would follow Giffen. It's barely competent, as superhero funnybooks go, but not very important to even the medium's fans. Not recommended.

No comments: