Thursday, November 23, 2017

Justice League America #95

Justice League
Justice League America #95

In honor of Thanksgiving, I brought the turkey

"Where the Wild Things are”
Writer – Gerald Jones
Penciller – Chuck Wojtkiewicz
Inkers – Bob Dvorak Rich Rankin
Letters – Clem Robins
Colorist – Gene D’Angelo
Assoc. Editor – Ruben Diaz
Editor – Brian Augustyn
January 1995

After posting my thoughts on Extreme Justice the other day I had a strange request from a fellow comic book enthusiast. A challenge from one of my own super friends, if you will.

“I defy you to make any issue from 92-113 of the Justice League America seem good in writing or art,” they dared me.

So, I did a little digging, because if it is bad, someone’s thrown it away and I have a copy. Just the way the Crapbox works. And sure enough, up popped issue number 95.

When my friend said that he peeked my curiosity. Could a book really be WORSE than a bunch of mullets and 90’s over-the-top empty action setpieces? Could there actually be a team that would make you pine for the days of Vibe, Sargent Steel, Gypsy and Vixen? Could the end of the “Giffen” Justice League really be the WORST Justice League ever?

The answer: Yes.

Resoundingly yes! I haven’t read every incarnation of the League. I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of every issue or conflict or book. What I do have is gleaned from skimming the Essentials collections of classic tales, having read through all my local library’s JLA collected editions and the really odd smattering of issues past, near present, and current that the Crapbox provides. And using that odd collection as my sample set, I can say without a doubt that this is the worst written collection of heroes ever to bear the title or any portion thereof.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the worst Justice League ever. My contribution to your Thanksgiving Day celebration is a true “turkey” that we can all be grateful did not last more the year-plus (jeeze, that’s too long) before someone cut off its head and gave us Morrison’s JLA title.

Now I know you don’t believe me, so below will follow proof. I offer this to you with the caveat that you please exercise caution in reading it before you eat, as it may well put you off your food.

We begin with Beatriz da Costa a/k/a Fire, a character from the Global Guardians who really came into her own in the JL years as the counterpoint to the fellow teammate Tora Olafsdotter a/k/a Ice. Fire is passionate, impulsive, and outgoing. Ice was quiet, naïve, naïve and innocent.

Mark Waid killed off Ice in his run on the title back around issue 91 and even he admits this was a mistake. The honest truth is that these two characters work best when their more extreme traits temper one another, creating an odd-duck relationship that is as understandable as it is weird. Writers should have emphasized growth from both characters in such a way that their influences on each other made them grow into strong, confident, and respected women. Instead we have Fire being very near the same person she was in JL and Ice in a casket.

I won’t comment more on other changes made to Ice before her untimely demise as those issues are not at hand.

Back to the book that IS at hand, the big fella beside Fire is fellow first-time Leaguer Albert Rothstein a/k/a Nuklon. Nuklon also lays claim to being the godson of Al Pratt, the golden-age Atom and was a charter member in Infinity Inc, a superhero team comprised of second generation metas.

He is also drawn in the most horrible fashion throughout this issue. I’ll explain more as we go.

This is the couple’s first “date,” I believe there having been some kerfuffle over it in earlier issues that I am not privy to. But here we have wild, impulsive Beatriz shooting green fire into the sky to start off their evening together while writer Jones tries to imbue this date with some structure. I’ll tell you now that over the course of the evening, Jones fails at making natural commentary on the evening’s proceedings as badly as Wojtkiewicz fails at drawing Nuklon.

…and fails at making people look…normal. Why is Bea’s mouth open here?

We learn that Nuklon is an eternal optimist and that’s what attracts Bea to him. That and his huge muscles. She takes him out on the dance floor even though he states he doesn’t dance and according to Jones “they plunge in.”

Let’s turn to fellow ex-Infinity Inc pal Todd Rice a/k/a Obsidian and Red Fox, a hold-over from the Justice League Europe book. At this time the JLA is headquartered in the alien escape pod of the villain that killed Ice, the Overmaster. The orbiting ship also houses bunches of aliens that are the sole survivors of their individual races. I am assuming this was something the Overmaster “collected,” similar to how people collect snow globes of places they’ve visited or something.

Obsidian is having some issues pulling himself together for some reason, which screams out “problem writing this character” to me. Whenever a writer can’t think of how to handle a specific character, they tend to throw mystery ailments at them in hopes that will make them interesting or sympathetic. Here it just distracts from whatever story Jones is trying to tell, which is about this little alien guy loose on the spaceship.

Then we jump to a third story thread, which is Maxwell Lord in a hospital bed being visited by a rather odd entity that looks a bit like the grim reaper if he was dressed by a kryptonian. He offers Max a way to save his own life it appears …at what cost, he doesn’t state.

Back on board the JLA headquarters, the yellow alien releases all the other alien beings and convinces one with a telepathic ability to tell the others that the JLA’ers are the enemy. 

That’s the top left and center panels on this page. Then the third panel, which occurs on the top right corner is Diana (formerly Wonder Woman) arriving at the headquarters to discuss her current predicament.

Notice anything odd here? The piece is clearly missing a transition. Something to cue in the reader that we have changed who is doing the talking. For a moment we think (due to the poor job of color and inking) that this figure huddled in the shadows is the alien intruder back from two pages ago.

When we finally do realize the writer has moved on to another story fragment, we realize it is the culmination of the horrid and short-lived Diana doesn’t get to be Wonder Woman anymore thing from Messner-Loebs and Deodato’s run on the book. While we can’t blame Diana’s situation on Jones, we can blame this weak-willed “I don’t have the Wonder Woman name anymore, so do you still want me” version of the character.

That isn’t Diana. Not at all.

She’s strong enough to know that titles and costumes don’t define who and what you are. This is a dumb characterization.

They accept her back…and Jones does this other annoying thing that happens frequently in the book. He has a character be caught up in his own thoughts so much that he isn’t paying attention to what goes on around him/her. Like all of his Justice Leaguers are annoying angsty teenage girls caught up in bullshit high school drama. 

THESE ARE PROFESSIONAL SUPERHEROES HERE!! Making them out to be distracted by their own problems all the time isn’t the way to make them feel deep. It just makes them appear broody and self-absorbed.

Oh, and after this giant alien monsters attack them. No, seriously.

If I give Jones one prop, and I suppose I do, it is for this bit about music and books. That one line doesn’t make all this better, though.

Jones tries hard to make this “date” thing work, but in the end this part of the book feels wasted. It feels like a tease as in the end the pair decide to not date because Nuklon will only marry a Jewish girl. It takes up the majority of this issue to get us there, tells us nothing new about either of these characters that isn’t summed up in the first page of interaction, and comes at the expense of several other more interesting storylines that could be pursued, all of which end up getting sidelined.

Not smart storytelling choices.

We end this page on the pair finding commonality in liking old movies, again a tease that they will end up together that goes absolutely NO Where, trying the audience’s patience with this mess.

And we head back to Power Girl on the JLA spaceship making a bottle for her new infant…you know…the one she got from her mystical pregnancy during the Zero Hour event? This story arc will be familiar to my Avengers readers, as the baby, named Equinox maybe, begins to age rapidly. In this arc he will disappear and we will NEVER MENTION HIM AGAIN. Because tha’s what you do with horrible storylines. You poof them off the page.

But for now, we have Kara get startled by the baby suddenly walking and talking. This is makes five ongoing stories and I’m not certain Jones was competent to handle even ONE of these, let alone all of them at once.

Kara wanders into the fight with the aliens…but all we get is one panel because we are back to the they-will/they-won’t romance plot, which is taking far too much time. To draw it out even more, Bea and Al finally start to make a love connection and then he pulls away to ask her back out on the dance floor. 

With some of the worst drawn arms I’ve ever seen. They look like legs on a spider there. And the pencils/inking/color choices here leave a lot to be desired. It just looks ugly.

Baaaack to the alien battle: Flash is afraid to use his speed so he gets knocked out, Obsidian protects Kara so she gets knocked out…

As Kara runs away we have the introduction to an alien Pterosaur thing that is slated to become an ally in a few short pages.  

Everybody is getting knocked out, with Red Fox going down next. She’s coming Elizabeth! (anyone get that joke?)

And while Wonder Wom…er, female fighter to be named later and Hawkman take on the horde, the yellow alien guy gets a chance to do what he needs to at the computer screen.

And that is enough action there, so it’s back to the date which appears to take a turn for the better with Al asking for some of Bea’s music suggestions and her asking to borrow a few of his books. Then a guy pulls a knife on Al for losing a basketball game and part of this falls apart for me, art wise. 

Al is shown as tall and imposing, but he looks roughly the size of a small parade float. I can believe he would be a great football, rugby, wrestling, or hockey player. But BASKETBALL? The guy is carrying an enormous amount of extra weight on that frame. He doesn’t look like he could jump more than six inches. It is an odd art choice to turn a walking billboard sign into a basketball player. Tall, yes…I get that. But tall and carrying an extra 200 lbs of muscle up top? No.

Al throws the guy into a table, which the owner is THANKFUL for because he can say the JLA was there.

No, that’s a stupid thing to add to this story. It makes little sense and it adds two pages to a story in the middle of a conflict in the other part of the book that could be made more interesting.

Then another page of Fire coming on to virile Al…just to have him do this:

Either he’s uncomfortable with his own sexuality or he’s old school prudish. Or this is just silly, because Bea is always “on” like this. Al knew what he was getting when went out with her.

So the bird alien (yes, we are back to the other big part of the issue) grabs the telepath and makes him read his mind. In mid-mind meld with “Yazz” it discovers what I was afraid of, that the creature knows “too much”, which cements for me that this talking bird-whatist will not only be around for the rest of the run, but that it will also act as a mouthpiece for the author, a veritable pterodactyl Wesley Crusher.

I’m proved right in the next panel as the actions of the Yazz turns the creatures against the yellow alien, who gleefully murders one of them in an attempt to escape.


Yes, whiplash. I have it.

Bea confesses she thinks Al might be who she wants to settle down with because hormones and Tora’s death and other bad reasons not related to having feelings for someone in a special way.

Then back to the ending of the battle where we find out the alien was sending some kind of signal to his race (he wasn’t the last of his kind) to attack Earth for some reason…

One note character Todd/Obsidian with his overly depressive personality sums up my feelings upon ending this story only to realize there was MORE than a year of this crap that followed it by the same creative team…

Then the Yazz thing steps up and asks a question that should come from the mouth of any other JLA character, except they are all being written like idiots who can’t think for themselves. 

Back to Bea and Al for the reveal…

…on that note she kisses him and leaves.

And we end with Fire taking flowers to Max Lord, who has apparently died. 

I am shaking my head over this one. The poor characterizations, the awful panels, the colors, the bad story focus, the wasted pages… all so bad.

And bad in an unforgettable way. Extreme Justice has already vanished from my mind. *POOF* But the awful taste of this version of Justice League America will linger in my head for a bit.

Until I drowned it out with loads of turkey gravy.

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